Mumbai: As many as 77 new species of butterflies have been found in the ecologically sensitive forest of Matheran hill station near Mumbai during a study conducted there over the last eight years, according to the Bombay Natural History Society.
With this, the total number of butterfly species in the Matheran forest has now gone up to 140, city-based Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) scientist Mandar Sawant said.
Matheran is spread over an area of 214.73 sq km and is located about 80 km from the Maharashtra capital.
“The eight-year-long rigorous study undertaken by BNHS from 2011 to 2019 has resulted in the discovery of 77 new species of butterflies in Matheran,” the non-governmental research organisation said in a statement.
“After a span of 125 years, for the first time such a study was undertaken to discover the flying beauties at Matheran,” it said.
Scientists from BNHS and Somaiya Vidyavihar University here have published a research paper, titled ‘Finding the forgotten gems: Revisiting the butterflies of Matheran after 125 years, with the introduction to the novel colour barcode for depicting seasons and activity of the Indian butterflies’, in the community peer-reviewed Biodiversity Data Journal.
A strong seasonal variation in butterfly diversity was observed. The maximum diversity of butterflies was recorded during winter, and the least during monsoon, BNHS said in its statement.
“A high similarity of butterfly species composition was observed between the pairs of sites studied, tending towards perfect nestedness. This also emphasises the fact that butterfly diversity in the region is quite stable and chances of emigration to, or immigration from, surrounding regions are very low, the study said.
“Further, we introduced a novel barcode system for denoting seasons and activities of Indian butterflies and hope this will help butterfly biologists to concisely and effectively present the data, the statement said.
The research paper is an outcome of eight years of field work with 22,833 observations and usage of colour bar- coding system by Mandar Sawant, Dr Nikhil Modak and Sagar Sarang in the forests of Matheran, it added.
In 1894, British researcher J A Betham surveyed the hills of Matheran for its butterfly diversity.
He had reported 78 butterfly species back then and expressed hope that someone from Bombay (now Mumbai) would take up survey in future and might report some more butterflies, a BNHS official said, adding that they have now taken it a step forward.