Dancing girl steps down

Researchers find Mizoram plant species at lower altitude

  • Published 6.06.16
Mantisia spathulata. Picture courtesy: Demsai Reang

Guwahati, June 5: The "dancing girl" of Mizoram is going places!

Scientists at the Assam University, Silchar, have, for the first time, spotted the Mantisia spathulata plant at a lower altitude (662 metres) at Kolasib in Mizoram.

The species was earlier found only in the rocky hills of Lunglei in Mizoram at an altitude of 1,200 - 1,500 metres.

The finding was reported in the latest issue of the Journal of Threatened Taxa.

It is a perennial plant and flowers for a very short time during the monsoon.

The plant is found only in Mizoram.

The article - New locality records of the Dancing Girl of Mizoram, a rare zinger species - by Aparajita De and Demsai Reang of ecology and environmental science department, Assam University, said because of natural calamities and anthropogenic activities, the species has become critically endangered.

The department of biotechnology, New Delhi, under the ministry of science and technology, has included it in the national priority list for recovery.

On being asked why it has been given this unique nomenclature, Aparajita said, "If you look at a single flower carefully, you can see that the yellow corolla looks like a skirt and the two staminodes resemble the two outstretched arms of a dancing girl."

The article cited a few interesting observations about this species in general.

Firstly, it grows in bare rocky areas and secondly it is not found in dense patches because it requires optimum amount of sunlight and shade to flourish.

However, in case of the Kolasib species, these features were absent.

"We collected the species at a comparatively lower altitude - approximately 662 metres from Kolasib - which was never recorded earlier. The current study deals with the information of a new site discovered for Mantisia spathulata and its population density," she told The Telegraph.

The species was collected and after processing it was deposited in the herbarium of department of ecology and environmental science, Assam University.

Aparajita said the area where it was found at Kolasib is, at present, undergoing extensive land degradation as it is very close to a road.

The habitats of the plants have been severely eroded at different places because of landslides.

The species was growing only in a single large patch, along with other species. The size of the patch where the plants were found was approximately 30 metres in length and to 6.5 to 7 metres wide, though the plants were healthy and were regenerating very well.

The study has called for steps to preserve the new area of this rare species.

Some methods of conservation will be the restoration of the patch of land so that further habitat degradation is checked, the study added.

The species may be grown under ex-situ conditions (preservation of components of biological diversity outside their natural habitats) and then reintroduced into other suitable habitats.

The article has called for further research on the reason for finding this species at a lower altitude.