The precious “plastic”

2013, the year when most of Malnad or Malenadu region in Karnataka experienced torrential rains, close to 50% in excess. The eastern and western slopes of Western Ghats form Malnad, which, in Kannada, means a hilly, rainfed land. Parts of Shimoga, Chikmagalur, Uttara Kannada, Coorg, Hassan and Belgaum districts constitute the extremely beautiful Malnad.

The Western Ghats always take our breath away. Looking at the green blanket, we felt a surge of emotions. We were overjoyed to experience heaven – it didn’t require us to be too good either! We were teary-eyed, wondering how can people destroy the rich Western Ghats with such ease. The entire valley was covered with mist and fog, and we waited for that occasional drop of sunrise to lift the veil and show us some green.

JagaraPanorama

Jagara Valley

_MG_0013Birds played hide-and-seek in the thick foliage, but they couldn’t hide their songs. It took no effort for us to get lost in the mist and melody. There were insects galore, some very still and camouflaged, some very busy. The bejeweled leaves and the tiny flowers glowed.

_MG_0068While we were in the Muttodi area, we happened to pass by the Seegekan forest rest house. We stopped to take a photo of this lovely rest house seated on a picturesque hilltop. While I was watching woodpeckers from my binoculars, I heard a loud thud. I couldn’t see anything or anyone. After a few minutes, Rana called out to me, “Hey, come here. ಹುಷಾರು, ಇಲ್ಲಿ ತುಂಬಾ ಪಾಚಿ ಇದೆ (Be careful of the moss)”. Ah, so he was the source of the thud. I went that way and saw the skid pattern on the step. It looked like a big brush stroke!  Carefully and very slowly, I stepped next to the “brush stroke”. THUD! It was a louder one this time with a bigger “brush stroke”. I went up in the air and landed right where it hurt most. The whole scene reminded me of cartoon shows with banana peels. The caretaker of the rest house came running. He felt terrible on seeing me sprawled out, despite the fact that I was giggling away. Rana felt jealous, because only I got sympathy although he led the way in falling 😉

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_MG_0096

The caretaker began talking about how difficult it gets to dry clothes in the monsoon, and that he has to dry them within the walls of his home or the rest house. We admired the variety of insects a towel had attracted. He had tied a plastic wire from a window to a nail in the wall. I looked up and saw a bright yellow insect, which looked so much like a plastic toy. Obviously, he wouldn’t have decorated his clothesline with insect decorations. The yellow was too bright to resist.

 

_MG_0095

After returning home, I posted the image on Facebook, seeking help to identify it. Pat came the answer from Shyamal, identifying it as a dobsonfly Nevromus austroindicus. Very few people have seen this insect. In fact, they gave it a name and formally described it as recently as in 2012! The specimen was from Karnataka. Shyamal has described it as a living fossil in his blog. The males have spectacularly long, tusk-like intimidating mandibles. This is a classic case of how looks can be deceptive. Although these pincers are long, they are weak and help only during the mating season; to fight away other males and to impress the females. The females, like the one we saw, have short, sharp pincers. If we try to mess around with them, we must also brace ourselves to lose some blood.upClose

Dobsonflies belong to the order Megaloptera (“large wings”), family Corydalidae and are holometabolous (having a complete metamorphosis: eggs -> larva -> pupa -> adult). Their larvae also have short, sharp pincers. A bite can be quite painful!

Dobsonflies are more common in the Americas. The anglers there are known to use these larvae as bait. They call these larvae by many names such as “go-devils”, “hellgrammites” or “grampus”. The larvae take years to grow, primarily feeding on aquatic insects, before they pupate.

Very little is known about this Western Ghats species Nevromus austroindicus. The fact that it has been described so late shows the lack of information about it. Corydalidae adults are known to live for a very short span, maybe a couple of days or more, and only to mate. When you learn of such facts, it just bumps up the wow factor! Western Ghats hold a treasure trove of biodiversity. New species are still being discovered, like the 14 new species of dancing frogs, or the frog that does “pottery”, and many more still hidden. The overwhelming desire to be a developed country should not result in Western Ghats becoming a mere memory.

Sugandhi

References:

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15 Comments

  1. Rajesh said,

    May 30, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Vow..the shots are really eye catching. kudos to revealing something precious like this exist on earth.

    • belurs said,

      May 30, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      Thanks Rajesh. It’s amazing how many such precious lives exist. At least glad to see some of them 🙂

  2. deponti said,

    May 30, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    How little we know about insects! thanks for the lovely post, and sorry about the double fall 😀

  3. Ravi M said,

    May 30, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Nice read!

  4. Subbalakshmi said,

    May 31, 2014 at 3:22 am

    Very nice pics, Admire your attention to detail and lighting in Jagara valley is too good. The information has been posted very well with a narrative having ounce of humour. Kudos.

  5. A K Prabhakara said,

    May 31, 2014 at 5:17 am

    Thank you for superb write-up and exquisite photographs. I have seen
    the western ghats, but seeing through your lens is different and special!

    • belurs said,

      May 31, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      Thank you sir. So happy to hear this from you. Would love to hear your experiences of the Ghats sometime.

  6. Prem Kumar said,

    June 7, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Excellent, as always, and informative.
    Nice pictures too.
    How are your “thuds” ??? 🙂

  7. July 25, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Very vivid descriptions. Great to experience the Western ghats through your pictures and vivid descriptions.


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