New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Indian bull frog: the Andamans’ new colonisers

The Indian bullfrog

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Indian bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus), Indian Wildlife Act 1972, Convention on Biological Diversity, IUCN

Mains level: Invasive species and threat posed by them on native species and biodiversity


New frog species

  1. A recent migrant to the Andaman island is the Indian bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus)
  2. The bullfrog is found widely in mainland India and protected under Schedule IV of the Indian Wildlife Act 1972
  3. It is steadily occupying the islands’ ecosystem and threatening the local economy

Man-Frog conflict

  1. The voracious animal gulps down anything that would fit in its jaws: centipedes, leeches, native frogs, lizards, small snakes, and even chicks and ducklings, which are an important source of food for the islanders
  2. An unusual man-frog conflict is brewing due to this

Why are bullfrogs a threat on islands?

  1. Bullfrogs are found all over mainland India, but it is in the unique ecosystem of the islands that it becomes a major threat
  2. Unlike the mainland, resources on the islands are scarce for big animals, while natural calamities are more frequent
  3. The wildlife here has evolved in a miniature setting: there are no large herbivores (the largest is the Andaman wild pig) or large carnivores

Focus on invasive species

  1. Globally, invasive species, particularly in islands, are becoming the focus of numerous organisations
  2. The Convention on Biological Diversity has said that invasives have contributed to 40% of all animal extinctions since the 17th century
  3. The IUCN has formulated guidelines for managing invasives specifically in islands, largely involving data collection, community engagement, policy measures and management plans

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Indian plant seed could bring clean water to millions

plant--agencies

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Moringa oleifera plant, F-sand

Mains level: Innovative methods to deal with water pollution


Plant to purify water

  1. Proteins from the Moringa oleifera plant can help effectively purify water in developing nations at a low cost
  2. The plant – commonly known as the drumstick tree – is cultivated for food and natural oils, and the seeds are already used for a type of rudimentary water purification
  3. The Moringa oleifera plant tree is native to India and grows well in tropical and subtropical climates

F-sand

  1. Sand and plant materials have been to create a cheap and effective water filtration medium, termed “f-sand”
  2. F-sand was created by extracting the seed proteins from the Moringa oleifera plant, and adhering them to the surface of silica particles, the principal component of sand
  3. It kills microorganisms and reduces turbidity, adhering to particulate and organic matter

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

New frog species takes historical name of Goa

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Fejervarya goemchi

Mains level: Biodiversity of India and ways to conserve it


Attaching Goa’s name to wildlife

  1. In the highland plateaus of the Western Ghats parts of Goa, scientists have identified a new species of frog called Fejervarya goemchi
  2. The new species is named after the historical name of the state of Goa where the species is discovered

Unique features

  1. In monsoons, many of these large-sized terrestrial frogs sit next to water bodies making calls to attract females for mating and breeding
  2. Most of these frogs are terrestrial but they need water bodies to continue for survival
  3. The new species is found in the high elevation areas of laterite plateaus, temporary water bodies and paddy fields of Goa

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Western Ghats reveal world’s smallest land fern

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Adder’s-tongue ferns, Ophioglossum malviae

Mains level: Biodiversity of western ghats and measures needed to conserve it


News

Smallest fern discovered

  1. Indian researchers have discovered the world’s smallest land fern hiding in the Ahwa forests of the Western Ghats in Gujarat’s Dang district
  2. The fingernail-sized fern belongs to a group known as the adder’s-tongue ferns, named after their resemblance to a snake’s tongue

Features of the plant

  1. The size of the new Malvi’s adder’s-tongue fern Ophioglossum malviae is just one centimeter
  2. A look at the plant’s minuscule seeds (called spores) under a powerful electron microscope revealed it had a unique thick outer layer which similar species lacked
  3. Initial observations suggest that the ferns are seasonal and grow with the first monsoon rains

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

New species of large gecko discovered

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Name of the new species

Mains level: The article shows an example of Biodiversity in India.


News

New Lizard in Eastern Ghats

  1. A team of scientists’ has found Geckos(a new species) from the Eastern Ghats
  2. The Kanger valley rock gecko Hemidactylus kangerensis is the newest addition to India’s lizard species
  3. According to a paper published in the taxonomic journal Comptes Rendus Biologies, researchers of the National Centre for Biological Sciences has discovered the gecko from Chhattisgarh’s Kanger Ghati National Park
  4. According to the researchers, the discovery highlights the need for dedicated surveys across the Eastern Ghats, where biodiversity has not been quantified too well

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

New snake species discovered in Gujarat

  1. News: Discovered a new snake genus and species in Gujarat
  2. Context: Snake genus has been named Wallaceophis in honour of the legendary 19th century British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, considered the father of biogeography
  3. Relevance: Snake species has been named Gujaratenisis to commemorate the western Indian state where it was discovered
  4. Where? Wallaceophis Gujaratenisis is presently found in just seven localities of Gujarat and virtually nothing is known about its biology
  5. The find is one of the rarest of moments in the recent reptile history of India

Wallaceophis_2765052f


  1. News: Discovered a new snake genus and species in Gujarat
  2. Context: Snake genus has been named Wallaceophis in honour of the legendary 19th century British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, considered the father of biogeography
  3. Relevance: Snake species has been named Gujaratenisis to commemorate the western Indian state where it was discovered
  4. Where? Wallaceophis Gujaratenisis is presently found in just seven localities of Gujarat and virtually nothing is known about its biology
  5. The find is one of the rarest of moments in the recent reptile history of India

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Four extinct plant species rediscovered

  1. News: 4 species of Impatiens (Kasi Thumba) plants believed to have gone extinct were rediscovered from Western Ghats
  2. Where? Rediscovery made during explorations at Dhoni Hills of Palakkad and Nelliampathy, Kerala
  3. Rediscovered plants: Impatiens concinna, Impatiens sasidharanii, Impatiens neo-modesta , and Impatiens sasidharanii var hirsuta ,
  4. Significance: great medicinal values
  5. Found in: tropical Asian and African regions
  6. According to the researchers: Plants usually found 2,000 ft above sea level, are short-lived and will be seen only one quarter of a year
  7. Climate Change effect: It is possible that any slight change in weather could sound the death knell for these plants. They are so sensitive to climate

Rediscoveredplants


  1. News: 4 species of Impatiens (Kasi Thumba) plants believed to have gone extinct were rediscovered from Western Ghats
  2. Where? Rediscovery made during explorations at Dhoni Hills of Palakkad and Nelliampathy, Kerala
  3. Rediscovered plants: Impatiens concinna, Impatiens sasidharanii, Impatiens neo-modesta , and Impatiens sasidharanii var hirsuta ,
  4. Significance: great medicinal values
  5. Found in: tropical Asian and African regions
  6. According to the researchers: Plants usually found 2,000 ft above sea level, are short-lived and will be seen only one quarter of a year
  7. Climate Change effect: It is possible that any slight change in weather could sound the death knell for these plants. They are so sensitive to climate

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