Archive for March 2010

Butterflies, beetles and dragonflies declining in Europe!

25 March 2010

The Violet Copper Lycaena helle (Endangered) is a rare and threatened butterfly in Europe. Photo : Chris van Swaay

Habitat loss is having a serious impact on Europe’s butterflies, beetles and dragonflies, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said today. Nine percent of butterflies, 11 percent of saproxylic beetles (beetles that depend on decaying wood) and 14 percent of dragonflies are threatened with extinction within Europe, the Switzerland-based conservation organization said in a news release.

Read more on Vijay Barve’s Biodiversity India blog post here.

Download the section of the IUCN Red List on European butterflies here.

The situation is far worse in India. Even worse our scientific footprint is so weak, we don’t even have comparable data. God preserve my beloved country’s wildlife!

Image credit : IUCN. Displayed under “Fair use”.

The CME wetlands are featured on DNA

24 March 2010

The CME wetlands have been featured today on page 2 of the DNA Newspaper (Pune edition). The occasion had been a visit on 7th March 2010 by the students of an extra-mural ecology course conducted by  Dr Prakash Gole’s Ecological Society. Our wetlands have featured prominently. Authored by Rahul Chandawarkar, a reporter and columnist with DNA.

Image credit & copyright : DNA Pune Edition. Click on the image to enlarge.

Nominee! “Sarson Patal” for the Best Travel Post!

23 March 2010

Sarson Patal“, a post on this Blog has made it to the final six in the Best Travel Post category! Click the logo to learn about the Avant Garde Bloggies Awards started by Visceral Observations. The six posts can be found here. All the travel posts are good. In keeping with good sportsmanship I have voted for one of the other blog posts (other than my own) which I consider as the best of the rest.

Read all six and enjoy. There’s no need to vote for me. Vote for whichever you feel in good conscience is the best. To have reached here itself is great!

Climate change and butterflies

23 March 2010

This report appeared in the Statesman on 19 Mar 2010. For the first time, cause-effect relationship between climate change and a living organism has been shown with regards to a butterfly, the Common Brown, Heteronympha merope in Melbourne.

Common Brown (Heteronympha merope)

Image Credit

Love still unrequited (55 Fiction)

23 March 2010

He was her first mate. Never had she met such a virile, handsome male. He had wooed her and charmed her; they had just made love. To her dismay, her true nature emerged. She couldn’t stop from turning and eating him while they were still entwined in love.

Praying mantids always do such things.

Mantis mates - deadly for one!

Bizzare behaviour - of the male for passive acceptance of being eaten.

Image credit


Why do male mantids allow themselves to be eaten? One theory says that sex has got nothing to do with the female’s foraging. In other words, she multi-tasks! 😉

Another theory, based on a view of ethology that an organism is nothing more than a vehicle for genes, states that animals will follow lifestyles which will maximise their fitness and success of getting offspring. In this case, the male mantis by allowing himself to be eaten improves the female’s fecundity by providing quality nutrition and correspondingly improving the chances of successfully passing on his genes.

Yet another disputed theory says that the eating of the head of the male results in a longer, vigorous sex act with increased chances of fertilisation.

Some experiments suggest that sexual cannibalism is observed laboratory behaviour caused by human presence. There have been indications that in the field sexual cannibalism may not be so rampant.

The mystery here is not the cannibalism, which is perfectly understood as an adaptive female strategy to maximise her reproductive success, but the male’s complicity in doing so.

Read more about sexual cannibalism in insects here.

Oh and don’t forget to read “Unrequited Love“.

Swimming in paradise

22 March 2010

Early February,  I found myself  treading cold water at around seven o’clock in the evening. It felt strange being alone in the pool at that time but everybody else had left for home to catch the 7.30 PM  Monday English movie in the open-air theatre. The water was chill, slightly unpleasantly so. Our pool is reasonably small but deep throughout for swimming. It is surrounded on all sides by a patio and is open to the sky.

As the evening waned, the vista above turned purple. The intricately branched silhouettes framed the view of the sky on the pool sides. A few stars twinkled down on me swimming lazily on my back.  In the utter peace and quiet, time stood still and I experienced a feeling of great calm.

View from a pool

Slowly, I began to notice things that I had ignored a few moments ago. There were flocks of birds flying in the sky. From their shapes I could make out a group of four egrets in one case, a V shaped group of twenty or so cormorants in another. Then, a large black fruit bat flapped its way across the sky, weaving undecidedly which way to go. Soon he was followed by one, then another and more and more. Where were they heading?

A couple of fruit bats veered towards a stand of False Ashoka (Polyalthia longifolia). Bats love the purple fruit which reminds me of Jamun. The koels love it too.

Time passed. The long stream of fruit bats ended. Peace returned to the pool. A furry buzzz across my cheek told me of the progress of a moth attracted to a naked light bulb in the rear courtyard beyond the pool. Pigeons roosting on the curved roof of the Officers Institute started cooing on being disturbed by something.

A soft pissh sound intrigued me repeatedly every few minutes. I peered about and saw a small shadow whizz past me and dip its maw in the pool for a fleeting instant. It was the Pipistrelle, the miniscule insect eating bat which comes out at last light to hawk the little flying insects around lamp posts. It was dive bombing the pool – was it for an insect or for water?

The tiny insect-eating Pipistrelle bat

Were there insects in the water? I looked around and after a long time found just one – it was a lone pond-skimmer struggling in the splashing water to maintain its balance in the waves set up by my moving around the pool.

Suddenly all the pool lights sprang to life and a voice said “Time ho gaya, sahab”. It was the pool attendant who reminded me that the time for closing the pool had come. Never mind, I had been in bliss for a while and I am grateful that I could enjoy it at all.

Image credits

Unrequited love (55 Fiction)

22 March 2010

She was his first mate. Never had he met a more sensuous member of the other sex. He had wooed her and charmed her; they had just made love. To his dismay, his true nature emerged. He couldn’t help himself as he killed her and then ate her.

King cobras do such things.

Closeup of head of a yellow and brown hooded snake staring towards the reader.



The scientific name of a King Cobra is Ophiophagus hannah. Ophiophagus means – snake-eater. The King Cobra is a specialist feeder on other snakes and also its own kind.

A documentary film showing a king cobra devouring its female partner on one of the private television channels has turned out to be a bane for the world’s unique radio telemetric project initiated by well known herpetologist Romulus Whitaker to track the movement of the reptile. The Forest Deptt has asked the project to close down citing the showing of a male king cobra eating a female on the show. The project has appealed for the research permit to be renewed.

Read more about it here.

Oh and don’t forget to read “Love still unrequited“.