Moths are key to pollination in Himalayan ecosystem

Moths are key to pollination in Himalayan ecosystem

News:

  1. A study was conducted recently by the  Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) to reveal the moths as pollinators in the ecosystem.

Important Facts:

2. Under the project titledAssessment of Moths (Lepidoptera) As Significant Pollinators in the Himalayan Ecosystem of North Eastern India”, scientists collected moth samples from different ecosystem to analyse the proboscis (elongated sucking mouthpart) of moths.

3. Moths are widely considered as pests, but the recent study has revealed that these group of insects are pollinators to a number of flowering plants in the Himalayan ecosystem.

4. The study was carried out in states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and West Bengal.

5. The study was unique, as scientist are looking at a new group of insects (moths) as pollinators. Usually bees, wasps and butterflies are considered as prominent pollinators.

  • In India, estimates put the number of of moth species at nearly 12,000.

Proboscis as pollinating organ:

  • The analysis of proboscis, a long and thread-like organ used to suck flower sap, of a dozen moth species’ revealed the presence of pollen grains.
  • On observing the proboscis under scanning electron microscope, it was found that these structures are not only meant for sap sucking, but are also morphologically designed for pollination.
  • According to the study , proboscis of different moths belonging to families of moths, such as Erebidae and Sphingidae, were found to contain pollen of several flowering plants, including Rhododendron.
  • In some species of moths, the organ is found to be modified into a spine like structure and in others, a lateral canal to arrest and disperse pollen.

6.  Importance of pollination:

  • About 90% of the world’s flowering plants are pollinated by animals.
  • Therefore, pollinators are essential for the genetic exchange among flowering plants and the biodiversity among plants.

7. Decline in moth population:

  • Researchers have pointed out that almost two-thirds of common large moth species have declined over the last 40 years in some parts of world.
  • One of main reasons for the decline is light pollution (an increase in artificial light in moth habitats).

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