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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Butterfly Pea.


Blue Butterfly Pea(C.ternatea)

Belonging to the family Fabaceae (Papilionaceae), Clitoria is a genus of flowering plants that are insect pollinated, pre-dominantly by small bees. The flower has a typical vexillary aestivation and is one of the commonest garden plants in many homes of India. Commonly known as Butterfly Pea to the gardeners all over the world, C. ternatea was featured as Plant of the Week August 20-27, 1999. The peculiar name may be because it belongs to the Pea family and it attracts butterfly for pollination. Even though its origins are unknown, it is probably native to Asia according to Hortus.


In fact, these plants are native to tropical and temperate areas of the Old and New World including Southeast Asia, where the flowers are often used as a food dye. Blooming time is all year long with solitary flowers that are bright deep blue in color and light yellow markings, size ranging to 2 inches long by 1½ inches wide. Commonly spotted in gardens is the blue butterfly pea, Clitoria ternatea, but its recessive colored counterpart is white butterfly pea, Clitoria ternatea alba.


White Butterfly Pea(Clitoria ternatea alba)


Being an all-round-the-year (perennial) plant, Clitoria is basically a vine and is forb/herb by habit. Propagation is aided by seeds as well as cuttings. Being grown in garden doesn’t just mean that butterfly pea is show-plant. Rather it is associated with lot of medicinal properties and is being used as a constant ayurvedic medicine from ancient times. Its roots are used in the ayurveda system of Indian medicine.


Pods of Clitoria ternatea

In animal tests, the methanolic extract of Clitoria roots demonstrated nootropic*, anxiolytic (a tranquilizer used to relieve anxiety and reduce tension and irritability), antidepressant, anticonvulsant (a drug used to treat or prevent convulsions as in epilepsy) and antistress activity. The active constituent(s) include tannins, resins, Starch, Taraxerol & Taraxerone. Clitoria ternatea root extracts are capable of curing whooping cough if taken orally. The extract from the white-flowered plant can cure goiter.

The myth associated with this plant is its Goddess Kali’s Favorite and is offered to her.

* Nootropics, popularly referred to as "smart drugs", "smart nutrients", "cognitive enhancers" and "brain enhancers", are a class of drugs that improve impaired human cognitive abilities (the functions and capacities of the brain).The term covers a broad range of substances including drugs, nutrients and herbs that have purported cognitive enhancing effects.
The word nootropic was coined in 1964 by the Romanian Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea, derived from the Greek words noos, or "mind," and tropein meaning "to bend/turn". Typically, nootropics are alleged to work by altering the availability of the brain's supply of neurochemicals (neurotransmitters, enzymes, and hormones), by improving the brain's oxygen supply, or by stimulating nerve growth. However the efficacy of alleged nootropic substances in most cases has not been conclusively determined. This is complicated by the difficulty of defining and quantifying cognition and intelligence.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clitoria
http://www.pjbs.org/pjnonline/fin148.pdf
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nootropic

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hands- To destroy or to save?

Richard Dawkins in his first line of the first chapter of the most popular science book "The Selfish Gene" says "Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence."

Well let me apologise to all the readers for not posting in the blog for nearly two months. I was busy with hell lot of works-shifting to new home, my PhD entrance exam and blah blah. But recently I found a nice video with an indeed witty message and would love to share it with all the readers of AMECOMANIA. The post isn't relevant to the blog's theme but the context is for sure relevant and the message is what the blog wants to say to all readers- "Conserve nature and wildlife."



Biodiversity is a term encompassing the variety of organisms at all levels, from genetic variants to the same species, to species diversity and included the variety of ecosystems. The importance of biodiversity has been promoted by the International Convention on Biological Diversity, part of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The Convention was signed by 152 nations commitment made to conserve the biodiversity and thus making earth a better place t survive.

"The Hand that can destroy is the same hand that can help to conserve."

The emphasis today is on conserving biodiversity. The conservation of biodiversity is not just about conserving few popular animal species like the panda or the North American spotted owl or the pumas, the turturas of New Zealand, endangered Red-cockaded woodpecker from the south-eastern USA or the or the Giant Redwood tree of California or The Mauna Kea-silverword nor does it means to conserve a chunk of wetlands and rainforest. It rather refers to the conservation of the variety, interactions between species and processes in ecosystems. This includes conserving genetic variation, the diversity if species and populations and also the life support properties of the ecosystems like climatic and drainage effects.
The conservation of the whole ecosystem may be the solution to preserve the existing biota and thus the animals dwelling in it.

“Charity begins at home” as the saying goes and so does it apply to conservation strategies. Establishment of parks, zoos, sanctuaries, and aquarias do play major role in conservation (work of the Govt. And the NGOs) but I believe it should start from the individual’s side also. Once people are aware of the pros and cons and their conscience is raised with the noble “conservation” approach, the earth can be a much better place to stay and so is this video all about where the hand imprints the various creatures of the earth like a pariah kite, a stag, a rabbit, a frog, a tiger, an ostrich, a crocodile and finally two monkeys into their individual actions. A short video of 37 seconds for sure but the lovely sounds enthral the mind with feel of wildlife and thus a step towards conservation.

*(Do use a headphone to listen the background score while watching the video and feel the real FEEL.)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mud-puddlers..!!



(A Common Mormon, Male preparing for Nuptial gift)


( A Map Butterfly busy in Mud puddling. Infact Mud-puddling forms an important behavioral aspect of butterflies.)



Mud-puddling is an interesting phenomenon observed in certain butterflies and involves their aggregation on wet soil, dung and carrion to obtain nutrients such as sodium and amino acids.

Not all species puddle regularly and this behaviour is restricted to males in many species and in some species the presence of butterflies on the ground acts as a stimulus for their aggregation. In tropical India this phenomenon is mostly seen in the post-monsoon season. The groups can include several species including the Papilionids and Pierids.





Two distinct feeding periods can be distinguished in the life-cycle of Butterflies: larval and adult. Essential resources for survival and reproduction are available in different amounts in larval and adult food. As a result, some resources will need to be stored in the larval phase, while others need to be supplemented in the adult stage.

In most sexually reproducing organisms, the sexes differ in the way they achieve reproductive success. In general, males allocate a high proportion of their resources to maximizing the number of eggs they fertilize, whilst females invest a significant proportion of their nutritional resources in the offspring.

In many species, males provide more to female partners than sperm. One form of male contribution is the "Nuptial Gift". In butterflies , males transfer a spermatophore during copulation, which contains sperm and accessory gland products. Since the spermatophore can contain substances that are useful for the female it is usually considered a nuptial gift.


(A battle of Common Emigrants Busy with the act of collecting minerals)

A potential explanation the puddling behaviour is that sodium collected by the male is transferred to the female in mating and that females are thereby freed from the costs and risks associated with puddling, it is likely that adult puddling serves to compensate for the low sodium reserves in the larval diet probably because sodium levels in plants are quite low.

From:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mud-puddling
www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1095-8312.200...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Why do Female Mates Multiply?

After the greatest act of life(SEX), He questions his She...

He asks-"Darling why do u need another mate when am there?"

She says-"Honey for better "TRADE_OFF"...I get better partners... better genes... better kids.. !!"

Thats the story in the animal kingdom. The monopoly of feminines, the Art of Polygamy... the search for more life...!!



Something drags me to this topic of sex in ecology. Infact sex forms the basis of life. Had their been no sex, there would have been no life with diversity and what one could have been seeing would have been perhaps the "CLONES".

The Darwinian principle of Natural Selection forms a vital and prime-facial aspect of Origin of life and Selection by Nature, Fitness and blah blah. Talk to any ecologist or evloutionary biologist, one will hear these profound terminologies. I am sure about that words at least though am not an evolutionary ecologist nor a hard core ecologist. But I am an ecologist who thinks of it very often and so this write up goes.



Literature and works of many papers fascinated me to this field infact and not to forget one man "Eric Charnov"... recently I attended a talk in CES, IISc about the evolution of intelligence and creativity in human" by Geoffery Miller... the writer of two books " he Mating Mind and "The Mating Intelligence".

I suppose that forms an essential part of Behavioural Ecologia also. Infact why should it not be, when u get ur better genes to be passed on to your generations and so u can proudly say" Thats my gene..."



Mate choice by males has been recognized at least since Darwin's time, but its phylogenetic distribution and effect on the evolution of female phenotypes remain poorly known. Moreover, the relative importance of factors thought to underlie the evolution of male mate choice (especially parental investment and mate quality variance) is still unresolved. Here I synthesize the empirical evidence and theory pertaining to the evolution of male mate choice and sex role reversal in insects, and examine the potential for male mating preferences to generate sexual selection on female phenotypes. Although male mate choice has received relatively little empirical study, the available evidence suggests that it is widespread among insects (and other animals). In addition to 'precopulatory' male mate choice, some insects exhibit 'cryptic' male mate choice, varying the amount of resources allocated to mating on the basis of female mate quality.



As predicted by theory, the most commonly observed male mating preferences are those that tend to maximize a male's expected fertilization success from each mating. Such preferences tend to favour female phenotypes associated with high fecundity or reduced sperm competition intensity. Among insect species there is wide variation in mechanisms used by males to assess female mate quality, some of which (e.g. probing, antennating or repeatedly mounting the female) may be difficult to distinguish from copulatory courtship. According to theory, selection for male choosiness is an increasing function of mate quality variance and those reproductive costs that reduce, with each mating, the number of subsequent matings that a male can perform ('mating investment') Conversely, choosiness is constrained by the costs of mate search and assessment, in combination with the accuracy of assessment of potential mates and of the distribution of mate qualities. Stronger selection for male choosiness may also be expected in systems where female fitness increases with each copulation than in systems where female fitness peaks at a small number of matings. This theoretical framework is consistent with most of the empirical evidence. Furthermore, a variety of observed male mating preferences have the potential to exert sexual selection on female phenotypes. However, because male insects typically choose females based on phenotypic indicators of fecundity such as body size, and these are usually amenable to direct visual or tactile assessment, male mate choice often tends to reinforce stronger vectors of fecundity or viability selection, and seldom results in the evolution of female display traits. Research on orthopterans has shown that complete sex role reversal (i.e. males choosy, females competitive) can occur when male parental investment limits female fecundity and reduces the potential rate of reproduction of males sufficiently to produce a female-biased operational sex ratio. By contrast, many systems exhibiting partial sex role reversal (i.e. males choosy and competitive) are not associated with elevated levels of male parental investment, reduced male reproductive rates, or reduced male bias in the operational sex ratio. Instead, large female mate quality variance resulting from factors such as strong last-male sperm precedence or large variance in female fecundity may select for both male choosiness and competitiveness in such systems. Thus, partial and complete sex role reversal do not merely represent different points along a continuum of increasing male parental investment, but may evolve via different evolutionary pathways.




After reading a chapter in the Molecular Ecology book by Bevee, I felt the reality inanimal's world for having more mates. It's nevertheless due to the potential benefits that females may gain from mating more than once in a single reproductive cycle. The relationship between non-genetic and genetic benefits is briefly explored. May be multiple mating aids for purely non-genetic benefits which is unlikely as it invariably leads to the possibility of genetic benefits as well. There are identifying cases where females use pre-copulatory cues to identify mates prior to remating. In the simplest case, females remate because they identify a superior mate and 'trade up' genetically.

The main evidence for this process comes from extra-pair copulation in birds. Second, we note other cases where pre-copulatory cues may be less reliable and females mate with several males to promote post-copulatory mechanisms that bias paternity. Although a distinction is drawn between sperm competition and cryptic female choice, but the genetic benefits to polyandry in terms of producing more viable or sexually attractive offspring do not depend on the exact mechanism that leads to biased paternity. Post-copulatory mechanisms of paternity biasing may: (1) reduce genetic incompatibility between male and female genetic contributions to offspring; (2) increase offspring viability if there is a positive correlation between traits favoured post-copulation and those that improve performance under natural selection; (3) increase the ability of sons to gain paternity when they mate with polyandrous females. A third possibility is that genetic diversity among offspring is directly favoured. This can be due to bet-hedging (due to mate assessment errors or temporal fluctuations in the environment), beneficial interactions between less related siblings or the opportunity to preferentially fertilise eggs with sperm of a specific genotype drawn from a range of stored sperm depending on prevailing environmental conditions. Examples are more profound in social insects which form the concrete basis for the role of genetic diversity among progeny in elevating fitness. We can conclude that post-copulatory mechanisms provide a more reliable way of selecting a genetically compatible mate than pre-copulatory mate choice. Some of the best evidence for cryptic female choice by sperm selection is due to selection of more compatible sperm. One can thus eventualize the fact that multiple mating increases offspring fitness via genetic gains. Not the least the role of multiple mating in promoting assortative fertilization and increasing reproductive isolation between populations may help us to understand sympatric speciation.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Scorpion Fish


(This shot was taken in the aquarium in GoMBR (Gulf of Mannar), while in study tour)

The Lionfish(Scorpion Fish, Pterois volitans) belongs to the Scorpion fish family.A lionfish is any of several species of venomous marine fish in the genera Pterois, Parapterois, Brachypterois, Ebosia or Dendrochirus, of the family Scorpaenidae.The lionfish are voracious predators. When they are hunting, they corner prey using their large fins and then use their lightning quick reflexes to swallow the prey whole. They are notable for their extremely long and separated spines, and have a generally striped appearance, red, brown, orange, yellow, black, maroon, or white.The lionfish has elaborate array of fins and spines that stick out like the feathers of a peacock. Though it appears as a beautiful and seemingly harmless fish, all lion-fish have venomous fin spines that can produce painful puncture wounds.

It usually swims alone and is not easily frightened. It uses its feather-like fins to slowly herd and corner its prey. This brightly coloured fish is usually found in coral reefs, especially in shallow waters hovering in caves or near crevices. The Lionfish are a nocturnal family of fish that lives in holes and caves in the reef only coming out at night to hunt.

There are about 350 different species in 70 genera.The group of fish has been classified as a subfamily (Pteroinae) under the Scorpionfish Scorpaenidae). Although they are found in all temperate and tropical seas, most are found in the Indo-Pacific and Australia.

When disturbed by a diver, the Common Lionfish often makes little effort to swim away. Instead it points its dorsal fin spines towards the intruder.

The predominate effects of the lionfish venom are severe pain and swelling in the area around the wound. Other systematic responses such as nausea, dizziness, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, hypotension, and headache have been recorded either from the venom or as a reaction to level of pain.

Heat denatures proteins of the lionfish venom. A wound caused by a lionfish should be immersed in water of 43 to 45 degrees Celsius for 30 to 40 minutes or until pain diminishes.Lionfish have venomous spines that are deadly to their prey, but not to humans. If a spine punctures you, you will experience severe pain and possible headaches and vomiting. The best treatment is soaking the afflicted area in hot water, as very few hospitals carry any sort of specific treatment.

While the hardiness and disease resistance of the lionfish make their care relatively simple, the venom of the spines is extremely painful, and lionfish are recommended for only the careful aquarist. Successful breeding of the lionfish in captivity has not been reported.

Courtesy: http://www.barrierreefaustralia.com/the-great-barrier-reef/lionfish.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionfish

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Creatures of the Dark..!!



How and why do bats hang upside down all day?
Something made me pen down an article on this particular topic. The inspiration was when I was with my boy-friend,sitting on the grassy lawn,near Sanky Tank in Bangalore.It was around 6 o' clock in the evening and what I spotted was a splash of black mass,getting scattered with the rise of moon as the sun set and spreading like a bursting from some hell of black hole. Yes, thats nothing in the sky other than the huge bats. What makes them roost in colonies? Why do they roost and how?

The Name "Bat" comes from Old Norse "ledhrblaka," "leather flapper." It became "bakka" and then "bat."This Indian species, Pteropus giganteus, commonly called as Indian flying fox can be frequently spotted during the day roosting in large colonies, or "camps," high up in the trees. They spend the morning chattering and jockeying for preferred roosting sites on the branches, where they hang by their feet. They pass most of the day asleep with their wings wrapped around themselves. At night they fly to favorite foraging areas, where they feed in the trees on all sorts of ripe fruit (except citrus). The flying fox swallows only the juice, spitting out the pulp.


(The colony of hanging bats during daytime in Talacauvery WLS)



At night, bats swoop through the air, snatching up hundreds of insects and other small animals. But during the day, they hardly move at all. Instead, bats pass the time hanging upside down from a secluded spot, such as the roof of a cave, the underside of a bridge or the inside of a hollowed-out tree.







There are a couple different reasons why bats roost this way. First of all, it puts them in an ideal position for takeoff. Unlike birds, bats can't launch themselves into the air from the ground. Their wings don't produce enough lift to take off from a dead stop, and their hind legs are so small and underdeveloped that they can't run to build up the necessary takeoff speed. Instead, they use their front claws to climb to a high spot, and then fall into flight. By sleeping upside down in a high location, they are all set to launch if they need to escape the roost.





Hanging upside down is also a great way to hide from danger. During the hours when most predators are active (particularly birds of prey), bats congregate where few animals would think to look and most can't reach. This allows them to disappear from the world until night comes again. There's also little competition for these roosting spots, as other flying animals don't have the ability to hang upside down.

http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1213900614/bctid1346591910

This is a beautiful link, I remember seeing it in Discovery Channel some years back down the line when I was a student of plant science doing by Bachelors degree.

Bats have a unique physiological adaptation that lets them hang around this way without exerting any energy. If you want to clench your fist around an object, you must contract several muscles in your arm, which are connected to your fingers by tendons. As one muscle contracts, it pulls a tendon, which pulls one of your fingers closed. A bat's talons close in the same way, except that their tendons are connected only to the upper body, not to a muscle. To hang upside down, a bat flies into position, pulls its claws open with other muscles and finds a surface to grip. To get the talons to grab hold of the surface, the bat simply lets its body relax. The weight of the upper body pulls down on the tendons connected to the talons, causing them to clench. The talon joints lock into position, and the bat's weight keeps them closed.

Consequently, the bat doesn't have to do anything to hang upside down. It only has to exert energy to release its grip, flexing muscles that pull its talons open. Since the talons remain closed when the bat is relaxed, a bat that dies while roosting will continue to hang upside down until something (another bat, for example) jostles it loose.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Why do cats purr?



An Overview

When your cat climbs into your lap, tucks in his paws under himself, and begins to purr, all is right in his world. This is one of the things we love about our cats; that feeling of contentment they share with us. When cats become soft purring bundles of warm reassuring fur, we feel calmer and more peaceful ourselves. We may not always hear the purring – a soft vibrating rumble – but we can feel it. But why do cats purr? And what produces this characteristic sound?

According to veterinarian Bruce Fogle, author of The Cat's Mind, the original function of purring was to enable a kitten to communicate with his mother that things are well. A kitten is able to purr by the second day of life, and although he can't meow and nurse at the same time, he can purr and nurse. And the mother cat often purrs back, probably to reassure the kitty.

There are many theories to explain how the purr is generated. One study determined that purring involves activation of nerves within the voice box. These nerve signals cause vibration of the vocal cords while the diaphragm serves as a piston pump, pushing air in and out of the vibrating cords, thus creating a musical hum. Veterinarian Neils C. Pederson, author of Feline Husbandry, believes that purring is initiated from within the central nervous system and is a voluntary act. In other words, cats purr only when they want to.

Purring is an integral part of the feline communication system and occurs for a variety of reasons. It is classified with the "murmur vocalization" group, which involves sounds produced by a cat while the mouth is closed. In addition to purring, this group of sounds includes grunting, calling, and acknowledgment murmurs. Domestic cats and some wild cats, like pumas and mountain lions (almost any big cat that cannot roar), are all able to purr.

As the cat matures the meaning of the purr changes. Some cats purr to indicate contentment or pleasure, but badly frightened cats and severely ill cats also purr, and so do females while they are delivering their kittens. It is not uncommon for cats to purr when they are close to death. This final purring may indicate a state of anxiety or possibly euphoria, states that have also been described in terminally ill people.

Animal behaviorists believe that when cats purr under stressful circumstances, they are reassuring or comforting themselves, much as humans may sing to themselves or hum when they are nervous. Frightened cats may purr to communicate submissiveness or non-aggressive intentions. A feral cat may purr to signal that he will not attack and other cats need not feel threatened. Older cats may purr when they play or approach other cats, signaling that they are friendly and want to come closer.

A more recent theory about purring is that it is caused by the release of nature's own morphine-like substances (endorphins) in the brain. Since endorphins are released under circumstances of pain and pleasure, this would explain the seemingly ambiguous expression of purring. This theory jives with Pederson's reasoning, that purring is initiated in the brain, and is also compatible with the more mechanical explanations for purring, as endorphins activate one of the main action systems in the brain (so thought is translated into movement). Whatever the explanation for purring, it seems to indicate cats' contentment and is associated with improvement in their affect at times of stress. Purring is one of cats' most endearing qualities.

Why do cats have whiskers?



Also known as "tactile hairs" or vibrissae, whiskers are the long, thick, flexible hairs on a cat's face. These hairs are located in horizontal rows on the whisker pad, the puffy area between the top corners of your cat's mouth and the outer edges of his nose. Whiskers, like hair and nails, do fall out and are replaced. But whiskers are different from the cat's body hair in a few ways:

* Whiskers should never be cut or trimmed.
* Whiskers are two to three times thicker than the cat's hair.
* Whiskers are rooted very deep in the cat's face, in an area rich in nerves and blood vessels.

A cat's whiskers are so sensitive that they can detect the slightest directional change in a breeze.
In addition to having the long tactile hairs on their cheeks, cats also have shorter ones above their eyebrows, on their chin and on the back of their front legs. Since we are most familiar with facial whiskers, let's look at what they are good for. The role played by these whiskers are:

* Navigation
* Mood indication
* Measuring an opening

Whiskers help the cat feel his way around. Whiskers are so sensitive that they can detect the slightest directional change in a breeze. At night, for example, this helps a cat slink its way through a room and not bump into anything. How? The air currents in the room change depending on where pieces of furniture are located. As the cat walks through the room and approaches the couch, he'll know which direction to turn based on the change in air current around the couch.

In addition to having sensory properties, a cat's whiskers are also a good indicator of his mood. When a cat is angry or feels defensive, the whiskers will be pulled back. Otherwise, when the cat is happy, curious or content, the whiskers will be more relaxed and pushed forward.

(See the whiskers positioned in case of relaxed state)

( Whiskers raised in excited, angry state)


But the whisker's primary use is to help a cat judge whether or not he'll fit through an opening. A cat's whiskers are roughly as wide as his body -- sort of a natural ruler. The whisker tips are sensitive to pressure. One might probably notice a cat sticking his head in and out of an opening before he puts his body in. He's judging the width of the opening, and is determining if he can fit into it. An interesting note: cats don't have a true collar bone, like humans. This allows them to turn and twist their way through very narrow openings.

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