New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

General Sherman: World’s largest tree

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : General Sherman Tree

Mains level : NA

Two wildfires in California are burning through the Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada that is home to some of the largest trees in the world.

Among these trees is the world’s largest tree popularly known as General Sherman, which firefighters are now trying to protect from the blaze.

About General Sherman

  • The General Sherman tree is the world’s largest in terms of volume and exists in the Giant Forest sequoia grove of the national park.
  • As per recent estimates, General Sherman is about 2,200 years old.
  • It stands at a height of 275 feet (taller than the leaning tower of Pisa) and has a diameter of 36 feet at the base.
  • Even 60 feet above the base, the tree has a diameter of 17.5 feet.
  • Giant sequoia trees have existed in the national park for thousands of years and there are an estimated 2,000 such trees in the park.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Animal Discoveries 2020 report by ZSI

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Species mentioned

Mains level : Not Much

India has added 557 new species to its fauna reveals Animal Discoveries 2020, a document published recently by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).

Major species discovered

The number of faunal species in India has climbed to 1,02,718 species. Among the new species, some interesting species discovered in 2020 are:

  • Trimeresurus salazar, a new species of green pit viper discovered from Arunachal Pradesh;
  • Lycodon deccanensis, the Deccan wolf snake discovered from Karnataka; and
  • Sphaerotheca Bengaluru, a new species of burrowing frog named after the city of Bengaluru.
  • Xyrias anjaalai, a new deep-water species of snake eel from Kerala;
  • Glyptothorax giudikyensis, a new species of catfish from Manipur; and
  • Clyster galateansis, a new species of scarab beetles from the Great Nicobar Biosphere.

Visitor species

  • Myotis cf. frater, a bat species earlier known from China, Taiwan and Russia, has been reported for the first time from Uttarakhand in India
  • Zoothera citrina gibsonhilli, an orange-headed thrush earlier known from southern Myanmar to south Thailand (central Malay peninsula) was reported for the first time from India based on a collection made from the Narcondam island in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Significance

  • The ZSI publication shows that India is a mega biodiverse country, rich in biodiversity, with 23.39% of its geographical area under forest and tree cover.
  • India is positioned 8th in mega biodiversity countries in the world with 0.46 BioD index which is calculated by its percentage of species in each group relative to the total global number of species in each group.

About Zoological Survey of India

  • The ZSI was set up by British zoologist Thomas Nelson Annandale, in 1916.
  • It is the premier taxonomic research organization in India.
  • It was established to promote surveys, exploration and research leading to advancement of our knowledge of various aspects of the exceptionally rich animal life of India.
  • The ZSI had its genesis as the Zoological Section of the Indian Museum at Calcutta in 1875.
  • Since its inception, the ZSI has been documenting the diversity and distribution of the fauna of India towards carrying out its mandate of conducting exploration-cum-taxonomic-research programmes.
  • The ZSI has published an extremely large amount of information on all animal taxa, from Protozoa to Mammalia.

Try answering this PYQ:

Q.With reference to India’s Biodiversity, Ceylon frogmouth, Coppersmith barbet, Gray-chinned minivet and White-throated redstart are: (CSP 2020)

(a) Birds

(b) Primates

(c) Reptiles

(d) Amphibians

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Euphlyctis Kerala

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Euphlyctis Kerala

Mains level : NA

A new species of skittering frog has been identified from the surroundings of the Thattekkad bird sanctuary.

Euphlyctis Kerala

  • The new species is named Euphlyctis Kerala in honor of the remarkable biodiversity of the State, which is also known for many endemic species of frogs.
  • The new species is known to be found in the freshwater bodies of the foothills of the Western Ghats, south of the Palakkad Gap.
  • Although multiple skittering frogs have been described from India for almost two centuries (since 1799), the taxonomic mess within this group created a lot of confusion due to “morphological character crypticity”.
  • Members of the genus Euphlyctis (skittering frogs) have their distribution range from Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand.
  • As of now, Kerala is known to have 180 species of frogs and there could be many more new species awaiting formal descriptions.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Bharitalasuchus Tapani

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bharitalasuchus Tapani

Mains level : NA

In the mid 20th century, researchers from the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, carried out extensive studies on rocks of the Yerrapalli Formation in what is now Telangana, uncovering several fossils of Bharitalasuchus Tapani.

Bharitalasuchus Tapani

  • This reptile belongs to a genus and species previously unknown to science. It is named Bharitalasuchus tapani considering Telugu etymology.
  • In the Telugu language, Bhari means huge, Tala means head, and Suchus is the name of the Egyptian crocodile-headed deity.
  • The species is named after paleontologist Tapan Roy Chowdhury in honour of his contribution to Indian vertebrate paleontology and especially his extensive work on the Yerrapalli Formation tetrapod fauna.

Details of the reptile

  • The reptile belonged to a family of extinct reptiles named Erythrosuchidae.
  • A precise identification had not been possible earlier because the family was not known from other examples in India.
  • It was neglected because the fossil specimen was not as complete as those of other erythrosuchids from other countries.
  • The team notes that tapani were robust animals with big heads and large teeth, and these probably predated other smaller reptiles.
  • They were approximately the size of an adult male lion and might have been the largest predators in their ecosystems.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Pyrostria Laljii

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pyrostria Laljii

Mains level : NA

A 15-meter-tall tree that belongs to the genus of the coffee family has recently been discovered from the Andaman Islands by a team of researchers from India and the Philippines.

Observe this PYQ from CSP 2016:

Q.Recently, our scientists have discovered a new and distinct species of banana plant which attains a height of about 11 metres and has orange-coloured fruit pulp. In which part of India has it been discovered?

(a) Andaman Islands

(b) Anamalai Forests

(c) Maikala Hills

(d) Tropical rain forests of northeast

Pyrostria Laljii

  • The new species, Pyrostria laljii, is also the first record of the genus Pyrostria in India.
  • Plants belonging to the genus Pyrostria are usually found in Madagascar but the recently discovered species is new to science.
  • The tree is distinguished by a long stem with a whitish coating on the trunk, and oblong-obovate leaves with a cuneate base, and was first reported from South Andaman’s Wandoor forest.
  • Pyrostria laljii has been assessed as ‘Critically Endangered’ based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List criteria.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Litoria Mira

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Litoria mira

Mains level : NA

A species of frog lives in the rainforests of New Guinea that appears to be made from chocolate — just like the magical sweets popular in the wizarding world of J K Rowling’s Harry Potter.

Litoria mira

  • The cocoa-colored frogs have turned out to be a new species — and an addition to our knowledge of the animal kingdom.
  • It has a well-known relative — the common green tree frog of Australia called Litoria cerulean.
  • Litoria Mira can be distinguished from all other Litoria by its unique combination of moderately large size, webbing on hand, relatively short and robust limbs, and a small violet patch of skin on the edge of its eyes.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Rare white-bellied heron spotted in Arunachal Pradesh

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IUCN status of white-bellied heron

Mains level : Paper 3- White-bellied heron spotted

About the bird

  • The white-bellied heron is categorised as ‘critically endangered’ in International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Data Book.
  • It is listed in Schedule IV in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • It is one of the rarest birds in the world and is found only in Bhutan, Myanmar and the Namdapha Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • It had also been recorded in the adjacent Kamlang Tiger Reserve in Lohit district in camera trap images.

Significance of recent sighting

  • The recent sighting at a height of 1,200 metres above sea level is a first at such a higher elevation in India.
  • The presence of nesting sites within this area is a positive sign for the future habitat as the breeding season of the white-bellied heron starts in February and lasts till June.
  • It is great news that the critically endangered bird is establishing new habitat beyond its traditional range.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Meghalaya records India’s first bat with sticky disks

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Species of bats

Mains level : Paper 3- Disk-footed bat recorded for first time in India

About the species

  • A team of scientists from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and a few European natural history museums stumbled upon very specialised small bat with “disk-like pads in the thumb and bright orange colouration”.
  • The flattened skull and sticky pads enabled the bats to roost inside cramped spaces, clinging to smooth surfaces such as bamboo internodes.
  • The disk-footed bat was also found to be genetically very different from all other known bats bearing disk-like pads.

Significance

  • Meghalaya has yielded India’s first bamboo-dwelling bat with sticky disks, taking the species count of the flying mammal in the country to 130.
  • The disk-footed bat has raised Meghalaya’s bat count to 66, the most for any State in India.
  • It has also helped add a genus and species to the bat fauna of India.
  • There are a couple of other bamboo-dwelling bats in India.
  • But the extent of adaptation for bamboo habitat in this species is not seen in the others.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Tiki Formation in Madhya Pradesh

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cynodonts

Mains level : NA

The Tiki Formation in Madhya Pradesh, a treasure trove of vertebrate fossils, has now yielded a new species and two genera of cynodonts, small rat-like animals that lived about 220 million years ago.

Tiki Formation

  • The Tiki Formation is a Late Triassic geologic formation in Madhya Pradesh.
  • Dinosaur remains are among the fossils that have been recovered from the formation, although none have yet been referred to a specific genus.
  • Phytosaur remains attributable to the genus Volcanosuchus have also been found in the Tiki Formation.
  • The genera Tikiodon, Tikitherium and Tikisuchus and species Rewaconodon tikiensis, Hyperodapedon tikiensis and Parvodus tikiensis have been named after the Tiki Formation.

Findings of the new study

  • The fossil teeth were studied for size, crown shape, structure of the cusps and compared with previously reported cynodonts.
  • Cynodonts are important in evolutionary studies as this group ultimately gave rise to the present-day mammals.
  • By studying their molar and premolar teeth, we see how they slowly evolved and modified.
  • Their crown shape shows that these animals are actually intermediate forms that are very near to the mammalian line of evolution.
  • Cynodonts and living mammals both belong to a group of egg-laying vertebrates (amniotes) called synapsids.
  • The close relationship of cynodonts with living mammals is seen in their bones.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Azhdarchid Pterosaurs

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Azhdarchid pterosaurs

Mains level : Not Much

Azhdarchid pterosaurs, the giant reptiles that flew in the skies nearly 65 million years ago, had necks longer than that of a giraffe (i.e. more than 6fts).

What are pterosaurs?

  • Pterosaurs are reptiles that are close cousins of dinosaurs, the first animals after insects to evolve powered flight.
  • Some pterosaurs were as large as an F-16 fighter jet, while others were as small as a paper aeroplane.
  • Pterosaurs went extinct about 65-66 million years ago (end of the Cretaceous period) and while they did not leave any of their descendants behind.
  • One reason for this is that few pterosaurs lived in places where fossils tend to form, because of which their bones are preserved poorly.

Revise the geological timescale from your NCERT textbook.

Azhdarchid pterosaurs

  • They are one type of pterosaur and one of the distinguishing characteristics about them is how big they were, especially their long necks.
  • Some of these pterosaurs were the largest animals to have flown in the sky, with wingspans greater than 30 feet.
  • The name azhdarchid, as per a blog on Scientific American comes from Azhdarcho, a Central Asian form named by Russian ornithologist and palaeontologist in 1984.

What have the researchers found?

  • Researchers involved in this study were curious about how the reptile’s long neck functioned and how it was able to support the pterosaur’s body, allowing them to capture and eat heavy prey animals.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Monkeydactyl: the flying reptile with the ‘oldest opposable thumbs’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Monkeydactyl

Mains level : Evolution of natural history

Researchers have described a pterosaur species with opposable thumbs, which could likely be the earliest-known instance of the limb.

Monkeydactyl

  • The pterosaur species were reptiles, close cousins of dinosaurs and the first animals after insects to evolve powered flight.
  • They evolved into various species; while some were as large as an F-16 fighter jet, others were as small as paper aeroplanes.
  • The new pterosaur fossil was discovered in the Tiaojishan Formation of Liaoning, China, and is thought to be 160 million years old.
  • It has now been described by an international team of researchers from China, Brazil, the UK, Denmark and Japan, and has been named Kunpengopterus antipollicatus, also dubbed “Monkeydactyl”.

What has the team found?

  • “Antipollicatus” in ancient Greek means “opposite thumbs”, and it was attached to the name because the researchers’ findings could be the first discovery of a pterosaur with an opposed thumb.
  • Researchers suggested that K. antipollicatus could have used its hand for grasping, which is likely an adaptation for arboreal life.

What makes it special?

  • Opposability of the thumb enables the species to “simultaneously flex, abduct and medially rotate the thumb” in a way that one is able to bring the tip of the thumb to touch the tips of the other fingers.
  • Along with humans, some ancient monkeys and apes also had opposable thumbs. Humans, however, have a relatively long and distally placed thumb, and larger thumb muscles.
  • This means that humans’ tip-to-tip precision grip when holding smaller objects is superior to non-human primates.
  • This is the reason that humans are able to hold a pen, unscrew an earring stopper, or put a thread through a needle hole.
  • The grasping hands of primates developed as a result of their life in the trees — an opposable thumb made it easier for the common ancestor of all primates to cling on to tree branches.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Some species of plants are insectivorous. Why?

(a) Their growth in shady and dark places does not allow them to undertake sufficient photosynthesis and thus they depend on insects for nutrition

(b) They are adapted to grow in nitrogen deficient soils and thus depend on insects for sufficient nitrogenous nutrition

(c) They cannot synthesize certain vitamins themselves and depend on the insects digested by them

(d) They have remained in that particular stage of evolution as living fossils, a link between autotrophs and heterotrophs

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Nacaduba sinhala ramaswamii Sadasivan

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nacaduba sinhala ramaswamii Sadasivan

Mains level : NA

The discovery of the species Nacaduba sinhala ramaswamii Sadasivan in the Agasthyamalais in the Western Ghats a decade ago has now found a place in the Journal of Threatened Taxa.

William Shakespeare’s words hold true! Really “Whats in a name!”

Nacaduba sinhala ramaswamii Sadasivan

  • The new taxon of Lycaenid butterflies belonging to the Nacaduba genus had been first sighted by a team of Bombay Natural History Society.
  • Line Blues are small butterflies belonging to the subfamily Lycaenidae and their distribution ranges from India and Sri Lanka to the whole of southeastern Asia, Australia and Samoa.
  • It is the first time that a butterfly species was discovered by an all-Indian research team from the Western Ghats.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2020:

Q.With reference to India’s Biodiversity, Ceylon frogmouth, Coppersmith barbet, Gray-chinned minivet and White-throated redstart are

(a) Birds

(b) Primates

(c) Reptiles

(d) Amphibians

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Hypnea Indica

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Red algae

Mains level : Seaweeds and their significance

Two new species of seaweed have been discovered by a group of marine biologists from the Central University of Punjab, Bathinda.

What are the species?

  • Named Hypnea indica (after India) and Hypnea bullata (because of the blisterlike marks on its body – bullate), the seaweeds are part of the genus Hypnea or red seaweeds.
  • They grow in the intertidal regions of the coast, namely the area that is submerged during the high tide and exposed during low tides.

Do you know?

Red Algae have great ecological importance. They form a vital part of the food chain and are also involved in producing about 40 to 60 per cent of the total global oxygen for both terrestrial habitat and other aquatic habitats.

Details of the genus

  • The genus Hypnea consists of calcareous, erect, branched red seaweeds.
  • While Hypnea indica was discovered Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, and Somnath Pathan and Sivrajpur in Gujarat, Hypnea bullata was discovered from Kanyakumari and Diu island of Daman and Diu.
  • There are 61 species of which 10 were reported in India.

Significance for the food industry

  • Species of Hypnea contain the biomolecule carrageenan, which is widely used in the food industry.
  • As the two species have been found on the west and south-east coasts of India, it suggests good prospects for their cultivation which can be put to good use economically.
  • The extensive calcareous deposit on the body that has been observed also provides room for thought.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Wild Sun Rose (Portulaca Laljii)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Portulaca Laljii

Mains level : NA

Botanists have discovered a new species of wild Sun Rose from the Eastern Ghats in India.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2018:

Q.Why is a plant called Prosopis juliflora often mentioned in the news?

(a) Its extract is widely used in cosmetics.

(b) It tends to reduce the biodiversity in the area in which it grows

(c) Its extract is used in the pesticides.

(d) None of the above

Portulaca Laljii

  • The new species named Portulaca laljii was discovered from the Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh.
  • It has unique features such as a tuberous root, no hair in its leaf axils, a reddish-pink flower, prolate-shaped fruits, and copper brown seeds without luster.
  • Portulaca Laljii has been named to honor the contribution of Lal Ji Singh, an eminent botanist of the Botanical Survey of India.
  • The species has been placed under the ‘Data Deficient’ category of the IUCN List of Threatened Species because very little information is available about the population of the species.

Morphological features

  • These morphological features distinguish the species from other species of the genus Portulaca.
  • The flowers, which are reddish-pink in color, are very minute, at about 0.5mm.
  • The plant was found growing in rocky crevices at an altitude of about 1,800 meters above mean sea level, very close to the ground, at about less than 10 cm.
  • The plants belonging genus Portulaca are classified in the category Sun Rose because they flower in bright sunshine.
  • The genus was described by Linnaeus in 1753 as a type genus of the flowering plant family Portulacaceae.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Himalayan trillium

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Himalayan trillium

Mains level : Not Much

The Himalayan trillium (Trillium govanianum), a common herb of the Himalayas was declared ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) last week.

Try this MCQ:

Q.Recently, there was a growing awareness in our country about the importance of Himalayan nettle (Girardinia diversifolia) because it is found to be a sustainable source of-

(a) Anti-malarial drug

(b) Bio-diesel

(c) Pulp for paper industry

(d) Textile fibre

Himalayan trillium

  • In recent years, the plant has become one of the most traded commercial plants of the Himalayan region, due to its high medicinal quality.
  • It is found in temperate and sub-alpine zones of the Himalayas, at an altitude from 2,400-4,000 metres above sea level.
  • Their existence has also been traced across India, Bhutan, Nepal, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • In India, it is found in four states only- Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, and Uttarakhand.
  • Often called Nagchatri, in local areas this herb grows to a height of 15-20 cm.

Various applications

  • It has been used in traditional medicine to cure diseases like dysentery, wounds, skin boils, inflammation, sepsis, as well as menstrual and sexual disorders.
  • Recent experiments have shown that the rhizome of the herb is a source of steroidal saponins and can be used as an anti-cancer and anti-ageing agent.
  • This increased its market value and has now become an easy target for poachers.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Myristica Swamp Treefrog

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Myristica Swamp Treefrog

Mains level : Western Ghats and its biodiversity richness

Myristica swamp treefrog, a rare arboreal (living on trees) species endemic to the Western Ghats has been recorded for the first time in Kerala’s Thrissur district.

Again, a stand-alone peculiar species is in the news. Make a special note here. Usually, note the species and its habitat location (IUCN status if available), in the purview of a generic prelims question.

Myristica Swamp Treefrog

  • It bears the scientific name Mercurana myristicapalustris.
  • The frog was first spotted in 2013 in the Myristica swamps of Arippa, near the Kulathupuzha Reserve Forest, in the western foothills of Agasthyamalai, in Kollam district.
  • Unlike the Myristica swamp treefrog found in the foothills of the Agasthyamalai, these frogs were found to be active throughout June and early July.

Unique traits

  • These frogs are rare and elusive for the reason that they are arboreal and active only for a few weeks during their breeding season.
  • During this season, there is a large aggregation of males that descend from the high canopy of the trees.
  • The breeding season, unlike for other frogs, starts in the pre-monsoon season (May) and ends before the monsoon becomes fully active in June.
  • Before the end of the breeding season, the female frogs along with their male counterparts descend on the forest floor. The female digs the mud and lays eggs in shallow burrows in mud.
  • After breeding and egg-laying, they retreat back to the high canopies of the tree and remain elusive till next breeding season.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Meghalaya’s Glowing Mushrooms

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bioluminescence

Mains level : Eastern Himalayas and its biodiversity

A mushroom documentation project in the forests of Northeast India has discovered a bioluminescent — or light-emitting — variety of mushroom.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Lichens, which are capable of initiating ecological succession even on a bare rock, are actually a symbiotic association of:

(a) Algae and bacteria

(b) Algae and fungi

(c) Bacteria and fungi

(d) Fungi and mosses

Roridomyces phyllostachydis

  • The new species was first sighted near a stream in Meghalaya’s Mawlynnong in East Khasi Hills district and later at Krang Shuri in West Jaintia Hills district.
  • It is now one among the 97 known species of bioluminescent fungi in the world.

Bioluminescence in fungi

  • Bioluminescence is the property of a living organism to produce and emit light.
  • Bioluminescent organisms are usually found in ocean environments, but they are also found in terrestrial environments.
  • The colour of the light emitted by the organism depends on its chemical properties.
  • In the case of fungi, the luminescence comes from the enzyme, luciferase.
  • The green light emits when luciferans is catalysed by the enzyme luciferase, in the presence of oxygen.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Rohanixalus -the frogs of the new genus

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Genus Rohanixalus

Mains level : Eastern Himalayas and its biodiversity

Indian researchers have discovered a genus of tree frog found in the Andaman Islands and the northeast.

A stand-alone species being mentioned in the news for the first time find their way into the prelims. Make special note here. Usually, note the species and its habitat location (IUCN status if available), in the purview of a generic prelims question.

Genus Rohanixalus

  • Named after Sri Lankan taxonomist Rohan Pethiyagoda, the frogs of the new genus Rohanixalus are characterised by a rather small and slender body (size about 2 to 3 cm long).
  • It has a pair of contrastingly coloured lateral lines on either side of the body, minute brown speckles scattered throughout the upper body surfaces, and light green coloured eggs laid in arboreal bubble-nests.
  • Based on DNA studies, the new genus is also revealed to be a distinct evolutionary lineage from all previously known tree frog genera.
  • It is the 20th recognised genus of the family Rhacophoridae that comprises 422 known Old World tree frog species found in Asia and Africa.

Sub-species of this frog

  • There are eight frog species in this genus Rohanixalus.
  • They are known to inhabit forested as well as human-dominated landscapes right from the northeast to Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, up to southern China.

Unique features of this genus

  • The genus has several unique behavioural traits including maternal egg attendance where the female (mother) attends the egg clutches until hatching and assists in the release of the tadpoles into the water.
  • During the first three days after egg-laying, the female sits over the eggs and produces a gelatinous secretion with which she glazes the egg mass through the clock-wise movement of her legs.
  • This behaviour provides necessary moisture to the eggs laid on exposed leaf surfaces and protects them from insect predation.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Pelagornithids

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pelagornithids

Mains level : Not Much

Scientists have identified the fossil of a giant bird that lived about 50 million years ago, with wingspans of up to 21 feet that would dwarf today’s largest bird, the wandering albatross.

Try this PYQ:

Q.The term “Sixth mass extinction/ sixth extinction is often mentioned in the news in the context of the discussion of

(a) Widespread monoculture practices in agriculture and large-scale commercial farming with indiscriminate use of chemicals in many parts of the world that may result in the loss of good native ecosystems.

(b) Fears of a possible collision of a meteorite with the Earth in the near future in the manner it happened 65 million years ago that caused the mass extinction of many species including those of dinosaurs.

(c) Large scale cultivation of genetically modified crops in many parts of the world and promoting their cultivation in other parts of the world which may cause the disappearance of good native crop plants and the loss of food biodiversity.

(d) Mankind’s over-exploitation/misuse of natural resources, fragmentation/loss of natural habitats, destruction of ecosystems, pollution and global climate change.

Pelagornithids

  • Called Pelagornithids, the birds filled a niche much like that of today’s albatrosses and travelled widely over Earth’s oceans for at least 60 million years.
  • They are known as ‘bony-toothed’ birds because of the bony projections, or struts, on their jaws that resemble sharp-pointed teeth, though they are not true teeth, like those of humans and other mammals.
  • The bony protrusions were covered by a horny material, keratin, which is like our fingernails, the researchers said.
  • Called pseudoteeth, the struts helped the birds snag squid and fish from the sea as they soared for perhaps weeks at a time over much of Earth’s oceans, they said.

Their extinction

  • The pelagornithids came along to claim the wingspan record in the Cenozoic, after the mass extinction and lived until about 2.5 million years ago. Around that same time, teratogens, now extinct, ruled the skies, they said.
  • The newly described fossil — a 50 million-year-old portion of a bird’s foot — shows that the larger Pelagornithids arose just afterlife rebounded from the mass extinction 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs, went extinct.
  • The last known pelagornithid is from 2.5 million years ago, a time of changing climate as Earth cooled, and the ice ages began.

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Echinops Sahyadricus

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Echinops Sahyadricus

Mains level : Not Much

Researchers have discovered a new species of Echinops Sahyadricus (Sahyadri Globe Thistle) from the Rajgad Fort in the Sahyadri Mountains.

Echinops Sahyadricus

  • Echinops is a genus of about 130 species of flowering plants found in tropical and North Africa, the Mediterranean basin and West Asia, extending eastwards to China and Japan.
  • The highest number of taxa (76) is concentrated in the Iranian plateau. Five species are found in India including two in Maharashtra.
  • The new species is unique because of the size of its composite inflorescence which measures up to 9 cm in diameter that is relatively large compared to other Echinops species found around the world.
  • It grows vegetative on open grassy slopes of mountains in four months of monsoon and blooms in November. Fruiting can be seen in December.

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Medicinal plants in news

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Plants mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : NA

This newscard is an excerpt from the original article published in DownToEarth.

Explained below are the medicinal properties of 10 valuable plants known to boost natural immunity:

(1) Abrusprecatorius (Indian liquorice, Ratti)

  • The bright red ovoid seeds with a black spot weigh 1/10th of a gram, and were hence used as weighing unit called ‘Ratti’ in ancient India by goldsmiths.
  • Its seeds are said to have immune-modulating properties.

(2) Artemisia scoparia (Redstem Wormwood)

  • These plants have excellent clinical anti-malarial properties due to the presence of artemisinin.
  • They possess potent anti-inflammatory properties and help regulate both innate and adaptive immunity.

(3) Azadirachtaindica (Neem)

  • It is a well-known tree used in various systems of traditional medicine since time immemorial. In Sanskrit, it is known as Arishtha, which means ‘reliever of sicknesses’.
  • Neem bark is known to have strong immunostimulant Neem oil has been shown to possess activity by selectively activating cell-mediated immune mechanisms.

(4) Boerhaviadiffusa (Punarnava)

  • In Ayurveda, Punarnava is included in the category of rasayana herbs that possess anti-ageing properties. It helps prevent diseases.
  • This means they increase resistance by providing hepatoprotection (the ability of a substance to prevent damage to the liver) and immune-modulation.

(5) Cardaminehirsuta (Hairy Bitter Cress)

  • The plants contain vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, beta carotene, antioxidants and sulfur-containing compounds that boost immunity.

(6) Clerodendrumphlomidis (Sage Glory Bower, Arni, Agnimantha)

  • It is an essential medicinal plant that is also mentioned in texts since the Vedic period. It is known to boost the immune system, purify the blood and cure urinary tract infection.
  • The decoction made from the whole plant is useful in improving strength and immunity following a bout of fever or other ailments.

(7) Phyllanthus tenellus (Mascarene Island leaf-flower)

  • It is an annual herb commonly found near wetlands, ditches, wet places, edges of drains and disturbed places. It is known for immune-modulatory properties.
  • Physalis peruviana (Cape Gooseberry, Rasbhari) (Family: Solanaceae): It is used in traditional folk medicines as an immunomodulatory drug. It is rich in vitamin C and helps enhance body immunity.

(8) Portulaca oleracea (Purslane)

  • Purslane has been used in folk medicine since ancient times and is included in the World Health Organization’s list of most widely used medicinal plants.
  • The leaves of the plant are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which is important in preventing heart attacks and strengthening the immune system.

(9) Withaniasomnifera (Indian Winter Cherry, Indian Ginseng, Aswagandha)

  • Ashwagandha is an important ancient herb and has been used in the indigenous medical system for over 3,000 years.
  • It is considered to be one of the best rejuvenating agents in Ayurveda that helps to maintain proper nourishment of the tissues. It possesses antioxidant, mind-boosting and immune-enhancing properties.

Now try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. The Taxus tree is naturally found in the Himalayas
  2. The Taxus tree is listed in the Red Data Book.
  3. A drug called “taxol” is obtained from Taxus tree is effective against Parkinson’s disease

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 3 only

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

ZSI lists Skinks of India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Skinks

Mains level : NA

Celebrating skinks, Zoological Survey of India has listed 62 species.

Try this PYQ:

Q.With reference to India’s Biodiversity, Ceylon frogmouth, Coppersmith barbet, Gray-chinned minivet and White-throated redstart are-

(a) Birds

(b) Primates

(c) Reptiles

(d) Amphibians

What are Skinks?

  • Skinks are lizards belonging to the family Scincidae, a family in the infraorder Scincomorpha.
  • With long bodies, relatively small or no legs, no pronounced neck and glossy scales, skinks are common reptiles around homes.
  • Although they are common reptiles and have a prominent role in maintaining ecosystems, not much is known about their breeding habits, and ecology because identification of the species can be confusing.

Certain notions about them

  • Skinks are highly alert, agile and fast-moving and actively forage for a variety of insects and small invertebrates.
  • The reduced limbs of certain skink species or the complete lack of them make their slithering movements resemble those of snakes, leading people to have the incorrect notion that they are venomous.
  • This results in several of these harmless creatures being killed.

ZSI study on Skinks

  • A recent publication by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) reveals that India is home to 62 species of skinks and says about 57% of all the skinks found in India (33 species) are endemic.
  • Sepsophis (with one species)and Barkudia (with two species) are limbless skinks found in the hills and coastal plains of the eastern coast.
  • Barkudia insularisis believed to be found only in the Barkud Island in Chilka lake in Odisha. Barkudia melanosticta is endemic to Visakhapatnam.
  • Sepsophis punctatus is endemic to the northern part of Eastern Ghats.
  • Five species of Kaestlea (blue-tailed ground skinks) are endemic to the Western Ghats and four species of Ristella (Cat skinks) also endemic to the southern part of Western Ghats.

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Aenigmachanna Gollum

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aenigmachanna Gollum

Mains level : NA

Scientists have discovered a new family of bony fish from the Western Ghats and named it Aenigmachannidae.

A stand-alone species being mentioned in the news for the first time (and that too from Southern India) find their way into the prelims. Make special note here. Usually, note the species and its habitat location (IUCN status if available), in the purview of a generic prelims question.

Aenigmachannidae

  • Aenigmachanna Gollum has a surprisingly large number of primitive characters, and detailed molecular phylogenetic analyses including of its Mitochondrial DNA suggested an ancient separation from Channidae.
  • Many such species were earlier found in the aquifers of Kerala.
  • Many of these species are blind, pigment-less, and have peculiar morphological characters that are otherwise not seen in species occurring in surface waters.

Significance of the discovery

  • The presence of two unique endemic families of freshwater fish in a small region like Kerala is unparalleled and indicates the exceptional diversity and endemicity of fishes in this part of the world.
  • The members of Aenigmachannidae are “living fossils” and comprise an ancient Gondwanan lineage that survived the break-up of the supercontinent and the northward drift of the Indian subcontinent.

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Abortelphusa Namdaphaensis

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Abortelphusa Namdaphaensis

Mains level : Eastern Himalayas and its biodiversity

A crab specie was recently named after Arunachal Pradesh’s pristine forests on the edge of a small stream in Namdapha Tiger Reserve.

Try this question from CSP 2020:

Q.With reference to India’s Biodiversity, Ceylon frogmouth, Coppersmith barbet, Gray-chinned minivet and White-throated redstart are:

(a) Birds
(b) Primates
(c) Reptiles
(d) Amphibians

Abortelphusa Namdaphaensis

  • The species, a small freshwater crab species, is a tribute to Namdapha, the largest protected area in the Eastern Himalayan Biodiversity Hotspot and the Abor Hills.
  • It is the first Gecarcinucidae to be found in the Himalayan region. Freshwater crabs are divided into two families/categories: Potamidae and Gecarcinucidae.
  • Both differ in abdomen shape and size. Potamidae species have a broad triangular abdomen, whereas, in Gecarcinucidae, the abdomen is mostly T-shaped.
  • While the Gecarcinucidae is found in the peninsular region, the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats, Potamidae are found in the Himalayan region.

What makes it special?

  • The new species was found in a dry area, despite being a “freshwater” crab.
  • Freshwater crabs use their gills to absorb dissolved oxygen from water, but for food, breeding, and other purposes, they do not need water, and thus roam on the land near water.
  • The only reason it was possible to spot this on land is that the habitat around the water body has been preserved, untouched even.
  • Of the 125 freshwater crabs in India, the north-east accounts for 37. Arunachal Pradesh has 15 and Assam has 21.
  • The discovery highlights the potential of Arunachal Pradesh as one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the country.

Back2Basics: Namdapha

  • Namdapha (named a National Park in 1983) is known for its rich biodiversity and believed to be the rare area that harbours four large cats: tigers, snow leopards, clouded leopards and leopards.
  • The Abor Hills, bordered by the Mishmi Hills and Miri Hills, is historically known for the Abor Expedition.
  • It is a punitive expedition against the Abors in the North-Eastern Frontier Agency (which corresponds to parts of present-day Assam and Arunachal Pradesh) from October 1911 to April 1912.
  • The expedition had thrown up a plethora of new floral and faunal species, making it a zoological and botanical expedition as well.

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Madhuca Diplostemon

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Madhuca diplostemon

Mains level : Not Much

A tree species, long believed extinct, has been rediscovered after a gap of more than 180 years from a sacred grove in Kollam district.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. Biodiversity hotspots are located only in tropical regions.
  2. India has four biodiversity hotspots i.e., Eastern Himalayas, Western Himalayas, Western Ghats and Andaman and the Nicobar Islands.

Which of the above statements is/ are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Madhuca diplostemon

  • Scientists have identified the tree as Madhuca diplostemon (family Sapotaceae), a threatened species of the Western Ghats whose specimen was first collected in 1835.
  • In 1835, Robert Wight, a surgeon-botanist with the East India Company, had collected three specimens of the species.
  • Only one mature tree has been found so far, which makes this remarkable rediscovery extremely valuable from a scientific, environmental and conservation point of view.
  • Since the species is represented only by one specimen in a single locality, it is eligible to be categorised ‘Critically Endangered’ by the IUCN.

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Kalinga Frog

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kaling frog and its habitat

Mains level : Western Ghats and its biodiversity richness

Indian scientists have reported a first-of-its-kind discovery of morphological phenotypic plasticity (MPP) in the Kalinga cricket frog.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. Biodiversity hotspots are located only in tropical regions.
  2. India has four biodiversity hotspots i.e., Eastern Himalayas, Western Himalayas, Western Ghats and Andaman and the Nicobar Islands.

Which of the above statements is/ are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Kalinga Frog

  • The Kalinga Frog (Fejervarya Kalinga) was recently identified species which was documented in 2018.
  • The species was encountered several times during field expeditions in the Western Ghats. However, the physical characteristics vary entirely from the known species of Eastern Ghats.
  • However, it has been reported from the central Western Ghats, with the evidence of considerable MPP.
  • It was the only genetic analysis that helped prove that physically different-looking frogs from eastern and western ghats were the same.

What is MPP?

  • The morphological phenotypic plasticity (MPP) is the ability of an organism to show drastic morphological (physical features) variations in response to natural environmental variations or stimuli.
  • The term “phenotype” refers to the observable physical properties of an organism, which include the organism’s appearance, development, and behaviour.

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Raksasa Cockroach

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bathynomus Raksasa

Mains level : NA

A team of researchers has discovered a supergiant cockroach when they explored waters of the Indian Ocean in Bantan, off the southern coast of West Java in Indonesia.

Try this MCQ:

Q.The ‘Bathynomus Raksasa’, a species recently discovered is basically a:

a) Mollusc

b) Annelid

c) Arthropod

d) Flagella

Bathynomus Raksasa

  • The Bathynomus raksasa is a giant isopod (phylum: Arthropoda) in the genus Bathynomus.
  • It is described as the “cockroach of the sea”. The epithet is the Indonesian word “raksasa” for giant, alluding to its enormous size.
  • The giant isopods are distantly related to crabs, lobsters, and shrimps (which belong to the order of decapods), and are found in the cold depths of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.
  • It has 14 legs but uses these only to crawl along the bed of oceans in search of food.
  • As a scavenger, Bathynomus raksasa eats the remains of dead marine animals, such as whales and fish, but can also go for long periods without food, a trait that it shares with the cockroach.

Why this cockroach matters?

  • Bathynomus raksasa is the sixth ‘supergiant’ species from the Indo-West Pacific and is one of the largest known members of the genus.
  • The discovery takes the number of known giant isopods to 20.
  • As the Bathynomus raksasa reveals its secrets, it will contribute towards increasing knowledge about the deep.

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Golden Birdwing

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Golden Birdwing

Mains level : NA

A Himalayan butterfly named golden birdwing is now India’s largest recorded butterfly.

Try this MCQ:

Q.The Himalayan Golden Birdwing recently seen in news is a:

a)Biggest butterfly

b)Smallest avian specie

c)Biggest freshwater fish

d)Honeybee

Golden Birdwing

  • A Himalayan butterfly named golden birdwing is now India’s largest, a record the southern birdwing held for 88 years.
  • The male golden birdwing is much smaller at 106 mm.
  • With a wingspan of 194 mm, the female of the species is marginally larger than the southern birdwing (190 mm) that Brigadier William Harry Evans, a British military officer and lepidopterist, recorded in 1932.
  • It was an individual of the southern birdwing which was then treated as a subspecies of the common birdwing.

Other butterflies in news

  • The Malabar Banded Peacock or the Buddha Mayoori which was recently declared the ‘State Butterfly’ of Kerala will have a dedicated butterfly park in Kochi.
  • Tamil Nadu has also recently declared Tamil Yeoman (Cirrochroa Thais)as its state butterfly to symbolise its rich natural and cultural heritage, in a move aimed at boosting the conservation efforts of the attractive insects.
  • Other states to have state butterflies are Maharashtra (Blue Mormon), Uttarakhand (Common peacock), Karnataka (Southern birdwings).

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Assam keelback snake

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Assam Keelback Snake

Mains level : NA

More than a century after it was first seen, the Assam keelback — a snake species endemic to the region — was rediscovered in 2018 at the Poba Reserve Forest (RF) by a team from Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

Try this question from CSP 2018:

Q.In which one of the following State Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary is located?

(a) Arunachal Pradesh (b) Manipur (c) Meghalaya (d) Nagaland

Assam Keelback Snake

  • The species is small — about 60 cm long, brownish, with a patterned belly.
  • This particular keelback does not belong to the generalized keelback snake of India but is rather a unique genus (Herpetoreas).
  • It was discovered 129 years ago by Samuel Edward Peel, a British tea planter based in Upper Assam.
  • The snake’s ‘lost’ status has a lot to do with the habitat it occupies — in this case, a lowland evergreen forest.
  • These forests have been selectively degraded during the last 100 years: tea plantations have been made, selective logging has taken place, and many other activities such as oil exploration and coal mining.

Is the snake under threat?

  • Most snakes and other reptiles are categorised as ‘data deficient’ in the IUCN list.
  • There is practically no information available about it and it is difficult to determine its status.

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Globba Andersonii Plant

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Species in news: Globba Andersonii Plant

Mains level : NA

A team of researchers have “rediscovered” a rare species called Globba andersonii from the Sikkim Himalayas near the Teesta River valley region after a gap of nearly 136 years.

Try this question from CSP 2016:

Q.With reference to ‘Red Sanders’, sometimes seen in the news, consider the following statements:

  1. It is a tree species found in a part of South India.
  2. It is one of the most important trees in the tropical rain forest areas of South India.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Globba Andersonii

IUCN status: Critically Endangered

  • Globba andersonii is characterised by white flowers, non-appendaged anthers (the part of a stamen that contains the pollen) and a “yellowish lip”.
  • The plant, known commonly as ‘dancing ladies’ or ‘swan flowers’ was thought to have been extinct until its “re-collection”, for the first time since 1875.
  • The earliest records of the collection of this plant were dated between the period 1862-70 when it was collected by Scottish botanist Thomas Anderson from Sikkim and Darjeeling.
  • Then, in 1875, the British botanist Sir George King, had collected this taxon from the Sikkim Himalayas.

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Coccolithophores: The Ancient Algae

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Coccolithophores

Mains level : Not Much

A study of microscopic ancient marine algae (Coccolithophores) has found that there is a decrease in the concentration of oceanic calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the Southern Indian Ocean.

Try this question:

Q.The Coccolithophores sometimes seen in news are-

(a) Diatoms

(b) Algae

(c) Coral Polyps

(d) Sea grass

Coccolithophores

  • Coccolithophores are single-celled algae living in the upper layers of the world’s oceans.
  • They have been playing a key role in marine ecosystems and the global carbon cycle for millions of years.
  • They calcify marine phytoplankton that produces up to 40% of open ocean calcium carbonate and responsible for 20% of the global net marine primary productivity.
  • They build exoskeletons from individual CaCO3 plates consisting of chalk and seashells building the tiny plates on their exterior.

Role as a carbon sink

  • Though carbon dioxide is produced during the formation of these plates, coccolithophores help in removing it from the atmosphere and ocean by consuming it during photosynthesis.
  • At equilibrium, they absorb more carbon dioxide than they produce, which is beneficial for the ocean ecosystem.
  • These investigations are important for future intervention to bring positive changes in the marine ecosystem and the global carbon cycle.

Threats

  • The reduction of coccolithophores is due to an increase in the presence of diatom algae, which occurs after sea ice breakdown with climate change and ocean acidification, and increases the silicate concentration in the waters of the Southern Ocean.
  • Their existence is highly dependent on time and influenced by various environmental factors such as silicate concentrations, calcium carbonate concentration, diatom abundance, light intensity and availability of macro and possibly micronutrient concentrations.

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Band-tail Scorpionfish

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Band-tail scorpionfish

Mains level : NA

A rare band-tail scorpionfish was recently found in the Gulf of Mannar.

A stand-alone species being mentioned in the news for the first time (and that too from Southern India) find their way into the prelims. Make special note here. Usually, note the species and its habitat location (IUCN status if available), in the purview of a generic prelims question.

Band-tail scorpionfish

  • The band-tail scorpionfish (Scorpaenospsis neglecta) camouflages within the seagrass meadows.
  • It is well-known for its stinging venomous spines and ability to change colour.
  • The fish has the ability to change colour and blend with its surrounding environment to escape from predators and while preying.
  • The fish is called ‘scorpionfish’ because its spines contain neurotoxic venom.

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Amaltas or Indian Laburnum

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Amaltas Tree

Mains level : NA

The Amaltas or Indian laburnum has begun blooming this summer.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2018:

Q. Why is a plant called Prosopis juliflora often mentioned in news?

(a) Its extract is widely used in cosmetics.

(b) It tends to reduce the biodiversity in the area in which it grows

(c) Its extract is used in the pesticides.

(d) None of the above

Amaltas Tree

  • The Amaltas (Cassia fistula linn), native to South-East Asia is one of the most widespread trees in India and South-East Asia, with their presence both in cities as well as in moist and dry forests.
  • It has drooping clusters of bright fragrant yellow flowers with five petals and characteristic cylindrical fruits.
  • The Amaltas is known by so many names — Indian Laburnum, Golden Shower, Purging Fistula, Pudding-pipe tree, Girmala, Rajbrikh, Alash, Kiar, Kirwara, Ali — showing us how common and loved it is.
  • It is both the national tree and the national flower of Thailand and is also the state flower of Kerala.

Features of Amaltas

  • This middle-sized deciduous tree is leafless only for a brief time, between March and May.
  • The new leaves are glossy, a trait that they lose on maturing, and are mostly bright green, though sometimes a rich copper too.
  • It flowers from April to June, partly alongside the emergence of new leaves, but it’s not uncommon to find the Amaltas in flower as late as September.
  • The bark is yellowish at first, slowly coarsens with age and turning dark grey.

Significance

  • The tree is mostly known to be ornamental and few know of its benefits as a medicinal plant, and one that’s loved by some mammals, bees, and butterflies.
  • The bark is used to make dye and the pulp in the fruit pod also serves as a strong purgative agent, which also helps animals that feed on it.
  • A medicinal preparation with the roots of the tree is used to cure leprosy and skin diseases and the leaves are used to get rid ulcers, in traditional medicine.

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Asian Koel

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Asian Koel

Mains level : NA

Asian Koel, the state bird of Puducherry, is now breeding across Delhi-NCR.

For such species, related question, always focus on their habitat, endemic area, IUCN/Wildlife Protection Acr status.

Another caution: Imp birds in the news that are almost “Least Concerned” eg. Amur Falcon (Nagaland), Asian Koel

Asian Koel

IUCN status: Least Concerned

  • The Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus) is a member of the cuckoo order of birds, the Cuculiformes.
  • It is found in the Indian Subcontinent, China, and Southeast Asia.
  • It forms a superspecies with the closely related black-billed koels, Indian cuckoos, and Pacific koels which are sometimes treated as subspecies.
  • The Asian Koel like many of its related cuckoo kin is a brood parasite that lays its eggs in the nests of crows and other hosts, who raise its young.

Key Features

  • Sexual dimorphism is evident, where males are a glossy black with a greenish sheen to their bodies and females are brown with white dots on their wings and heavy streaking on their head and throat.
  • Both sexes have strong long greenish bills and captivating ruby-red eyes.
  • In the bird world, the males are generally more pleasant looking than the females, considering they woo females.

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Specie in news: Charru mussel (Mytella strigata)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Charru mussel

Mains level : NA

An invasive mussel native to the South and Central American coasts is spreading quickly in the backwaters of Kerala.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2018:

Q. Why is a plant called Prosopis juliflora often mentioned in news?

(a) Its extract is widely used in cosmetics.

(b) It tends to reduce the biodiversity in the area in which it grows

(c) Its extract is used in the pesticides.

(d) None of the above

Charru mussel

  • The rapid spread of the Charru mussel (Mytella strigata) may have been triggered by Cyclone Ockhi which struck the region in 2017.
  • With a population as high as 11,384 per sq metre here, it has replaced the Asian green mussel (Perna Viridis) and the edible oyster Magallana bilineata (known locally as muringa).
  • Externally, the Charru mussel resembles the green and brown mussels (kallummekka in Malayalam) but is much smaller in size. Its colour varies from black to brown, purple or dark green.
  • Surveys show the presence of the Charru mussel in the Kadinamkulam, Paravur, Edava-Nadayara, Ashtamudi, Kayamkulam, Vembanad, Chettuva and Ponnani estuaries/backwaters.
  • Ashtamudi Lake, a Ramsar site in Kollam district, remains the worst-hit.

Threats posed

  • Though this smaller mussel is edible, the overall economic loss and impact on biodiversity are much bigger, it is pointed out.
  • It is throwing out other mussel and clam species and threatening the livelihoods of fishermen engaged in shrimp fisheries.

By Explains

Explain the News

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Cicadas

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cicadas

Mains level : NA

A brood of periodical cicadas, noisy insects that breed underground for as long as 13-17 years are expected to emerge into some states of the US this year.

A stand-alone species being mentioned in the news for the first time may find their way into the prelims. Make special note here.

What are Cicadas?

  • Cicadas are insects that spend most of their lives underground and emerge from the soil mainly to mate.
  • Once out of the ground, their life span is fairly short, somewhere between two-four weeks.
  • At present, there are about 15 active broods of these cicadas as some have gone extinct.
  • The insects are found in America’s as well as New Zealand and Australia.
  • The name 13 and 17 year refers to the number of years that cicada nymphs take to reach adulthood.
  • It is not clear why their development period is so long, researchers suspect that it may be linked to avoiding predators above the soil.

How are the fed?

  • During this time underground the nymphs feed on sap from plant roots.
  • After this developmental period, the cicada nymphs construct a “cicada hut” and burrow their way out from the soil and climb onto any nearby tree or vegetation.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Puntius Sanctus fish

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Puntius Sanctus

Mains level : NA

Velankanni in Tamil Nadu has thrown up a new species of small freshwater fish.

Last year one species from our newscard: Species in news: Hump-backed Mahseer made it into the CSP 2019.  The ‘Puntius Sanctus’ fish in the newscard creates such a vibe yet again.

A stand-alone species being mentioned in the news for the first time (and that too from Southern India) find their way into the prelims. Make special note here.

Q. Consider the following pairs

Wildlife Naturally found in
1. Blue-finned Mahseer Cauvery River
2. Irrawaddy Dolphin Chambal River
3. Rusty-spotted Cat Eastern Ghats

Which of the pairs given correctly matched? (CSP 2019)

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Puntius Sanctus

  • The silver-hued fish has been named Puntius Sanctus — ‘Sanctus’ is Latin for holy — after the popular pilgrim town.
  • Encountered in a small waterbody in Venlankanni, Puntius Sanctus is small, it grows to a length of 7 cm.
  • It found to use both as food and as an aquarium draw.
  • “The Puntius species are known locally as ‘Paral’ in Kerala and ‘Kende’ in Tamil Nadu.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Western Ghats yield 3 new plant species

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various species mentioned

Mains level : Western Ghats and its biodiversity richness

A team of scientists of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) have reported the discovery of three new plant species from the evergreen forest patches of the southern end of the Western Ghats in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

One may get carried away from the heavy botanical names. But UPSC is known for asking ruthless questions.

Q. Recently, our scientists have discovered new and distinct spices of banana plant which attains a height of about 11 meters and has orange – colored form of pulp. In which part of India has been discovered? (CSP 2016)

a) Andaman Islands

b) Anaimalai Forests

c) Maikala Hills

d) Tropical rainforest of North-East

Which are the new species?

The three new species found are:

1) Eugenia sphaerocarpa of the Myrtaceae or Rose apple family

  • A good population of Eugenia sphaerocarpa is growing in the Kakkayam area of the Malabar wildlife sanctuary in Kerala above 800 m.
  • The specific epithet ‘sphaerocarpa’ denotes to the large, showy lemon-yellow spherical fruit.
  • The fruits of Eugenia species are known for their palatability and many of them are harvested from the wild with some under cultivation.

2) Goniothalamus sericeus of the Annonaceae family of custard apple

  • A small number of Goniothalamus sericeus plants has been found in the Kanyakumari wildlife sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.
  • Mature flowers with characteristic greenish-yellow to beige petals are fragrant while the fruits are very showy and an attractive golden yellow in colour.
  • The specific epithet ‘sericeus’ refers to the presence of dense silky hair on the petals.

3) Memecylon nervosum of the Melastomataceae (Kayamboo or Kaasavu in local parlance) family

  • A small population of Memecylon nervosum was also found at the same sanctuary at an altitude between 700-900 m with more that than 10 sub-populations located along the banks of a perennial rivulet.
  • The species have showy purplish-blue flowers and mauve to purplish-red fruits.
  • The specific epithet ‘nervosum’ alludes to the presence of prominently raised lateral and intramarginal veins on the lower surface of the lamina.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Pinanga Andamanensis

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pinanga Andamanensis

Mains level : NA

A rare palm endemic to the South Andaman Island is finding a second home at Thiruvananthapuram-based Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI).

Last year one  species from our newscard : Species in news: Hump-backed Mahseer made it into the CSP 2019.  The ‘Abutilon ranadei’ flower in the newscard creates such a vibe yet again.

A stand-alone species being mentioned in the news for the first time often find their way into the prelims. Make a special note here.

Pinanga Andamanensis

  • Pinanga andamanensis is an IUCN critically endangered species and one of the least known among the endemic palms of the Andaman Islands.
  • The name is derived from ‘Penang’, the modern-day Malaysian state.
  • Its entire population of some 600 specimens naturally occurs only in a tiny, evergreen forest pocket in South Andaman’s Mount Harriet National Park.
  • It was originally described by the Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari in 1934.
  • His description was based on an old herbarium specimen collected by E.H. Man, a late-19th century assistant superintendent in the Andaman administration.
  • After that first identification, it was thought to be extinct till 1992.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Troglomyces twitteri

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Troglomyces twitteri

Mains level : NA

A new species has just been identified on an old image on Twitter. It is named as Troglomyces twitteri.

The species Troglomyces twitteri has something unique in its name. UPSC may ask a straight forward question like – The specie Troglomyces twitteri recently seen in news is a- (a) Algae (b) Fungi (c) Fish (d) Sea Grass …….

Troglomyces twitteri

  • Troglomyces twitteri is a type of parasitic fungus.
  • It belongs to an order called Laboulbeniales — tiny fungal parasites that attack insects and millipedes.
  • These fungi live on the outside of host organisms; in this case, on the reproductive organs of millipedes.
  • Laboulbeniales were first discovered in the middle of the 19th century.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Oculudentavis khaungraae

Scientists have found the skull of a 99-million-year-old flying dinosaur that is tinier than the tiniest bird known to humans.

  • The bird-like dinosaur was found stuck in a gob of tree resin that eventually hardened into amber, preserving it for millions of years to come.
  • The fossil was dug up in 2016 from a mine in Myanmar. It was so slight; it likely weighed just 2 grams.
  • The dinosaur skull holds around 100 sharp teeth, which hints at its ferocious nature despite its small size.
  • It even had teeth in the back of its jaw, under its eye.

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Specie in news: ‘World’s largest’ subterranean fish

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Meghalayan caves, and their biodiversity

Mains level : NA

 

Systematic exploration of the Meghalayan caves has been underway for almost 30 years and hundreds of kilometres of cave passages have been explored and mapped. In a cave in a remote forested area of Meghalaya’s Jaintia Hills a research expedition found large specie of a subterranean fish (occurring under the earth’s surface).

About the fish

  • The blind fish was over 40 cm. It has not been named so far.
  • It is nearly five times the mean length (85mm/8.5 cm) for all known subterranean fish to date.
  • The only other species exceeding 300mm (30 cm) in length are eel-like Synbranchidae with nothing like the bulk of the new fish.
  • The 250-known subterranean (occurring under the earth’s surface) fish species around the world measure only around 8.5 cm on average.
  • The specialists say that possibly one (or more) populations of these fish became isolated deeper in the caves and over generations became adapted to the dark, losing their eyes in the process.

Closest resemblance

  • The experts feel that the fish species is very similar to the Golden Mahseer or the Tor Putitora, one of the most famous game fish of the Himalayan rivers.
  • Unique characters that distinguishes it from the Golden Mahseer is the lack of pigmentation, a lack of eyes and of course, its subterranean habitat – being locked in caves.
  • There are ‘normal’ Golden Mahseer in the area too but there is not much surface water (at least in the dry winter months) so fish end up in the cave pools and underground rivers.

Features of Subterranean ecosystems

  • Subterranean ecosystems are considered extreme, high-stress environments characterised by darkness, truncated food webs and food scarcity.
  • Despite this, they harbour exceptional vertebrate and invertebrate taxa (21,000+ species), many of which are evolutionarily unique, and relics of ancient fauna given their long-term isolation.
  • Many cave fish show different adaptations – some don’t have eyes, some have reduced eyes, some don’t have fins, some have weird body shapes.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

In news: Yaravirus

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Yaravirus

Mains level : NA

In a lake in Brazil, researchers have discovered a virus that they find unusual and intriguing.

Yaravirus

  • The Yaravirus infects amoeba and has genes that have not been described before, something that could challenge how DNA viruses are classified.
  • It has a puzzling origin and phylogeny (evolutionary relationship).
  • Because of the Yaravirus’s small size, it was unlike other viruses that infect amoeba and they named it as a tribute to Yara, the “mother of waters” in the mythological stories of the Tupi-Guarani indigenous tribes.
  • The virus does not infect human cells, according to the researchers.

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