Wildlife & Biodiversity

Global Eco Watch: Bumblebees bite leaves to make plants flower early

Down To Earth brings you the top happenings in the world of global ecology  

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 25 May 2020

Bumblebees bite the leaves of plants to make them flower early, scientists in Switzerland have found.

When bumblebees emerge from hibernation and there is a shortage of pollen, they use their proboscis and mandibles (mouth) to make distinct, semi-circular incisions on the leaves of plants.

This makes plants flower earlier, the scientists found. They also noticed that bumblebees did not indulge in such behaviour when there was no shortage of pollen.

The scientists tried to recreate the damage done to the leaves in the laboratory, they found they were not successful.

Plants whose leaves were damaged by bumblebees flowered 30 days prior to undamaged plants and 25 days before the plants damaged in the lab, the scientists found.

The study can help scientists globally to understand the resilience of bumblebees whose numbers have been declining in recent years due to climate change and pollution due to pesticides.

New frog species named after medieval printer 

A proposed new species of stump-toed frog from Madagascar has been named after Christoph Froschauer, a printer in Medieval Europe who was known for printing the Historia Animalium and the Zurich Bible.

The name ‘Froschauer’ means ‘the man from the floodplain full of frogs’. 

The species, named Stumpffia froschaueri is found in just three forest patches of the Sahamalaza region, an area severely threatened by fire, drought and high levels of forest clearance.

Much of the region where the new frog is found, is subject to slash-and-burn cultivation, thus leading to habitat fragmentation for the frog species. Scientists have called for the species to be included as a Critically Endangered Species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

Tiger seen in open cast mine in Telangana

A tiger was recently seen in an open cast mine in the Komaram Bheem (formerly Asifabad) district of Telangana.

Workers in the mine took to their heels when they saw the tiger. A nearly 50-second video clip shows the tiger looking intently at the camera.

There were no reports of anybody being injured by the tiger.

The mine is surrounded by forest and is located close to the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve of Maharashtra and Telangana’s Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary. Both areas are home to tigers who occasionally wonder in search of prey.

Forest officials are keeping a close watch on the tiger and tracking its movements.

New turtle app

Wildlife enthusiasts can now help scientists and conservationists by updating photos and information on turtles on the newly launched Kurma mobile application, launched on the occasion of World Turtle Day. The application will be made available on both Android and iOS platforms.

This special turtle-tracking app will help in accurately identifying species and help in reporting turtle sightings, apart from enlisting the help of experts and local help centres.

India has a rich turtle biodiversity. Unsustainable harvesting, illegal trade and habitat degradation, however, threaten turtles across the country. Only a few conservationists across the country work on turtle conservation, to make matters worse.

Germplasm collection

The Uttarakhand government recently opened its largest germplasm collection of rare and endemic vegetation, put together by the Forest Research Centre of the forest department.

A report in this regard was also released by Sanjiv Chaturvedi, head of the research centre, among senior forest officials, researchers and staff on May 24, 2020, at Haldwani.

Germ plasm are living genetic resources such as seeds or tissues that are maintained for the purpose of animal and plant breeding, preservation, and other research uses. These resources may take the form of seed collections stored in seed banks, trees growing in nurseries, animal breeding lines maintained in animal breeding programs or gene banks, etc. 

Uttarakhand's collection will be the third largest in India after the National Botanical Research Institute in Lucknow and the Botanical Survey of India in Kolkata. Unlike the Forest Research Centre, these two institutions have national mandate and larger resources and funding.  

State of forests 

Insects and pest attacks were a threat to 142 million hectares of forest land across the world between 2003 and 2012, according to the State of the World’s Forests report released on May 22, 2020.

Forty million hectares suffered the impact of insect and pest attacks in 2015, said the report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme.

Invasive species (non-native insect pests, pathogens, vertebrates and plants) and outbreaks of native insect pests and diseases posed an increasing threat to the health, sustainability and productivity of natural and planted forests globally, the report said.

These disturbances to forest land — along with wildfires and adverse weather events — adversely affected forest ecosystem health and increased tree mortality. Approximately 67 million hectares of forest were burned annually between 2003 and 2012, while 98 million hectares were burned in 2015, according to the report.

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