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Kerala scientists honour former President Abdul Kalam by naming new marine species after him

The new species of tardigrades discovered in India is the second species to be found in Indian waters

Even after his passing away on July 27, 2015, former President of India, Bharat Ratna A.P.J. Abdul Kalam continues to inspire scientists in India. A distinct proof of this came to the fore when in an extraordinary tribute to the country’s Missile Man, Cochin University of Science and Technology’s Marine Biology department named a new species of marine tardigrade on him.

The new species of tardigrades – often referred to as water bears – was found by Vishnudattan N.K, Research Scholar and Senior Professor Dr. S. Bijoy Nandan while they were conducting an extensive marine biodiversity survey along the Tamil Nadu coast.

Talking to India Narrative, Dr. Nandan said: “This species has been named as Batillipes Kalami and it was found in the intertidal beach sediments of Mandapam coast, proximal to the birth place of Dr. Kalam. The new species measures approximately 0.17 millimetres in length and 0.05 mm in width characterised by four pairs of legs.”

Tardigrades Batillipes Kalami2
Scientists of CUSAT Vishnudattan N.K, Research Scholar and Senior Professor Dr. S. Bijoy Nandan who discovered the new species

Sharing more details, Dr. Nandan informed India Narrative: “It belongs to the phylum (principal taxonomic category) Tardigrada, which comprises more than 1,300 described species and among them only 17 per cent are marine species. Batillipes Kalami is the 37th species under the genus Batillipes.”

Stressing on the importance of this discovery he added: “Even though the studies on tardigrades are increasing worldwide, this phylum remains unexplored and studies from India are in its evolving stage.”

This species are microscopic water-dwelling animals which are well known for their extraordinary resilience and survival abilities in extreme environmental conditions. Considered to be among the toughest animals on the planet, Dr. Nandan observed that “they have survived all the five mass extinctions, also the first known animal to survive after exposure to outer space. Ecologically they act as a pioneer species by inhabiting new developing environments which will thereby attract other invertebrates to colonise that space.”

Batillipes Kalami is the second time a marine tardigrade has been found in Indian waters. Incidentally, in 2021, this same research team discovered a marine tardigrade from the south west coast and named it Stygarctus keralensis after the Kerala state.

Details of this new species — Batillipes Kalami  — have been published in Zootaxa journal of this month.