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| Last Updated:: 08/08/2016

Plastic waste endangering butterfly habitat










Trichy: Puliyancholai, a famous tourist spot located on the foothills of Pachamalai in Trichy district, is considered a haven for butterflies and moths because of the moisture in the environment. Butterflies here can be seen indulging in mud-puddling a process of sipping salts and minerals from moist substances from mud, dung or carrion on the ground.










However, this may change soon as waste left behind by tourists has started to pose a serious threat to the ecological system, according to a study conducted by Q Ashoka Chakkaravarthy, wildlife biologist and assistant professor of Environmental Science, Department of Foundation Courses, St Joseph's College, Trichy.



Tourists leave behind plastic bottles, packets and other nondegradable waste like liquor bottles along the stream, endangering the butterflies, said the ecologist.



Mud-puddling is mostly seen in male butterflies, however there are reports of females engaging singly in puddling singly. Males indulge in puddling to incorporate extra salts and minerals into their sperm which is then transferred to the female during mating. These extra salts and minerals improve the viability of the female's eggs, increasing the pair's chances of passing on their genes to the future generation.



The dissolved salts and minerals is used to make pheromones (that the male uses to attract females) and sperm. The main stimulant for puddling is sodium. The diet of adults (primarily nectar and fruits) lack sodium/salt. They don't get sufficient sodium during the larval stages either. According to the report, males have to sustain high activity levels to be able to fly around and locate receptive females.



Butterflies puddle from anything between a few seconds and an hour or more, depending on a variety of factors. During the process, they suck the nutrient rich fluids through their proboscis, and filter it within their systems to extract the needed chemicals.



As Puliyancholai has a steady flow of water round the year, it is suitable for not only butterflies but also reptiles, fish, frogs, raptor birds and aquatic birds.



"Tourists must be sensitized to keep the stretch litter-free. We should allow the butterflies to survive in this unique ecosystem," appealed Chakkaravarthy.