New whitefly found in Western Ghats

New whitefly found in Western Ghats of the worlds major biologically diverse zones, the Eastern and Western Ghats of India are among the richest, providing natural conservation to many unknown species of plants and animals. They chronicle many undisclosed stories of evolution.

Adding another feather to the biodiversity hotspot of the Western Ghats, entomologists have discovered a new genus of whitefly prompting a call for revision of its closest genus Aleurolobus. The genus Aleurolobus is characterised by hordes of different whiteflies thriving on plants.

While reporting the new find in the June 2007 issue of Current Science (Vol 92, No 12), the authors say that the new genus may be a close relative of Aleurolobus and could trigger either dissection of the existing genus or widening of its generic definition.Anil Dubey and Chiun-Cheng Ko of the National Taiwan University, who have discovered the new whitefly -- a plant sap-sucking bug -- contend that the genus Aleurolobus has become way too complex. It comprises many morphologically less diverse whiteflies or unnoticed forms of the polyphagous species.

The new genus has been named Rutaleyrodes Dubey and Ko after the host plant family Rutaceae. The whitefly was assigned a new genus since it had distinct features like absence of submarginal furrow, lateral projections at the base of the orifice and invaginated tracheal pores with tubercles.

"Whiteflies are often overlooked on the lower surface of leaves and are among the least studied group despite being notorious agricultural pests and potential transmitters of plant disease-causing viruses," Dubey, who has discovered 46 new whitefly species and three new genera in the Western ghats since 2001, said.

The whitefly taxonomy is exclusively based on the pupal case and pupal stages rather than adults are generally used for identification. The whitefly sub-family Aleyrodinae, to which Aleurolobus belongs, is represented in India by 57 genera, mostly from the Western Ghats.

Dubey said the primary need to carry out research on any organism was to establish its identity. "It is very difficult to find experts especially in case of insects. India, despite being a mega-diversity centre, remains unexplored with regard to its invertebrate fauna," he rued.

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