1 Tahrcountry Musings: September 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Surprise- A Fish that Suckles its Young

I read with utter fascination the news about the fish that suckles its young  A team of biologists from Denmark, led by Prof Skov  of the University of Copenhagen, have discovered a fish that suckles its young. Even more surprising the young suckle while still within their mother's body. The fish that has thrown up the surprise is European eelpout (Zoarces viviparus). Eelpout is found near the coastal waters throughout large parts of Europe, from the southern parts of the English Channel to the Baltic Sea and the White Sea.
Eelpout has pregnancies, lasting approximately six months and give birth to large baby fish quite disproportionate to its size. Scientists say the suckling explains why it can give birth to large, live baby fish.
Other fish, such as guppies and mollies, also give birth to live young but they have short gestation times lasting a few weeks or less, and their embryos feed on yolk from egg sacs within their mother's body.
Details of the discovery are published in the latest issue of Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One-fifth of the World's Plants are Under Threat of Extinction

A study conducted by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Natural History Museum, London and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), has revealed that one in five of the world's plant species are threatened with extinction. The study was in response to the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity and the 2010 Biodiversity Target.
The study gives a clear global picture of extinction threat to the world's known plants. According to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew's Director, Professor Stephen Hopper plants are the foundation of biodiversity and their significance in uncertain climatic, economic and political times has been overlooked for far too long.
The study revealed that Plants are more threatened than birds, as threatened as mammals and less threatened than amphibians or corals. Gymnosperms are the most threatened group. The most threatened habitat is tropical rain forest.
The study assumes significance against backdrop that governments are to meet in Nagoya, Japan in mid-October 2010 to set new targets at the United Nations Biodiversity Summit.
For more information log on to Kew Gardens.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Forestry and Climate Change – The portents

Forestry commission of England is keeping one step ahead in anticipation of vagaries of climate change. They have come up with some recommendations to tackle the menace. I found the research note very useful.

Here is an excerpt.

The changing climate presents challenges for forest planning and forest management.  The commission says the projected increases in temperature, changes in the seasonality of rainfall, and an increased frequency of extreme events add complexity to species selection and silvicultural practice. The commission calls for adjusting forest management now to take care of anticipated future changes. There is an urgent need to increase resilience by reducing exposure to risks in forestry and in the goods and services that woodlands provide for society. 

As a result of climate change tree growth will increase in some areas while they will decline elsewhere. The effects will vary with species. Some relatively less known species will become predominant. This could include some species from other continents. New approaches to woodland management will be required to address the threats of drought and risk from pests, diseases, wind and fire. 

There are many uncertainties associated with climate change with imponderable impacts on trees, silviculture and forest operations. This uncertainty should not prevent adaptation but should act as a driver for woodland managers to implement measures that increase resilience whatever climate change brings. A key concept in managing risk is diversification. This include broadening the choice of genetic material and mixing tree species in different ways, to varying management systems and the timing of operations.

The report is free. Click Here if you are keen to read the full report

Monday, September 27, 2010


Guardian is offering you a golden chance to put your questions to legendary conservationist David Attenborough. These questions will be the basis for an interview slated for next month.

For the past 50 years David Attenborough has been crusading for nature conservation. Even at 84 he is at his favorite passion. Next month, in First Life, he explores the lives of the world's very first animals in BBC.

Questions should be sent to readers.newreview@observer.co.uk by the end of Tuesday 28 September or tweet them to @ObsNewReview.

Before sending the questions please log on to Guardian. Click HERE

Mountain coati the Least Studied Carnivore in the World

I was fascinated to read about the only Mountain coati (Nasuella olivacea), kept in captivity. The mountain coati was confiscated from poachers by police and environmental authorities. It is being kept in at Bioparque la Reserva in Cota, Colombia.

The mountain coati is perhaps the least studied carnivore in the world. Information about it is very limited as it is a very elusive animal. Deficient data available are from skins, tissue samples and skulls kept in natural history museums. It belongs to same family of raccoons and kinkajous and lives in the forests of Colombia and Ecuador

Sunday, September 26, 2010

World DNA Barcode Library

A  DNA barcode library has been put in place in Toronto by An international consortium of geneticists. The aim is to build a digital identification system for all life on Earth. Barcoding for 80,000 species with one million barcode records is complete. This is the largest biodiversity genomics initiative ever undertaken.
By 2015, scientists expect to enter DNA barcode records from five million specimens representing half a million species. 

This DNA barcoding project will reduce the time and cost of species identification.  It promises a future where everyone will have rapid access to the names and biological features of every species on Earth.   It will be a vital tool for conservation. A handheld barcode reader is round the corner.

"The International Barcode of Life is assembling a global network of taxonomists, biologists and geneticists to embark on the next great exploration of the natural world," says Dr. Christian Burks, President and CEO of the Ontario Genomics Institute and Chair of the iBOL Consortium board of directors.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

UK’s Most Wildlife Friendly Farmers

Two brothers John and James Davison from the hills of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, have won this year’s Nature of Farming Award, in UK.

The award was in recognition of their tireless efforts to create the ideal habitat for lapwings, curlews, Irish hares and a host of other insect and plant life. The brothers raise sheep and cattle on their 350-hectare farm near Ballymena. They garnered 53 per cent of the public’s vote.

The award is instituted by the RSPB with support from BBC Countryfile Magazine, Plantlife and Butterfly Conservation. It is funded by the EU Life+ programme.

The winners will receive the top prize of £1,000 which  will be presented with their award later this year.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

German conservation photographer Florian Schulz is CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the Year 2010

German conservation photographer, Florian Schulz., has won the best photographer award in the CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the Year 2010 awards.

Florian shot a picture of thousands of Munkiana Devil rays swimming through the ocean. An amazing phenomenon for which no explanation is forthcoming. We are yet to fathom the full mysteries of the ocean.

Telegraph has published this amazing picture. Click here to view it

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Scientists Crack Cuckoo Mystery

How a cuckoo chick is able to hatch in advance of a host's eggs has always been a mystery. Now scientists from University of Sheffield have cracked the mystery. The team was headed by Professor Tim Birkhead, from the University's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences.

The researchers discovered that cuckoo eggs are internally incubated by the female bird for up to 24 hours before birth. This internal incubation gives the cuckoo a 24 hour head start over its host's eggs.

When eggs are incubated by the adult birds in the nest, their eggs are at about 36oC. Inside the female, the egg is at a body temperature of 40oC. This difference in temperature gives the cuckoo egg a 31 hour head start to be precise.

The results of the study appear in the latest issue of  the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B