Scientists find snail species in Meghalaya cave, conduct mollusc study in northeast

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Scientists, who recently discovered a new species of micro-snail less than 2mm in length (adult) in a cave in the Meghalaya, are conducting a mollusc study in the northeast as part of a mega-funded project by the Department of Biotechnology of the central government.

Scientists Nipu Kumar Das and NA Aravind, both associated with the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), based in Bengaluru, recently discovered the new species of micro-snail, found at the bottom of a limestone cave from Mawsmai Village in East Khasi Hills District in Meghalaya. .

“We named this species after the limestone cave. Our species Georissa mawsmaiensis is unique to Georissa sarrita, the closest congener (i.e. other members of the same genus), which was previously described in the Mawsmai Valley of Meghalaya, in its shell morphology starting from variation in shell size to the presence of four very prominent spiral ridges on the whorls of the body of the shell (counting from suture to opening, in view of the opening), against seven at Georissa sarrita, ”said Das IANS.

He said the team compared the morphological characters of snails collected from wet limestone rocks, 4-5 meters inside the cave entrance.

“However, at this time, we do not know if our species is a true cave species. Further in-depth studies may reveal more interesting facts about natural history, its true distribution patterns, etc.”

According to ATREE, a Bengaluru-based research institution on biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, the snail micro-species was discovered 170 years after the last such discovery.

There are a large number of caves in various northeastern states, including Meghalaya and Mizoram.

Although a proper study of the flora and fauna available inside these caves has not yet been carried out, the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has identified some geological sites in northeast India. for the promotion of geotourism.

Das, a resident of Assam, said the cave has a very unique environment that can support unique wildlife diversity.

“There are several studies on cave biodiversity in Southeast Asian countries and other parts of the world, which have reported various animals, including snails, but very few studies come from Indian caves,” did he declare.

“The rich calcium minerals in the limestone caves provide suitable habitat for shellfish. These caves are very sensitive to changing environmental conditions resulting from human activities (mining, cave tourism, etc.), climate change, etc. impacts on cave animals, ”he added.

Das said that in the case of Mawsmai Cave in Meghalaya, one of the state’s main tourist attractions, some changes have been made to increase the aesthetics of the cave, such as artificial lights and a floor and cemented steps.

According to the scientist, these anthropogenic changes as well as the high influx of tourists can pose a threat to this species of micro-snails, as well as to other biodiversity in the caves.

“So far, only five species of snails have been reported in the caves of Meghalaya, while there may be many more to discover. Even though there are so many limestone caves in Meghalaya , very few studies have been done on the snails in these caves. help us understand the diversity of snails present in these unique cave ecosystems, “said Das.

He said scientists had redescribed a species of micro snail named Acmella tersa from Mawsmai Cave in Meghalaya from the newly collected specimens in order to provide better diagnostic traits for the genus Acmella.

As Acmella tersa is the type species of the genus Acmella, the description of the genus Acmella is based on this particular species.

“In addition, we have also assessed the conservation status of the species and classified it as Critically Endangered (CR) B1 and B2 according to the criteria of the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature )”, did he declare.

Das said that from 2018 they were conducting a mollusc survey in the northeast region as part of a mega project funded by the Department of Biotechnology, and the study would be completed next year.

“Bioresources and Sustainable Livelihoods in North East India” is an initiative to strengthen both science and sustainable development in North East India.

Funded by the Department of Biotechnology, this multi-institutional and multi-investigator research program is coordinated by the ACREE and the Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD) in partnership with 12 institutions in the north-east.

The Himalayan mountain range that covers much of northeast India is one of the world’s largest and most threatened biodiversity hotspots.

Experts say the region has been a center of evolutionary novelty, home to thousands of species not found anywhere else on earth.

The northeast region is also home to hundreds of indigenous ethnic communities, with their associated languages ​​and cultures.

Millions of people here depend on bioresources, including ecosystem services, for their livelihoods. These resources and their valuation will be of vital importance in this era of global climate change.

Of the approximately 50 million inhabitants of the northeast region, 28 percent are tribals and the majority of them traditionally depend on the forest, the environment and their resources.

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