Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New British moth found in Hembury Woods is world first

By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

Micro moth courtesy of Erik j Vannieukerken of the Netherlands 
Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis
The type specimen

A moth new to science and found nowhere else in the world has been formally recognised as living in the UK.
The 3mm-long micro moth, which lives in Hembury Woods in Devon, was recognised as a new species this year.
This week, the biologist who discovered it is presenting the Natural History Museum of London with one of the first known specimens.
The receipt of this "type" specimen will mark the official acceptance of the moth's existence in the country.
The tiny micro moth, which has a wingspan of just 6mm, was first spotted in 2004.
Hembury Woods, Devon UK
Hembury Woods: home to the moth
At that time, amateur naturalist Bob Heckford sighted the unusual bright green caterpillars of this tiny leaf-mining moth on oak saplings within Hembury Woods, a site managed by the National Trust.
In January this year, the moth was officially recognised in the journal Zookeys as a new species, named Ectoedemia heckfordi after its discoverer.
It is not known to live outside of the UK.
Official presentation
Now Mr Heckford is presenting the Natural History Museum with the original specimen.
That is important, because it marks the official acknowledgement by the scientific world of the specimen as the "type" for that species, against which any future finds will be compared and determined.

"We hear so much about the losses to the natural world, and less about the gains; which makes this find, however small, so important," says Matthew Oates, an adviser on nature conservation at the National Trust.
"Amateur naturalists have a wonderful window on the wildlife world and nature continues to amaze us and throw up surprises even in the UK."
There are well over 2,000 species of micro moth in the UK.
They come in various shapes and sizes, but many are extremely pretty, though only appreciated under magnification.
A few are actually larger than some larger, so-called macro moths.
Dark mines made by the caterpillar of the species
Dark mines made by the caterpillar of the species
Their biology varies.
Most are plant feeders, with larvae often mining galleries in leaves, between the leaf surfaces.
A few mine stems.
Some, though, breed in fungi and a few have aquatic larvae.
Most are nocturnal but quite a few also fly by day.
Caterpillars of the new species are found mostly on oak saplings and low growth of oak in the shade.
The mines they make are quite dark and the caterpillars are bright green which is quite unusual for micro moths.
The adults lay their eggs on the underside of the leaf.


Moths (Fauna of India ; Moths)
Life-histories of Indian insects: Microlepidoptera (Memoirs of the Department of Agriculture in India : Entomological series)
The Fauna Of British India Including Ceylon And Burma..Moths...Three Volume Set..1892,1894, and 1895
The silkworm moths of India;: Or, Indian Saturnidae: a family of bombycia moths, with antennae of males distichously pectinate and body wooly. Six plates, ... work on the silkworm moths of India

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cobra hood mechanism revealed by electrode study

King cobra (SPL)
The cobra is an example of "evolutionary remodelling"
Scientists have uncovered the mechanism behind the menacing "hood flare" which cobras use as a defensive display.
By measuring the electrical activity from the snakes' muscles, they found the precise group of muscles used by cobras to raise their hoods.
The researchers say that the cobra's hood evolved as its ribs were "co-opted" to be used in this visual display.
They report their findings in the Journal of Experimental Biology
Kenneth Kardong, professor of zoology from Washington State University in the US, was one of the authors of the study.
He explained that the cobra's hood was "an intriguing problem in evolutionary biology".
Snake ribs
"In the cobra, both the [rib bones] and the muscles that work them are deployed to erect this visual display," he explained to BBC News.
"We wanted to examine the way in which the ribs were 'freed up' to rotate into this presentation position, and to understand how the muscles were able to accomplish that and return them to a relaxed position."
To do this, the researchers took measurements of electrical activity from all of the muscles in the cobra's neck.
Cobra skeleton
The cobra's skeleton reveals how its ribs have been "co-opted" for display
They had to embark on some very tricky surgery to implant tiny electrodes into the snake's neck muscles, with the animal very carefully anaesthetised.
Bruce Young from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, who also took part in the study, said that doing the surgery was "the riskiest part of the study".
"You have to work around the head but the snakes are prone to waking, which can be disconcerting," he explained.
Once the electrodes were in place, the scientists waited for the snake to recover before filming and recording the muscle activity as the animal flared its neck.
They found that just eight muscles were involved in "hooding" and that they were muscles that were also present in non-hooding snakes.
"This is an example of evolution's remodelling [as] derived species emerge," said Dr Kardong. "There's been a change in the nervous system's control over these muscles."
Professor Young explained that cobras were not the only snakes to hood. "Several groups of unrelated snakes show almost identical defensive behaviour," he said. He now hopes to study how these other snakes raise their hoods.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Western Ghats- Task force wants 14 crores for Bamboo plantations

By Team Mangalorean

Bangalore, April 9, 2010: Chairman of the Western Ghats Task Force Ananth Hegde Ashisar has stated that the that the task force has found 13 places which can be the ideal place for cultivating medicinal and aromatic plants in the Western Ghats. The Task force also wants to take up extensive plantation of different types of Bamboos in the Western ghats for which it has sought a financial help of Rs. 14 crores from the government.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday day Mr. Ashisar outlined the plan and said Devinmane Ghatta in the coastal region, Sandur in Bellary district, Kollur in Udupi district, Charmadi Ghats in Dakshina Kannada and Chikmagalur districts, Talakaveri, in Kodagu, Biligiri Rangana Betta in Mysore, Savana Durga and Devarayana Durga in Belgaum district, need conservation.

Mr Ashisar said the task force has plans for another ten spots for development of medicinal plants, they will be conserved under the biodiversity act. The other places includes Kappath Gudda in Gadag district, Karakanhalli of Bidar district and Siddhara Betta in Tumkur district, these places will be declared as medicinal plant conservation zones and no human activity will be allowed except for cultivation of the medicinal plants Mr. Ashisar told.

He said two areas in Ambaragudda of Kodachadri hill ranges in Kollur and Hogarekanugiri area in Chickmaglur district have already been declared as bio-diversity heritage spots in February. Basur Amrutha Mahal Kaval area in Chickmaglur district was being declared a community conservation reserve.

Mr. Ashisar said the task force has submitted to the government a plan of action that entails a financial help of Rs. 14 crores for developing Bamboo plantations in the forests. He said Bamboos are known for their water retention qualities and Western Ghats has ample opportunities for developing such plantations. The plan of Bamboo cultivation was mooted at an international workshop organized by the Western Ghats Task Force in Sirsi sometime back.

Mr Ashisar said the Task Force will discuss other environmental issues of the state in Hubli on 19th April. The discussion will focus on sustainable fishery in coastal area The Karnataka Sea Fisheries Act should be amended to restrain fishermen from catching such fishes and turtle and dolphin. The nets should be manufactured accordingly.

He said, entire coastal region should be declared as a fishery diversity zone. Another workshop organised by his organisation had urged the Government to drop bamboo from the list of forest produce as a first step to promote bamboo cultivation.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Poor missing out on moringa seeds' water-purifying powers

Carol Campbell

24 March 2010 | EN


Moringa oleifera seeds can purify water

EcoPort Picture Databank

[OUDTSHOORN] Seeds from a tree that grows widely across the developing world could play a key role in water purification — but there is lack of awareness about this application despite a long indigenous history, say researchers.

The Moringa tree — Moringa oleifera — is native to North India but is also found in Indonesia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa, and is used in many communities mostly for food and folk medicine.

But adding crushed Moringa seeds to water can cut the time taken for bacteria and solids to settle from a full day to just one hour, and has potential for preventing diarrhoea, according to Michael Lea of Clearinghouse, a Canadian organisation that investigates low-cost water purification technologies.

Lea has published a step-by-step procedure online that shows how the seeds can be crushed to produce a natural flocculant — a substance that aggregates suspended particles.

He hopes that making the technique freely available in this way will facilitate dissemination to those who need it the most — the role of the seeds in purification has been known for centuries but use has been limited.

Writing in Current Protocols in Microbiology, he said that the seeds can provide a low-cost, accessible purification method for poor communities where diarrhoea caused by water-borne bacteria is the biggest killer of children aged five and under.

Lea noted that the seeds "should not be regarded as a panacea for reducing the high incidence of waterborne diseases" — an additional disinfection process is recommended — but can make a valuable contribution to disease reduction.

"Parts of the world have mobile phone and Internet services but no food and potable water," Lea told SciDev.Net. "These trees are indigenous so the solution is in people's backyards. What is required now is knowledge dissemination.

"M. oleifera is the only indigenous treatment technology that addresses poverty and nutrition while also providing potable water."

Lea said that superstition has sometimes limited its use. For instance, in one area of Africa, more than three Moringa trees in a backyard is seen as a source of misfortune that brings poverty and death.

Vallantino Emongor, a M. oleifera expert at the University of Botswana, said: "What is exciting is that this tree is drought resistant and is accessible throughout Africa and India. Communities need to learn what the seeds can do."

Some countries, including Burkina Faso, Benin, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, have formed associations to facilitate this.

The Clearinghouse research was published last month (18 February).

Link to full paper in Current Protocols in Microbiology


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ayurveda out of balance: 93 percent of medicinal plants threatened with extinction

Traditional Ayurvedic medicine could face an uncertain future as 93 percent of the wild plants used in the practice are threatened with extinction due to overexploitation, theTimes of India reports.
The Botanical Survey of India recently prioritized 359 wild medicinal plant species and conducted an assessment throughout the country to determine their health. The news wasn't good. Of the 359 species, 335 were categorized as critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable or near-threatened.

Dhanvantari, the Hindu god of Ayurveda

The survey used criteria and categories established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for its Red List of Threatened Species.
According to India's Ministry of Environment and Forests, 95 percent of plants used in Ayurvedic medicine are collected from the wild, and about two-thirds of that harvest uses "destructive means" that can damage or kill the plants.
To help keep these plant species from going extinct, the Indian government in 2008 initiated a program (pdf) to relocate species from the wild, study how to domesticate them, and promote sustainable harvest protocols. This survey is the latest step in that program.
Aside from its historical and cultural significance, Ayurvedic medicines could bring profits to India's coffers. The Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) is currently exploring export opportunities for Ayurvedic medicine through Indian Medicines Pharmaceutical Corporation Limited, a company owned by the Indian government. Already, Ayurvedic treatments, vacations and consultants are popular among some alternative health consumers in the U.S.
Of course, other traditional Asian medicines have been attacked for their use of parts from endangered animals, such as tiger bones and rhino horns, but Ayurveda has so far avoided such criticisms.

Image: Dhanvantari, the Hindu god of Ayurveda, via Wikipedia

Sunday, April 4, 2010

93% of wild medicinal plants in endangered list: Study

NEW DELHI: Ninety three per cent of wild medicinal plants used for making ayurvedic medicines in the country are endangered and the government is trying to relocate them from their usual habitat to protect them.

The threat to the plants came to the fore in an assessment exercise in different states carried out by the Botanical Survey of India.

The assessments were done for a total of 359 prioritized wild medicinal plant species. Out of this, 335 have been assigned Red List status ranging from critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable to near-threatened.

In addition, a total of 15 such species recorded in trade have been found threatened, officials in the health ministry's Ayush department said.

Some of the rare plants reported to be threatened, have been relocated during the last decade, including Utleria Salicifolia and Hydnocarpus Pentandra in Western Ghats, Gymnocladus Assamicus and Begonia Tessaricarpa from Arunachal Pradesh and Agapetes Smithiana in Sikkim.

The assessments have involved conducting Conservation Assessment and Management Prioritisation using International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List Categories.

The officials said the medicinal plant resources in the country are threatened by over exploitation to meet the demand of herbal industries.

As per the information received from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, about 95 per cent of such plants are harvested from the wild, primarily from forests.

The National Medicinal Plants Board constituted in November 2000, has been implementing a Central sector scheme for development and cultivation of medicinal plants since 2000-01.

This scheme was revised and renamed as "Central Sector Scheme for Conservation, Development and Sustainable Management of Medicinal Plants" during 2008-09.

States forest departments have been given assistance for protection and propagation of such endangered species, especially used by the herbal industries.

Projects for setting up of 29 Medicinal Plants Conservation Areas (MPCAs) have also been implemented in the states covering mainly the medicinal plants viz Asoka, Guggal and Dashmool varieties.

The scheme is being implemented with an outlay of Rs 321.30 crore during the 11th Plan.

In addition, a new "Centrally Sponsored Scheme of National Mission on Medicinal Plants" with a total outlay of Rs 630 crore is being implemented since 2008-09 by National Medicinal Plants Board. A total of 24 states have been covered under the scheme.