Deepika Sivanandam, Pondicherry University (Dr. I. L. G. Bhavani)
Project title: Comparison of mud puddling activity of butterflies between a disturbed and an undisturbed forest patchs in the Western Ghats

The Butterfly diversity in the Western Ghats is high with 333species from 164 genera and 5 families. The Western Ghats has an estimated 160,000 sq. km under forest cover extending from Surat in southern Gujarat to southwestern Tamil Nadu along the western coast of peninsular India. Adult Lepidoptera of many species frequently visit moist soil, saliva, perspiration, tears, excrements, or animal carcasses to suck water and dissolved nutrients, behaviour conventionally termed ‘mud puddling’ (Arms et al. 1974; Adler 1982; Adler and Pearson 1982). This behaviour is more common in tropics than in the temperates. Large numbers of males congregate in groups to mud puddle. Mud puddling is an activity to acquire different minerals particularly sodium. The reason for this behaviour difference within sexes is because the males pass complex spermatophores to their mates (Drummond 1984). Sodium intake by males affects their reproductive success, while the transfer of sodium from male to female enhances the reproductive successes of both females and eggs (Pivnik and McNeil 1987) since females subsequently transfer sodium to their eggs (Smedly and Eisner 1996).
Research has been carried out on various aspects such as butterfly diversity, habitat preference, migration pattern of butterflies, mimicry and so on with respect to the lepidopterans but no significant work has been done on the mud puddling with regard to tropical forests of India. Mud puddling is a governing aspect that enhances the reproductive success of females wherein males take in essential salts and pass them on to the females while mating. It is likely that the mud puddling will be seen more in an undisturbed patch rather than disturbed patch and so there is a need to conserve forests. Hence it’s an ideal topic for a dissertation.
Karian Shola (Undisturbed forest patch) and Kollikamiti elephant camp (Disturbed forest patch) are the two study areas, both are part of the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary (IGWLS) in Western Ghats which is located at 10.58° N 76.93° E, in Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu. From each of the study area 6-7 sites along the streams will be considered. The stream near the Kollikamiti elephant camp supports 80 families and is used by the mahouts to bathe the elephants, hence the water is polluted and this forest patch is disturbed due to human activity in the area.

OBJECTIVES:

  • Identifying and counting the number of individuals and species of butterflies which mud puddle in karian shola, IGWLS and to compare the numbers with those in kollikamiti elephant camp, IGWLS.
  • To identify which species form groups to mud puddle and which species mud puddle solitarily.
  • To find out if decoys attract butterflies.
  • Analyzing the soil to find out which mineral is preferred by butterflies.

The study involves species count and the number of individuals with respect to families under a control condition wherein there are no decoys and proceeding with two treatments by placing one decoy for a particular time period and 5 decoys on another. The purpose of this is to check the affinity of butterflies towards an artificial decoy. The behaviour of butterflies will be observed with binoculars (10 x 50 wide angle) from a distance of about 7 m using a branch with thick foliage as a cover to minimise disturbance.
To compare mud puddling activity the above said procedure will be carried out in an undisturbed area (6-7 sites in Karian Shola) and in a disturbed area (6-7 sites in Kollikamiti elephant camp). The sites will be half a kilometre apart. The species that mud puddle in groups and those that mud puddle solitarily will also be observed and noted.
Soil analysis at each site will be carried out checking for elements like Sodium Na, Phosphorous P, Calcium Ca, Urea, Potassium K, Magnesium Mg, Chlorine Cl and Moisture content using standard tests. Soil analysis is done to draw a relation with the kind of nutrients preferred by butterflies. The soil temperature at the respective sites and the time period of mud puddling will be noted.