New species of tree-living crabs found in Kerala

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Thiruvananthapuram, April 4 (IANS) A new species of long-legged crab living on trees and substantially different from other congeners has been discovered in regions of the Western Ghats in Kerala, scientists say.

The new species — Kani maranjandu — is named after the Kani tribesmen in Kerala, who helped discover the tree crab. Maranjandu is the local Malayalee name for tree crab.

The Kani maranjandu has distinguishing characteristics such as a hard shell, as well as abdominal structure and reproductive parts in males, and long legs, which no other species in its genus has.

The discovery is very important in the context of the conservation of the Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot as they can serve as ecological indicators, reflecting the health of the ecosystem, according to Biju Kumar from the University of Kerala.

“As water-holding hollows in large trees are essential for the survival of this unique species, the discovery stresses the need for conservation of large trees in the degraded forest ecosystems of the Western Ghats,” Kumar said.

The species, reported in the Journal of Crustacean Biology, was discovered during a two-year survey of freshwater crab fauna, which started in 2014 in the Western Ghats.

The first specimen — a female — and later a large adult male were caught on September 5, 2016.

“The discovery also highlights how little we know about the biodiversity in these forests and efforts that must be made to find and study many undoubted new species living there,” Kumar said.

The specimens have been deposited with the Zoological Survey of India and in the museum collection of the Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, University of Kerala, the researchers said.

–IANS

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