Friday, December 14, 2012

InsectIndia Yahoo group is 6 years

Happy to note that our InsectIndia yahoo group [] has completed 6 years. We all have shared and learnt a lot in these years.

We are also utilizing several new avenues to learn like:

Flickr Tag: 
Picasa Tags:
Facebook group:
Google+ Page:
Google+ Community:
iNaturalist Project:
IndiaBiodiversityPortal :
DI Blog:
DI News Blog:

and more to come .... Always remember our reference point to all these is 

If I have forgotten any please let me know.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the admins and members of all these groups to keep them alive and active. We always need help with newer ideas to implement, so if you are willing to help email us at 

If you would like to see some changes or want to implement new ideas, feel free to discuss them on the group or contact us.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Athyma whitei: another butterfly species new to India

Dr. Krushnamegh Kunte reported on ButterflyIndia yahoo group today (8th November 2012):

I am happy to report another butterfly species that is new to India: Athyma whitei, which I call Blue-bordered Sergeant (it did not have an English name before):

Information about this species may be found under various tabs on the above species page. Images of the holotype of whitei, which is in the BMNH London, has also been included in the species page with permission from the BMNH.

Do let me know if you have photographs of similar Athyma from other parts of India. This species is not very well-known, so any new information will be useful.

Link to original message.

Mystical Bhutan Glory (Bhutanitis ludlowi) in India !

Dr. Krushnamegh Kunte reported on ButterflyIndia yahoo group today  (8th November 2012):

India now has two rather than one species of Bhutan Glory! I am very happy to report that the elusive Bhutanitis ludlowi, which was previously known only from E. Bhutan, has finally been spotted in India by Sanjay Sondhi, Pijush Dutta and Sujatha Padmanabhan:

Congratulations to those three on taking these very first Indian images of this very very rare butterfly, and for adding this species to the Indian butterfly fauna. You struck gold with this! These Indian records are particularly important because the species was rediscovered in Bhutan only in 2009 after the initial species description in 1942 based on the specimens collected in 1933-1934. You will find more information about this on the ludlowi species page under different tabs and on a few other websites.

I have now photographed all the five types of ludlowi at the BMNH London. Those images are also on the species page, with permission from the BMNH, along with Sanjay, Sujatha and Pijush’s images. Identification key to distinguish between lidderdalii and ludlowi is at:

For comparison, now we have a few images of wild butterflies and museum specimens on the lidderdalii page as well:

I am sure that there will be more sightings of ludlowi in India in coming years. If you come across any, we would be pleased if you bring them to our attention and contribute good quality images to the above species pages. It will be good to build this resource for the benefit of the larger community.

Link to original message.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Why we all need to worry about the decline in native butterflies

Faye Dobson

Butterfly populations are an important gauge of the health of local habitats and wider climate change. As families this weekend join the Big Butterfly Count, Faye Dobson explains what population changes mean, and how you can get involved


Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Changes in butterfly populations are often an indicator of the health of the wider environment. Picture by Jim Asher.

Although butterflies may seem like an attractive addition to your flower garden they are a more important insect than most people realise. Acting as a vital wildlife indicator, butterflies can tell us almost everything we need to know about the health of an ecosystem. But from the Meadow Brown to the Swallowtail, British native butterfly species are slowly disappearing.
According to a report by the Dorset-based charity Butterfly Conservation, 72 per cent of butterfly and moth species have declined in the last ten years, and 54 per cent have decreased in the UK. Even the abundance of common garden butterflies, such as the Red Admiral, has dropped by 24 per cent. 

Butterflies react extremely quickly to even minor changes in the environment, making them both a good indicator of biodiversity and providing an early warning system for other reductions in wildlife. As a result, they are now the best-monitored group of insects in the world.

But British butterfly numbers have hit an all time low in the last three years due to poor summer weather. 

Tropical World in Leeds is home to between 30 and 40 butterfly species that fly around in the tropical environment of exotic flowering plants and Citrus trees. Stephen Dickie, head keeper, said: “Obviously we’ve had lots of rain and quite unpleasant weather recently. British butterflies tend to be most abundant in the summer months but it needs to be sunny, dry, and warm to get them flying around. If they’re not flying around, they’re not feeding and if they’re not feeding they’re not going to survive for very long.”

Richard Fox from the charity Butterfly Conservation adds: “We’re concerned that many butterflies may have suffered extremely poor breeding seasons this year as a result of the record-breaking wet weather. We are drawing parallels with the wet summer of 2007, which also resulted in widespread flooding and saw butterfly numbers plummet.

“Many species are likely to be affected from widespread butterflies such as the Common Blue to rarities such as the Duke of Burgundy.”

A decline in butterflies would also have a knock-on effect on other British species, in particular birds such as blue tits, jays and sparrows.
Stephen Dickie explains: “Birds plan their whole breeding season around when caterpillars will be most abundant. If the butterfly and caterpillar numbers are depleted then there’s not going to be a lot of food for developing chicks.”

Plants will also be affected. Butterflies are a major pollinator of both wild and cultivated plants. Without them and other important pollinating insects flying around, there will be a significant decline in viable seed produced. 

Marsland Nature Reserve, on the border between Devon and Cornwall and now under the auspices of Devon Wildlife Trust, specialises in the cultivation of butterfly habitats, in particular the Pearl and Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary. Stephen Threlkeld, an officer at the reserve, said: “Most Fritillaries are struggling across the country but they are doing well on our site. We have a large area of pristine habitat suitable for them. Maintaining the early successional habitats, especially bracken, means they’re coping well. We’ve also got a lot of violets growing – the preferred food plant for Fritillary larvae.

“The problem for butterflies in most other areas is their habitat is disappearing – whether it’s because of agriculture or even just neglect.

“Grassland species in particular are struggling – probably as a result of the weather. But the Ringlet is doing well this year because it can fly in the rain.”

Since 2010, ‘citizen scientists’ across the UK have been taking part in the Big Butterfly Count to help monitor the ailing butterfly species. That year, 10,000 people took part in the count, which rose to 34,000 in 2011. This year’s event is taking place between now and next Sunday (August 5). 

The count involves members of the public counting butterflies for 15 minutes, recording what they see and entering the data onto the website. This then helps the organisers, Butterfly Conservation, to identify trends in butterfly species and better plan how to protect them from extinction. 

Spokesman Richard Fox says: “We can’t do anything about the weather, but everyone can do something to help butterflies this summer by taking part in the count. It is the perfect thing to get the whole family involved in and to help hard-pressed butterflies at the same time.”

Another benefit of the butterflies’ extreme sensitivity is that it can help experts to judge the effect climate change is now having on wildlife. Certain butterfly species, for instance, can only survive in specific global territories due to the temperature. So as climate change triggers higher temperatures (global warming), these species are forced to move northwards to new areas, which, also as a result of climate change, now have a climate more similar to their original habitats. 

According to a report in Nature, from a sample of 35 non-migratory butterfly species, 63 per cent have ranges that have shifted to the north by between 35 and 240 kilometers, reflecting the shift in climate.

So what hope is there for the declining populations of British butterflies? 

Many species from Europe migrate to Britain over the summer, but this year, because of the wet weather, they have not migrated. With some warm weather this trend would reverse and the European butterflies will come across and join the remaining native species.  “We only need a short spell of sun. Butterflies are egg machines and they don’t need a lot of hot weather to get the population back up,” says Stephen Threlkeld.

The good news is that there are a number of ways we can all help encourage more butterflies into our gardens to lay their eggs.

Butterflies prefer open spaces that are sunny but sheltered, as it would be in a woodland glade, so the idea is to recreate this environment in your garden. Large trees and shrubs are good to provide shelter, as well as plenty of vegetation, reduced use of pesticides and some good sources of nectar.  Food plants for caterpillars are also essential, including holly, ivy and buckthorn.

Leaving an area of long grass will encourage species such as Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Gatekeeper and Large Skipper, as well as giving caterpillars and pupae somewhere to hide along with other creatures such as beetles and spiders.

Faye Dobson is a trainee journalist at Leeds Trinity University College. She has a background in Environmental Geography.

Original Post

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Spiders are 'misunderstood' and feared for their shape

Spiders are the source of fear for thousands because of the shape of their legs and their colour, scientists have claimed.

Arachnophobic driver caused car crash when spider dropped from sun visor
Professor Jon May claims people are frightened of spiders because of their angular legs and dark colours. Photo: PA
The creatures inspire a phobia because they are associated with things we expect to fear and we do not understand their behaviour, according to studies.
Professor Jon May, from Plymouth University, said colourful insects like ladybirds were seen as less scary than dark spiders with angular legs.
Their fast movements scuttling across floors into dark corners also tap into deep-rooted fears, it was claimed.
"Spiders just tick all these boxes, and like any phobia, when it builds up in someone’s mind they can become scared even seeing a picture," Professor May told the Daily Mail.
"We like bright-coloured butterflies and ladybirds, but spiders are dark coloured with long angular legs – and the shape and colour both have strong negative associations.
The creatures inspire a phobia because they are associated with things we expect to fear and we do not understand their behaviour, according to studies.

Professor Jon May, from Plymouth University, said colourful insects like ladybirds were seen as less scary than dark spiders with angular legs.

Their fast movements scuttling across floors into dark corners also tap into deep-rooted fears, it was claimed.

"Spiders just tick all these boxes, and like any phobia, when it builds up in someone’s mind they can become scared even seeing a picture," Professor May told the Daily Mail.

"We like bright-coloured butterflies and ladybirds, but spiders are dark coloured with long angular legs – and the shape and colour both have strong negative associations.

"We are also very sensitive to seeing things moving out of the corner of our eye and immediately notice it, and insects move quickly and unpredictably.
"People scared of spiders will often report them being bigger than they were or say they saw one crawl into someone’s mouth, which spiders never do. We don’t understand their behaviour."

He said fears could be dealt with by learning more about spiders and trying to sympathise with them.

Professor May and Dr Adam Hart, from the University of Gloucestershire, will be hosting a public session about why people are afraid of insects at Cheltenham Science Festival on Sunday.

Dr Hart said one way to appreciate bugs was to eat them and he will be cooking a mealworm stir fry for visitors.

Original Post

Friday, May 4, 2012

Name a Spider Contest

Published by WayneMaddison | Sat, 10/22/2011
Our Name a Spider contest was a resounding success.  We received 810 wonderful entries from all over Canada (and beyond).  It's exciting to see how many people want to help name a spider species!

Remember that the name of the spider would start with "Lapsias" and then end with the name suggested by our winning contestant, as in "Lapsias suggestedName".  Some of the suggested names described the spider's appearance.  A popular category was to translate "yellow mustache" into Latin or Greek.  But we also received suggestions from other languages: Sanskrit, Kichwa, Hindi, Tagalog, Spanish, and Garo.  Other names honoured people — one popular choice was to name the spider after the Vancouver Canucks hockey team or its players!

The winning name, when we saw it, jumped out as perfect for this spider species.  But before I tell you what it was, I want to mention three of our other favourite names.  First, there was the suggestion "Lapsias chamardor" from Nina Piggott, of Vancouver BC.  She explained as follows:

My 3 year old niece, Arden, came up with this name. When asked for a name for the spider, she threw her arms in the air and growled out "Chamardor!!" with a distinctive Klingon accent. A name we've never heard before!

"Chamar" is Portuguese verb for "call me " as in name me and D'or is French for "golden". So "call me golden" for the spider for the golden face..

Another one of our favourites was from Thomas C. of Vancouver, BC, who suggested "Lapsias wushu".  Here's his explanation:

The Chinese word wushu has two meanings: the first being to refer to martial arts collectively, the second to refer to a particular sport and fighting discipline that involves elegant gymnastic movements and aerial techniques.

The art of wushu is evident is such films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I think the name would be well chosen since jumping spiders seem to me at least to move with great elegance and their jumping prowess is of course obvious. Furthermore, they are predatory spiders (but with finesse!) and as such their name should capture that.

Our third favourite-but-not-winner was "Lapsias xencofogus" from Dylan Jeffery Leung of William Van Horne Elementary School in Vancouver:

It should be called Lapsias xencofogus because there is no spider with a name that starts with X and I need to finish my Spider Alphabet Book.

We loved his explanation, but more that that, the name "xencofogus" is a beautiful sounding name.  And, actually, there are spiders whose names begin with "X".  One jumping spider from Fiji is called Xenocytaea; other from the Middle East and Africa is called Xuriella.  (Dylan, put those in your book!)

Finally, we come to the winner (drum roll please!):  Lapsias lorax, from Tristan Long of Waterloo, Ontario. 

picture of the  jumping spider Dr. Maddison discovered

Tristan explains: The yellow stripes on the spider remind me of the mustache of the Lorax character from the eponymous book by Dr. Seuss. As the book recounts the dangers to biodiversity of overdevelopment, I think that the name is very suitable.

The Lorax's message to preserve biodiversity, and his resemblance to the new spider, make his the perfect name for the new spider.  If Lorax had been his proper name, we would likely have used the form Lapsias loraxi (or, and I'm guessing here, Lapsias loraci), but the character is not Lorax, but rather The Lorax.  The fact that it's not his proper name gives us some freedom to use the world "lorax" directly.

And so, Lapsias lorax will be this spider, and it will speak for the trees.  Thank you, Tristan, and thank you to the other 809 of you!

Original Story

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

तुझी माझी प्रीत जगावेगळी!

तट्टेकाडच्या जंगलाइतके पक्ष्यांचे वैविध्य भारतात इतरत्र कुठेच नाही. पण आज या लावण्याच्या खाणीकडेही कंत्राटदार काकदृष्टीने बघताहेत. नऊ टक्‍क्‍यांनी पैसा फुगवत राहण्याच्या कैफात निसर्गसृष्टीची नासाडी होत आहे. हे शहाणपणाचे आहे का?

आपल्या सह्याद्रीवरचा बेडूकतोंड्या एक अफलातून पक्षी आहे. अगदी जगावेगळे प्रेम करणारा. पाखरांतल्या या येथील लैला-मजनूंची जोडी तासन्‌तास, दिवसन्‌दिवस, वर्षानुवर्षे एकमेकांना बिलगून असते, पंखाला पंख चिकटवून ! हा बेडूकतोंड्या भरपूर पावसाच्या प्रदेशात फोफावणाऱ्या सदाहरित अरण्याचा रहिवासी आहे. कोकण-मलबार अन्‌ पश्‍चिम घाटाचा मूलनिवासी. आज या साऱ्या मुलखातली वनराजी छिन्नविछिन्न झाली आहे. नैसर्गिक अरण्याच्या जागी रबराचे मळे, नारळी-पोफळीची कुळागरे, भातखाचरे, निलगिरी-अकेशियाची कृत्रिम जंगले, उजाड माळराने, नाही तर इमारती आणि रस्ते यांचे जोरदार अतिक्रमण होत चाललेय. पण सुदैवाने कुठे ना कुठे घनदाट वनकाननाचे अवशेष टिकून आहेत. त्यातलेच एक आहे केरळच्या किनारपट्टीवरचे नदी-नाल्यांनी वेढलेले तट्टेकाड. जिकडे तिकडे ओढी-तळी आणि उत्तुंग वृक्षराजी. साहजिकच जीवसृष्टी बहरली आहे. रंगीबेरंगी मासे आणि फुलपाखरे, भली-थोरली जाळी विणणारे कोळी आणि पक्षीच पक्षी....

सह्याद्रीच्या वर्षावनातल्या बेडूकतोंड्यांची अतूट जोडी. (छायाचित्र : डॉ. ललिता विजयन)

ख्यातनाम पक्षितज्ज्ञ सलीम अली सांगायचे - एका सकाळी दुसरीकडे कुठेही इतक्‍या जातींचे पक्षी भेटत नाहीत. तू तट्टेकाडला जायलाच पाहिजे. नुकताच तो योग आला. सलीम अलींचे विद्यार्थी सुगतन तट्टेकाडला पक्षिशास्त्रज्ञ म्हणून काम पाहतात. त्यांच्या सोबतीत दिवसभर मनमुराद भटकलो. बेडूकतोंड्यांच्या एकूण चाळीस जोड्या तट्टेकाडची खासियत आहेत. हे बेडूकतोंडे घुबडांसारखे रात्री पोटपूजेला बाहेर पडतात. मोठा "आ' वासून उडत उडत रातकिडे मटकावतात. पहाटे निवाऱ्याच्या जागी परततात. त्यांचे रंगरूपच असे आहे, की झाडांवरच्या पालवीत बेमालूम मिसळून जातात. अनेक प्राणी असे "कामुफ्लाज' करतात; पण बेडूकतोंड्यांची सर कोणालाच येणार नाही. म्हणूनच बेडूकतोंडे बिनधास्त असतात. त्यांच्या कितीही जवळ पोचलो तरी हूं की चूं करत नाहीत. पहाटेपासून अंधार पडेपर्यंत ठराविक जागी, जोडी-जोडीने, एकमेकांना चिकटून निवांत बसून राहातात.

सुगतन यांना इथल्या झाडून साऱ्या बेडूकतोंड्या जोड्या कुठे ठाण मांडतात ते ठाऊक आहे. म्हणाले, "चल, बघायला.' काट्याकुट्यातून अचूक वाट काढत ते एका झाडापाशी घेऊन गेले. सांगायला लागले, "ते बघ पक्षियुगुल.' मी चक्रावलो. "कुठे आहे? मला तर काही उमगत नाही.' मग डोळे फाडून पाहिल्यावर दिसली - अगदी नाकासमोर, तीन फुटांवर, गपचिप बसलेली बेडूकतोंडी जोडी. पाने मध्ये येत होती म्हणून ती जरा सारून पाहायला गेलो, तर पुन्हा गायब. सावकाश लक्षात आले, की अगदी नि:स्तब्ध, फक्त डोळे विस्फारून आमच्याकडे टक लावून बघताहेत. सुगतन म्हणाले, "गेली तीन वर्षे चार महिने ही जोडी अशीच याच जागी ठिय्या देऊन आहे.' दुसऱ्याही अनेक जोड्यांची हीच कथा. खरेच, अजब है मालिक तेरी दुनिया !

आज हे बेडूकतोंडे आणि त्यांची निवासस्थाने दुर्मिळ झाली आहेत. तट्टेकाड हे त्यांचे सर्वांत सरस वसतिस्थान आहे. पण आता या तट्टेकाडवरही कंत्राटदारांची वक्रदृष्टी वळली आहे, या जंगलातून एक भलामोठा टोल रस्ता बांधण्यासाठी. या नैसर्गिक लावण्याच्या खाणीची नासधूस करण्यासाठी. तट्टेकाडजवळच त्रिचूर शहर आहे. त्रिचूरजवळ नुकताच एक टोल रस्ता बांधला आहे. तो रस्ता बांधणाऱ्या कंत्राटदाराला सरकारमान्य दराच्या तिप्पट खर्चाची मंजुरी दिली गेली. त्या आधारे तो अवाच्या सव्वा टोल आकारणार आहे. शिवाय केवळ गावाबाहेरच्या नाही, तर गावातल्या गावात फिरणाऱ्यांनाही टोल भरावा लागणार आहे. लोक संतापलेत. मी तट्टेकाडहून रात्री त्रिचूरला पोचलो. त्या मध्यरात्रीपासून टोल गोळा करणे सुरू होणार होते. मी दुसऱ्या दिवशी पहाटे पुन्हा टोल बूथशी पोचलो, तर काय! सगळ्या काचा फुटलेल्या, सगळे बूथ रिकामे. रात्री मारामारी होऊन लोकांनी टोळभैरवांना हाकलले होते.

हा हिंसाचार निश्‍चितच असमर्थनीय आहे, निंद्य आहे. पण असा संघर्ष का उफाळतो, हेही समजावून घ्यायला हवे. आपल्याला असे महागडे प्रचंड रस्ते हवेच का? का केवळ पैशांच्या लोभाने ते आपल्यावर लादले जाताहेत? अशा रस्त्यांपायी तट्टेकाडसारखे दिवसेंदिवस दुर्मिळ होत चाललेले सृष्टिसौंदर्याचे ठेवे उद्‌ध्वस्त करायलाच हवेत का? एकूण काय चालले आहे? नाही सौंदर्याची मोजणी - नाही संघर्षाची टोचणी - विकास म्हणजे निव्वळ पैशांचे पाणी पाणी आणि धनिकांची संपादणी ! वाटते, नऊ टक्के आर्थिक विकासाच्या नशेत आपण चिरस्थायी मानवी मूल्यांना मूठमाती देताहोत. एक वेळ बेडूकतोंड्यांसारखे गपचिप बसलो तर बसलो, निदान त्यांच्यासारखे डोळे वटारून पाहू या ना, विचार करू या ना!

(लेखक ज्येष्ठ शास्त्रज्ञ आहेत.)
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Friday, April 20, 2012

Starbucks to phase out bug extract as food dye

Crushed cochineal extract has been used as a red dye for centuries, but it won't be used for much longer by Starbucks.Crushed cochineal extract has been used as a red dye for centuries, but it won't be used for much longer by Starbucks.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Want some crushed bugs with your Starbucks frappuccino?

Well, you'd better get on it, because soon it will be too late. The coffee franchise announced that it's phasing out the use of insects as food coloring in its drinks and food products.

Starbucks President Cliff Burrows wrote, in a Thursday blog, that Starbucks is "transitioning" away from the use of an insect called the cochineal.

Burrows blogged that Starbucks "fell short of your expectations by using natural cochineal extract as a colorant in four food and two beverage offerings in the United States."

He identified the products in question as the Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino, Strawberry Banana Smoothie, Raspberry Swirl Cake, Birthday Cake Pop, Mini Donut with pink icing and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie.

Burrows said that use of the insect dye will be "fully transitioned from existing product inventories" by the end of June.

From that point on, he said that Starbucks will use lycopene, a tomato-based extract.

An earlier Burrows blog from March 29 described the cochineal as a natural product, approved by the Food and Drug Administration, with no health risk.

Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson said the company was responding to numerous petitions and individual requests from customers who were concerned about the use of an insect-based extract.

The organization contacted CNNMoney to claim partial responsibility for pressuring Starbucks with its petition of 6,000 signatures gathered by blogger Daelyn Fortney. The purpose, according to Fortney, was to switch to a "vegan-friendly" extract.

The cochineal has a long history as being used as a red dye, according to Richard Levine, communications 
program manager for the Entomological Society of America.

"The red in the uniforms of the British soldiers during the Revolutionary War came from cochineal dye," he said. "The same goes for the uniforms of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police."

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Govt bans use of live animals for education, research

MUMBAI: The Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has banned the use of live animals in dissection and other experiments in educational and research institutions. But scientists conducting new molecular research will be exempted from the ban.

Based on the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960), the MoEF has issued guidelines to the University Grants Commission, ministry of health and family welfare, Pharmacy Council of India and the Medical Council of India to discontinue dissection and experiments with live animals in universities, colleges, research institutes, hospitals, laboratories and instead use alternatives like computer simulation.

The MoEF says that the central government is duty-bound to use alternatives to avoid unnecessary suffering or pain to animals.

It states that effective alternatives in the form of CDs, computer simulations and mannequin models are available; they are not only effective as absolute replacements for animals in teaching anatomy or physiology but are also superior learning tools in teaching of pharmacy or life sciences.

The guidelines were framed based on the duties of the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments and Animals (CPCSEA), which has been constituted under the provisions of Section 15 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960).

The committee comprises seven nominees - three nominees appointed by CPCSEA and the remaining four from educational institutes.

"The animal experiments should be stopped in all institutes except for the purpose of new molecular research. Sometimes, in laboratories, a lot of work is repeated and animals become unnecessary victims. Only scientists researching on a new molecular theory can experiment on animals. In medical and pharmacy colleges, there is unwanted cruelty towards animals which can be avoided. These guidelines mention imprisonment for five years and monetary penalty," said Mangal Jain, a nominee of the Institutional Animal Ethics Committee (IAEC), which is appointed by CPCSEA.

Hoshang Bilimoria, also a nominee appointed by the CPCSEA, said the guidelines were a welcome change.

"CPCSEA should give the nominees the power to inspect animals housed in educational institutes, experimentation centres or technical laboratories without prior intimation to the institutes. Cross-checks should also be maintained through other members," said Bilimoria.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Fear of spiders makes you believe creepy crawlies are bigger

The more you fear a spider the bigger it will appear to be, according to new research.

A portrait of a jumping spider by Dusan Beno
A jumping spider Photo: BARCROFT/DUSAN BENO
A study of arachnophobes found the worse their condition the larger they estimated the creepy crawlie's size.
The irrational fear of spiders is believed to affect as many as half of women and girls, and up to one in six males.
And the latest findings explain why many sufferers hold out their arms shrieking "it was that big" when the reality of the situation turns out to be much less scary.
A better grasp of how a phobia affects perception of feared objects can help doctors design more effective remedies, the Journal of Anxiety Disorders reports.
Psychologist Professor Michael Vasey, of Ohio State University, said: "If one is afraid of spiders, and by virtue of being afraid of spiders one tends to perceive spiders as bigger than they really are, that may feed the fear, foster that fear, and make it difficult to overcome."
His team recruited 57 participants with a spider phobia who were asked to undergo five encounters with live tarantulas in uncovered glass tanks and then provide size estimates.
The more afraid they rated in anxiety scores the bigger they described the hairy beasts, which spanned between one and six inches.
Prof Vasey said: "When it comes to phobias, it is all about avoidance as a primary means of keeping oneself safe.
"As long as you avoid, you cannot discover you are wrong. And you are stuck.
"So to the extent that perceiving spiders as bigger than they really are fosters fear and avoidance, it then potentially is part of this cycle that feeds the phobia that leads to its persistence.
"We are trying to understand why phobias persist so we can better target treatments to change those reasons they persist."
The volunteers, who were studied over a period of eight weeks, began their encounters 12 feet from the tank and were asked to approach the spider.
Once they were standing next to it, they had to guide the spider around by touching it with an 8-inch probe, and then with a shorter one.
Throughout their ordeal they reported how afraid they were feeling on a scale of 0-100 according to an index of subjective units of distress.
Afterwards they completed additional self-report measures of their specific fear of spiders, any panic symptoms they experienced and thoughts about fear reduction and future spider encounters.
Finally, they estimated the size of the spiders - while no longer being able to see them - by drawing a single line on an index card indicating the length between the tips of its front and back legs.
Prof Vasey said: "It would appear fear is driving or altering the perception of the feared object, in this case a spider.
"We already knew fear and anxiety alter thoughts about the feared thing. For example, the feared outcome is interpreted as being more likely than it really is.
"But this study shows even perception is altered by fear. In this case, the feared spider is seen as being bigger. And that may serve as a maintaining factor for the fear."
The approach tasks with the spiders are a classic example of exposure therapy, a common treatment for people with phobias.
Although this therapy is known to be effective, scientists still do not fully understand why it works.
And for some, the effects do not last - but it is difficult to predict who will have a relapse of fear, said Prof Vasey.
He and colleagues are studying these biased perceptions as well as attitudes with hopes that the new knowledge will enhance treatment for people with various phobias.
The work suggests that fear not only alters one's perception of the feared thing, but also can influence a person's automatic attitude toward an object.
Those who have developed an automatic negative attitude toward a feared object might have a harder time overcoming their fear.
Although individuals with arachnophobia are unlikely to seek treatment, the use of spiders in this research was a convenient way to study the complex effects of fear on visual perception and how those effects might cause fear to persist, Prof Vasey noted.
He added: "Ultimately, we are interested in identifying predictors of relapse so we can better measure when a person is done with treatment."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

'Oldest living thing on earth' discovered

Ancient patches of a giant seagrass in the Mediterranean Sea are now considered the oldest living organism on Earth after scientists dated them as up to 200,000 years old.

Scientists say a patch of ancient seagrass in the Mediterranean is up to 200,000 years and could be the oldest known living thing on Earth. Australian researchers, who genetically sampled the seagrass covering  40 sites from Spain to Cyprus, say it is one of the world's most resilient organisms - but it has now begun to decline due to global warming. Scientists say a patch of ancient seagrass in the Mediterranean is up to 200,000 years old Photo: Getty Images

Australian scientists sequenced the DNA of samples of the giant seagrass, Posidonia oceanic, from 40 underwater meadows in an area spanning more than 2,000 miles, from Spain to Cyprus.

The analysis, published in the journal PLos ONE, found the seagrass was between 12,000 and 200,000 years old and was most likely to be at least 100,000 years old. This is far older than the current known oldest species, a Tasmanian plant that is believed to be 43,000 years old.

Prof Carlos Duarte, from the University of Western Australia, said the seagrass has been able to reach such old age because it can reproduce asexually and generate clones of itself. Organisms that can only reproduce sexually are inevitably lost at each generation, he added.

"They are continually producing new branches," he told The Daily Telegraph. "They spread very slowly and cover a very large area giving them more area to mine resources. They can then store nutrients within their very large branches during bad conditions for growth."

The separate patches of seagrass in the Mediterranean span almost 10 miles and weigh more than 6,000 tons.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rare dragonfly spotted at Thenmala

The rare lesser blue wing dragonfly sighted at the
Thenmala Butterfly Safari Park in Kollam district.
The rare lesser blue wing dragonfly sighted at the Thenmala Butterfly Safari Park in Kollam district. 
The lesser blue wing dragonfly (Rhyothemis triangular) considered a rare dragonfly in South India has been spotted and photographed at the Thenmala Butterfly Safari Park in Kollam district. 

This feast for the eyes sighting was made on January 14 by the butterfly and bird enthusiasts, C. Sushanth and M.S. Akhil during the monthly butterfly and dragonfly monitoring exercise. 

The slow-flying lesser blue wing is a medium-sized elusive dragonfly with metallic blue markings on the base of its wings. Ponds and marshes are the favourite spots of these dragonflies since they love perching near water bodies. This could be because it breeds in marshes and similar habitats. 

But in the southern part of the country they are rarely sighted. The previous recorded sighting of this dragonfly was some last year by wildlife photographer and dragonfly enthusiast T. Dragon fly close to a wetland in Vithura of Thiruvananthapuram district. 

Mr. Sushanth said that one of the fascinating aspects of the lesser blue wing is that it can float in the air for long periods without flapping the wings. Both Sushanth and Akhil recorded sighting rare dragonflies and damselflies within and around the Thenmala butterfly park. 


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

पर्यावरणानुकूल उद्योगाचे "रसायन'

डॉ. अनिल लचके
"ग्रीन केमिस्ट्री'चा पाठपुरावा करताना ते पर्यावरणानुकूल हवे; त्याचबरोबर आर्थिकदृष्ट्याही किफायतशीर हवे. काळाची गरज ओळखून नवे तंत्रज्ञान वापरून रसायननिर्मिती केली पाहिजे.

आपला देश रसायननिर्मिती उद्योगात अग्रेसर आहे. या उद्योगाची वार्षिक उलाढाल एक लाख पंधरा हजार कोटी रुपये आहे. भारत चौदा हजार कोटी रुपयांची आणि 750 प्रकारची विविध रसायने निर्यात करतो. अमेरिका - युरोपमधील प्रगत राष्ट्रेही भारताकडून रसायने खरेदी करतात. जगात कीटकनाशक रसायन उत्पादनात भारत दुसऱ्या क्रमांकावर, पेट्रोकेमिकल्समध्ये पाचव्या, तर औषधनिर्मितीच्या बाबतीत बाराव्या क्रमांकावर आहे. हे सगळं अभिमानास्पद असलं तरी त्यामुळे होणाऱ्या प्रदूषणामुळे पर्यावरणप्रेमी सचिंत असतात. साहजिक भारतीय संशोधक पर्यावरणअनुकूल रसायननिर्मिती करण्यासाठी गेली वीस वर्षे संशोधन करीत आहेत. 2020 सालापर्यंत अशा पद्धतीने उत्पादित केलेल्या रसायनांची जागतिक किंमत शंभर अब्ज डॉलरहून जास्त वाढू शकेल. पुनर्निर्मितिक्षम कच्च्या मालापासून पुनर्वापर करता येईल अशा रसायनांची निर्मिती जेव्हा सुरक्षित पद्धतीने केली जाते, तेव्हा त्याला "सस्टेनेबल केमिस्ट्री' (अक्षय रसायनशास्त्र) म्हणतात. यात प्रदूषण टळून पर्यावरणाला बाधा पोचत नाही म्हणून "ग्रीन केमिस्ट्री' (हरित रसायनशास्त्र) म्हणतात. या क्षेत्रात भरीव कामगिरी करण्यासाठी आता भारतीय संशोधक व तंत्रज्ञ सज्ज होत आहेत. "ग्रीन केमिस्ट्री'चा अनुनय करताना ते पर्यावरणअनुकूल हवे; पण आर्थिकदृष्ट्या फायदा देणारेही हवे. नेमके इथंच आपले उद्योजक चाचपडून बघत असताना बरीच वर्षं गेली. आता काळाची गरज असल्यानं नवं तंत्रज्ञान वापरून रसायननिर्मिती करावी लागेल.

यासाठी मुळातूनच अपायकारक रसायनांचा वापर टाळावा लागतो. उदाहरणार्थ मोटारीच्या पेंटमध्ये शिसं (लेड) असेल, तर तिथं अन्य रसायन किंवा "यट्रियम' धातूचा वापर करता येतो. रासायनिक प्रक्रिया या बहुतांशी द्रवमाध्यमात घडवून आणतात. विरघळवणारा द्रवपदार्थ म्हणून पेट्रोलियम इथर, क्‍लोरोफॉर्म, अल्कोहोल अशा विद्रावकांचा वापर करतात. ही विद्रावकं महाग असून प्रदूषकही ठरतात. याऐवजी आता "सुप्रा मॉलेक्‍यूलर केमिस्ट्री'चं तंत्र विकसित होतंय. यामध्ये प्रक्रिया घन माध्यमात घडवून आणतात. त्यासाठी "मायक्रोवेव्ह'चा उपयोग केला जातो. लोकरीचे कपडे ड्रायक्‍लिनिंग करताना "परक्‍लोरो एथिलिन' हे अपायकारक विद्रावक वापरलं जातं. आता त्याकरिता कार्बन डाय ऑक्‍साईडचा वापर करण्याची पद्धत निघालीये. हा वायू वातावरणाच्या शंभरपट दाबाखाली 25 अंश सेल्सिअस तापमानाला घाटदार द्रवपदार्थ बनतो. तो हवेतून घेतला जातो आणि हवेतच सोडला जातो. त्यामुळे "समतोल' राहतो. या वायूपासून इंधन बनवण्यासाठी "सायनेकॉकस एलेगंट' या जिवाणूचा उपयोग करून आयसोब्युटाल्डेहाईड बनवता येतंय, हे आणखी एक वैशिष्ट्य.

आपल्या भोजनातील ताकाला लॅक्‍टिक आम्लामुळे आंबटपणा येतो. आता मक्‍यापासून जैवतंत्रज्ञान वापरून मोठ्या प्रमाणात लॅक्‍टिक आम्ल बनवलं जातं. त्यापासून पॉलिलॅक्‍टिक हे प्लॅस्टिक बनवतात. त्याची वस्‌, पॅकिंग मटेरियल, प्लेट्‌स, ग्लासेस, बाटल्या, टूथब्रश वगैरे तयार करतात. या पॉलिमर - प्लॅस्टिकपासून पुन्हा लॅक्‍टिक आम्ल बनवता येतं. यातील कच्चा माल आणि पक्का माल- दोन्ही पुनर्निर्मित, पुनर्वापर करता येण्यासारखा आहे. एरवी प्लॅस्टिकसाठी खनिजतेलजन्य कच्चा माल लागतो. ते सहजासहजी विघटनशील नसते.

रसायननिर्मितीसाठी सर्वसाधारणतः सुरवातीचा मुख्य कच्चा माल म्हणून खनिजतेलजन्य पदार्थ किंवा अल्कोहोल वापरतात. आता संशोधक - तंत्रज्ञ वाया गेलेल्या "बायोमास'चा वापर करून सक्‍सिनिक आम्लाचे उत्पादन करू शकलेत. अशा प्रकारच्या रसायनांचा ("प्लॅटफॉर्म केमिकल'चा) वापर करून इतर अनेक रसायनं "इकोफ्रेंडली' पद्धतीनं तयार करता येतील. कॉम्प्युटरचा प्रिंटर वापरून जगभर लेसर प्रिंट काढतात. त्यासाठीचा "टोनर' काही अमेरिकन कंपन्या प्रतिवर्षी 20 कोटी किलोग्रॅम बनवीत आहेत. हा एकदा कागदाला चिकटला तर परत "सुटत' नाही आणि त्याचं "रिसायकलिंग' अवघड बनतं. सध्या सोयाबीन तेलापासून पर्यावरणअनुकूल टोनर तयार होतोय. परिणामी लेसर प्रिंटच्या कागदाचा पुनर्वापर शक्‍य होईल. कॅलिफोर्नियातील एका मोठ्या कारखान्यात "इकोफ्रेंडली वाईन' तयार करण्यासाठी संपूर्णतः सौर ऊर्जेचा वापर केला जातोय. भारतात सूर्यप्रकाश भरपूर असल्यानं आपल्यालाही तसे प्रयोग (आणि व्यावसायिक उत्पादन) करता येईल. रायझोबियम किंवा ऍझेटोबॅक्‍टर जिवाणू हवेतील नत्र जमिनीत आणू शकतात. रासायनिक खतांची निर्मिती करताना खूप ऊर्जा खर्च होते. जैव खतांचा वापर करून "ग्रीन केमिस्ट्री'चे प्रयोग साधता येतील. सध्या जगभर बायोडिझेलचा बोलबाला आहे. ते तयार होताना बायप्रॉडक्‍ट म्हणून भरपूर ग्लिसरीन तयार होतं. त्याचं काय करायचं, ही एक समस्या होती. ते ग्लिसरीन वापरून प्रो. गॅलेन सप्पेस यांनी शेकडो उपयोग असणारा प्रॉपिलिन ग्लायकॉल हा पदार्थ बनवलाय. भावी काळात "फ्युएल सेल' (इंधनघट) वापरून मोटारी धावतील. त्यासाठी ग्रीन केमिस्ट्री उपयुक्त ठरते.

तमिळनाडूमध्ये कातडी कमावण्यासाठी हजारो लघू किंवा कुटीरोद्योग आहेत. त्यामुळे पाणी, जमीन आणि हवा खूप प्रदूषित होते. आता या उद्योगासाठी जैविक उत्प्रेरकांची निर्मिती आपले सूक्ष्मजीवशास्त्रज्ञ करीत आहेत. रसायनांची पर्यावरणअनुकूल निर्मिती करण्यासाठी उत्तम जैविक उत्प्रेरकांचा शोध घेतला जातोय. एखादं रसायन तयार करताना 8 ते 10 प्रक्रिया करणं आवश्‍यक असतं. त्याऐवजी 4 ते 8 प्रक्रियांमध्ये किमान ऊर्जा, रसायनं व वेळ वापरून त्यांची निर्मिती केली जात आहे. मुंबईला नुकतीच भेट दिलेल्या प्रो. पॉल ऍनास्तास यांनी 1991 मध्ये पर्यावरणपूरक रसायनशास्त्रासाठी "ग्रीन केमिस्ट्री' शब्द प्रथमच वापरले. वीस वर्षांनंतर भारतीय संशोधक या क्षेत्रात आता आघाडी घ्यायला सिद्ध होत आहेत, ही समाधानाची बाब आहे. 

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Greens worried over rising footfalls in Lalbagh

The increasing number of visitors to the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens during flower shows has become a cause of worry for the greens and some officials from the Horticulture department who are now contemplating a change in the venue. 

The Mysore Horticulture Society, the organiser of the Republic Day flower show at Lalbagh, may be hoping of a good profit by the end of the flower show this time, but many of them are of the opinion that the show should be stopped at the historic garden  for its good. The Lalbagh Botanical Gardens, with a history of over 250 years, is home to several rare plants and bird species and is the most preferred destiny for bird watchers in the concrete jungle that Bangalore has become over the years. The place, a favourite among morning walkers and joggers is now a subject of discussion due to the nuisance caused by the public at the flower show.

“It has turned a nuisance not only because of the increasing number of visitors, but also due to the garbage strewn everywhere, around the garden. There should be a change in the venue,” says Suresh Kumar, a botanist who visits the show every year.

Many bird watchers and nature lovers too have been voicing the same concern. Dr M B Krishna,  a City-based ornithologist says, “Let them shift it to other agriculture or horticulture areas. There will be better participation by the people. The number of people visiting this place is alarming. On January 26, we heard as many as 2.5 lakh visitors came to Lalbagh and this place is not designed to take this load,” he said.

M Sunil Kumar, an environmentalist, expressing his shock over the sea of people, who thronged the garden, and the piles of garbage around it, said that shows of these kinds should not happen in Lalbagh and the place designated as botanical garden, should be retained as one.

“It is not an amusement park. It is shocking to see the historic place, including the rock (Peninsular Gneiss of the region, dated 2,500 to 3,400 million years) is full of litter,” he said. Even some of the Horticulture department officials, on condition of anonymity, shared similar view saying that the show should be held at more than one place - by identifying a few BBMP parks.

Lalbagh officials said that more than six lakh people visited the park during this flower show. While 2.3 lakh people visited on January 26, it was 1.2 lakh last Sunday.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Flesh-eating plant traps worms with sticky underground leaves

Philcoxia couldn’t look more unassuming. It’s a small herb that lives in Brazil’s Campos Rupestres region, a sparse plateau of rocky outcrops and white sands. All you’d see of it are a handful of twigs sticking out from the grains, topped with small purple flowers and even smaller leaves. You wouldn’t think that it’s the type of plant that can kill animals.

To find Philcoxia’s grisly secret, Caio Pereira had to look underground. The plant biologist from Unicamp, Brazil, found that the plant traps and digests  tiny worms with sticky underground leaves.

Plants have evolved to eat animals at least six times, and over 600 species of them now do so. They catch their prey with slippery water-filled pitchers, fast-snapping traps, sticky leaves and sucking bladders. Their strategies are diverse, but they all tend to grow in areas that are poor in nutrients. For example, familiar species like the Venus’ fly trap and the sundew live in bogs and swamps. In such inhospitable environments, these plants supplement their supplies of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients by feasting on the flesh of animals.

Philcoxia is no different. When Peter Taylor described the plants in 2000, he noted that they have several features that resemble those of other meat-eating species. Its mountain home is poor in nutrients and frequently starved of rain. Its roots are unusually sparse and lack the fungal partners that help other plants to survive. And it has tiny underground leaves – just a millimetre wide and coated with sticky glands, of the type found in other carnivorous plants.

There was just one problem. There were no signs of captured animals, or bodies nearby. If Philcoxia ate animals, it wasn’t doing so obviously. In 2007, Peter Fritsch found a possible answer. He noticed nematode worms stuck to the underground leaves, and reasoned that the plant was trapping and digesting them. Pereira, working with Fritsch, has now confirmed this hypothesis.

He found that Philcoxia’s underground leaves are littered with the bodies of dead nematodes. To check that the deaths aren’t coincidental, Pereira bred nematodes so that their bodies were full of nitrogen-15 – a rare and heavier-than-usual version of the element. He then “fed” the nematodes to Philcoxia. Two days later, Pereira found that 15 percent of the nitrogen-15 in the worms has been incorporated into the plant’s leaves. It was clear proof that Philcoxia was digesting the nematodes and absorbing the remains into their bodies.
Many meat-eating plants digest their prey with high concentrations of enzymes called phosphatases. Philcoxia does so too. Pereira found loads of the enzymes on Philcoxia’s leaves, which means that the plants are probably digesting the nematodes directly.

Pereira still wants to find out how Philcoxia lures its prey towards its traps. But for the moment, he has shown that its diet of worms greatly raises the level of nitrogen in its leaves, boosting it even above the levels of neighbouring plants that aren’t carnivorous.

That’s interesting, because some scientists have suggested that eating animals is a relatively inefficient way of coping with nutrient-poor environments. This would explain why carnivorous plants are relatively rare. But Philcoxia clearly shows that a fleshy menu can provide more nutrients the strategies of other plants in the same conditions.

Indeed, Philcoxia’s murderous habits suggest that we may have underestimated the true number of meat-eating plants in the world. After all, if this rare species feeds on microscopic prey using hidden traps, perhaps other plants do so too. As Mark Chase wrote a few years back, “we may be surrounded by many more murderous plants than we think”.

Reference: Pereira, Almenara, Winter, Fritsch, Lambers & Oliveira. 2011. Underground leaves of Philcoxia trap and digest nematodes. PNAS

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Scientists discover lizards on verge of leap from egg-laying to live births

Scientists have caught the process of evolution in action as a species of Australian lizard abandons egg-laying for live births. The variety of skink, which is snake-like with four tiny legs, has been found laying eggs along the coast of New South Wales. However, the same yellow-bellied three-toed lizard living in the colder mountainous region is giving birth to offspring like a mammal does.

Rare study: The Australian lizard has been found laying eggs along the warm coast of New South Wales while the same species gives birth to live young in the colder mountainous region
Rare study: The Australian lizard has been found laying eggs along the warm coast of New South Wales while the same species gives birth to live young in the colder mountainous region 

There are only two other types of modern reptiles which use both types of reproduction methods – another skink species and a European lizard.One in five snakes and lizards gives birth to live young, with records showing nearly a hundred reptile lineages have changed from egg-laying in the past.

Study co-author James Stewart, a biologist at East Tennessee State University, in America, told National Geographic that the discovery provided scientists with a rare opportunity. ‘By studying differences among populations that are in different stages of this process, you can begin to put together what looks like the transition from one [birth style] to the other,’ he said. Mr Stewart said the transformation could be linked to how newborns get nourishment. Or it could be a way of protecting the young in harsher climates.

Baby mammals are fed via a placenta which is connects the foetus to the ovary wall. Through this it can breathe and pass back waste. Embryos of egg-laying species get nutrients from the yolk while absorbing calcium from the porous shell, which also protects them from the external environment.However, some fish and reptiles are using a mix of both birthing styles.

Mothers form an egg which she keeps inside her body until the last stages. The shells thin, allowing the embryos to breathe until birth – but, according to scientists, this poses a nourishment problem, as it contains less calcium. This discovery prompted Mr Stewart and his colleagues to investigate the nutrient issue in the structure and the chemistry of the Australian lizard’s uterus.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hunting for species in rain

Prof Dr G K Bhat, who leads a team of researchers, has found five new species of animals, a rare feat for any zoologist

While the rest of the city lets out a collective groan when the monsoon rains come around each year, Prof Dr G K Bhat couldn’t be happier. For him, its time to leave for the forests of the Western Ghats where he spends his time searching for new animal species.

What began as work on a PhD has turned into a passion, one that has earned the professor rare distinctions in the field of zoology. Although retired, Bhat continues his relentless search for new species and the search has often taken him to obscure and remote places. The city-based professor has introduced the world to as many as five new species of animals, a rare feat for any zoologist. He and his team of researchers have discovered two more new species which are yet to be named and classified. 

Their latest discovery is a snake-like non-toxic creature, which measures only a few inches and produces a sort of mucus. 
Dr. G K Bhat (third from left) seen with his research team, says it takes tremendous patience to discover a new species

“In fact they have been referred to as Blind Snakes by local residents, but that is a separate variety altogether,” Bhat said. “These creatures feed on earthworms, termites, other insects and soil microbes. They are basically nocturnal in nature and burrow deep into the soil. Males are smaller in size and they reproduce by laying eggs. The female sits on the eggs for two months without consuming either food or water. While a normal adult weighs 20 to 25 gms, the female could lose around 5 gms in body weight during this time.”

Bhat himself might call the find sheer luck, but there is no lack of effort and the searches have been painstaking.  “Discovering a new species is nothing but a gamble,” Bhat said. “Every year, during the rainy season, we head to the forests of the Western Ghats and camp in remote corners while searching for a new species. There have been several years when we have returned empty-handed. It requires tremendous patience and determination. Had it not been for the support of local residents and the forest department, we would not have discovered these creatures.” 

Last month, for a record fifth time, Bhat was honoured by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) for discovering yet another limbless yellow striped caecilian near Chorla village in Khanapur taluk near the Goa border in Belgaum. That species has been named Ichthyophis davidi, after Bhat’s teacher in London. 

Apart from the yellow-striped caecilian - the fifth species found by the team — Bhat’s team had also discovered a tail-less caecilian in Kundapura in 2004 which was named Gegeneophis madhavai, after Prof Madhav Gadgil another teacher. The team discovered Gegeneophis nadakarnii in 2004 in the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary of Goa, Gegeneophis goaensis in 2007 in north Goa and Gegeneophis mhadeiensis in 2007 near Belgaum.

“You need to find at least five species before you can report it to the ZSI. We have found two more species, but we haven’t reported it,” said a member of the team.

Although the species are a treasure in the world of zoology, these creatures are routinely killed by local villagers and residents.

“These species are non-poisonous and bio-indicators in nature,” Bhat said. “But people kill these creatures as they mistake them for snakes. This apart, intense use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides in nearby areas has affected their life cycle. Because of soil pollution, many have died.”
Despite his voluntary retirement from academics, Bhat has remained active and currently teaches students at a private coaching institute.
“I plan my research well in advance and obtain permission to carry out my research,” Bhat said. “Rainy days are completely dedicated to finding these creatures as we roam around forests. On other days I engage myself with students.”