Current Affairs - Biodiversity
Recently, researchers have identified a novel plant species, 'Impatiens karuppusamyi,' within the 'Impatiens' genus in the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in Tirunelveli.
- Monsoon Bloom: The newly discovered plant species, part of the stemless scapigerous group, is visible only for a few weeks during the monsoon season.
- Endangered by Climate Change: With its restricted distribution, especially in the Agasthyamalai region, there is a high risk of extinction due to climate change, emphasizing the need for ecological balance to preserve this rare plant.
- Tribute to S Karuppusamy: The species is named 'Impatiens karuppusamyi' in honour of S Karuppusamy, recognizing his contributions to the taxonomy of South Indian angiosperms.
- Botanical Survey of India's Role: Ravichandran V, a researcher from the Botanical Survey of India in Coimbatore and a co-author of the research paper, highlights the importance of maintaining ecological balance for the plant's conservation.
- Distinctive Specimens: During a botanical exploration in Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, researchers collected specimens of the lithophytic Impatiens, revealing distinct characteristics not found in known Impatiens species.
- Genus 'Impatiens': Impatiens is a genus with over 1,000 species of flowering plants, widely distributed in tropical Africa, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, and China.
- Unique Habitat: The absence of a stem in balsam is endemic to the southern Western Ghats and Sri Lanka, occurring in moist habitats, particularly on wet rocky slopes with roots, leaves, and flowers.
On 23rd Nov, Brazil's geological service revealed the identification of a novel dinosaur species, named Farlowichnus rapidus, characterized as a swift carnivorous creature from the early Cretaceous period.
- Farlowichnus rapidus’ Characteristics: The newly discovered species is a small carnivorous dinosaur, akin in size to a modern seriema bird, measuring approximately 60-90 cm (2-3 feet) tall, as disclosed by researchers.
- Ancient Habitat and Speedy Behaviour: The geological service describes the dinosaur's habitat as ancient dunes during the early Cretaceous period.
- The distinctive feature of Farlowichnus rapidus is its speed, inferred from the considerable distance between its footprints.
- Cretaceous Period Context: The timeframe of Farlowichnus rapidus dates back to the early Cretaceous period, spanning from 100 to 145 million years ago.
- Italian Priest's Initial Discovery: Italian priest and paleontologist Giuseppe Leonardi first unearthed the fossilized dinosaur "trackways" in the 1980s in what is now the city of Araraquara, Sao Paulo state.
- Botucatu Formation and Geological Significance: The footprints were discovered in the Botucatu formation, characterized by rocks formed in an ancient dune desert.
Recently, a team of scientists and researchers have discovered a new species of gecko endemic to Mizoram.
- The new species has been named ‘Cyrtodactylus vairengtensis’ after the town in Mizoram where it was found.
- The common name suggested for the new species is ‘Vairengte bent-toed gecko’.
- The distinct feature of this new species is the number of femoral pores which distinguishes it from other members of the Cyrtodactylus family.
- Femoral pores are located on the underside of the hind legs in lizards that secrete a mixture of lipids and proteins and are thought to be used to attract mates and mark territories.
- It is endemic to Mizoram, taking the number of geckos native to the state to 6, and 22 across northeast India.
- There are 335 gecko species across the world, of which 42 are found in India.
Recently, a delicate, small mushroom characterized by a honey-yellow "cap" found on the campus of the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) in Palode, Kerala, has been recognized as a new species.
- Fresh Biodiversity Discovery: Researchers at JNTBGRI have identified a new species of mushroom belonging to the genus Candolleomyces, which is relatively small with only 35 recognized species worldwide.
- Candolleomyces albosquamosus: The newfound species, named "Candolleomyces albosquamosus," derives its name from the white woolly scale-like structures on its "pileus" or cap. It is characterized by its diminutive size, reaching a height of approximately 58 mm.
- The cap measures 12 mm to 38.5 mm in diameter, is bell-shaped, and starts as honey-yellow but turns brownish-gray or brownish-beige as it matures. The "stipe" or stem is cylindrical and white.
- Habitat: Candolleomyces albosquamosus is typically found on dead logs or bamboo culms in natural forests.
- Several specimens were collected from the JNTBGRI campus, which is part of the Western Ghats in Kerala.
- Importance of Mushrooms: Mushrooms, including Candolleomyces albosquamosus, are considered secondary saprophytic fungi in forest ecosystems, playing a vital role in decomposing plant litter.
- This function is particularly significant in tropical forests, known for their extensive plant litter turnover compared to temperate forests.
- Rich Fungal Diversity in Western Ghats: The Western Ghats region in Kerala is known for its rich fungal diversity, with many species likely to be endemic to the area.
- Herbarium Deposits: Specimens of the new mushroom species have been deposited in the Mycological Herbarium of JNTBGRI.
Recently, researchers from India and the United Kingdom have identified a new species of toads, marking the third species within a genus confined to a small region in northeast India.
- Bufoides Bhupathyi: The recently discovered toad species is named "Bufoides bhupathyi," and it was found in Mizoram's Dampa tiger reserve.
- The earlier-known species within the "bufoides" genus, namely "Bufoides meghalayanus" and "Bufoides kempi," were located in Meghalaya.
- Historical Distribution: Historically, "Bufoides meghalayanus" was reported from Dampa tiger reserve and Ngengpui wildlife sanctuary in Mizoram.
- However, these locations were over 200km away from Mawblang, the type locality of the species in Meghalaya.
- Taxonomic Confusion: There was some uncertainty about whether the Bufoides species in Mizoram was distinct. To resolve this taxonomic confusion, a field survey in the tiger reserve was conducted.
- It revealed a population of Bufoides that initially resembled "Bufoides meghalayanus" but was later identified as a new species through extensive research.
- Distinctive Features: The new species from Mizoram differs from its co-generic counterparts in various aspects, including interdigital webbing, coloration, skin tuberculation, and the presence of ovoid, tuberculated, and depressed parotid glands.
- Critical Endangerment: The new species is currently known only in the Dampa tiger reserve and is likely restricted in range.
- It may meet the criteria for assessment as "critically endangered" according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- Tribute to S. Bhupathy: The newly discovered species has been named "Bufoides bhupathyi" in honor of S. Bhupathy, a renowned herpetologist who served as the principal scientist at the Coimbatore-based Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History.
Recently, during a study focused on leopards conducted by conservation scientist, the presence of a leucistic sambar deer has been recently documented in the Sangama range of Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.
- A Rare Discovery: The team observed a female sambar deer with leucism, a condition that causes the loss of pigmentation, resulting in white or pale skin.
- This unique individual was spotted alongside another adult female sambar, leading to speculation that it may be a sub-adult accompanied by its mother.
- Historical Significance: This marks the first recorded photographic evidence of a white form of sambar deer in this particular landscape.
- Notably, a white sambar deer had previously been recorded in Bandipur Tiger Reserve back in 2014.
- Understanding Leucism: Leucism, different from albinism, is characterized by the absence of pigmentation in an animal's skin.
- Unlike albinos, leucistic animals do not have pink or reddish eyes. This condition can arise naturally from birth due to a phenotype with developmental defects.
- Insights for Research: The data captured in this photograph offers valuable insights into the biology and ecology of these herbivores, which remains an area of exploration for researchers.
- The sambar deer is categorized as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List, emphasizing the importance of ongoing studies, especially when unique occurrences like this are observed.
On 21st August, 2023, a research was published on collaborative effort among researchers from Gujarat, Maharashtra, the United Kingdom, and Germany that has led to the identification of a novel genus and species of colubrid snakes thriving within the ecologically diverse Western Ghats.
- Unveiling a New Snake Genus: The research culminated in the revelation of a hitherto unknown genus of snakes, which has been designated as Sahyadriophis.
- The name is a fusion of 'Sahyadri,' the Sanskrit term for the Western Ghats, and 'Ophis,' the Greek word for snakes.
- Species Discovery: The newfound species, christened Sahyadriophis Uttaraghati or the Northern Sahyadri keelback, was found in the northern realms of the Western Ghats.
- Behavior and Attributes: Snakes belonging to this newly identified genus predominantly exhibit activity during monsoons.
- Their primary dietary preference encompasses frogs and their eggs.
- These snakes exhibit remarkable docility, seldom resorting to biting when handled.
- Notably, juvenile specimens bear a conspicuous blotch or collar mark on the nape, a feature that fades as the snake matures.
- Distinguishing itself from its Southern counterpart, Sahyadriophis beddomei, the new species showcases a higher count of subcaudal scales on the tail's underside and a substantially elongated tail.
Researchers hailing from Germany, the United States, and Peru have bestowed a unique honour upon acclaimed actor Harrison Ford by naming a newly discovered snake species after him.
- Snake Named in Tribute: The recently identified snake species has been officially named Tachymenoides harrisonfordi in tribute to Harrison Ford.
- The tribute stems from Ford's renowned role as Indiana Jones, a character closely associated with perilous snake encounters.
- Snake's Distinctive Features: Tachymenoides harrisonfordi boasts a length of 16 inches (40.6 centimetres).
- The snake exhibits a yellowish-brown hue adorned with scattered black blotches, accompanied by a black underbelly.
- A striking vertical streak graces its copper-coloured eye, rendering the snake visually distinctive.
- Details of Snake Discovery: The sole specimen, a male snake, was encountered sunbathing in a marsh nestled within the Peruvian Andes, situated at an impressive elevation of approximately 3,248 meters above sea level.
Recently, the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has published a report titled "75 Endemic Birds of India," shedding light on the significance of the country's unique avian species.
- Endemic Bird Diversity: The ZSI publication reveals that approximately 5% of the bird species found in India are endemic, meaning they are not found in any other part of the world.
- Indian Bird Diversity: India is home to 1,353 bird species, which accounts for around 12.40% of the global bird diversity.
- Endemic Species: Among the Indian bird species, 78 (5%) are endemic to the country, underscoring the unique avian diversity found within its borders.
- Notable Absences: Some of these endemic species have not been sighted in recent decades, including the Manipur Bush Quail, Himalayan Quail, and Jerdon’s Courser.
- Importance of Conservation: The publication emphasizes the need to conserve habitats of endemic species to prevent their decline and loss.
- Distribution Patterns: The report highlights that these 75 endemic bird species belong to 11 different orders, 31 families, and 55 genera, showcasing their diverse distribution across India.
- Regional Concentration: The Western Ghats record the highest number of endemic species, with 28 bird species unique to this bio-geographic hotspot.
- Andaman and Nicobar Islands: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands host 25 endemic bird species, likely due to their geographical isolation.
- Conservation Status: Of the 78 endemic species, 25 are classified as 'Threatened' by the IUCN. Some species are 'Critically Endangered,' 'Endangered,' 'Vulnerable,' or 'Near Threatened.'
- Comprehensive Insights: The publication offers in-depth information about each endemic species, including scientific names, historical relevance, distinguishing traits, habitats, breeding habits, and more.
- Conservation Efforts: The report aims to raise awareness about the importance of conserving endemic bird species and their habitats.
On 25th July, 2023, the Lok Sabha passed the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2023 by a voice vote.
- Key Amendments in the Bill: The Bill amends the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, focusing on decriminalizing biodiversity offenses and promoting ease of doing business.
- Users need written approval from the National Biodiversity Authority for transferring any research results on biological resources or associated traditional knowledge.
- Foreign companies align with the definition given in the Companies Act, 2013, for regulatory framework and patent acquisition.
- New sections emphasize monitoring of biological resources obtained from foreign countries and enable state governments to develop conservation and sustainable use strategies.
- Exemptions: The concept of "codified traditional knowledge" exempts users, including practitioners of Indian systems of medicine, from approvals and benefit sharing.
- Domestic companies can use biodiversity without requiring permission from biodiversity boards, while foreign-controlled companies will need permission.
- Punishment: Violations of the Act will be punishable only with penalties, removing imprisonment as a penalty option.
- Critics' Concerns: Activists and legal experts express dissatisfaction, stating the amendments fail to address biodiversity conservation issues in India.
- Concerns have been raised about decriminalizing offenses and imposing penalties instead of imprisonment.