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Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Species in news: Natrialba SwarupiaePrelims OnlySpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Natrialba Swarupiae, Sambhar Lake

Mains level : Not Much


  • Scientists at the National Centre for Microbial Resource — National Centre for Cell Science (NCMR-NCCS) in Pune have reported a new archaeon (a kind of microorganism), which they discovered in Sambhar Salt Lake in Rajasthan.
  • The new archaeon has been named Natrialba swarupiae, after Dr Renu Swarup, secretary, Department of Biotechnology, for her initiative in supporting microbial diversity studies in the country.

Archaea

  • Archaea (singular archaeon) are a primitive group of microorganisms that thrive in extreme habitats such as hot springs, cold deserts and hypersaline lakes.
  • These slow-growing organisms are also present in the human gut, and have a potential relationship with human health.
  • They are known for producing antimicrobial molecules, and for anti-oxidant activity with applications in eco-friendly waste-water treatment.
  • Archaea are extremely difficult to culture due to challenges in providing natural conditions in a laboratory setting.
  • As archaea are relatively poorly studied, very little is known about how archaea behave in the human body.
  • The organism has potential gene clusters that helps maintain the metabolism of the archaea to survive in extreme harsh conditions.

Search and discovery

  • Sambhar Lake has been poorly studied for microbial ecology studies.
  • With a salt production of 0.2 million tonnes per annum, it is also a hypersaline ecosystem which provides an opportunity for microbial ecologists to understand organisms that thrive in such concentrations.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Steppe EagleSpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Steppe Eagle

Mains level : Conservation of migratory birds in India


 

A lone endangered steppe eagle (Aquila nipalensis) has been sighted by a group of birdwatchers in a paddy field near Vijayawada.

Steppe Eagle

  • The Steppe Eagle is a migratory raptor which has undergone extremely rapid population declines within all its range.
  • It breeds in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia during the winter season.
  • Steppe eagle is the second-largest migratory eagle species to India.
  • IUCN Status: It has moved from ‘Least Concern’ to ‘Endangered’
Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

IVF of White RhinosSpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : In-vitro fertilization, White Rhinos

Mains level : Ethical issues surrounding IVF


Researchers had created another embryo — the third — of the nearly extinct northern white rhino. This is seen as a remarkable success in an ongoing global mission to keep the species from going extinct.

What is IVF?

  • IVF is a type of assisted reproductive technology used for infertility treatment and gestational surrogacy.
  • A fertilised egg may be implanted into a surrogate’s uterus, and the resulting child is genetically unrelated to the surrogate.
  • Some countries have banned or otherwise regulate the availability of IVF treatment, giving rise to fertility tourism.
  • Restrictions on the availability of IVF include costs and age, in order for a woman to carry a healthy pregnancy to term.
  • IVF is generally not used until less invasive or expensive options have failed or been determined unlikely to work.

IVF process

  • In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a process of fertilization where an egg is combined with sperm outside the body, in vitro (“in glass”).
  • The process involves monitoring and stimulating a female ovulatory process, removing an ovum or ova (egg or eggs) from the female ovaries and letting sperm fertilise them in a liquid in a laboratory.
  • After the fertilised egg (zygote) undergoes embryo culture for 2–6 days, it is implanted in the same or another female uterus, with the intention of establishing a successful pregnancy.

Types of Rhinos

  • The northern white is one of the two subspecies of the white (or square-lipped) rhinoceros, which once roamed several African countries south of the Sahara.
  • The other subspecies, the southern white is, by contrast, the most numerous subspecies of rhino, and is found primarily in South Africa.
  • There is also the black (or hook-lipped) rhinoceros in Africa, which too, is fighting for survival, and at least three of whose subspecies are already extinct.
  • The Indian rhinoceros is different from its African cousins, most prominently in that it has only one horn.
  • There is also a Javan rhino, which too, has one horn, and a Sumatran rhino which, like the African rhinos, has two horns.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Chinese paddlefishPrelims OnlySpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IUCN , Red List, Chinese paddlefish

Mains level : IUCN mechanism of listing


One of the largest freshwater species, Chinese paddlefish has been declared extinct.

Chinese paddlefish

  • The Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius) was an iconic species, measuring up to 7 m in length, dating back from 200 million years ago, and therefore swimming the rivers when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.
  • Its ancestral home was the Yangtze River.
  • It was once common in the Yangtze, before overfishing and habitat fragmentation — including dam building — caused its population to dwindle from the 1970s onwards.
  • Between 1981 and 2003, there were just around 210 sightings of the fish. The researchers estimate that it became functionally extinct by 1993, and extinct sometime between 2005-2010.

How did the study determine that it has gone extinct?

  • Chinese researchers made this conclusion based on the Red List criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • The Red List has several categories for extinction, or for how endangered a species is.
  • For example, “extinct in the wild” means a species survives only in a captive environment while “locally extinct” means a species has ceased to exist in a particular area but may exist in other areas.
  • Then there is “functionally extinct”, which means the species continues to exist but it has too few members to enable to reproduce meaningfully enough to ensure survival.
  • To be “globally extinct”, it means a species has no surviving member anywhere. Such a conclusion is reached when there is no reasonable doubt left that its last member has died.

How does extinction status matters for conservation?

  • Declaring a species extinct is an elaborate process.
  • It involves a series of exhaustive surveys, which need to be taken at appropriate times, throughout the species’ historic range and over a time-frame that is appropriate to the species’ life cycle and form.
  • When these surveys fail to record the existence of any individuals belonging to that species, a species may be presumed to be extinct.
  • Once declared extinct, a species is not eligible for protective measures and conservation funding; therefore, the declaration has significant consequences.
Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Species in news: Senna spectabilisPrelims OnlySpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Senna spectabilis

Mains level : Impacts of the invasive alien species



The Kerala Forest Department is planning to adopt steps to arrest the rampant growth of invasive plants, especially Senna spectabilis, in the forest areas of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR).

Senna spectabilis

  • The Senna spectabilis species was planted as avenue trees in Wayanad. The vayal ecosystem (marshy land) of the forest area now has this plant in large numbers.
  • The spread is posing a major threat to the forest areas of the reserve, owing to its quick growth and coppicing character.
  • The tree species was found in nearly 10 sq km area of the 344.44 sq km sanctuary around five years ago.
  • The plant has started to invade the adjacent Bandipur and Nagarhole tiger reserves in Karnataka and the Mudumalai tiger reserve in Tamil Nadu.
  • Now, it had invaded to more than 50 sq km of the sanctuary Wayanad WLS.
  • A recent study of the Ferns Nature Conservation Society recorded the presence of the plant in 78.91 sq km area of the sanctuary.

Impact

  • An adult tree grows up to 15 to 20 metres in a short period of time and every year distributes thousands of seeds after gregarious flowering.
  • The thick foliage arrests the growth of other indigenous tree and grass species and causes food shortage for the wildlife population, especially herbivores.
  • Moreover, wildlife will not feed on the leaf of the treeas it is not palatable for them.
  • The allelochemicals produced by this plant adversely affect the germination and growth of the native species.

Massive locust invasion threatens Gujarat farmersPriority 1Species in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Locusts Swarm

Mains level : Pests Management



Sharing borders with neighbouring Pakistan, Gujarat is under attack from hoppers — new-born locusts — that have flown in across the international border.

Gujarat has not witnessed such an invasion of locusts since 1993-94.

Locusts

  • Locusts are certain species of short-horned grasshoppers that have a swarming phase.
  • Swarming refers to a collective behaviour in which locusts aggregate together just like flocks of birds.
  • These insects are usually solitary, but under certain circumstances they become more abundant and change their behaviour and habits, becoming grouped.
  • They form bands of wingless nymphs which later become swarms of winged adults.
  • Both the bands and the swarms move around and rapidly strip fields and cause damage to crops.
  • The adults are powerful fliers; they can travel great distances, consuming most of the green vegetation wherever the swarm settles.

Havoc created by locusts

  • Locust swarms devastate crops and cause major agricultural damage and attendant human misery—famine and starvation.
  • They occur in many parts of the world, but today locusts are most destructive in sustenance farming regions of Africa.
  • The desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is notorious. Found in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, they inhabit some 60 countries and can cover one-fifth of Earth’s land surface.
  • Desert locust plagues may threaten the economic livelihood of one-tenth of the world’s humans.

Control measures in India

  • India has a Locust Control and Research scheme that is being implemented through the Locust Warning Organisation (LWO), established in 1939.
  • It was amalgamated in 1946 with the Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage (PPQS) of the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • The LWO’s responsibility is monitoring and control of the locust situation in Scheduled Desert Areas mainly in Rajasthan and Gujarat, and partly in Punjab and Haryana.
  • The LWO publishes a fortnightly bulletin on the locust situation.
  • The latest bulletin on the PPQS website, for the second fortnight of June, said control operations had covered 5,551 hectares by June 30.

With inputs from: National Geographic

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Bar-headed gooseSpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bar-headed goose

Mains level : Conservation of migratory birds in India



Bar-headed goose, a rare goose species was sighted in the wetlands of Karingali Puncha in Kerala.

Bar-headed goose

  • IUCN conservation status: Least Concern.
  • The Bar-headed geese (Anser Indicus) are found in central China and Mangolia and they breed there.
  • They start migration to the Indian sub-continent during the winter and stay here till the end of the season.
  • They return to their homes by crossing the Himalayan ranges.
  • Their migration has been a fascination for birders as they cross the Himalayas on one of the most high-altitude migrations in the world.

Species in news: Caterpillar fungus – the ‘Himalayan gold’Prelims OnlySpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Caterpillar fungus

Mains level : NA



Trade and collection of ‘Himalayan Gold’ — caterpillar fungus has become extremely popular in recent times.

 ‘Himalayan gold’

  • Caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps Sinensis) is a fungal parasite of larvae (caterpillars) that belongs to the ghost moth.
  • It is endemic to the Tibetan Plateau, including the adjoining high Himalaya (3,200-4,500 metres above sea level).
  • It is locally known as Kira Jari (in India), Yartsagunbu (in Tibet), Yarso Gumbub (Bhutan), Dong Chong Xia Cao (China) and Yarsagumba (in Nepal).
  • In the Indian Himalayas, the species has been documented in the region from the alpine meadows of protected areas such as Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, Askot Wildlife Sanctuary, Kanchendzonga Biosphere Reserve and Dehan-Debang Biosphere Reserve.

Uses

  • For centuries, caterpillar fungus has seemingly been used in traditional Tibetan and Chinese medicine as a tonic, as a therapeutic medicine for lung, liver and kidney problems.
  • In recent time the species has been widely traded as an aphrodisiac and a powerful tonic.
  • There are also reports that caterpillar fungus possesses a range of more specific therapeutic properties; including action against asthma and bronchial inflammation, cure of renal complaints, irregular menstruation and stimulation of the immune system.

Harvesting and trade 

  • Harvesting of caterpillar fungus starts at the beginning of May and lasts till the end of June.
  • The collection period, however, depends on factors such as weather, snow cover on the pasture and elevation of collection sites.
  • The mean annual buying price by local traders in villages of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve has increased steadily from approximately $4,700 (Rs 3.3 lakh) per kilogramme in 2006 to more than $13,000 per kg in 2015.

Opportunity and Challenge

  • The villagers who harvest caterpillar fungus in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve and Askot landscape belong to economically marginal communities — shepherds, porters and traders.
  • The income derived through the collection and trade of this precious fungus has led to enhanced empowerment of rural dwellers living in extremely remote mountain pockets.
  • Ultimately, increasing trade-induced over-harvesting seems almost undoubtedly responsible for the declining populations of the caterpillar fungus.

Way Forward

  • Rampant exploitation and implementation of scientifically sustainable harvesting should be regulated in order for the survival of the species and to conserve pristine alpine meadows.
  • The studies conducted in this regard note that there is a clear need for strengthening the policy measures, to manage the fungus sustainably, assimilating features of conservation, livelihood security and good governance.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Project DolphinSpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gangetic Dolphin

Mains level : Project Dolphin


The National Ganga Council (NGC), which is headed by PM Modi, met for the first time at Kanpur to discuss various issues.

Project Dolphin

  • The proposal to save and enhance the population of the Gangetic Dolphin was one of the agendas discussed.
  • There is an expectation that at the meeting a programme called “Project Dolphin”, along the lines of “Project Tiger” will be cleared to enhance the population of these dolphins.

About Gangetic Dolphins

  • The Gangetic river dolphins can only live in freshwater, are blind and catch their prey in a unique manner, using ultrasonic sound waves.
  • These dolphins prefer deep waters and, as per WWF, they are distributed across seven states in India: Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
  • Their numbers have dwindled in the last few decades mainly because of direct killing, habitat fragmentation by dams and barrages and indiscriminate fishing.

Protection status

  • The Gangetic river dolphins were officially discovered in 1801 and are one of the oldest creatures in the world along with some species of turtles, crocodiles and sharks, a/c to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
  • They once lived in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, but are now mostly extinct from many of its early distribution ranges, as per WWF.
  • In 2009, the Gangetic dolphins were declared India’s National Aquatic animal during the first meeting of the erstwhile National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).
  • It is placed under the “endangered” category by the IUCN.
  • Additionally, the Gangetic dolphins have been included in Schedule -I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which means they have the highest degree of protection against hunting.
  • They are also one among the 21 species identified under the centrally sponsored scheme, “Development of Wildlife Habitat”.

In numbers

  • According to the MoEFCC, at last count, the rivers of Assam and Uttar Pradesh had 962 and 1,275 Gangetic dolphins, respectively.
  • According to the ministry, in Assam, the assessment was carried out in three rivers, with the Brahmaputra accounting for 877 of the 962 dolphins in the state.
  • In addition to the species being India’s national aquatic animal, the Gangetic dolphin has been notified by the Assam government as the state aquatic animal, too.
  • Silting and sand lifting from rivers in Assam has been stopped to maintain its population.
  • As per WWF estimates, they number somewhere between 1200-1800.

What are some of the efforts made in India to protect the dolphins?

  • Some of the efforts made to preserve and increase the numbers of these dolphins include the setting up of the Conservation Action Plan for the Gangetic Dolphin (2010-2020).
  • This plan has identified threats to Gangetic dolphins and impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on dolphin populations.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Trachischium apteiiSpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Trachischium apteii

Mains level : Not Much



Researchers have discovered a new species of non-venomous burrowing snake in Arunachal Pradesh, named Trachischium apteii.

Trachischium apteii

  • It was found under fallen logs inside a thickly forested area of the Tally Valley Wildlife Sanctuary near the town of Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh during a field expedition by researchers in July 2019.
  • It belongs to a group of fossorial snakes that live mostly underground, and surface mainly during or after a heavy monsoon shower.
  • Due to the burrowing habits of species of this genus, snakes belonging to the group are seldom seen and hence remain poorly studied.
  • This could have been one of the reasons that the species had eluded the researchers.

Physical features

  • Morphologically, the snake is distinguished by smooth and dorsal scales arranged in 15 rows throughout the body.
  • The dorsal colour of the holotype is dark brown to black with faint dorsal longitudinal lines.
  • Large-sized members of the genus measure about 293 mm to 299 mm (measuring less than a foot, that is 300 mm or 30 cm).

Behind the name

  • Trachischium apteii was named so to honour the contribution of Deepak Apte, well-known marine biologist and Director of the BNHS.
  • Trachischium species are commonly called slender snakes, and are currently known by seven species that are distributed across the Himalayas, and the Indo-Burma and Indo-China regions.
Global Geological And Climatic Events

Species in news: PliosaurPrelims OnlySpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pliosaur

Mains level : NA



Pliosaurs

  • Over 150 million years ago, enormous reptiles swam the Jurassic oceans.
  • The largest aquatic carnivorous reptiles that have ever lived, they are often dubbed “sea monsters”.
  • Scientifically, they are placed in the suborder Pliosauroidea, whose members are called pliosaurs.
  • Interest in these giants has been revived with the recent discovery of their bones in a cornfield in the Polish village of Krzyzanowice. Remains of pliosaurs are rare in Europe.

What makes them special?

  • They measured over 10 metres in length and could weigh up to several dozen tons.
  • They had powerful, large skulls and massive jaws with large, sharp teeth.
  • Their limbs were in the form of fins.

Swietokrzyskie Mountains

  • The Swietokrzyskie Mountains are a mountain range in central Poland.
  • In the Jurassic era, the Swietokrzyskie Mountains area is believed to have been an archipelago of islands, where there were warm lagoons and shallow sea reservoirs, home to the marine reptiles discovered by the palaeontologists.
  • The locality where the remains were discovered is considered to be rich in the fossils of coastal reptiles. Researchers now hope to find more remains in the coming months.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Polypedates bengalensisSpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Polypedates bengalensis

Mains level : NA



  • Researchers have recorded a new species of tree frog in West Bengal.

Polypedates bengalensis

  • The new species has been named Brown Blotched Bengal Tree Frog (Polypedates bengalensis).
  • The name is derived from a series of six to nine dark brown blotches that extend laterally from behind the frog’s eye to the vent.
  • The frog’s body colour is yellowish-brown to greenish-brown.
  • The frogs were seen perched on vegetation, including bamboo, banana and taro leaves, and were calling from a height of 1.2-1.8 m above ground, over stagnant waters bodies that were mostly rainwater pools.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Specie in news: Nelloptodes gretaeSpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nelloptodes gretae

Mains level : Not Much



Nelloptodes gretae

  • Between 1964 and 1965, an entomologist called William Brock collected samples of soil from around east Africa.
  • Inside one of these samples, taken in Kenya and stored in the British Natural History Museum until now, was a tiny species of beetle, pale yellow and gold.
  • Measuring just 0.79 millimetres, the beetle has no eyes or wings, with a small pit between where the eyes should have been.
  • The species has just got a name Nelloptodes gretae, after the teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg.

What’s behind the name?

  • Biological names comprise two words, one for the genus and the second for the species.
  • Traditionally, it is the species name that scientists coin to honour a prominent personality, and sometimes even a friend or a relative.
  • While the species name gretae derives from Greta, the genus Nelloptodes too is new.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: White bellbird- the world’s loudest birdPrelims OnlySpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bellbirds

Mains level : NA



  • Bellbirds have the loudest bird calls yet documented in the world, according to a study.

Bellbirds

  • The study found that their mating songs pack more decibels than the screams of howler monkeys and the bellows of bisons.
  • The male white bellbird’s mating call is about three times louder than screaming phias — the previously loudest bird singer.
  • The bellbird’s calls were so loud that they wondered how the females of the species listened to them at close range without permanent damage to their hearing.
  • The loud singing ability also came with a trade-off, according to the researchers, who said that as the songs of bellbirds became louder, they also got shorter in duration.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Vulture population on the rise in the NilgirisSpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Various threats to wildlife population



  • The population of vultures in the Nilgiris has increased by more than 26 % since 2012.
  • However the major threats, such as deliberate poisoning of cattle carcasses, are still prevalent in the region.

Vultures in Nilgiri BR

  • In 2012, the number of vultures seen in the Nilgiris was around 152 individuals, comprising the White-rumped vulture, Asian king vulture and the Long-billed vulture.
  • Since then, the population increased each year till 2014, before sudden crashes in 2015 and 2016.
  • It then recovered to 192 individuals in 2018.
  • While these three species of vulture are known to nest almost exclusively in the Mudumalai and Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserves in Southern India, other vulture species, such as the Cinereous vulture, the Himalayan griffon vulture and Egyptian vulture have been spotted visiting the Nilgiris each year.

Drug threat

  • After vulture populations across the Western Ghats, and the rest of India, plummeted in the 1990s, sustained monitoring and concerted conservation efforts led to a recovery in the last decade.
  • The effects diclofenac and other anti-inflammatory drugs had on vultures were first detailed in 2008, at a workshop in the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve.
  • This was done in subsequent workshops in the Nilgiris and Coimbatore in 2011 and 2015.
  • Unlike in other landscapes in India with high vulture population, the use of anti-inflammatory drugs like diclofenac, nimesulides and flunixin, was not as big a threat in the Nilgiris.
  • There was a demand for beef in the region. Cattle were beinge sold to slaughterhouses, which meant that people had very little reason to use expensive drugs to try and keep the animals alive when they fell ill.

Key resolution

  • One of the major resolutions adopted was that the Department of Animal Husbandry would stop procuring non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as diclofenac, which were given to cattle to cure them of illnesses.
  • This was to ensure that vultures did not die of scavenging carcasses that contained diclofenac residue.

7 new species of insects that can walk on water discoveredPrelims OnlySpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the species

Mains level : Not Much



  • Scientists of the Zoological Survey of India have discovered seven species of water treaders, semi-aquatic insects that can walk or run on the surface of water.

About the species

  • The newly described species belong to the genus Mesovelia whose size ranges from 1.5 mm to 4.5 mm and are equipped with hydrophobic setae (bristles) on their legs.
  • The combination of hydrophobic setae and water surface tension prevents them from sinking.
  • The insects are pale green with silver-white wings with black veins on the basal half which make them stand out over the green mat of aquatic weeds.
  • Among the new discoveries, Mesovelia andamana is from Andaman Islands, bispinosa and M. isiasi are from Meghalaya, M. occulta and M. tenuia from Tamil Nadu and M. brevia and M. dilatata live both in Meghalaya and Tamil Nadu.

Evolution

  • These bugs are hemimetabolous insects without having larval stage i.e., they go from egg to nymph to adult.
  • They are found on freshwater bodies such as ponds, lakes, pools, streams, rocks with moss and sometimes on estuaries.
  • These bugs serve as predators and scavengers (feed on midges, water fleas, feed on dead and dying mosquitoes), thereby removing organic waste and also providing a natural sanitation service.
  • The females of Mesovelia are larger than males and dig several holes on plants and insert eggs in plant tissues with a specially adapted long serrated ovipositor (genital organ).

ZSI finds new species of freshwater fishSpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the species

Mains level : Not Much


New freshwater fishes

  • Scientists of the Zoological Survey (ZSI) of India have discovered two new species of freshwater fish from the north-eastern and northern parts of the country.
  • Both fish, measuring less than seven centimetres, are hill stream fauna and are equipped with special morphological features to suit rapid water flow.

Glyptothorax gopii

  • It (measuring 63 mm standard length without caudal fin) is dark brown catfish on its dorsal surface, and its ventral surface is of a yellowish-light brown.
  • It has been named to celebrate the contribution of taxonomist K.C. Gopi.
  • It was discovered from Champai district in Mizoram near the India-Myanmar border in Kaladan river.
  • It has an axe-shaped anterior nuchal plate (bone below dorsal fin), which makes it distinct from other species of the genus
  • The elliptical thoracic adhesive apparatus and plicae (folds of tissue) present on the ventral surfaces of the pectoral-fin spine help the fish cling to rocks.

Garra simbalbaraensis

  • It (measuring 69 mm standard length without caudal fin) has a yellowish-grey colour fading ventrally.
  • It takes its name from the Himachal Pradesh’s Simbalbara river.
  • It has a prominent unilobed and rounded proboscis with tubercles that help the fish in manoeuvrability.

Other species discovered

  • The scientist, who heads the freshwater fish section of ZSI, has earlier discovered four species of Gara (which has an evolved disc to attach to rocky surfaces).
  • The discoveries include Garra compressa in the year 1998, elongata (2000), G. tamangi (2016), and G. chindwinensis (2018).
  • Among catfish (characterised by whiskers), the scientist earlier discovered Myersglanis jayarami (1999), Glyptothorax senapatiensis (2015), and Olya parviocula (2018), all from north-eastern India.
Tiger Conservation Efforts – Project Tiger, etc.

All India Tiger Estimation Report – 2018Priority 1Species in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tiger census 2018, Tx2

Mains level : Conservation of tigers in India


  • India has 2,967 tigers, a third more than in 2014, according to results of a tiger census.
  • India has achieved the target of doubling tiger population four years before the 2022 deadline.

Statewise tiger count

  • According to the census, Madhya Pradesh saw the highest number of tigers at 526, closely followed by Karnataka at 524 and Uttarakhand at number 3 with 442 tigers.
  • While Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of tigers, Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu registered the “maximum improvement” since 2014.
  • Chhattisgarh and Mizoram saw a decline in their tiger numbers while tiger numbers in Odisha remained constant. All other states witnessed a positive trend.

About All India Tiger Estimation

  • The tiger count is prepared after every four years by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) provides details on the number of tigers in the 18 tiger reign states with 50 tiger reserves.
  • However, this time, the census also included data collected from the rough terrains of north-eastern states which was not possible due to logistic constrains before.
  • The entire exercise spanned over four years is considered to be world’s largest wildlife survey effort in terms of coverage and intensity of sampling.
  • Over 15, 000 cameras were installed at various strategic points to capture the movement of tigers. This was supported by extensive data collected by field personnel and satellite mapping.
  • Taking a step further, authorities have attempted to digitize the records by mandating the use of a GIS based app called M-STRiPES (Monitoring System For Tigers-Intensive Protection and Ecological Status) developed by Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India.

Back2Basics

Project Tiger

  • Project Tiger is a tiger conservation programme launched in April 1973 during PM Indira Gandhi’s tenure.
  • In 1970 India had only 1800 tigers and Project Tiger was launched in Jim Corbett National Park.
  • The project is administrated by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
  • It aims at ensuring a viable population of Bengal tigers in their natural habitats, protecting them from extinction etc.
  • Under this project the govt. has set up a Tiger Protection Force to combat poachers and funded relocation of villagers to minimize human-tiger conflicts.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species extinction in IndiaSpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Extinct species mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Not Much


  • Four species of fauna and 18 species of flora have gone extinct in India in the past few centuries, according to wildlife survey organisations.

Species extinct from India

Flora

  • As per information given by the BSI, 18 species of plants — four non-flowering and 14 flowering — have gone extinct.
  • The notable among them are Lastreopsis wattii , a fern in Manipur discovered by George Watt in 1882 and three species from the genus Ophiorrhiza (Ophiorrhiza brunonis , Ophiorrhiza caudate and Ophiorrhiza radican ), all discovered from peninsular India.
  • Corypha taliera Roxb, a palm species discovered in Myanmar and the Bengal region by William Roxburgh is also extinct.

Fauna

  • Cheetah (Acionyx jubatus)
  • Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensisi) are considered extinct in India.
  • The pink-headed duck (Rhodonessa caryophyllaceai) is feared extinct since 1950
  • The Himalayan quail (Ophrysia supercililios) was last reported in 1876.

Dracaena cambodiana : India’s first dragon blood-oozing treeSpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the specie



  • Assam has added to India’s botanical wealth a plant that yields dragon’s blood — a bright red resin used since ancient times as medicine, body oil, varnish, incense and dye.

Dracaena cambodiana

  • A group of researchers has discovered Dracaena cambodiana, a dragon tree species in the Dongka Sarpo area of West Karbi Anglong, Assam.
  • This is for the first time that a dragon tree species has been reported from India.
  • In India, the Dracaena genus belonging to the family Asparagaceae is represented by nine species and two varieties in the Himalayan region, the northeast and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • But Dracaena cambodiana is the only true dragon tree species.
  • The Dracaena seeds are usually dispersed by birds. But due to the large fruit size, only a few species of birds are able to swallow the fruits, thus limiting the scope of its natural conservation.
  • Recent overexploitation to meet the increasing demand for dragon’s blood has resulted in rapid depletion of the plant.

Uses

  • Dracaena cambodiana is an important medicinal plant as well as an ornamental tree.
  • It is a major source of dragon’s blood, a precious traditional medicine in China.
  • Several antifungal and antibacterial compounds, antioxidants, flavonoids, etc., have been extracted from various parts of the plant.