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Research corrects ‘mistaken identity’ of cicada

Common species of Western Ghats that was classified incorrectly gets a new identity

A new species of cicada (cheevidu in local parlance) has been described in the Western Ghats in Kerala. The discovery, Pomponia pseudolinearis Sadasivan 2021, is the result of an expedition undertaken by entomologist Kalesh Sadasivan to Swargam Medu, a scenic hilltop in Idukki in 2019.

The research, published in taxonomic studies’ journal Zootaxa, noted the species to be a member of the Pomponia linearis (or P. linearis) species group.

Despite being viewed as a discovery, the species is not a new entrant to the rich biodiversity of the Ghats. Pointing out that P. pseudolinearis is “very common,” Dr. Kalesh said it used to be mistaken for the P. linearis species.

The discovered species can be distinguished from the other Pomponia species of the Western Ghats on the basis of the unique structure of the male genitalia. The divergent basal lobes of the pygofer (the last abdominal segment) makes it stand apart from the other members of the species group.

Deafening calls

The author said the species is also common in homesteads, edges of tea estates, coffee plantations and jungles of 500-1,200 m elevation. “Such invertebrates call during the late afternoon from trees at a height of around eight metres. Camouflaged against the green moss and dark bark of trees, the species usually engage in unmistakable deafening calls until they are disturbed,” he says.

He collected the first specimen from a private cardamom estate at Swargam Medu for his research. Later, he found more from Ponmudi and Bonacaud in Thiruvananthapuram and Rajakumari in Idukki.

Dr. Kalesh, who is credited with discovering four taxa, including a butterfly and two damselflies, from the Western Ghats this year, said the recognition of one of the most common cicadas of Kerala as a new species highlighted the need for more scientific explorations of the biodiversity hotspot.

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