1 Tahrcountry Musings: June 2008

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Amazing diversity of life – Discoveries and extinctions

We are still in the process of making an inventory of the species of the earth .Innumerable species are lost for ever without going through our scanner as civilization advances. Roughly 1.8 million Species have been described to date, but scientists estimate there are between 2 million and 100 million species on Earth. I was startled to hear the number of species discovered per year. 16,969 species were discovered in 2006 according to a report published by Arizona State University's International Institute for Species Exploration, the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, the International Plant Names Index, and Thompson Scientific. An average of nearly 50 species per day. But as species are discovered, others are lost to extinction.
The report is titled State of Observed Species. Scientists warn that the rate of extinction is likely to increase as climate change intensifies. Earth is presently in the midst of a sixth great extinction, the Holocene. The previous mass extinctions in the past were the Ordovician, the Devonian, the Permian, the Triassic and the Cretaceous. Holocene is driven by human activities like habitat destruction, overexploitation, and the introduction of alien species. A revamp of Conservation efforts world wide is needed

Friday, June 27, 2008

Climate change and plant distribution

Climate change is a hotly debated topic round the globe. We have already started feeling its effect in our daily life. Worse is yet to come warns scientist. Here comes solid evidence that it is affecting the plant community. According to researchers climate change is changing the distribution pattern of plants. They are increasingly going up hill in a search for cooler conditions. A study of 171 forest species in mountain ranges of Western Europe revealed startling fact that many plants had climbed on an average of 29 metres each decade. Smaller species such as ferns, with shorter reproduction cycles, were the quickest to move. Prof: Jonathan Lenoir an ecologist at AgroParisTech, France led the research. The research team compared the distribution of forest species between 1905 and 1985 with their distribution between 1986 and 2005 to arrive at their conclusions. The findings have been published in the latest issue of Science journal.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

‘whales-eat-fish’ claims debunked

Whales are fascinating animals. The acrobatics of the amiable whales in the sea have always fascinated me. Every time the whaling nations go out on merciless killing of whales I am deeply pained. I share my agony with millions around the world. One of the reasons touted by whaling nations is the argument “whales-eat-fish”. Well, this argument has been totally debunked by scientists. Humane Society International, WWF and the Lenfest Ocean Program have come out with three new reports debunking the science behind the ‘whales-eat-fish’ claims of Japan, Norway and Iceland. The reports conclusively prove that it is over-fishing and excess fishing capacity that are responsible for diminishing supplies of fish in developing countries. Marine mammals consume mainly smaller fish and organisms. It is high time international community woke up to the facts and come out with measures for regulating untrammeled fisheries operations. The major chunk of the catch goes to developed countries and they have a moral responsibility to do something. Do not blame the whales. Protect the whales please

Monday, June 23, 2008

The wonder of bird songs

I have always been fascinated by bird songs. During my hikes in the wilderness of Western Ghats, melodious calls like the ones produced by Malabar whistling thrush, has enthralled me and at the same time I have wondered about the meaning of all that calls. I always had this feeling that there is obviously more than that meets the eye.

The latest issue of journal Proceedings of the Royal Society has some interesting facts about song birds which could be true for other birds also. A new study reveals that young song birds make their choices of building nests after eavesdropping on the songs of their elders. Matthew Betts, a landscape ecologist at Oregon State University, Corvallis led the study on black-throated blue warblers (Dendroica caerulescens), who arrive in the United States from Jamaica. Betts and his colleagues recorded male birds’ songs at nests with fledglings in a good 90-year-old forest in New Hampshire's White Mountains. They then played the recordings at 18 other sites. Young male warblers flying nearby heard the calls and apparently memorized the exact locations. They chose these sites for building nests next spring, after migrating to the Caribbean for the winter. This is the first experimental study to show that the information can override what a bird sees.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I will be away from my desk

Hi guys,
Till June 19th I am out in the wilderness with no access to internet. There won't be any updates during this period. The New York times science headlines and animal of the day will get updated automatically.

Shocking news about Tigers

EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency) has come out with some shocking news about tigers in China. I nearly puked when I heard about it.EIA investigators were offered tiger bone wine in two Chinese Tiger farms. Chinese farms are believed to house about 5,000 captive tigers. The wine was made from carcasses soaked in rice wine. The wine advertised as a sure fire treatment for arthritis and rheumatism was being openly sold in the farms. The staff claimed that wine was made from tigers that had died after fighting with other big cats at the farms. Debbie Banks, head of the EIA's tiger campaign has made a fervent plea to Chinese authorities to stop this barbaric practice. With just 2,500 breeding adults left in the wild things are not rosy for this wonderful animal. Chinese have all along campaigned for farming of tigers saying it would satisfy the demand from traditional medicine practitioners without threatening the wild tiger population. But according to EIA It would be far too easy to launder poached skins, bones and parts among those from legalized tiger farms. This would open the flood gates of poaching.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Courtship and mating sequence of Giant Panda filmed in the wild

I have always been fascinated by Giant Pandas. An adorable animal, that strikes a chord in your heart. They seem such gentle creatures. I was surprised to hear that their love life is full of loud throaty calls and aggression.

A BBC Natural History team has recorded in the wild, the courtship and mating sequences of giant panda. The recording was done in the bamboo forests of Qinling Mountains in China. Even though mating of pandas has been filmed earlier this is the most complete courtship sequences ever caught on camera. The mating is preceded by loud calls and fending off of other males. Pandas which are solitary animals come together during mating season. Months of research and careful location reconnaissance was needed to film these exclusive shots. The film Land of the Panda is broadcast by BBC on Sunday 8 June at 2100 BST. It is a co-production with Chinese state television.