1 Tahrcountry Musings: November 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Smallest Orchid in the World Discovered

Dr Lou Jost, an American botanist has discovered the world’s smallest orchid in the Cerro Candelaria reserve in the eastern Andes of Ecuador. Dr Jost, who works for the EcoMinga Foundation, is one of the world's leading orchid hunters.

The discovery was quite accidental. The orchid was hidden among the roots of a larger plant. The orchid is just 2.1mm wide. The petals of the flower are just one cell thick and transparent.

More than 1,000 orchid species have been discovered in Ecuador in the past century.

Dr Jost has also recently discovered a group of 28 types of orchid of Teagueia genus evolved in a mountainous area the size of London. Discovery of 28 closely related orchids in such a small patch of land has been described as a botanical equivalent of Darwin's finches by the scientists.

Friday, November 27, 2009

New Method for Counting Birds Developed

It was fascinating to read about this new acoustic technique developed by , Deanna Dawson of the US Geological Survey and Murray Efford of the University of Otago, New Zealand, for counting birds. The acoustic technique gives a more accurate estimate of bird numbers than using nets to capture birds.

Deanna has worked out a way of using recordings of birdsong to accurately measure the size of bird populations. The technique involves innovative combination of sound recording with spatially explicit capture-recapture (SECR). Sound spreading through a forest or other habitat leaves a ‘footprint' and the size of the footprint depends on how quickly the sound attenuates.

The new technique can also be used to measure hard-to-reach populations of marine mammals, such as whales and dolphins.

The findings have been published in the latest issue of the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology.

Back in Kochi

I am back in Kochi after attending the 5th World conference on Mountain ungulates. The conference was a revelation. The present status of mountain ungulates worldwide was discussed threadbare by the leading lights of conservation. I stand benefited immensely from the proceedings of this wonderfully organized conference. Hats off to the organizers.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Fascinating Mating Habits of Seahorses

Did you know that Seahorses are the only species in which males truly become pregnant?

The other day I read a fascinating piece on the mating habits of Seahorses in Guardian UK.
Seahorses inhabit a wide stretch of the oceans. It is a misconception that they are restricted to warm azure waters of equatorial shores.

As mating prelude Seahorses greet each other with a nose-to-nose caress. Then they wrap their tails around a single blade of grass and begin a seductive dance, spiraling round and round each other. The first time a seahorse couple meets, this gentle courtship carries on for hours, days even. Then a short hollow tube emerges from the female, which she pushes into an opening in her partner's belly and the female shoots an egg-laden liquid into the male. The male then sways and wiggles his body, settling the eggs into position where they will remain for the next few weeks, growing in a protected internal pond.

So what makes them the male of the species if they get pregnant?" The simple answer is sperm.

If you want to read the full story click here