India has added at least 800 new species of plants and animals, including those previously unknown to humans, in 2020, despite being a pandemic year.
However, the number of discoveries has declined due to the Covid-19 pandemic compared to the average number of discoveries made by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) and Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) over the past five years.
âSurveys and exploration work have been halted due to the pandemic. Scientists mainly worked from home. Despite the pandemic, 267 new plant species have been discovered across India. Some of them have been reported in the country for the first time, âsaid BSI director AA Mao.
On average, the BSI has identified around 350 plant species each year for at least the past five years.
The BSI on Monday released its list of new discoveries of plant species after that of the ZSI was released last month. Both have their headquarters in Kolkata.
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ZSI scientists have discovered 557 new species, of which 407 are new, while the rest were first reported in the country.
The list of new discoveries includes 28 reptiles, six amphibians and 28 species of fish. Of the 28 reptiles, 27 were new discoveries. All six amphibians were recorded for the first time while at least 23 species of fish were reported for the first time, âsaid a scientist from ZSI.
India now has 102,718 species of animals and around 54,000 species of plants, including flowering and non-flowering plants, ferns, mosses, liverworts, fungi, algae, lichens and microbes.
The maximum number of new animal species was recorded in Karnataka (66) followed by Kerala (51) and Rajasthan (46). Each year, as many discoveries as possible are made from biodiversity hotspots such as the Himalayas, the Western Ghats and the Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal.
âOver the past year and a half, field investigations have practically come to a halt. Meanwhile, ZSI scientists had to rely mainly on samples they had collected on previous field missions. Not all collected samples can be analyzed at one time. These have been analyzed and we have found a few hundred new species, âsaid Dhriti Banerjee, director of ZSI.