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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Study led by Pune researchers discovers three diatom species along northern Western Ghats

The three diatom species identified under genus Stauroneis Ehrenberg are —Stauroneis datarii, Stauroneis bahlsii and Stauroneis hamiltonii.

Written by Anjali Marar |
Updated: September 29, 2021 10:06:26 am
Map of locations from where the three diatom species were discovered from northern Western Ghats.

A group of researchers from Pune has discovered three new species of diatoms from the northern Western Ghats region.

The three diatom species identified under genus Stauroneis Ehrenberg are —Stauroneis datarii, Stauroneis bahlsii and Stauroneis hamiltonii. Stauroneis is one of the largest freshwater genera of diatoms. With single-cell walls made of silica, diatoms, or simply algae, are one of the major oxygen-generating microbes. They are most commonly found in almost all kinds of water bodies, including rivers and lakes.

Researchers from Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) and University of Colorado, USA, jointly collected the samples alongside two mountain passes located close to Kaas plateau and Varandha Ghat.

Stauroneis datarii and Stauroneis bahlsii were collected from a waterfall site near Varandha ghat whereas Stauroneis hamiltonii was found from a water pool near Kaas.

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From the collected samples, which were subjected to light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy, the researchers could draw morphological observations and features of each sample.

In the recently-published study, the researchers tracked down the species along semi-aquatic habitats, which include the spray zone near waterfalls, dripping or leaking walls or rock crevices. Interestingly, such secondary aquatic habitats also support diatoms, at least during monsoon season.

“All the three discovered species were found along such semi-aquatic habitats,” said Karthick Balasubramanian, a diatoms researcher with ARI.

The floral biodiversity along Western Ghats is constantly under stress with greater threat to some species that could be on the brink of extinction even before they are discovered. In addition, several past studies focused mainly on larger organisms completely, leaving unexplored micro or single-celled microbes in such a biodiversity-rich environment like the Western Ghats.

“Even small man-made changes near these semi-aquatic habitats, which are usually located either along the roadside or nearby walls of water bodies, can affect the dependent species,” added Balasubramanian.

Even today, Western Ghats have not been fully studied or documented from macro to micro-level species. This is also a concern as researchers still remain in the dark about possible locations of such semi-aquatic habitats that have not been mapped, and many species remain undiscovered.

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