Saturday, March 7, 2009

Pelicans : Feeding with unity.
This is Rosy or White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus) out of eight species of pelican found in the world. They are found throughout the tropical and warm temperature zones, on both fresh and salt water. They are powerful, graceful flyers, using the air currents for soaring, although their huge size makes the task of getting airborne a difficult one. When they sight food, they dive perpendicularly into the water, sometimes from a great height. Their diet primarily consists of surface dwelling fish but may include crustaceans. Their enormous pouches, which are modification of the lower part of the bill, are their most obvious distinguishing features contrary to popular belief the pouch is used as sort of fishing net rather than as a place for storing food.
The pelican feeds by scooping up fish with its enormous bill, which may hold 20 ltrs. water at a time. When an individual scoops water, many fishes escape by swimming away from the bill. The pelicans frequently feed in small groups, which swim in a horseshoe pattern, and then all moves forward and scoop the water at the same time. Small fish, which dart away from one pelican's bill are likely to be caught by another, thus all the birds benefit from feeding together. The fishes swallowed immediately and never carried in the pouch.
The nesting season is from November to April. Nest is build with large stick platform in tall trees and often far from water. There are several nests in the same tree and this colony covers a large area.
Among the adaptation of birds, which have contributed to their success, is flight, and the possession of feathers contributed to this adaptation. All birds have feathers but no other animal has them. The feather is formed from the cells of the skin just similar to the formation of scales on the legs of birds or on the bodies of reptiles. The feather grows from the base inside a sheath. Bird's flight feathers have sufficient strength and firmness to remain quite rigid when moved through the air despite being anchored only at the base. Birds spend a significant proportion of their lives engaging in feather maintenance activities. Dirt on the wings is removed by bathing in water or in dust and any water or dust is subsequently removed by flapping the wings, ruffling the feathers and by preening movements. For preening they apply oil from preen or oil gland. This gland is found in most birds and is situated on the rump above the base of the tail. It produces an oily secretion and is most active in aquatic birds. The secretion helps to keep feathers supple so that they do not break and increase their water proofing qualities. Despite their resistance to wear, feather must be renewed at intervals. The moulting process, during which old feathers fall out and are replaced by new ones growing in the same place, also allows birds to change from juvenile to adult plumage or from non-breeding to breeding plumage.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Not a spider – Not a Scorpion
This strange animal is called “Tailless Whip Scorpion”. This spider like animal is famous for their long, whip like front legs. Actually these tailless whip scorpions are neither true scorpions nor true spiders, but resemble a cross between the two. They live in humid habitat and prefer to hide under cavities of large tree roots and under the rocks. They prefer to hunt in night and rests in days. There are around 70 species worldwide.
The body of most tailless whip scorpion is around 2 inches long but the front leg pair is extremely long; up to 10 inches in few species. The tailless whips scorpion has one pair of eyes in the front side and three pairs of eyes on the side of head. The long, feeler-like front legs are important sensory organs for hunting and orientation at night. The tailless whip scorpion walks sideways with these legs leading the ways. The leg-like mouthparts are stout, spiny and used to capture and hold insect prey while it is ton by the fangs. Whip Scorpions are purely nocturnal hunters feeding mostly on insects such as cockroaches, grasshoppers and sometimes on centipedes. These are not at all venomous for human. Although these animals may look extremely dangerous and frightening, they are perfectly harmless and very shy.
Mating involves a brief courtship which begins with the male holding the females forelegs in his forelegs with their tips and walking backwards until the female raises her abdomen. The pregnant female digs a special burrow with a larger area at the end, when the eggs are laid they are inside a special membrane that prevents them from drying out. The female remains in the end of her burrow guarding the eggs. When the eggs hatch the young are white and look nothing like their mother, they climb onto her back and attach themselves there with special suckers. After a while they moult and the creature which now emerges looks like a miniature Whip Scorpion. After first moult they leave their mother. The young are slow growing and they gain maturity around the age of three years.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.
Whitenosed Bushfrog.
Frogs are members of the class called Amphibia. Amphibians are cold-blooded vertebrate animals. They differ from reptiles in that they lack scales and generally return to water to breed. Amphibians together with reptiles make up a larger group called Herps. The study of reptiles and amphibians is called Herpetology. Herp comes from the Greek word herpeton, which basically means "creepy crawly things that move about on their bellies."
Most amphibians lack scales on their skin, and it is usually smooth. Mucous and granular glands are present in the skin. Skin helps in oxygen uptake and release of carbon dioxide from the surrounding environment. Due to permeable nature of skin, water readily evaporates from the skin and dehydrates the amphibians easily. Hence they tend to restrict their activity only to high humidity and low wind periods to avoid evaporation stress. One can probably find more amphibians in moist environments and they are active during nights. Amphibians in the dry region tend to absorb water through skin from moist soils. Amphibians can change their skin color according the surrounding environment. Amphibians use gills, lungs and skin for the respiratory purposes.
Asian tree frogs are most closely related to true frogs (Ranidae) but seem to be the ecological equivalents of New World hylids by being arboreal and having enlarged toe disks at the ends of the fingers to aid in climbing. Most Asian tree frogs have large eyes with horizontal pupils and dorsal coloration ranging from green to brown and gray to black and white. Many have flash coloration (bright, patterned colors) on the inner thighs, which confuse predators when the frog leaps away and exposes these areas, thus distorting the frogs overall body pattern to the predator. There are members in the family Rhacophorous with extensive webbing that are able to glide by extending their limbs out as they jump, thus serving to increase their surface area. These species are arboreal, with strong jumping skills. This particular frog is Philautus waynadensis, one of the widely distributed and a common frog in the Western Ghats. In the past this species was referred to as Philautus leucorhinus. It is commonly called whitenosed bushfrog. It is endemic bushfrog with lower risk of extinction. Among the leaf frogs, eggs are usually deposited on leaves above ponds, where mothers keep them wet by urinating on them. Hatchlings fall into the water below.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.

Insect Orchestra
In early monsoon our forests are full with insect orchestras. The loudest instrumentalist in the animal world is by the insects. They do not have ears and have some hearing organs, but some species have developed remarkable efficient ways of producing sound as well as receiving it. It is nearly always the male that is equipped with the sound making equipment and thus he must make the first moves in courtship game.
The synchronized screeching of cicadas fills the air and is often painfully clear. The cicada song is so loud that it can sometimes be heard up to one kilometer away. When ready to mate, the male cicada positions himself high up in a tree and begins calling loudly to attract the mate. His song sparks off a chain reaction and suddenly all the males in the area will also burst into song. The sound of so many males seeking her attention quite overwhelms the female who flies right into the middle of this singing orchestra. Of course soon she finds her best male and they start for the new generation.
The cicadas, along with crickets and grasshoppers, are loudest and mist musical in the insect world and have remarkable complex ways of producing their unique sound. The male’s sound production mechanism consists of two hard plates called “tymbals” on either side of its thorax. By rapidly flexing strong muscles, the insect manages to buckle and unbuckle these plates to produce its characteristic ticking sound. What is more, the male cicada has a volume control over his songs – a special covering that acts as a damper when it is lowered. This, combined with a prodigiously fast output of ticks that can reach upto 1000 per second, gives cicada an instrumental voice of some versatility for charming a prospective mate. The sound is differentiating between the species and those cicadas able to produce more clicks per second can vary their songs to make them distinct from other varieties. In addition to this cicadas can, by raising and lowering a cover over the tymbal, make their song louder or quieter.
Yuwaraj Gurjar

Pit Vipers with “Sixth” sense.
Some snakes have infrared vision also called “heat vision,” the infrared rays, which have longer wavelengths than those of visible light, signify the presence of warm-blooded prey in 3 dimensions, which helps snakes aim their attacks. Pit vipers possess this ability; have heat-sensitive membranes that can detect the difference in temperature between a moving prey - such as a running mouse.
The detection system, which consists of cavities located on each side of the head called “pit organs,” operates on a principle similar to that of a pinhole camera. A pinhole camera is a camera without a lens, where light from an image passes through a very small hole. Similarly, a pit organ’s aperture is about 1 mm—large enough to allow the snake to quickly detect moving prey. In pit vipers, which have only two pit holes (one in front of each eye), a block of about 1,600 sensory cells lie on a membrane which has a field of view of about 100 degrees. This means the snake’s brain would receive an image resolution of about 2.5 degrees for point like objects, such as eyes, which are one of the hottest points on mammals. This head of Bamboo pit viper shows a nostril, pit hole and eye (right to left). This is one of the poisonous snakes found near us. The Bamboo Pit Viper is a pale green snake with faint, uneven black patterns on the back. The head is wide and triangular, set on a thin delicate neck. Actually this type of head is found in all types of Vipers and is one of the identification keys. This snake’s eyes are with golden iris and a black vertical pupil. This snake prefers living in vines, bushes and bamboo. Bamboo Pit Viper are slow moving snake and nocturnal. They rely on camouflage for protection. Although slow to defend themselves, they are capable of fast strikes and bites if disturbed. The food of this snake consists small mammals like rodents, lizards, birds and frogs. The female give birth to 4 or 5 living young. This is also Viper specialty as other snakes lay eggs. These Bamboo Pit Vipers are small in size near about 75 to 80 cms in adults. Their venom is low in toxicity, so that bites are rarely serious.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.

Spider female guarding egg sac.
Female spiders are usually larger than the male as the physical demands and accompanying energy requirements to produce webs and broods, are far greater. The male is smaller because once mature, his only function is to mate. Where males are similar in size to the females, they are generally more slender, with longer legs. In some cases the male can be one thousandth of the weight of the female. In other cases, the male and female are so different that they may even appear to be different species where males of certain species mimic wasps or ants.
Once mature, the male abandons all usual activities such as web construction and prey capture and transforms into a sexual attractions. Spider courtship is hazardous for the male spiders. It requires planning ahead, a good strategy, knowing the whims of your future mate and in some cases, the ability to perform long, arduous routines to please her - sometimes at the risk of being eaten by her. Once he has located a mate, the male spider dare not make a false move as it would mean certain death so the female is approached cautiously.
As the eggs develop in the female, her abdomen enlarges. After a period varying from 1 week to several months after mating, the female lays her eggs in the safety of darkness. About 1000 eggs can be laid in 8-10 minutes. Some spiders only produce a few eggs while few species can produce up to 9000 eggs and only about 2% survive to maturity. Spider eggs are roughly spherical, and about 1 mm in diameter; they are laid in a compact mass and covered to a greater or lesser extent with silk, forming a sac. The eggs are variously colored, pale brown, pale yellow, pink, even bright green. Underfed females lay less eggs but the size depends upon the species. Some spiders produce more than one sac, but there is a tendency for fewer eggs in the later sacs. Most species however spin much more substantial cocoons or egg-sacs to hold the eggs safe. This is particularly necessary to species where the mother dies before the eggs hatch. But some wolf spiders however live to see their young hatch.
The tiny hairless and blind creature must wait a few days to moult into a more advanced stage, the larva, which has rudimentary eyes and a few hairs but lacks poison and the ability to spin silk. Both of these stages are unable to feed and they subsist off the yolk within them. After a short period, the larva moults into a nymph or spiderling which resembles the adult in general form. At this stage, some cannibalism may take place within the sac, and those spiderlings which are weak becomes meal for others.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tiny but still powerful & venomous
This is one of the commonest venomous snakes of India known as Saw-scaled Viper or “Furase” in Marathi. It is a small snake, about 1 ft. 6 in. long, though a few specimens grow to 2 ft. or even to 2 ft. 7 in. It is a brown, buff or sandy in colour or may be green. It has got a pale, sinuous, white line along either flank of the back. It may have small, white, diamond-shaped and somewhat square patches along the middle of the back, which may join laterally the wavy white line mentioned above. The head is triangular and has got a distinct white mark on it which somewhat resembles the foot-print of a bird, or may be likened to a broad arrow or a trident. The belly is white and covered with light-brown or dark spots. There is no pit between the nose and the eye which shows that, like Russell's Viper, it belongs to the class of pitless vipers. The broad bellyplates, small scales on the head and tail shields which are entire are characteristic of the Echis.
When disturbed or irritated, it throws itself in a double coil in the manner of figure '8' and rubs the coils together continuously, producing a loud rustling sound like the scrubbing of sandpaper. The scales on the back are distinctly keeled and rough, and it is these which produce the sound. The ridge in the middle of each scale on the back is dented like a saw, and hence it is called the Saw-scaled Viper. Being a small snake, the saw-scaled Viper does not inject much poison. It is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of its bite cases are fatal. Death may occur within 24 hours or even after 2 to 20 days following the bite. The local signs and symptoms of poisoning such as swelling and discolouration are very marked, the bitten part may slough and the person die of septic poisoning. There is also a tendency to bleed from various parts of the body a few days after the bite, and so a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible after the bite. This snake is considered to be the world's most dangerous snake because of its highly toxic venom, its abundance near cultivated areas, and its aggressive, easily excitable temperament. The venom is used in the preparation of anti-venom. These snakes keep the locust and rodent population in control and also feed on frogs, toads, lizards and other small insects. Female gives birth to 12 - 15 young ones at a time.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.
Turtles : Fear of extinction
The turtle is an important symbol in the mythologies of many indigenous cultures, usually representing creation, longevity, and wisdom in these belief systems. Turtles are thus truly ancient beings-both in geological and mythological terms. Turtles are reptiles whose soft body is covered by a hard shell. Most turtles can pull their legs, tail, and head into the shell for protection. Like other reptiles, all turtles are cold-blooded; their body temperature about matches the temperature of their environment.
Freshwater turtles have a flattened disc-like shell covered with soft skin. The limbs are semi-circular, paddle-like, and have three claws. Their neck is very flexible and extensile. These are commonly seen in ponds, lakes, rivers and even in wells. They prefer basking on rocks and dead tree trunks. Mud turtles swim well but prefer to lie half buried in mud and snap at passing prey with extremely fast thrust of the long neck. The turtle is able to withstand prolonged starvation. A captive turtle lived for two years without taking food. This group is long lived and there is longevity record of 152 years of giant tortoise which lived from 1766 to 1918 in one of the Seychelles Islands.
Another type of turtles lived in sea. These Sea turtles are reptiles that spend the majority of their lives in the ocean. Females reach reproductive age after 35 to 40 years, and only then return to the beach of their birth to lay their eggs for the next generation. Although a female may lay hundreds of eggs in one season, only a few of the hatchlings will survive to reach maturity. Between species, turtles vary in size from the bog turtle of about 4 inches long (10 centimeters) to the huge leatherback sea turtle, which can mature to 4 to 8 feet lengths (1.2 to 2.4 meters). Many turtles spend their entire life within a short distance from where they were hatched, but most sea turtles migrate thousand of miles. Sea turtles are also fast swimmers; but on land most kinds of turtles are slow. Most turtles are omnivores that are they eat both plants and animals but the exact foods consumed vary between the species. Today over 40 species of turtles including most sea turtles and many types of tortoises are endangered, and if turtle conservation and protection does not improve, certain species will become extinct forever.
Yuwaraj Gurjar
Paper Wasps
Paper Wasp, common name for medium- to large-sized wasps that construct nests made of a papery material. The nests consist of a single upside-down layer of brood cells or compartments for the young. Paper wasp nests resemble an upside down umbrella of cells and are often found hanging under the parts of buildings, in attics, trees, as well as other structuresMost paper wasps measure about 2 cm long and are black, brown, or reddish in color with yellow markings. Paper wasps will defend their nest if attacked. Adults forage for nectar, their source of energy, and for caterpillars to feed the larvae (young). They are natural enemies of many garden insect pests.
The nests of most species are suspended from a single, central stalk and have the shape of an upside-down umbrella. Some tropical species make nests that hang in a vertical sheet of cells. Wasp collects water droplets from nearby water source like this in the photo. The paper wasp builds clusters of hexagonal paper cells. Mixing masticated wood pulp with adhesive saliva, these paper nest cells act as larval nesting chambers for the young wasps. The Chinese inventor of paper was legend to have been inspired by observing these wasps chewing bark. Other members of the Vespid family, are potters, building their nests from mud and saliva. The nests are constructed in protected places, such as under the eaves of buildings or in dense vegetation. Normally a colony of several to several dozen paper wasps inhabits the nest.
In most species of paper wasps, colonies are founded by one female who dominates the colony and lays most of the eggs. This female constructs the nest, lays eggs, forages, and raises the first generation of offspring. She then stops foraging, becomes the queen, and rules by dominating her offspring of workers. This is a classic dominance hierarchy with the queen maintaining control through aggressive interactions. Each individual in line maintains dominance over all others below her through confrontation and aggressive interactions. If the queen dies or is otherwise lost, the most aggressive worker takes over. This worker begins laying eggs and continues to dominate all below her. Since the workers have not mated, they can only lay unfertilized eggs, which develop into males, a typical trait in wasps.
Some queens that are unsuccessful at establishing their own nest may join another queen, submitting to her dominance and becoming a worker. Studies have shown that such individuals, called joiners, are most often sisters of the queen. Since this individual mated the previous fall, her eggs can develop into workers and she could become the next queen if the founding queen is lost. Occasionally a joiner dominates the founding queen and takes over the nest, a behavior known as usurpation. In such rare cases, the usurper becomes the queen and the previous queen becomes a worker.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.
Stick insect's Pair
This is pair of "Stick Insects". These insects are very much well camouflaged in the green leaves of the plant. Generally stick insects are always masters of camouflage. Their scientific name "Phasmida" actually comes from the Greek word for ghost, it's a comparison they certainly deserve. There are around 2700 species of Phasmida in the world. Mostly, they live in the tropics, but they also occur in the temperate regions of Australia, New Zealand and Europe.
They are also called as "Walking Sticks". As the name "walkingstick" implies, most phasmids are slender, cylindrical, and cryptically colored to resemble the twigs and branches on which they live. Most walkingsticks are slow-moving insects, a behavior pattern that is consistent with their cryptic lifestyle. In a few tropical species, the adults have well-developed wings, but most phasmids are brachypterous (reduced wings) or secondarily wingless. Stick insects are most abundant in the tropics where some species may be up to 12 inches in length. Females do not have a well-developed ovipositor so they cannot insert their eggs into host plant tissue like most other insects. Instead, the eggs are dropped singly onto the ground, sometimes from great heights. Stick insect's eggs often resemble seeds. The eggs may remain dormant for over a year before hatching.
When attacked by a predator, the legs of some phasmids may separate from the body. Some species can even regenerate lost legs. These are the only insects able to regenerate body parts. In addition to their foliage mimicking defensive strategies, there are some glands located on the thorax of stick insects can produce a foul-smelling liquid that repels predators.
Most female stick insects lack wings and tends to be geographically localized. In some species, this lack of mobility can result in defoliation of the chosen food plants. A number of stick insect species are capable of parthenogenesis; if no males are available to fertilize eggs, viable female offspring will be produced. Males are usually winged which allows for distribution of populations. Males are also known to stay coupled with females for considerable duration to ensure their own genes are responsible for egg fertilization. Some species are capable of altering their coloration. During the day they will appear lighter green, switching to a darker mode for their active nocturnal period.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.
Harmless Vine Snake.
This is Vine snake and it is very long and thin with very pointed head. It is called “Sarpa tol” or “Haran tol” in marathi. The body is uniform parroty-green, often with a thin white or yellow line separating the black scales from the belly scales. The underside is fluorescent green or yellow. When excited it shows the inflated neck and body revealed black and white inter-scale color gave a banded appearance. The scales are very much soft and smooth but not shiny. This is the only snake in India, which have horizontally elliptical eyes and bright golden iris. These, coupled with forward position of the location of the eye, give this snake a very good vision. These eyes are large and give it near stereoscopic vision which would clearly assist it in its hunting techniques. This is a common snake still rarely seen because of their excellent camouflage. It is distributed all over the India except northwest parts and it prefers bushes and small trees. It remains suspended by its long thin tail, the head being held free from the coil.
Vine snakes depends on their shape and color to escape detection. They can move at a fair speed. When provoked they open the mouth very wide and swell the body threateningly. Vine snakes are rear-fanged and generally hold their prey until the mildly toxic venom has killed it. During the breeding season, they often bunch together in a cluster, and can be seen hanging in-groups in branches. Females give birth to young ones and they are tiny replicas of the parents with slightly turned-up nose. Their food is mainly lizards, frogs, mice and small birds. Its superb camouflage enables it to stalk its prey with ease. Once the prey is in striking distance it coils itself and darts towards its prey with lightning speed. The prey is often seized by the neck and killed by suffocation caused by crushing its victims throat with its jaws. Its venom plays a minor role in its hunting but does appear to assist in the killing process. This snake waits until its prey is completely dead before swallowing it.
Though it is common, it is greatly feared, this harmless, beautiful snake is always killed when seen. It is foolishly believed that it will dart at a person’s eyes and peck them out or it will jump on head and break the skull.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Drosera : Amazing insect eating plant
This plant is Drosera indica, one of the carnivorous plants. Drosera, from the Greek, droseros (droseros), "dewy, watery" and indica is derived from India. Plant is carnivorous if it attracts, captures, and kills animal life forms. It must also digest and absorb the nutrients from the prey to qualify as a carnivorous plant. There are many noncarnivorous plants that do some (but not all) of these things. For example, flowers attract pollinators (such as insects, birds, and other creatures, even humans!); some plants such as orchids and water lilies temporarily trap insect pollinators to ensure pollen transfer. All plants absorb nutrients either through their roots or leaves. However, even though these plants do some of the things that carnivorous plants do, they do not fulfill all of the criteria necessary to qualify as a carnivorous plant. Only plants which attract, capture, kill, digest, and absorb prey are truly carnivorous.
Carnivorous plants are just like other plants, except they have a toolbox of abilities that, altogether, allow the plant to be carnivorous. Other plants have a few of these tools, but not all of them. The main tools are the abilities to attract insects, capture them, kill them, digest them, and absorb the resulting nutrients. Noncarnivorous plants have flowers to attract and even capture insects, toxic compounds to kill insects feeding on them, molecules that have digestive properties, and structures like roots to absorb the nutrients. Carnivorous plants just combine these features in an interesting way.
This tiny plant is naturally found along muddy soil in its specific habitat. Forms vary mostly in plant and flower color. Plants can be green or red, and flowers may be either white, pink, or orange. Drosera indica is an annual which means under normal circumstances within one growing season it will grow quickly, bloom, set seed and die. In nature the seeds sprout with the onset of the rainy season. It requires very warm and bright conditions to do well. The plants bloom and then die in the fall as the ground dries out. After an insect has been caught, the glandular heads secrete a digestive fluid which dissolves all that can be absorbed from the insect. These work on reducing the fleshy internal part of the insect into a nutrient soup which is subsequently absorbed by the plant. It has been noted that secretion does not take place when inorganic substances are imprisoned. Once digestion and absorption is complete, leaving to dried exoskeleton to be washed away by rainfall, or simply left as a warning to other insects.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.
Digger Wasp
Digger wasps are from Order Hymenoptera which includes insects like wasps, bees and ants. This is the third largest order after beetles and flies that had evolved about 155 million years ago. The digger wasp first prepares a burrow in a suitable spot, and then starts digging. When a little hole is made, then she enters it and comes out carrying soils between her curved forelegs and her head, repeating this till there was a considerable heap of soil. This heap she then demolishes by standing and kicking it away with her hind legs, leaving no evidence of its excavation. Before beginning hunting she makes a complex series of short flights around and above the nest site, fixing in her mind a visual pattern of its location and of prominent landmarks by which it can be locates from long distance. A major disadvantage of preparing the nest in advance lies in the necessity of transporting the prey when it is obtained at some long distance. Many times wasp hunts for larger prey, sometimes heavier than herself, and may have a long and difficult task dragging the load over rough terrain and through dense, tangles vegetation.
The main prey of this wasp is the caterpillars of butterflies and moths, sometimes far heavier than the wasp herself. On finding such victim she stings it a number of times, puncturing quite accurately. The wasp has an instinctive knowledge of the caterpillar’s anatomy; it is undeniable that in the most of instances she does succeed in paralyzing the prey and not killing it. She grasps the caterpillar in her jaws and straddling it with her long legs, drags and carries it to the nest. The way may be long and tortuous, so that she may occasionally heave to leave the prey and make on orientation flight to set herself on the right track. Eventually she reaches to the prepared burrow and drags the caterpillar down to the chamber. Laying an egg on it, she leaves it and starts filling in the opening of the nest.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.

Banded Rock Gecko.
A widely diversified group of reptiles, the lizards are generally distinguished from the snakes by the presence of limbs. Geckos are another sub group of these lizards. The eye lacks eyelids and is covered by a transparent shield in nearly all species. The major feature of geckos is the ability to climb smooth vertical surfaces and to move on ceilings defying gravity. This is due to the minute setae under the toes were believed to act as suction cups.
Unlike other running lizards and birds where the limbs are thin and only the tendons activate the limbs but the legs and feet of geckos are heavily muscled. The fibers of the muscles that control the toe movements are arranged like the barbs on a feather permitting more muscular attachment to the setae holding plates. Most geckos have a voice, few even produces a mechanical sound by rubbing specialised areas of the body. Most Indian geckos are nocturnal spending the day in a convenient hideout.
Geckos obtain a certain amount of protection from the ease with which the tails breaks off and moves actively after detachment, thereby drawing attention to itself and away from the animal. The tail is superbly adapted for this purpose. All geckos are oviparous, and normally lay 2 eggs. The shell is soft when laid but hardens on contact with air. It is a strong belief that geckos are poisonous but at least no Indian species are at all poisonous.
This is Banded Rock Gecko (Cyrtodactylus dekkanensis). These geckos are easily distinguished from other geckos by the vertical pupil. Most specis are conspicuously and handsomely marked with spots and / or bands on a gray or brown background. In India there are 12 species known till date. Mostly all are nocturnal and dwell among rocks and on the forest floor. This species is widely distributed in the western and eastern Himalayas, the desert of Kutch and the forests of Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats and in the Andamans.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.
Antlion :- Using tools to catch prey.
In early summer we can see small funnel-shaped pits in dry, fine soil. These pits are usually 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. As the summertime progresses, the pits become larger in diameter and more widely spaced apart. Hidden under the soil at the bottom of each pit, a predatory immature antlion waits for unsuspecting ants and other small insects to fall into the pit.
The funnel-shaped pits are constructed in dry soil or sand using a novel excavation technique. The larva heaps sand or soil onto its head and jaws and then flicks it with some force up and behind it, working in a circle to produce a conical pit. If an antlion larva encounters a small pebble or other object when it is constructing its pit, it will attempt to flick the object out of its pit. If the object is too large to flick but large enough to move, it may literally be "pushed" up and out of the pit by the larva. When the pit is completed, the larva lies motionless on the bottom, concealed beneath the sand, with only its long, piercing mandibles exposed, and lies in waiting for unsuspected prey.
Antlions, as their name implies, prey mainly on ants. The lion part of the names comes from the ferocity with which they attack any ant that comes within range of their huge jaws. Ants stumble into the pit by accident and, because it is constructed of friable soil or sand and has steep sides, they have to struggle to get out. The task is made more difficult by the antlion. While the ant is scrabbling about trying to get up the sides of the pit, the antlion is busy chucking sand at it, again using its head and jaws. Eventually the shower of sand may knock the ant within the antlion’s reach. Once seized, the ant is dragged into the sand at the bottom of the burrow where it is consumed. Adults Antlion have short antenna which thicken towards the tips. They are medium to large size with long wings. Most of them are predators on other insects although some feed on pollen. They have two pairs of membranous wings like the dragonfly, but Antlion flies slowly and short distance.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.
Tortoiseshell Beetles
Tortoise beetles range between 9 and 12 mm (less than 0.5 inch) in length and resemble a tortoise because of the forward and sideways extensions of the body. In some western countries tortoise beetles are among the most brilliantly colored coleopterans and are used in making jewelry.
These insects easily attract the attention of nature lovers due to their brilliant and attractive metallic golden colors. The golden tortoise beetle is associated with sweet potato and related species such as morning glory, Ipomoea species. On this plant, the entire life cycle takes place. Eggs are laid in-groups and are cemented together in a paperlike egg capsule whose thin brown layers separate and camouflage them. The larvae, which hatches in four to six days burrows directly through the egg capsule and feed on the leaf epidermis. Larvae are broad and flattened and adorned with branched spines. Their thoracic legs are short and thick. The color of the larva is yellowish to gray. There are three larval instars. The larvae display the habit of carrying their cast skins and fecal material attached to spines arising from the posterior end of their body, a structure called an "anal fork." The anal fork is movable, and is usually used to hold the debris over the back of the body, forming a "shield" which deters predation. Larvae mature in 14-21 days. They are always in groups say 30 to 40 upto 100 on a single underside of the leaf. When the beetle emerges it is white in color then it changes its color gradually into orange and then finally metallic gold.
The adult beetles are distinctive in that the margins of the prothorax and elytra are expanded, largely concealing the head and appendages. The expanded margins are not pigmented, appearing nearly transparent. The beetles vary slightly in color but invariably are orange colored, often golden metallic, and are sometimes called "goldbugs." There are some tiny metallic green varieties also in our forests.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tiny Spiderlings : Under the care and protection of mother.
The fertilisation of the female spider does not happen through direct contact with the genitalia, but on a very unique manner in the world of the animals: the indirect sperm transfer. Shortly after the last molt, the male spider spins a small carpet (sometimes only some threads) somewhere made out of fine silk. Next he brings his genital opening above this woven carpet and releases his sperm upon it. For a male, the approach of a female is a rather risky and dangerous adventure, all the more that the female is several times bigger than the male. Therefore the male does not head straight to the female, but begins very modestly to attract her attention. From a place close to the web he spins a thread to the web; from this "lovers bridge" he starts his courtship. This courtship or love-game has a triple purpose, investigate from a safe distance if the female is prepared to undertake a copulation; excite the female sexually and make the female understand that the intruder is not prey and does not belong to another spider species.
The egg-laying occurs 2-3 weeks after the mating. The female may guard the cocoons or carry them about. The female spider produces an egg sac that can contain up to a thousand tiny spider eggs. The egg sac is made of silk, and the color varies from species to species. In some spiders the hatchlings remain with the mother for an extended period and may be carried on its body. Different species show remarkable care for their offspring. Hunting-spiders, which make no webs, show on another manner a moving care for their eggs. They carry their egg-sack always with them, glued by means of silk to their spinnerets or between their jaws. In other species, the egg sac is hidden under a rock, attached to a plant stalk, or encased in a web. In the very tiny round eggs, the first development takes place. The teeny-weeny spiderlings (baby spiders) break the egg-wall by means of a kind of egg-tooth (which releases later on) at the base of the palps; they leave the egg and, after a short while, the silk of the egg-sac. Tiny spiderlings hatch from the eggs - they look like tiny versions of an adult spider. As the first development-phase isn't quite completed, the spiderlings are rather helpless. In their abdomen they possess quite important quantities of stored food (egg yolk) which helps them to survive before they have to search for prey. The young animals that succeed in resupplying their energy-stock survive. Some spiderlings are on their own and receive no care from their mother. Other spiders climb onto their mother's back after hatching, where she feeds them. In some species, the mother dies when the young are ready to go off on their own, and the spiderlings eat her carcass.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.
The Great Orange Tip
This is Great Orange Tip butterfly easily seen in jungles around Thane city. Even you can see this butterfly in city gardens especially on colorful flowers just like this Ixora. This is one of the fastest butterflies and due to this photographing this butterfly is very difficult. Also this butterfly prefers to fly on the top of the trees so close observation of this species is very rare. The colors of this butterfly are very bright, but it never sits with open wings so the white and orange color is visible when it is only in flight. You can photograph this butterfly only when it is basking or it is on the flower for nectar. Normally this butterfly repeats its visit to particular flowers so you can sit still and then click some shots. But if there is a slight motion then it will fly fast and never return.
This particular butterfly is the largest of the other orange tips and one of the strongest and fastest fliers among the Indian butterflies. The orange tip is white on the upper side and orange fore wing apex. This characteristic confers on it an unmistakable identity and its name. The under parts of the wing is just like dry leaf and hence they can very well protected. It is common in dry deciduous forests just like our Yeoor. Due to this strikingly colors it is most striking in open land. It flies among the bushes and small trees and feeds on nectar from flowers. It flies rapidly and flutters its wing and wing-beats are continuous. In summer, the males gather on damp patches and feed in the company of butterflies such as Emigrants, Grass yellow and the Lime Butterfly. The females are less frequent than males. They are always near to the larval food plant.
The eggs are laid on very fresh shoots of the plant. The color is yellow and bottle shaped. The caterpillar is green in color and always stays under the eaves and stay camouflaged. The color of pupa is either green or brown, to aid camouflage, the color depending of the surrounding objects.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.