Current Affairs - Ecology & Environment

ZSI discovers Four Species of Azooxanthellate Corals in Indian Waters

Scientists from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have discovered four species of azooxanthellate Corals in the waters of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

  • These corals have been found for the first time from Indian waters.
  • All the four groups of corals are from the same family Flabellidae.

About Azooxanthellate Corals

  • 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 plankton.
  • They are non-reef building, solitary corals.
  • Azooxanthellate corals are a group of hard corals and the four new records are not only solitary but have a highly compressed skeletal structure.
  • These groups of corals are deep-sea representatives, with the majority of species reporting from between 200 m to 1000 m. Their occurrences are also reported from shallow coastal waters.
  • Zooxanthellate corals, meanwhile, are restricted to shallow waters.

Blue Duke: State Butterfly of Sikkim

Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang on the occasion of World Environment Day (5 June 2022) declared Blue Duke the state butterfly.

  • The Blue Duke represents Sikkim with its two unique colours blue representing the sky and white depicting the snow clad mountains of the Himalayas.
  • Of the 720 species of butterflies found in Sikkim, Blue Duke was selected as the state butterfly securing 57 per cent votes in a recent online poll conducted by the Forest Department.
  • Next to Blue Duke, Krishna Peacock got maximum votes to be declared as the State Butterfly of Sikkim.
  • Blue Duke, which goes by the scientific name Bassarona durga, is unique to Sikkim and the eastern Himalayas. It was discovered in the state in 1858.
  • Blue Duke is found at an altitude below 1500 metres in the Himalayas.
  • Blue Duke falls in Schedule 2 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and is a protected species in the Himalayas.

Posidonia australis: World's Largest Plant

Scientists have discovered the world's largest plant off the Australia coast—a seagrass meadow that has grown by repeatedly cloning itself.

  • The single plant of Posidonia australis was discovered in the shallow waters of the World Heritage Area of Shark Bay in Western Australia.
  • Genetic analysis has revealed that the underwater fields of waving green seagrass are a single organism covering 70 square miles (180 square kilometers) through making copies of itself over 4,500 years.
  • Scientists confirmed that the meadow was a single organism by sampling and comparing the DNA of seagrass shoots across the bed.
  • The scientists call the meadow of Poseidon's ribbon weed "the most widespread known clone on Earth," covering an area larger than Washington.
  • Though the seagrass meadow is immense, it's vulnerable. A decade ago, the seagrass covered an additional seven square miles, but cyclones and rising ocean temperatures linked to climate change have recently killed almost a tenth of the ancient seagrass bed.

World’s First Fishing Cat Census

The world’s first population estimation of the fishing cat outside the protected area network of Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon was conducted in Chilika.

  • According to the census, Chilika Lake in Odisha is home to 176 fishing cats.
  • The census was conducted by Chilika Development Authority (CDA) in collaboration with The Fishing Cat Project (TFCP).
  • The cat is a globally threatened species found in marshlands, mangroves, flooded forests and other wetlands.
  • The feline, an adept swimmer and twice the size of a house cat, has been designated as an ambassador of Chilika since 2020.

Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary: India’s 52nd Tiger Reserve

On 17th May 2022, the Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary in Rajasthan was notified as India’s 52nd tiger reserve.

  • This is Rajasthan’s fourth tiger reserve after Ranthambore, Sariska and Mukundra.
  • The newly notified tiger reserve includes the tiger habitat between Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in the northeast and Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve on the southern side and facilitates dispersal of tigers from Ranthambore Tiger Reserve.
  • Wild animals like Indian wolf, leopard, striped hyena, sloth bear, golden jackal, chinkara, nilgai and fox can be seen in the Ramgarh Vishdhari Tiger Reserve.
  • According to “Status of Tigers in India” report released in 2019, there are 2,967 tigers in 20 states across the country.

Fossil of Pre-Historic Madtsoiidae Snake Discovered in Ladakh

Scientists have discovered the fossil of a Madtsoiidae snake in the Himalayan mountains in Ladakh, which sheds fresh light on the prevalence and existence of this rare serpent species in the Indian subcontinent.

  • Madtsoiidae is an extinct group of medium-sized to gigantic snakes, firstly appeared during the later part of the Cretaceous period, that began 145 million years ago and ended 66 million years ago. They are thought to grow up to 30 feet in length.
  • Research by scientists indicates their prevalence in the Indian subcontinent for a much longer time than previously thought. Also, global climatic shifts and the prominent biotic reorganisation across the Eocene-Oligocene boundary did not cause the extinction of this important group of snakes in India.

Eocene–Oligocene Extinct Event

  • The Eocene–Oligocene extinction event took place about 34 million years ago.
  • It was the time of major climatic change on Earth due to shifts in volcanic and meteorite activity, and is marked by large-scale extinction and floral and faunal turnover.
  • Madtsoiidae were mostly found in the Gondwanan landmasses, an ancient supercontinent that broke up about 180 million years ago.
  • From fossil records, the whole group disappeared in the mid-Paleogene period, ranging between 66 million to 23 million years ago, across most Gondwanan continents except for Australia where it survived with its last known classification of Wonambi till the late Pleistocene period from 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago.

Highest Temperature in Arctic Region

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has confirmed that Verkhoyansk, a Siberian town, experienced a temperature of 380C, the highest ever recorded in the Arctic region.

  • It indicates the gradual warming of the Arctic region due to climate change.
  • Arctic region is warming at twice the rate than the rest of the world, mainly because of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The increased rate of warming is because of a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification which refers to the process in which the melting ice hastens the process of warming by exposing areas that are not good at reflecting back heat into the atmosphere.
  • This creates a cycle between melting ice and rising temperatures, amplifying the impact of warming.

NTCA approves 4th Tiger Reserve of Chhattisgarh

  • On 5th October 2021, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) approved the Chhattisgarh government’s proposal to declare the combined areas of the Guru Ghasidas National Park and Tamor Pingla Wildlife Sanctuary as a Tiger Reserve.
  • The new Reserve is located in the northern part of the state, bordering Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand.
  • This will be the fourth Tiger Reserve in Chhattisgarh, after the Udanti-Sitanadi, Achanakmar, and Indravati Reserves.

'Copper Mahseer': State Fish of Sikkim

The Sikkim government has declared 'Copper Mahseer' (Neolissochilus hexagonolepis) locally named 'Katley' as the ‘State Fish’.

  • In Sikkim, 'Copper Mahseer' is found in varied altitudes covering entire state predominantly confined in Teesta and Rangit rivers and their tributaries.
  • In the year 2014 the fish was categorized as ‘Endangered’ by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
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