Dragons and Damsels

This blog is about an eBook Dragonflies and Damselflies of Peninsular India - A Field Guide that has been published by the Indian Academy of Science, Bangalore, and which can be freely downloaded from their site.

The information available on the Academy website is as follows: This project is part of the Academy initiative to enhance the quality of science education, pursued in collaboration with the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science to spread biodiversity literacy, especially within the high school and college student community, and to involve them in collecting information at first hand on the status and ongoing changes in ecological habitats and a selected set of species of considerable human significance. It also aims to publish illustrated accounts of 1500 Indian species of micro-organisms, plants and animals. These accounts are meant to assist high school, college and postgraduate students and teachers of biology in reliably identifying these taxa. They would also include ancillary information on distribution, ecology and behaviour that would help design field exercises and projects focusing on first-hand observations of living organisms. The information thus generated could feed into a countrywide system of monitoring ongoing changes in India's lifescape to support efforts at conservation of biological diversity, as well as control of invasive, of weeds, pests, vectors and diseases. Hopefully, the accounts would also stimulate popular interest in the broader spectrum of India's biological wealth

The Indian subcontinent is one of the biologically richest regions of the world. Two global biodiversity hot spots, namely the eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats, are in this region. Another biologically rich region, Sri Lanka, is just to the south of the subcontinent. The subcontinent is rich in odonates (damselflies and dragonflies); about 500 species are known. The dragonflies of the region are taxonomically well described thanks to the monumental work of Fraser. However, the natural history and distribution of most of the species is barely known. This lacuna is largely due to the lack of user-friendly field guides for amateur naturalists and students.

As an initiative to generate interest in dragonflies among naturalists and students, Indian Academy of Sciences is publishing a field guide on the odonates of Peninsular India. The book is being published as part of Project Lifescape of the Academy. This project aims at producing user-friendly field guides and other resources to encourage field-based biology research among students.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part gives a detailed account of the natural history of Odonata. The second part gives keys for the identification of odonate families for larval and adult stages. The third section gives species accounts for 26 damselflies and 34 dragonflies of Peninsular India. The book is lavishly illustrated with colour photographs or specimen scans of all the species described. In addition, the book also provides a checklist of odonates for the region (178 species) and a glossary of technical terms. The novelty of the book is provision of common English names of all species.

The project has thus far produced three other books, Butterflies of Peninsular India, Freshwater Fishes of Peninsular India, Amphibians of Peninsular India, all published by Universities Press, Hyderabad. All of these, and a number of other books on Natural History can be ordered on the Scholars website: this one is for free. Enjoy!