Sunday, September 18, 2011

12 New Frog Species Discovered In India

By KATY DAIGLE, Associated Press

NEW DELHI (AP) -- Years of combing tropical mountain forests, shining flashlights under rocks and listening for croaks in the night have paid off for a team of Indian scientists which has discovered 12 new frog species plus three others thought to have been extinct.

It's a discovery the team hopes will bring attention to India's amphibians and their role in gauging the health of the environment.

Worldwide, 32 percent of the world's known amphibian species are threatened with extinction, largely because of habitat loss or pollution, according to the group Global Wildlife Conservation.

"Frogs are extremely important indicators not just of climate change, but also pollutants in the environment," said the project's lead scientist, biologist Sathyabhama Das Biju of the University of Delhi.

Many of the newly found frogs in India are rare and are living in just a single area, so they will need rigorous habitat protection, Biju told The Associated Press on Saturday. "Unfortunately in India, conservation has basically focused on the two most charismatic animals – the elephant and the tiger. For amphibians there is little interest, little funding, and frog research is not easy."

WAYANAD NIGHT FROG- Nyctibatrachus grandis Prof. S. D. Biju 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why are media insects misidentified?

September 12, 2011

Here’s a book cover that reliably sends entomologists into hysterics:
Not a Bee. And yes, this is a real book.

What’s so funny?

Well, that’s not a bee. In fact, this insect last shared an ancestor with a bee over 350 million years ago. That’s before dinosaurs. According to an index I whimsically invented last year, this cover measures a taxonomy fail of 58.

How does a fly end up advertising a book whose target audience, not to mention the mortified authors, will instantly recognize as a mistake?

Publishers, photo editors, and stock agencies- those entities that purchase from image creators- trust photographers to correctly identify their subjects. This system works well enough so long as image creators stick to broadly recognizable categories. A travel photographer isn’t going to misidentify the Eiffel Tower. When the subject matter turns technical, though, photographers are often out of their depth.

Our planet holds anywhere from 3 to 80 million species of insects. That’s a lot. There are so many we don’t even know within an order of magnitude the full count. Beetles, flies, wasps, crickets, cockroaches, mantids, moths, termites, bugs, dragonflies, lacewings, thrips, fleas- the list goes on. Insect identification is a difficult and technically-involved activity, one that requires years of practice. People who diagnose insects

professionally hold advanced degrees, usually with expertise in just one small taxonomic enclave. The field is so complex that an expert keeping track of the thousands of species of mayflies is often no good at dragonflies. A beetle expert might be adept at ground beetles, in some genera, but useless at weevils or ladybirds.

Photographers, too , can be extremely specialized. All that time spent learning how to create stunning imagery is time taken not learning taxonomy.

This figure is wrong, because I know a lot of artistically talented taxonomists, but you get the point. People who specialize in creating breathtaking images aren't necessarily any good at taxonomy.

The result is photographers who don’t know what they’re shooting, photo researchers who aren’t trained to screen science uploads, and stock libraries that fill with inadequately identified material. The blind lead the blind and a fly comes to illustrate a tome on bees. Such errors are common.

Full Story

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Giving hybrids some respect

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Expert lists butterflies- 3-year survey on Sikkim species

Expert lists butterflies- 3-year survey on Sikkim species:
TT, Gangtok, May 31: A Pune-based lepideptorist has taken up a project to update the database on butterflies found in Sikkim.

Krushnamegh Kunte, who did his masters degree in wildlife sciences from the Wildlife Institute of India, said according to the records, 650 species of butterflies have been found in Sikkim since the 1850’s.
But most of the data were collected at a time when the territory of the state extended up to Darjeeling in the south and Chumbi Valley in the north. Today the area of Sikkim is smaller and hence the figures need to be updated.

“According to historical records built up from the 1850’s, when the first work to survey the species began, there are around 650 butterflies in this region. There is no systematic data today about how many of them are still found in Sikkim because areas where the butterflies were found previously are not part of the state anymore. One major reason for my research is that I want to come up with an updated figure of how many species are found here,” said Kunte.

The researcher, who is a postdoctoral fellow with the FAS Centre for Systems Biology in Harvard University and the president of the Indian Foundation for Butterflies, finished a month-long survey recently.
The project was part of the three-year study that he intends to complete by 2013.

“We want to do a habitat mapping and population census which will be very handy for the state forest department for conservation and management plans,” said Kunte.

The researcher shared the findings of the survey with members of the Sikkim Ornithological Society and the Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim in Gangtok yesterday.

Kunte showed the participants several pictures taken by the members of his team who went to Rolep and Rongli in the East district, Pabung Khola in the South district, Dentam in the West and Dzongu in the North district.

Around 200 species were found during the survey. The team spotted several highly endangered species listed in the Schedule I and II of the Wildlife Protection Act during the trip and some of them were the Scarce Jester, Eastern Courtier, Bhutan sergeant, Krishna Peacock and Scarce White Commodore.

“Eco-tourism and the concept of homestays can be promoted for conservation of butterflies and other wildlife species. Once the local community starts benefiting from tourists who come to see these species, naturally they will protect the wildlife species found in their surroundings,” he said.

Usha Lachungpa, senior research officer (wildlife) of the forest department, said the survey would be of great help as the government needs updated information.

“It will help us in habitat mapping and forest management,” she said.

Full Story 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Furious Finning

Reuters (From Outlook, August 15, 2011)
Market abroad Much of the shark caught in India is for export

Burdensome Catch...
  • India has been ranked second on the top-20 list of shark-fishing nations of the world
  • With little local consumption, most of the catch is exported
  • Around 18 species, such as the Tiger Shark and the Smooth Hammerhead, are fished in India
  • Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands are important shark-fishing centres
  • A national plan for sustainable shark-fishing is being drafted
The word ‘shark’ may well be used to describe a rapacious person, but the fate of the real shark seems quite pitiable. Much of India’s conservation efforts focus on the tiger; meanwhile, indiscriminate shark-fishing in Indian waters to feed markets abroad may be driving the shark to extinction. Compiling international data, TRAFFIC (a global wildlife trade monitor) and the Pew Environment Group have ranked India second on a list of the top 20 shark-catching nations. With an annual average yield of over 74,000 tonnes, India accounts for nine per cent of the global catch. It is surpassed only by Indonesia (13 per cent) and followed by Spain (7.3 per cent) in the ranking, announced early this year. A 2008 report had placed India third; to conservationists, the improvement is really nothing to be proud of.
While most people associate sharks with the ferocious kind of the film Jaws, few realise there are over 400 species of shark, many of them critically endangered. In fact, the Union ministry of environment & forests (MoEF) had even banned shark-fishing. However, the ban was revoked in 2004 on pressure from groups representing fisherfolk.

Full story on Outlook