Researchers Identify and Describe “Conjoined Silverline” in Biodiversity Hotspots
A recent scientific breakthrough has led to the identification of a new species of silverline butterfly in the biodiversity-rich Western Ghats of India. Known as Cigaritis conjuncta or the “conjoined silverline,” the discovery was officially detailed in a research paper published by a team of scientists from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS-TIFR) in Bengaluru, in collaboration with the Indian Foundation for Butterflies Trust.
First spotted in 2008, the conjoined silverline butterfly garnered extensive attention and research in 2021. The team of scientists, led by Krushnamegh Kunte, encountered five male and four female specimens in Honey Valley, Kodagu district of Karnataka. The findings, published in the journal Zootaxa, reveal distinctive features on both the upper and lower wings of the butterfly.
On the upperside, the conjoined silverline butterfly exhibits a black upper wing, with a shiny blue color on the lower wings. Notable features include an orange patch with two black spots on the lower wings, while the outer edge of the upper wing lacks any orange markings. The underside of the wings displays fused bands of colors without separation, featuring silver lines down the center and thin black borders along the edges.
Krushnamegh Kunte, one of the authors and researchers, shared that the initial encounter with this butterfly occurred in 2008 during a field trip to Iruppu Falls in Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary. However, the lack of necessary research permits hindered an in-depth study at that time. Prompted by more sightings in 2021, the research team conducted thorough investigations, resulting in the formal identification and description of the species.
The conjoined silverline butterfly is the second endemic species discovered in the Western Ghats, primarily inhabiting dense mid-elevation evergreen forests. The species, belonging to the Lycaenidae family, demonstrates specialized habitat preferences. While India hosts a total of 16 silverline butterfly species, with 11 found in both peninsular India and Sri Lanka, the conjoined silverline stands out as a unique discovery.
Despite appearing similar to other silverline butterflies from a distance, the conjoined silverline butterfly exhibits distinct wing patterns upon closer examination. Notably, fused bands on the underside of the wings led to the species being aptly named “conjoined silverline.”
This remarkable discovery adds to the biodiversity richness of the Western Ghats, highlighting the importance of continued research and conservation efforts in the region.