CHENNAI: A team of 10 young naturalists identified and documented 157 different varieties of butterflies in Chennai and released a book, which would act as a guide for the common public who are interested in knowing interesting facts about the winged beauties. It also detailed 24 butterfly hotspots in the region.
The book captures some of the rare and least expected butterflies species. For instance, Red-spot Jezebel, a species normally seen in the Northeast and West Bengal and was recorded for the first time in South India in 2016 in Chennai’s Indira Nagar neighbourhood. Indira Nagar is one of the butterfly hotspots, where the naturalists recorded 99 species, said Aditya Ramakrishnan, one of the leading book authors to TNIE.
Similarly, Red Pierrot was historically recorded in Guindy National Park in 2000. Since then it has been rediscovered in St Thomas Mount in 2022. Disappearance in between could have been because of the decline of its host plant, Bryophyllum sp. as a garden plant, the naturalists say.
There is another rare species Autumn Leaf, which is normally found in the Northeast and sometimes in the Western Ghats in India. Recorded once in 2022 from Mahabalipuram, a rare/accidental sighting. Some species like Lascar spp and Banded Blue Pierrot were recorded in 2022.
Authors said butterflies play a vital role in the ecosystem. Migrating butterflies increase genetic variation in plants by carrying pollen over long distances. The presence of a butterfly in a given region is directly linked to the number of host and nector plants found there.
So, the greater the diversity of butterflies in a region, the greater the plant diversity. The Crimson Rose butterfly migrates to Sri Lanka. The migration can be seen clearly from the coast when numerous individuals of the species fly South, said Vijay Kumar, secretary of Madras Naturalists Society.
The book details all the 157 species of butterflies in the area along with their Tamil names, differences between similar-looking species, activities for beginner butterfly watchers and notes on butterfly ecology.