For Sri Lankan biodiversity exploration, the year 2019 has been a remarkable year with so many discoveries being published. In fact, it is a leading year in the recent history with 53 new species being described and named from the country. However, though some of these new species discoveries were widely publicized for different reasons, many went almost unnoticed. So I thought it’s best to turn back and revise the year to see how deep we have extended the probe of exploration in to the realms of biodiversity.
The majority of the new species discoveries made from Sri Lanka in 2019 are of invertebrates, which numbered 32 in total. Surprisingly all invertebrates discovered from Sri Lanka in the year are arachnids. They comprised of 14 cellar spiders (Family Pholcidae), 4 crab spiders (Family Thomisidae), 7 Jumping spiders (Family Salticidae), 1 tarantula (Sri Lanka Ornate Ground Tarantula, Chilobrachys jonitriantisvansicklei; Family Theraphosidae), 1 scorpion (Heterometrus yaleensis; Family Scorpionidae) and 5 mites and ticks (Subclass Acari). These discoveries were made based on specimen collected all around the island and from all ecological zones.
Vertebrates described from the country in the past year comprised of 15 species. 14 of these are reptiles and remarkably 13 out of those are Day geckos in the genus Cnemaspis. As the genus is receiving lot of taxonomic attention, species were described from various localities around the island including Rakwana Mountains (C. godagedarai), Peak Wilderness Mountain Range (C. anslemi), Kadugannawa tunnel (C. kohukumburai), Nilgala savannah forest (C. nilgala) and several isolated mountains in the dry and intermediate zones of Sri Lanka. The de Silva’s Rough-Side Snake (Aspidura desilvai), the only snake to be described from the country was discovered from the Knuckles Mountain Range. Conniff’s Shrub Frog (Pseudophilautus conniffae) discovered from the southern Sri Lanka is the only amphibian described in 2019.
We also saw 6 new species of Graphidaceae lichens being descried from Sri Lanka towards the end of 2019. All these species, other than one, were discovered from the montane zone of the country.
The year 2019 has been an eventful year for the biodiversity exploration in Sri Lanka. Apart from the new species discoveries mentioned here, there were many other taxonomic and biodiversity exploration work which resulted in new species records to the country, observations of potentially new taxa and reclassification of some taxa. Let’s hope that the actions to conserve the newly discovered species and further taxonomic exploration will follow in the year 2020.
Look forward to more on the recent biodiversity explorations in Sri Lanka in future.
Erratum: The endemic orchid Pteroceras dalaputtuwa was also described in the year 2019 making the total number of new species to be described from Sri Lanka in the year 54.