The new genus named after the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (Atree), is the first time in India that an institute has an eponymous insect.
A new genus of Braconid wasps called ‘Atree’ has been named after the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), a leading research institution and environmental think tank based in Bengaluru. This is the first time in Indian history that an institution has been named after an insect genus.
The discovery of the new genus was facilitated by the researchers from Atree who had collaborated with Cornelis Van Achterberg (Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, The Netherlands) for comparative studies with other braconids.
The development coincides with the discovery of a new wasp species, Atree rajathae, as well as two previously unknown species. A parasitoid wasp is the newest described species. According to an ATREE statement, parasitoids are the primary natural enemies of other insects, and humans make use of this behaviour to biologically control agricultural pests.
The remaining two Taiwanese species, Baeacis improcerus and Baeacis validus, are likewise assigned to the new genus, owing to their physical similarity to Atree… The newly described genus is a part of the tribe Diospilini of the subfamily Brachistinae. Diospilini is a tribe composed of 13 genera and 125 species that are mostly found in the Palaearctic area. There are just six species known from the Indo-Malayan region, and Atree rajathae is the first report of the tribe Diosplini from India, “the publication said.
Researchers from Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment assisted in the identification of the new genus by collaborating with the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, The Netherlands, for comparative investigations with other braconids.
Around a decade and a half ago, a considerable number of insects were gathered to fill significant gaps in the Western Ghats’ insect inventory. These specimens have been classified according to family and are now housed at the ATREE Insect Museum (AIMB). As a result of the pandemic, ATREE entomologists were restricted to their laboratory and analysed parasite Hymenopterans from these historic specimens. They have identified around 80 new species so far from the Western Ghats, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. In 2021, ATREE entomologists will describe up to 20 new bug species from these collections, “the announcement said.
“Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve is widely renowned for its plant variety and high levels of endemism,” senior author Priyadarsanan Dharma Rajan was cited as saying. When we conducted a survey of dung beetles in the Shendurney wildlife sanctuary, which is located within the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve, we discovered over 80 species, accounting for 20% of India’s dung beetle fauna. A careful examination of the insect diversity of the Western Ghats may uncover not only a significant number of new species but also several fascinating tales about the region’s biogeography and the critical role of insects in supporting life on earth. “
“The discovery of a new genus of wasps by the Atree team is a very significant finding. E O Wilson of Harvard University, perhaps the most celebrated biodiversity specialist, who passed away a few months ago, once remarked that it is the small things that run the world. Wilson’s point was that our focus on biodiversity conservation on large mammals is somewhat misplaced. All creatures, big and small, are important components of nature and play critical roles in the functioning of the ecosystems that are declining all over the world. It is appropriate that as Atree celebrates its 25th anniversary, the new genus is named after Atree,” said Kamal Bawa, president of Atree.
A large number of insects were collected about a decade and a half ago to address large gaps in the insect inventory in the Western Ghats. These collections were sorted into families and preserved in the ATREE Insect Museum (AIMB).
According to Kamal Bawa, President of ATREE, it is fitting that the new genus be named after the institute as it celebrates its 25th anniversary.
Source: The Hindu