New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Phtheirospermum Lushaiorum: Hemiparasite Plant Species named after Lushai Tribe  

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Phtheirospermum Lushaiorum:

Mains level: NA

Why in the News?

  • A rare hemi-parasitic terrestrial plant has been found in Phawngpui National Park of Mizoram.
    • It has been named ‘Phtheirospermum Lushaiorum’ after the Lushai tribe of Mizoram, honoring their commitment to biodiversity conservation.

About  Lushai Tribe

    • Lushai is another tribe under the Kuki-chin group (racially from Mongolia) of tribes.
      • They are commonly known as Mizos.
      • In Tripura there are 5,384 persons (as per 2011 Census).
    • Occupation: They mostly reside in the Jampui Hills area of Tripura and have Jhum Cultivation and hunting of wild animals as their main occupation.
  • Culture and belief:
    • converted to Christianity and still follow Christianity as their religion.
    • Their Cheraw Dance (Bamboo Dance) is quiet famous.

About Phtheirospermum Lushaiorum

  • This plant lacks a fully developed root system and taps into the sap of host plants through specialized structures known as haustoria.
  • Despite its parasitic nature, it contains chlorophyll and can produce its food, showing some independence from its host.
  • It flowers from July to September, with fruit production occurring from August to October.
  • The plant grows near a popular trekking route in Phawngpui National Park, facing threats from both anthropogenic activities and natural factors.

Back2Basics: Phawngpui National Park

    • Also known as Blue Mountain National Park, it is one of the two national parks in Mizoram (the other being Murlen NP).
  • Geographical location:
      • Close to the border with Burma (Myanmar).
      • The park overlooks the Chhimtuipui River, which flows toward Burma.
      • The geography of Phawngpui is characterized by its cloud-covered mountain area, which gives it a distinctive blue appearance from a distance.
  • Flora and Fauna:
      • Bird species:Blyth’s tragopan, falcons, sunbirds, dark-rumped swifts, and the Mizoram state bird, Mrs. Hume’s pheasant.
      • Mammals: Mountain goat, slow loris, tiger, leopard, leopard cat, serow, goral, Asiatic black bear, stump-tailed macaque, and capped langur. 
  • Flora: Grassy meadows, orchids, rhododendrons, and bamboo groves.

 

PYQ:

[2016] Recently, our scientists have discovered a new and distinct species of banana plant which attains a height of about 11 meters and has orange-coloured fruit pulp. In which part of India has it been discovered?

(a) Andaman Islands

(b) Anaimalai Forests

(c) Maikala Hills

(d) Tropical rain forests of Northeast

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Kerala bans Oleander Flowers in Temple Offerings

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Oleander Flowers

Why in the news?

Kerala temple authorities have banned the use of oleander flowers in offerings following the accidental poisoning of a woman who chewed oleander leaves.

What is Oleander?

  • Nerium oleander, commonly known as oleander or rosebay, is a plant cultivated worldwide in tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions. 
  • Known for its drought tolerance, the shrub is often used for ornamental and landscaping purposes.
  • In Kerala, it’s called arali or kanaveeram and is used for natural fencing along highways and beaches.
  • According to the IUCN Red List, Nerium oleander (Oleander) is classified as Least Concern

Traditional Medicinal Uses:

  • Termed as “desert rose” in ancient texts, oleander has been trusted with its medicinal properties such as a hangover cure, in cancer treatments, and as an antiviral.
  • The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India mentions oleander, particularly the use of oil from the root bark to treat skin diseases.
  • oleander’s use in treating skin diseases, leprosy, wounds, itching, and parasites.

Toxicity of Oleander:

  • Oleander is highly toxic due to cardiac glycosides present in all parts of the plant.
  • Cardiac glycosides like oleandrin and digitoxigenin exert pharmacological effects on the heart, leading to nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, and, in severe cases, death..

PYQ:

[2018] 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 grow

(c) Its extract is used in the synthesis of pesticides

(d) None of the above

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Glyptothorax punyabratai: A New Catfish Species discovered  

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Glyptothorax punyabratai and its natural habitat

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

Glyptothorax punyabratai, a new catfish species, has been discovered in the Brahmaputra River drainage in Arunachal Pradesh.

  • The discovery was made by the ICAR-National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources (ICAR-NBFGR), Lucknow, and published in the journal Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters.

Glyptothorax punyabratai

  • It was collected from the Tung Stream, a tributary of the Tissa River, within the Brahmaputra River basin.
  • It has a unique rhomboidal-shaped thoracic adhesive apparatus, which is a specialized structure that helps the fish adhere to surfaces.
  • The holotype and paratype specimens are housed at the National Fish Museum-cum-Repository of the ICAR-NBFGR, Lucknow.
    • This discovery underscores the potential for both utilization and conservation of fish biodiversity in unexplored areas.

PYQ:

[2019]  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?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Scintillating Sea Creatures and their Uniqueness

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Scintillating Sea Creatures mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: NA

 

Why in the News?

“Scintillating” means sparkling or shining brightly, often used metaphorically to describe something lively, exciting, or brilliantly clever.

Species Description Notable Features IUCN Status
Seahorses

Small, dragon-like creatures inhabiting tropical seas.
  • Vibrant colors and intricate camouflage
  • Unique parenting style with male nurturing eggs
Status: Near Threatened
Mantis Shrimp

 

Colorful crustaceans found in tropical waters, known for hunting prowess.
  • Impressive stabbing or punching abilities
  • Display familial bonds
Status: Least Concerned
Octopus

Highly intelligent marine creatures with a wise demeanor.
  • They have three functioning hearts.
  • Venomous beaks and powerful suckers.
  • Solitary nature, adept at camouflage
Status: Least Concerned

Recently, marine scientists have discovered a new Octopus nursery off the coast of Costa Rica.

Starfish

Also known as sea stars, possess remarkable regenerative abilities.

Starfish have two stomachs – the pyloric and the cardiac stomach.

  • Each arm contains vital organs.
  • Starfish belongs to the phylum Echinodermata group. Echinodermata are so named owing to their spiny skin
  • They have a unique feeding method involving stomach extrusion.
Status: The Sunflower sea star (Pycnopodia helianthoides) is Critically Endangered.
Hermit Crabs

Resourceful creatures use discarded shells for shelter.
  • They use empty snail shells or other hollow objects as a shelter for partial containment and protection of the body.
  • Hermit crabs occur in sandy- or muddy-bottomed marine waters and occasionally on land and in trees.
  • Status: Least Concerned
  • The majority of terrestrial hermit crab species worldwide have used trash as shells, according to a recent study by experts.

 

PYQ:

[2013] Consider the following animals

  1. Sea cow
  2. Sea horse
  3. Sea lion

Which of the above is/are mammal/mammals?

(a) 1 only

(b) 1 and 3 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Melanochlamys Droupadi: New Sea Slug specie named after President Murmu

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Melanochlamys Droupadi

Mains level: NA

 

President Draupadi Murmu

In the news

  • The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) announced the discovery of a new marine species, Melanochlamys droupadi, named after the esteemed President of India, Droupadi Murmu.

About Melanochlamys Droupadi

  • Geographical Origin: Melanochlamys droupadi was first sighted off the shores of Digha in West Bengal and Udaipur in Odisha, marking its exclusive habitat.
  • Distinctive Features: Characterized by its short, blunt cylindrical body and smooth dorsal surface adorned with two unequal shields, this species showcases unique anatomical traits.
  • Morphological Identification: The species was meticulously examined for morphological, anatomical, and molecular characteristics, confirming its taxonomic classification within the Melanochlamys genus.
  • Physical Attributes: It is a small invertebrate reaching up to 7 mm in length, exhibits a brownish-black hue with a striking ruby red spot.
  • Biological nature: It is hermaphroditic (possessing both male and female reproductive organs, structures, and tissue) and predominantly inhabits intertidal zones along sandy beaches.

Habitat and Reproduction

  • Ecological Niche: The species is typically found in the intertidal zone, leaving distinctive crawl marks along sandy beaches.
  • Reproductive Cycle: Reproduction occurs primarily between November and January, marking a critical phase in the species’ life cycle.

Distribution and Taxonomy

  • Indo-Pacific Realm: While species of the Melanochlamys genus are predominantly found in temperate regions of the Indo-Pacific Ocean, Melanochlamys droupadi stands out as a truly tropical species.
  • Research Insights: A study conducted by ZSI researchers sheds light on the species’ behavior, highlighting its unique ability to secrete transparent mucus, forming a protective sheath against sand grains.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

New Marine Species: Parhyale Odian from Chilika Lake

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Parhyale odian

Mains level: NA

Introduction

  • Researchers at Berhampur University in Odisha have made a remarkable discovery, unveiling a new species of marine amphipod from Chilika Lake, Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon on India’s east coast.

About Parhyale Odian

  • Parhyale odian is a newly discovered species of marine amphipod.
  • It belongs to the genus Parhyale and was found in Chilika Lake, Odisha, India.
  • The species was named after the native language of Odisha, Odia.
  • Its discovery raises the global species count within the genus Parhyale to 16.
  • It is approximately eight millimeters in length and brown in color.
  • Parhyale odian possesses 13 pairs of legs.
  • Its distinguishing feature is a stout robust seta on the surface of the propodus of the male gnathopod.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Invasive Species:  Cuscuta Dodder

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Cuscuta Dodder

Mains level: NA

Cuscuta Dodder

Introduction

  • An invasive weed, Cuscuta dodder, is gradually strangling the Chengalpet forests and Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, posing a severe threat to local vegetation, ecology, and the habitat of migratory birds.

About Cuscuta Dodder

  • Parasitic Nature: It is a parasitic vine devoid of roots, already infesting acres of trees in reserve forests and beginning to spread within India’s oldest bird sanctuary.
  • Origin: Native to North America.
  • Modus Operandi: As a holoparasitic plant, it forms a canopy on the host plant and extends thousands of tendrils, eventually forming a dense spectacle before strangling and killing the host.

Persistence and Germination

  • Seed Characteristics: Cuscuta seeds are spheroid with a hard coat, enabling them to survive up to 50 years in dry storage and at least 10 years in the field.
  • Germination: Unlike root parasites, Cuscuta seeds do not require a specific stimulant to induce germination, enhancing their ability to spread rapidly.

Impact and Spread

  • India: According to a technical paper by the National Research Centre for Weed Science, Cuscuta poses a significant problem in oilseeds, pulses, and fodder crops across various states, including Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Orissa, West Bengal, and parts of Madhya Pradesh under both rain-fed and irrigated conditions.
  • Global Legislation: It is listed as a ‘declared noxious weed’ in 25 countries, with seeds and plant material restricted from entry. In the United States, it is the only weed seed whose movement is prohibited in every state.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Rare Dusted Apollo Butterfly Spotted in Himachal Pradesh

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Rare Dusted Apollo Butterfly

Mains level: Not Much

butterfly

Introduction

  • In a remarkable discovery, the elusive Dusted Apollo butterfly (Parnassius stenosemus) was sighted and photographed for the first time in Himachal Pradesh.

Dusted Apollo

  • Historical Rarity: Dusted Apollo is a rare high-altitude butterfly, initially discovered in 1890.
  • Sighting Details: The butterfly was spotted and photographed in September 2023 during a trek to Manimahesh Lake in Chamba.
  • Wide Range: The Dusted Apollo’s distribution extends from Ladakh to West Nepal.
  • Altitude Preference: This unique butterfly thrives at altitudes ranging from 3,500 to 4,800 meters in the inner Himalayas.
  • Comparing Species: Dusted Apollo closely resembles Ladakh Banded Apollo (Parnnasius stoliczkanus) but exhibits distinct features.

Implications for Conservation

  • Rare Find: Dusted Apollo had never been photographed in Himachal Pradesh before.
  • Additional Discovery: Another rare species, Regal Apollo (Parnnasius charltonius), was also photographed at Manimahesh, protected under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • Commercial Significance: Apollo butterflies are commercially valuable and are targeted by poachers, emphasizing the need for conservation.
  • Endangered Species: Many Apollo butterfly species are endangered and require immediate conservation efforts.
  • Community Awareness: Raising awareness about poaching and the significance of these species is vital for their protection.
  • Conservation Measures: Suggested measures include establishing butterfly parks and conservation reserves in the state to safeguard these fragile creatures.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

New Species of Burrowing Frog: Sphaerotheca Varshaabhu

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Sphaerotheca Varshaabhu

Mains level: Read the attached story

Sphaerotheca Varshaabhu

Introduction

  • In a remarkable discovery, researchers have unveiled an entirely new frog species Sphaerotheca Varshaabhu, the rain-welcoming frog, thriving within the urban landscape of Bengaluru.

About Sphaerotheca Varshaabhu

  • A Fresh Discovery: Sphaerotheca Varshaabhu is not just a frog; it’s a newly identified frog species.
  • Name’s Significance: The name ‘Sphaerotheca Varshaabhu’ derives its meaning from its unique behavior of emerging from burrows with the onset of early showers, symbolizing its affinity for rain.
  • Distinctive Attributes: This recently unearthed amphibian boasts distinctive characteristics that differentiate it from known frog species.
  • Urban Adaptation: What sets Sphaerotheca Varshaabhu apart is its remarkable adaptation to urban surroundings. It showcases behaviors and physical attributes that equip it to overcome challenges posed by urbanization.
  • Scientific Confirmation: The research team employed advanced genetic analysis, in-depth morphological studies, and bio-acoustics to definitively establish the distinctiveness of this newfound amphibian.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Specie in news: Mauritian Dodo

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mauritian Dodo

Mains level: NA

Mauritian Dodo

Central Idea

  • Mauritian authorities are now working to resurrect the human-caused extinct bird ‘Dodo’.

About Mauritian Dodo

Details
Scientific Name Raphus cucullatus
Physical Characteristics Large, flightless bird; about 1 meter tall, weighing 10-18 kg; large beak, stubby wings.
Habitat Endemic to Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean; lived in forests and possibly coastal areas.
Discovery and Extinction Discovered by Dutch Colonist in late 16th century; extinct by the late 17th century, last sighting around 1662.
Causes of Extinction Human hunting and introduced species like rats, pigs, and monkeys.
Diet Likely fruits, nuts, seeds, bulbs, and possibly small animals.
Behavior Exhibited no fear of humans due to lack of natural predators.
Cultural Impact Symbol of extinct and endangered species; featured in the phrase “as dead as a dodo.”
Representation Depicted in literature and art, notably in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

Science of De-Extinction

  • Genetic Blueprint: The first step in de-extinction is obtaining a complete and accurate genome of the species.
  • Genome Sequencing: Paleo-geneticists have successfully sequenced the dodo’s genome using DNA from a museum specimen.
  • Comparative Genomics: The dodo’s genome is being compared with that of its closest extinct and extant relatives to identify unique dodo traits.

Process of Resurrecting

  • Editing Genetic Material: The project involves editing the primordial germ cells (PGCs) of the Nicobar pigeon, the dodo’s closest living relative, to express dodo traits.
  • Interspecies Surrogacy: These edited PGCs will be inserted into chicken embryos, with chickens acting as interspecies surrogates to potentially birth a dodo offspring.
  • Physical Resemblance: The aim is to create a bird physically indistinguishable from historical accounts of the dodo.

Challenges and Concerns

  • Scientific Hurdles: Experts emphasize the complexity of recreating a species and the time required for selective breeding to achieve dodo-like characteristics.
  • Habitat Restoration: Mauritius’ transformed landscape poses challenges for reintroducing the dodo, necessitating the control or removal of invasive species.
  • Alternative Habitats: The project considers reintroducing dodos to more pristine, uninhabited islands like Round Island and Aigrettes.

Motivations behind the Project

  • Ecosystem Restoration: Reintroducing the dodo could help restore mutualistic relationships in Mauritius’ ecosystem, particularly in seed dispersal.
  • Conservation Technology: The techniques developed could aid in conserving and restoring other endangered avian species.
  • Symbolic Value: The project is driven by a desire to create ‘conservation optimism’, using the dodo as a symbol of hope in the face of human-caused extinctions.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Specie in news: Megamouth Shark

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Megamouth Shark

Mains level: Not Much

Megamouth Shark

Central Idea

  • In a historic moment for marine biology, a pregnant megamouth shark, a rare and elusive deepwater species, was discovered washed up on a beach in the Philippines.
  • This is only the 60th ever seen and the first ever observed to be pregnant.

About Megamouth Shark

Details

Scientific Name Megachasma pelagios
Discovery First discovered in 1976 off the coast of Hawaii.
Appearance Large mouth, bulbous head, rubbery lip, dark grey/black body with a white underbelly.
Size Up to 5.5 meters (18 feet) in length.
Diet Filter feeder, consuming plankton, jellyfish, and small fish.
Habitat Deepwater species, found at depths of 150 to 1,000 meters (490 to 3,280 feet).
Behavior Rarely seen, swims with mouth open to filter food.
Reproduction Presumed to be ovoviviparous, but details are largely unknown.
Distribution Wide but rare distribution in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.
Conservation Status Least Concerned (IUCN)
Scientific Interest Valued for its unique anatomy and role in the deep-sea ecosystem.

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

New species: Abelmoschus Odishae

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Wild Okra (Abelmoschus Odishae)

Mains level: NA

odisha

Central Idea

  • A scientist from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) recently discovered a new plant species of ‘wild okra’ named ‘Abelmoschus Odishae’.

Wild Okra (Abelmoschus Odishae)

  • Its discovery occurred in a humid deciduous forest within the Banspal block of Keonjhar district, in Odisha.
  • This plant holds potential for use in hybridization to develop improved varieties with enhanced disease resistance.
  • It could significantly contribute to broadening the genetic diversity of okra.
  • Characteristics:
    1. This perennial shrub reaches up to 5 meters in height and features a densely hispid, spiny stem with backward-facing hairs.
    2. The plant is adorned with large, vibrant yellow flowers.
    3. Its seeds are nearly kidney-shaped, with short, robust, non-spiral trichomes.
    4. The seeds exhibit a high viability rate of 95 percent.

About Okra

  • Commonly referred to as gumbo or ladies’ fingers, okra is a vegetable favored in warm climates.
  • Originating from the Eastern Hemisphere’s tropics, it is now extensively grown or found naturally in the tropical and subtropical regions of the Western Hemisphere.
  • Rich in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, okra is a nutritious choice.
  • The vegetable is known for its mild flavor and distinctive texture, featuring a peach-like fuzz on its exterior and small, consumable seeds inside.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

‘Music Frog’ Species discovered in Arunachal Pradesh

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Music Frog

Mains level: NA

Music Frog

Central Idea

  • Scientists have identified a new species of ‘music frog’, named Nidirana noadihing, in Arunachal Pradesh, India.

Nidirana noadihing: The Music Frog

  • Location: It came from the place, Noa-Dihing River, from where the specimens were collected.
  • Size: The frogs grow up to 6 cm, with males measuring between 1.8 to 2.3 inches and females between 2.4 to 2.6 inches.
  • Appearance: They have a robust body, a rounded snout, smooth skin with bony protrusions on their backs, and a pale cream line bordered with dark brown running down their bodies.
  • Eye Features: The frogs have irregularly shaped spots on their eyelids, moderately large eyes with gold-rimmed pupils, and dark brown irises with a golden spackle.
  • Colouration: Their throat, forelimbs, thighs, and lower legs are light brown and pinkish, while their groin and the outside of their thighs are pale yellow with irregular dark olive patches.

Habitat and Behavior

  • Habitat: Nidirana noadihing inhabits swamps, ponds, and paddy fields, often constructing nests for egg-laying.
  • Vocalization: The species is distinguished by its unique call, which led to its discovery near the Noa-Dihing river.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Gujarat bans Conocarpus Plant

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Conocarpus Plant

Mains level: NA

Conocarpus

Central Idea

  • Gujarat has issued a circular to control the growth of the exotic species Conocarpus, citing adverse impacts on the environment and human health.

About Conocarpus Plant

  • Classified as invasive, Conocarpus is a mangrove
  • During the winter season, these trees produce flowers, releasing pollen in nearby regions.
  • In India, various public authorities have used it for landscaping purposes, including road medians, roadsides, and public gardens.
  • This tree is renowned for maintaining its dark green foliage year-round, even in harsh environmental conditions like extreme temperatures.
  • Its adaptability allows it to thrive in highly saline areas.
  • Conocarpus exhibits an excessive water-absorption trait from the soil, posing a threat to groundwater.
  • Its deep root system can disrupt infrastructure communication cables, drainage lines, and potable water pipelines.

Previous bans

  • Telangana had previously banned the same plant species due to concerns over its impact.
  • Conocarpus is not the sole exotic plant species to fall out of favor.
  • In recent years, Delhi and Kerala have grappled with the need to curb the growth of non-indigenous trees that were adversely affecting local environments, flora, and fauna due to their prolific presence.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Balsams blossom in Munnar

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Balsams

Mains level: NA

Central Idea

  • The genus Impatiens, locally known as Kasithumba and Onappovu, is currently enchanting tourists with its vibrant pink blooms in Munnar.

What are Balsams?

  • Distinctive Feature: Balsams are commonly referred to as ‘touch-me-not’ due to the unique behavior of their mature seeds bursting open upon touch and distributing seeds.
  • Sign of Active Micro-Climate: Botanists suggest that the extensive flowering of balsams in Munnar indicates the continued activity of the microclimate in this hill station.
  • Indian Balsam Species: India hosts a total of 220 balsam species, with a significant presence of 135 species in the southern Western Ghats.
  • Balsam Paradise: Idukki, particularly the high ranges around Anamudi, is renowned for its rich diversity of wild balsams. Scientists often term the district as a ‘balsam paradise.’

Conservation Efforts

  • Balsams in Munnar: Munnar boasts 46 balsam species, extending from Munnar to Chinnar and Bison Valley.
  • Protection in National Park: The Eravikulam National Park alone is home to over 40 wild balsam species, with the Forest Department ensuring their protection.
  • Unparalleled Diversity: Prasad G, working plan officer, highlights that Munnar’s altitude has unveiled 46 balsam species, a level of diversity unmatched elsewhere in the world.
  • Indicator Species: Balsams play a crucial role as indicator species for climate change. Any alterations in the climate of a region are often reflected in the population of these plants.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Gurnards: New fish species discovered in Bengal’s Digha harbour

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Gurnards or Sea-robins

Mains level: NA

Gurnards

Central Idea

  • Scientists from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have unveiled a captivating discovery— Gurnards, a new species of deep water marine fish, displaying a striking orange hue.
  • This remarkable find was made off the coast of Digha Mohana in West Bengal.

Gurnards or Sea-robins

  • The newfound species falls within the Triglidae family, commonly referred to as gurnards or sea-robins.
  • Named Pterygotrigla intermedica, this species exhibits distinct characteristics that set it apart from its counterparts, such as Pterygotrigla hemisticta.
  • It marks the fourth species within the Pterygotrigla genus to be reported in India.
  • This family boasts a global diversity with a total of 178 species, emphasizing the significance of this discovery.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Tachymenoides Harrisonfordi: Snake named after Celebrity

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Tachymenoides harrisonfordi

Mains level: Not Much

harrison

Central Idea

  • The snake, known as Tachymenoides harrisonfordi, was named after Harrison Ford for his commitment to environmental advocacy.

Tachymenoides harrisonfordi

  • It is a snake species that was named in honour of the actor Harrison Ford.
  • This naming was a recognition of Ford’s dedication to environmental advocacy.
  • Its characteristics include:
  1. Physical Attributes: Tachymenoides Harrisonfordi measures approximately 16 inches (40.6 centimetres) and features a yellowish-brown colour with scattered black blotches.
  2. Distinctive Features: The snake boasts a black belly, a vertical streak above its copper-coloured eye, and unique markings that contribute to its identity.
  3. Habitat and Elevation: The sole specimen, a male snake, was found sunbathing in a marsh at an altitude of 3,248 meters above sea level.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

India adds 664 animal species to its faunal database in 2022

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: New Species and New Records 2023

Mains level: Not Much

specie

Central Idea

  • India’s faunal database expands with the addition of 664 animal species in 2022.
  • The database also includes 339 new plant taxa, comprising new species and distributional records.

Report- New Species and New Records 2023

  • The faunal discoveries have been compiled in a publication by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) titled “Animal Discoveries – New Species and New Records 2023.”

[A] Faunal Discoveries

  • Major discoveries include new species and records of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.
  1. Mammals: Three new species and one new record, including two species of bats from Meghalaya.
  2. Birds: Two new records, such as the yellow-rumped flycatcher in the Andaman archipelago.
  3. Reptiles: Thirty new species and two new records.
  4. Amphibians: Six new species and one new record.
  5. Fish: Twenty-eight new species and eight new records.
  • Invertebrates constitute the majority of new faunal discoveries, with insects comprising 384 species.
  • Vertebrates account for 81 species, with fish being the most dominant group.

Notable species

  • Sela macaque (Macaca selai): A new macaque species discovered in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Macaca leucogenys: A white-cheeked macaque sighted in India for the first time.
  • Glischropus meghalayanus: A bamboo-dwelling bat species from Meghalaya.
  • Ficedula zanthopygia: The yellow-rumped flycatcher recorded in the Andaman archipelago.

Distribution of New Faunal Discoveries

The fauna diversity of the country increased to 1,03,922 species.

  • Kerala: Recorded the maximum number of new species, accounting for 14.6% of all new discoveries.
  • Karnataka: Followed with 13.2% of new species and records.
  • Tamil Nadu: Contributed 12.6% of all new discoveries and records.
  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands: Accounted for about 8.4% of the discoveries.
  • West Bengal: Represented 7.6% of the new discoveries.
  • Arunachal Pradesh: Contributes 5.7% of the new discoveries.

 [B] Floral Discoveries

  • The Botanical Survey of India (BSI) published “Plant Discoveries 2022,” which includes 339 new plant taxa.
  • These discoveries consist of new species and distributional records.
  • The discoveries encompass seed plants, fungi, lichen, algae, bryophytes, microbes, and pteridophytes.
  • Seed plants comprise the majority, with dicotyledons contributing 73% and monocotyledons 27%.
  • Western Himalayas and Western Ghats are prominent regions for plant discoveries.
  • Kerala recorded the highest number of plant discoveries (57), accounting for 16.8% of all discoveries.
  • The plant discoveries include wild relatives of potential horticultural, agricultural, medicinal, and ornamental plants.

Notable Floral Discoveries

  • Nandadevia Pusalkar: A genus common in the Uttarakhand Himalayas.
  • Nilgiriella Pusalkar: An endemic genus found in the southern Western Ghats.
  • Calanthe lamellosa: An orchid species recorded for the first time in India, found in Nagaland.

Conclusion

  • By compiling these new discoveries and records, India continues to expand its knowledge of its faunal and floral diversity, emphasizing the importance of conservation efforts.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Controversial Species Names in Taxonomy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: NA

taxonomy species name

Central Idea

  • The field of taxonomy, which involves naming and classifying living beings, is currently engaged in a heated discussion regarding the renaming of species with objectionable scientific names.
  • These names often stem from problematic individuals associated with slavery, racism, derogatory terms, and racial slurs.
  • The debate has gained prominence in recent years, particularly in the wake of movements like Black Lives Matter, which seeks to address systemic racism and dismantle symbols of oppression.

Controversial Naming Practices

(1) Species Named after Controversial Figures:

  • Anophthalmus hitleri: The blind beetle named after Adolf Hitler by an entomologist who admired him gained popularity among Neo-Nazis, leading to its near-extinction.
  • Uta stansburiana: The lizard named after Howard Stansbury, known for his involvement in the massacre of Timpanogos Native Americans.
  • Hibbertia scandens: The plant named after George Hibbert, a prominent member of the pro-slavery and anti-abolition lobby.

(2) Species Named with Derogatory Terms:

  • Hottentotta tamulus scorpion: The use of “Hottentot” as a derogatory term for Indigenous Black people in Africa.
  • Rauvolfia caffra: The quinine tree named with an offensive term considered hate speech against Black communities in South Africa.

Rules and International Bodies

  • Nomenclature Codes: International bodies such as ICZN, ICNafp, ICNB, and ICTV govern the naming of animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses, respectively.
  • Validity and Publication: New names must be published in openly distributed publications and accompanied by detailed descriptions of typical specimens.
ICZN: International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature

ICNafp: International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants

ICNB: International Code of Nomenclature of Bacteria

ICTV: International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses

Scientific Naming Process

  • Two-part Scientific Names: Each species has two scientific names, with the first denoting the genus and the second identifying the species within the genus. Both names are italicized.
  • Naming Conventions: Names are often derived from Latin or Greek, reflecting distinctive features or characteristics of the species.

Challenges in Changing Offensive Names

  • Limited Appetite for Change: International committees show little inclination to engage in debates on potentially offensive names, prioritizing stability and universality.
  • Criteria for Name Change: The rules state that name changes should only occur with profound taxonomic knowledge or to rectify names conflicting with established rules.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Alligator Gar

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Alligator Gar

Mains level: Not Much

alligator-gar

Central Idea: The Jammu and Kashmir Lake Conservation and Management Authority (LCMA) discovered a rare type of fish known as “Alligator Gar” for the first time during the ongoing cleaning of famous Dal Lake in Srinagar.

Alligator Gar

Information
Scientific Name Atractosteus spatula
Size and Weight Up to 8 feet in length, over 300 pounds
Appearance Long, narrow body; crocodile-like head; sharp teeth
Distribution Central and North America, freshwater habitats
Fossil Record Traces back to the Early Cretaceous, over 100 million years ago
Feeding Habits Voracious predator, feeds on fish, turtles, waterfowl, etc.
Coloration Brown or olive on upper body, lighter underside
Longevity Can live for several decades
Conservation Status Least Concerned (IUCN)

 

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Neelakurinji

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Neelakurinji

Mains level: Read the attached story

neelakurinji

As visitors keep pouring in to witness the blooming of neelakurinji on a vast area on the Kallippara hills at Santhanpara in Idukki, Kerala, an expert team has identified six varieties of the plant across the region.

Neelakurinji

  • Kurinji or Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthianus) is a shrub that is found in the shola forests of the Western Ghats in South India.
  • Nilgiri Hills, which literally means the blue mountains, got their name from the purplish blue flowers of Neelakurinji that blossoms only once in 12 years.
  • It is the most rigorously demonstrated, with documented bloomings in 1838, 1850, 1862, 1874, 1886, 1898, 1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006 and 2018
  • Some Kurinji flowers bloom once every seven years, and then die. Their seeds subsequently sprout and continue the cycle of life and death.
  • The Paliyan tribal people living in Tamil Nadu used it as a reference to calculate their age.

Threats to Neelakurinji

  • About 1,000 ha of forestland, grantis and eucalyptus plantations and grasslands have been destroyed in the fire.
  • These large-scale wildfires on the grasslands where Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiiana) blossomed widely last year after a period of 12 years could have wiped out all the seeds of the endemic flowers.
  • There are allegations that the areas coming under the proposed Kurinji sanctuary were set on fire with a motive to destroy the germination of Neelakurinji seeds.

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Kannimara Teak

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Kannimara teak

Mains level: Not Much

The legendary Kannimara teak of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve is still growing in height and girth.

What is the news?

  • Over the last five years, the centuries-old teak has grown by 1.85 metres in height and 9 cm in girth.
  • This might be one of the largest and oldest teak tree in the world.

Kannimara teak

  • Worshipped by the tribes of Parambikulam, the Kannimara teak remains a flagship of the tiger reserve offering a spectacular view to visitors.
  • For the tribespeople of Parambikulam, it is still a ‘virgin tree’.
  • That was why they named it Kannimara (meaning virgin tree).
  • The tribal legend has it that the tree had bled when people tried to cut it.
  • So they protected it and started worshipping the tree by offering annual pujas.
  • The Kannimara tree had won the Union government’s Mahavriksha Puraskar in its first year of introduction in 1994.

 

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Chenkurinji

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Chenkurinji

Mains level: Not Much

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

Chenkurinji

  • Chenkurinji (Gluta travancorica) is a species endemic to the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve.
  • Belonging to the Anacardiaceae family, the tree was once abundant in the hills on the southern parts of the Aryankavu Pass in Kerala’s Kollam district.
  • The Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary derives its name Chenkurinji (Gluta travancorica), a species endemic to the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve.

Why in news?

  • It is very susceptible to climate change and the present condition of the species is quite bad with low regeneration performance.
  • Though there are seemingly enough number of the tree, most are not productive, generating a negative trend in its population.
  • The majority of the trees is old with poor flowering and fruiting rates.
  • Though the flowering usually happens in January, of late, the species has reported a tendency to extend the process due to climate change.

Significance of Chenkurinji

  • It is reported to have medicinal properties and is used to lower blood pressure and treat arthritis.

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Four new corals recorded from Indian waters

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Corals, Coral Bleaching

Mains level: Not Much

Scientists have recorded four species of corals for the first time from Indian waters. These new species of azooxanthellate corals were found from the waters off the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

What are Azooxanthellate Corals?

  • The azooxanthellate corals are a group of corals that do not contain zooxanthellae and derive nourishment not from the sun but from capturing different forms of planktons.
  • They are deep-sea representatives with the majority of species being reported from depths between 200 metres and 1,000 metres.
  • They are also reported from shallow waters unlike zooxanthellate corals that are restricted to shallow waters.

Which are the news species found?

  • Truncatoflabellum crassum, T. incrustatum, T. aculeatum, and T. irregulare under the family Flabellidae were previously found in Japan, the Philippines and Australian waters.
  • Only T. crassum was reported with the range of Indo-West Pacific distribution.

Significance of the discovery

  • Most studies of hard corals in India have been concentrated on reef-building corals while much is not known about non-reef-building corals.
  • These new species enhance our knowledge about non-reef-building solitary corals.

Back2Basics: Coral Reefs

  • Corals are marine invertebrates or animals not possessing a spine.
  • Each coral is called a polyp and thousands of such polyps live together to form a colony, which grows when polyps multiply to make copies of themselves.
  • Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system stretching across 2,300 km.
  • It hosts 400 different types of coral, gives shelter to 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc.
  • Corals are of two types — hard coral and soft coral:
  1. Hard corals, also called hermatypic or ‘reef building’ corals extract calcium carbonate (also found in limestone) from the seawater to build hard, white coral exoskeletons.
  2. Soft coral polyps, however, borrow their appearance from plants, attach themselves to such skeletons and older skeletons built by their ancestors. Soft corals also add their own skeletons to the hard structure over the years and these growing multiplying structures gradually form coral reefs. They are the largest living structures on the planet.

How do they feed themselves?

  • Corals share a symbiotic relationship with single-celled algae called zooxanthellae.
  • The algae provides the coral with food and nutrients, which they make through photosynthesis, using the sun’s light.
  • In turn, the corals give the algae a home and key nutrients.
  • The zooxanthellae also give corals their bright colour.

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Posidonia Australis: World’s Largest Plant

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Posidonia Australis

Mains level: Not Much

The world’s largest plant has recently been discovered off the West Coast of Australia: a seagrass 180 km in length.

Posidonia australis

  • The ribbon weed, or Posidonia australis, has been discovered in Shark Bay by a group of researchers from Flinders University and The University of Western Australia.
  • These researchers have also found that the plant is 4,500 years old, is sterile, has double the number of chromosomes than other similar plants.
  • It has managed to survive the volatile atmosphere of the shallow Shark Bay.

So how remarkable is this plant’s size?

  • The ribbon weed covers an area of 20,000 hectares.
  • The next on the podium, the second largest plant, is the clonal colony of a quaking Aspen tree in Utah, which covers 43.6 hectares.
  • The largest tree in India, the Great Banyan in Howrah’s Botanical Garden, covers 1.41 hectares.

If it is so large, how come it has just been discovered?

  • The existence of the seagrass was known, that it is one single plant was not.
  • Researchers were interested in what they then thought was a meadow because they wanted to study its genetic diversity, and collect some parts for seagrass restoration.

How did it grow, and survive for, so long?

  • Sometime in the Harappan era, a plant took root in the Shark Bay.
  • Then it kept spreading through its rhizomes, overcoming everything in its way, and here we are today.
  • Ribbon weed rhizomes can usually grow to around 35cm per year, which is how the scientists arrived at its lifespan of 4,5000 years.
  • The researchers found that the ribbon weed cannot spread its seeds, something that helps plants overcome environmental threats.
  • Also, Shark Bay sees fluctuations in temperature and salinity and gets a lot of light, conditions challenging for any plant.

Ecological significance

  • Because seagrass performs a vital role in the environment, and if some of it is hardy, it is good news for everyone in a world threatened by climate change.
  • In India, seagrass is found in many coastal areas, most notably in Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait.
  • Apart from being home to a variety of small organisms, seagrass trap sediments and prevent water from getting muddy, absorb carbon from the atmosphere, and prevent coastal erosion.

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Eublepharis pictus

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Eublepharis pictus

Mains level: NA

A gecko found in Visakhapatnam in 2017, then thought to belong to a known species, has now been identified as a member of a new species.

Eublepharis pictus

  • The species, Eublepharis pictus, also known as the Painted Leopard Gecko, has been described in the journal Evolutionary Systematics.
  • Phylogenetic study and morphological comparisons have distinguished it as a new species.
  • It is endemic to the forests of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
  • The gecko genus Eublepharis now has 7 species.

Conservation status

  • The species occurs outside protected areas.
  • Most leopard geckos are killed when encountered.
  • Activists have called for raising awareness about the fact that the species is actually harmless.

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Sela Macaque

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Sela Macaque, Sela Pass

Mains level: Not Much

A new species of old world monkey recorded from Arunachal Pradesh has been named after a strategic Sela pass at 13,700 ft above sea level.

Sela macaque (Macaca selai).

  • This new primate was identified and analysed by a team of experts from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and the University of Calcutta.
  • Earlier it was called as White- Cheeked Macaque displaying white cheeks, long and thick hairs on the neck area, and a longer tail.
  • Their study has been published in the latest edition of Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.
  • Phylogenetics relate to the evolutionary development and diversification of a species or group of organisms.
  • The phylogenetic analysis revealed that the Sela macaque was geographically separated from the Arunachal macaque (Macaca munzala) of Tawang district by Sela.
  • This mountain pass acted as a barrier by restricting the migration of individuals of these two species for approximately two million years.

Protection status

  • It has NOT been yet included in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 of India.
  • The potential threat to all species of macaques in the landscape is due to hunting by locals for consumption and habitat degradation due to urbanization and infrastructure development.

 About Sela Pass

  • The Sela Pass is a high-altitude mountain pass located on the border between the Tawang and West Kameng districts in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • It has an elevation of 4170 m and connects the Indian Buddhist town of Tawang to Dirang and Guwahati.
  • The pass supports scarce amounts of vegetation and is usually snow-covered to some extent throughout the year.
  • While Sela Pass does get heavy snowfall in winters, it is usually open throughout the year unless landslides or snow require the pass to be shut down temporarily.
  • The strategically-significant Sela Tunnel project is now nearing completion well before the deadline.

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: White-Cheeked Macaque

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: White-Cheeked Macaque

Mains level: NA

In an important discovery, scientists have recorded presence of White-Cheeked Macaque (Macaca leucogenys) from central Arunachal Pradesh.

White-Cheeked Macaque

  • White- Cheeked Macaques are distinct from other macaques found in the region by displaying white cheeks, long and thick hairs on the neck area, and a longer tail.
  • The species was discovered in 2015 by a group of Chinese scientists from the Modog region in southeastern Tibet.
  • This discovery was considered a significant breakthrough as far as primates are concerned.

Existence in India

  • From India, the species has not been sighted or reported after a single incidence of photographic capture from Anjaw district, Arunachal Pradesh in 2015.
  • The number of these mammals reported from India stands at 434.
  • The significance of the discovery is that it marks a new addition to mammals of India.

Protection status

  • It has NOT been yet included in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 of India.
  • The potential threat to all species of macaques in the landscape is due to hunting by locals for consumption and habitat degradation due to urbanization and infrastructure development.

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Septemeranthus

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Septemeranthus

Mains level: NA

A new genus of a parasitic flowering plant has recently been discovered from the Nicobar group of islands.

Septemeranthus

  • The genus Septemeranthus grows on the plant species Horsfieldia glabra (Blume) Warb.
  • The parasitic flowering plants have a modified root structure spread on the stem of the tree and are anchored inside the bark of the host tree.
  • It has a distinct vegetative morphology, inflorescence architecture and floral characters.
  • The leaves of the plant are heart-shaped with a very long tip and the ovary,fruit and seeds are ‘urceolate’ (earthen pot-shaped).
  • Birds consume viscous seeds of this new genus and seeds have potential of pseudo viviparous germination that deposit on the leaves and branches of their same plant which is already attached to host plants.

Key features

  • They need a host tree or shrub in order to thrive and exhibit a worldwide distribution in tropical as well as temperate habitats.
  • They are important in forest ecology, pathology and medicine.
  • They play an important role as they provide food for frugivorous birds.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2019:

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

 

 

Post your answers here.
3
Please leave a feedback on thisx

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Miss Kerala

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Miss Kerala

Mains level: Illicit trade of exotic species

A section of aquarists and ornamental fish breeders are surprised that the Denison barb (Miss Kerala), a native freshwater fish species commonly found in parts of Karnataka and Kerala, has been included in Schedule I of the Wild Life Protection Act, 1982 (amendment bill).

Miss Kerala

  • Miss Kerala is also known as Denison barb, red-line torpedo barb and roseline shark.
  • Its scientific name is Sahyadria denisonii.
  • The fish is featured with red and black stripes on its body.
  • It is found in the States of Kerala and Karnataka.
  • It has been listed on the IUCN Redlist as Vulnerable, in 2010.
  • This species is known to inhabit fast-flowing hill streams and is often found in rocky pools with thick vegetation along river banks.

Why included in Schedule I of WPA?

  • Ironically, its beauty is the biggest threat to its survival, as it is highly sought-after in the international aquarium trade, constituting 60 – 65% of the total live ornamental fish exported from India.
  • Its numbers are also decreasing owing to habitat degradation due to deforestation, mining, agriculture, urban expansion and hydro-electric projects.

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Physella Acuta

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Snail Physella Acuta

Mains level: Not Much

A tiny snail with a striking, pellucid golden-yellow shell found in the Edappally canal in Kochi has been flagged as an invasive species that could play havoc with native ecosystems.

Snail Physella Acuta

  • First described by J.P.R. Draparnaud in 1805, Physella acuta is considered native to North America but is now found in all continents except Antarctica.
  • The snail was first reported in India in the early 1990s.
  • It is believed to have reached Kerala through the aquarium trade, a major vector for invasive species.
  • In Kerala, the snail had made its home in a highly polluted reach plagued by high sedimentation, untreated sewage, commercial effluents, construction wastes and a thick growth of invasive aquatic weeds.

Threats posed

  • This snail plays host to worms that can cause food-borne diseases and skin itches in humans.
  • Moreover, its rapid growth rate, air-breathing capability, and tolerance to pollution make it a potential competitor to native fauna.

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Adi Cascade

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Adi cascade

Mains level: NA

Making of check dams on streams and removal of boulders may wipe out the local population of Adi cascade frogs (Amolops adicola), a recently discovered species in Arunachal Pradesh, scientists claimed.

About Adi cascade

  • The species was discovered while revisiting a century-old Adi expedition in 2018 and named after the land of the Adi tribe where the frogs dwell, particularly post-monsoon.
  • The call of the frog is quite unique with continuous notes almost like a cricket.
  • They are delivered at very short intervals, not long call groups — giving an impression of being continuous: A typical call lasts 485.2 milliseconds.
  • The species is predominantly found in open riverine landscapes and human-inhabited rural areas.
  • Males were mostly observed on tree saplings, fern fronds, and banana plants in and around the cultivated land.
  • Locally known as Juri (stream) Tatik (frog) — is considered a local delicacy.

What are Cascade Frogs?

  • The nomenclature ‘cascade frogs’ draws on their preference for small waterfalls.
  • Cascade frogs, in general, depend on the flow of water.
  • Both adults and tadpoles of Adi cascade frogs, the species in question, are particularly adapted to fast flowing sections of stream.

Rich biodiversity of Arunachal

  • Arunachal, a biodiversity hotspot, is home to many endemics, endangered and threatened species as well as to indigenous people who depend on its biological resources.
  • The Forest Survey of India in 2019 estimated that Arunachal had 66,688 sq km of forests — 79.6 per cent of the state’s area.
  • Global Forest Watch, however, estimated the forests cover at 74 per cent of its total land area.

 

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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.

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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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