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10 naturalists compile book on 157 butterfly species in Chennai

Representative image. The rare Red-spot Jezebel which is found in Northeast and West Bengal was spotted in Indira Nagar, Chennai (Pic. Courtesy wikimedia commons)

Butterflies are not only beautiful to look at but play a vital role in the ecology so knowing about them is necessary. To help in this effort a team of 10 young naturalists have come together and documented 157 different varieties of butterfly found in Chennai and put them in a book “Butterflies of Chennai”.

Besides the butterflies, the book authored by Madhav Nagarajan and his team also mentions 24 hotspots in the city to observe them, including IIT-Madras, Indira Nagar, Anna Nagar and Guindy National Park.

Nagarajan had listed out 75 species in the city until 2014 when he realised that there many more in other parts he hadn’t covered. He then brought in the other authors and started collecting and collating data on butterfly behaviour and activities.

The one-of-a-kind compilation of butterfly morphology and information differentiating the species includes details about some of the rare and least expected butterfly species. The book talks about the Red-spot Jezebel which is a species that is seen in the Northeast and West Bengal and was sited in South India in 2016 in Indira Nagar in Chennai. Incidentally, Indira Nagar where the naturalists recorded 99 species is one of the butterfly hotspots.

Likewise, Red Pierrot was seen in Guindy National Park in 2000 and it was again sited in 2022 in St Thomas Mount. As per the naturalists this could be because of decline of its host plant, Bryophyllum sp, a garden plant.

Among other rare species that find mention in the book are Autumn Leaf which is found in the Northeast and in the Western Ghats in India was seen in Mahabalipuram in 2022; and Banded Blue Pierrot which too was recorded the same year.

The authors stressed on the important role that butterflies play in the ecosystem. The migrating ones increase genetic variation in plants by carrying pollen over long distances. Thus, the more diverse the species are in a region, the greater will be its plant diversity.

In all 157 species of butterflies in the area along with their Tamil names are listed in the book. Besides this the differences between similar-looking species, activities for beginner butterfly watchers and notes on butterfly ecology too form a part of the book.

The other authors of the book include Aditya R., Anooja A., Aswathi A., Ekadh R., Mahathi N., Nanditha S., M. Nishanth, Rohith S. and Smriti M.