New firefly species adds glow to Coimbatore's Anamalai Tiger Reserve forest

The bioluminescent world of Pandora in the movie Avatar may be fictional, but the phenomenon has become a reality in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR).

Published: 05th May 2022 02:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th May 2022 06:57 PM   |  A+A-

Fireflies have turned a large portion of the protected forest into an Avatar movie-like bioluminescent world.(File Photo)

Fireflies have turned a large portion of the protected forest into an Avatar movie-like bioluminescent world.(File Photo)

Express News Service

COIMBATORE: A new species of synchronous fireflies has been identified in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve where several lakhs of fireflies have turned a large portion of the protected forest into an Avatar movie-like bioluminescent world.

The bioluminescent world of Pandora in the movie Avatar may be fictional, but the phenomenon has become a reality in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR). In summer, every year, several lakhs of fireflies turn the pristine forest reserve into a blanket of lush green.

In April 2022, under the direction of Field Director Ramasubramanian, Deputy Director MG Ganesan along with Sriram Murali, a software engineer who is also an expert in light pollution and fireflies, walked deep into the protected forest to observe the synchronized flashing of a large congregation of fireflies. What they witnessed was mind-boggling and contends to be an eight-world wonder.

"Several lakhs of fireflies were seen coordinating their flashes across the forest. The illumination was found emerging in one tree and the relay was carried across the forest and the cycle continued all night," said ATR Deputy Director MG Ganesan adding that some trees pulsated in flashes that showed the trees' structure in pitch black. Each tree seemed to have a different flashing pattern. The entire forest was glowing in yellowish-green, he exclaimed.

A new species of synchronous fireflies has been identified in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve. (File Photo)

ATR DD Ganesan told TNIE, "The rare sighting has been spotted in about 8,000 hectares of the ATR protected forest land of Pollachi range. We also suspect that we can find similar sightings at the nearby Parambikulam and Nelliyampathi forest ranges in Kerala. We are planning on working towards understanding the ecology and life cycle of these fireflies, their relationship with other animals and their selection of trees."

"Samples of these fireflies will be collected for detailed research and DNA sequencing to properly identify the species. There are only 7 to 8 species of fireflies recorded in India. So this particular species might be a new one owing to the synchronous illumination with different patterns," he added.

Through communication with firefly scientists including Sara Lewis from the USA, it was known that the synchronous behaviour was noted in ATR in 1999 by a visiting researcher but no research paper was published. A team of researchers from the Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding, Coimbatore also noted this phenomenon in 2012, added the sources.

This phenomenon is a result of decades of conservation work by several passionate officials that have toiled to protect the Anamalai Tiger Reserve. Firefly populations are on the decline across the world and this extremely rare celestial wonder should be protected for our future generations, said the forest officials.



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