Tracking a wind-aided migration across continents

Citizen project monitors movement of dragonfly Pantala flavescens from Africa and back

Migratory dragonfly Pantala flavescens has started arriving in swarms to the State. They have been spotted at Vellayani Lake here, Kole farms in Thrissur, Kasaragod, and in beaches.

The inter-continental migration of these dragonflies, known as Wandering Gliders, that cross oceans with the help of winds has always fascinated naturalists. Society for Odonate Studies, a group of nature enthusiasts dedicated to the study of dragonflies, has launched an inter-continental citizen science project titled Pan Pantala Track to track their migration.

A study published in 2012 has proved that these dragonflies migrate from Africa to India and back with the help of the monsoon winds. They lay eggs in temporary pools formed after the rains where their larvae grow rapidly, feeding on mosquito larvae and other small creatures. They complete four life cycles to finish their migratory circuit.

Sole claimant

โ€œIt is the only regular transoceanic movement of any insect in the world. It is also the longest; the total distance travelled in a year would be more than 16,000 kilometres,โ€ says Subramanian K.A., Scientist-E, Zoological Survey of India, who launched the project online. Although it is presently the most abundant dragonfly species in the world, it needs to be studied how it responds to the changing climate, he adds.

โ€œKoBo Toolbox, a free open-source tool for data collection using mobile phones is used for the project. Observers can upload data from anywhere in the world”, says Sujith V. Gopalan, a coordinator of the study. โ€œWe thought of starting the study in India and extending it to other countries. Already enquiries have come from Israel, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. We expect the project to be on a global scale soon. It will help us understand more about the grand migration.โ€

34 sightings

Since Wednesday morning, 34 reports of spotting have reached from Bengaluru, Trichy, Thanjavur, Coimbatore, Kasaragod, Kannur, Thrissur, Kozhikode, Ernakulam, Kottayam, and Thiruvananthapuram. โ€œWe have reports of more than 1,000 wandering gliders,โ€ he added.

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