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.
Egg laying in fast flowing water.
Dragonflies and damselflies collectively called odonates, are one of the most common insects flying over forest, fields, meadows, ponds and rivers. About 6,000 species are distributed all over the world. India is highly diverse with more than 500 known species. The life history of odonates is closely linked with water bodies. They use a wide range of flowing and stagnant water bodies. Even though most species of odonates are highly specific to a habitat, some have adapted to urban areas and make use of man-made water bodies.
Dragonflies lay their eggs in one of two ways. Either they lay them directly in water or they insert them into the stems or leaves of plants that grow in or near water. The method of laying eggs directly in water is called exophytic deposition while the method of laying eggs on plants is called endophytic deposition.
Females of the darner family species have serrated ovipositors that they use to cut small holes in plant tissues where they then insert their eggs. This method of egg laying is useful because it allows the dragonfly to carefully chose the appropriate location for its eggs and once they are lodged into the vegetation there is very little chance of them getting moved to an unfavorable location. Dragonflies that deposit their eggs freely in water do not have the specialized ovipositor that darners have. Generally they simply dip the tip of their abdomen into water, while still in flight, and release their eggs. These eggs then sink to the bottom of the lake, stream, pond or puddle they were dropped in and then continue to develop. Some species lay their eggs in a gelatinous mass that sticks to rocks or vegetation, while others have long filamentous strands attached to their eggs that are used to wrap around aquatic plants and anchor the eggs. Since this type of egg laying is much less precise than the other method, these species must lay a much larger number of eggs to ensure that at least some of their offspring survive to maturity. Generally dragonfly eggs hatch about 4 weeks after they have been laid. This damselfly was egg laying in the fast flowing current of river. Her male mate was observing her and ensured that she deposited all the eggs in the water and their life cycle will continue.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.
Edible nest Swiftlet.
This is Indian Swiftlet, or Indian Edible-nest Swiftlet. It is a small swift with mainly dark black / brown above and paler brown below. It has swept-back wings that resemble a boomerang. The body is slender, and the tail is short and only slightly indented. Indian Swiftlet has very short legs which it uses only for clinging to vertical surfaces, since swifts never settle voluntarily on the ground. Their wing’s muscles are very well developed so that they can fly very fast for long periods. They glide for some of the time but their maneuvers for catching their insect prey depend principally upon flapping flight. Their tails are reduced so the wings must be used for steering. The extreme efficiency of their flight allows then to spend the night on the wing, so many species may never land except for breeding. Even copulation and gathering of material for the nest can be accomplished on the wing.
The strangest nests of all are those built by the species of this Swiftlet in the genus Collocalia. They nest in caves and build their nests of saliva. To do this they have enlarged salivary glands during the breeding season. To make them even more amazing, these Swiflets often nest in pitch dark caves. They are able to do this by using echolocation, similar to bats. This species use saliva in their nests to glue grass blades together. Three species however, produce nests made almost entirely out of saliva. These are the nests used by star category hotels to prepare bird nest soup, one of the most expensive and tasteless dishes in the world.
Trade of Swiftlet nests began in China during the T'ang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907). China is the prime consumer of a soup made from these nests (bird's nest soup), which is considered the "caviar of the East". China is importing enormous amounts of ingredients for the soup from countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia and even from India. Swiftlet nests are carefully removed from the cave walls. It results in a huge and unnecessary death of eggs and young birds. This is now threatening the swift populations and now added the bird and its nest to its lists of endangered species.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.

Mayfly - Shortest Life Span
Mayflies can be easily recognised by the tails t heir rear. They spend their egg and nymph stages underwater, where fish often eat them. That is why fly-fishermen often base the artificial flies they make of mayflies. These insects also frequently fly into houses, especially at night, when they are attracted by lights. From their name, that these insects are only to be found during one month. However, they are out and about in many parts of the world throughout the summer – but only for a day or so. The order to which mayflies belong us know as “Ephemeroptera”, meaning “winged creature living for a day”. The nymph stage, however, may last up to two years.
Sometimes a mayfly may emerge in the evening and not even last until the following morning. A few, however, live for as long as a week but can not feed because their mouthparts are closed and their stomachs full of air. Longer-living mayflies may sometimes keep their eggs inside their bodies until they are ready to hatch. But normally by the time that mayfly eggs hatch which normally takes between two to five weeks – both parents are long dead and each emerging larva is an orphan. The mayfly nymph lives underwater and has biting mouthparts for feeding on small aquatic creatures or plants.
A male mayfly is about to take to the air for the first time and has just begun his adult life. After only a few hours of flying, like others of his species, he will start to feel tired, and food reserves will be running low. Soon he joins a swarm holding vast numbers of his kind, and all begin the search for mate. There is great competition for females who enter the swarm from above, sometimes flying as high as fifty feet. After dancing up and down for a while, his enlarged eyes which are far bigger in the males than in female mayflies, find a partner and they get together in the air. Before long, he is too exhausted to fly any further and slowly settles on the ground. By morning he is dead of old age, the female will have returned to the water. In the water her body will literally explode as she releases her minute eggs.
Toady mayflies are known to be highly sensitive to pollutants. They are therefore frequently used as bio-indictors by water authorities who study the water purity of water courses.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Baby Bugs : Just emerged from the eggs.
Animals have two ways to make sure that they leave offspring in the world, so that their genes survive. One is to have few children and care for each one intensely. The other is to have huge numbers of offspring, so that even though many die enough survives. That is what insects do. Most of those eggs, or the larvae they give birth to, will die in one way or another, so there have to be many of them.
In most insects, life begins as an independent egg. This type is reproduction is known as ovipary. Each egg is manufactured within the female's genital system and is eventually released from her body through an ovipositor, a tube-like, saw-like, or blade-like component of her external genitalia. The egg-laying process is known as oviposition. Each insect species produces eggs that are genetically unique and often physically distinctive as well - spherical, oval, conical, sausage-shaped, barrel-shaped, or torpedo-shaped. Yet regardless of size or shape, each egg is composed of only a single living cell.
In most insects the egg is covered by a protective "shell" of protein secreted before oviposition by accessory glands in the female's reproductive system. This eggshell, called the chorion, is often sculptured with microscopic grooves or ridges that may be visible only under the high magnification of an electron microscope. The chorion is perforated by microscopic pores that allow respiratory exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide with relatively little loss of water. The micropyle, a special opening near the anterior end of the chorion, serves as a gateway for entry of sperm during fertilization.
A female receives sperm from her male partner during the act of mating. She can store that sperm for long periods of time in a special part of her reproductive system, the spermatheca. As a developing egg moves past the opening to the spermatheca, a few sperm are released onto its surface. The sperm swim toward the micropyle - the first one to reach its destination enters and injects its nucleus into the egg. The sperm nucleus quickly fuses with the egg nucleus to form a one-celled embryo. This event is known as fertilization. After the egg is fertilized, it undergoes a period of rapid growth and development known as embryogenesis, literally the "embryo's beginning".
Many insects pass the winter in the egg stage. Insect eggs are ideally suited for withstanding the hardships of winter. The eggs have shells that are thick and watertight. In many cases the eggs are covered with hairs, silk, or frothy materials produced by the female before she died. These provide an extra degree of protection by insulating the eggs. Most butterfly or moth caterpillars eat their eggshell just after the hatching as they get maximum proteins out of eggshell. But these "Baby Bugs" just crawling here without eating the eggshell.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.

Centipede’s Baby care.
Parental care is an essential part of human life, because we take an exceptionally long time to grow up. Other mammals also care for their young, protecting them, feeding them on milk. But in the rest of animal world, especially in small insect world, family styles vary from one species to another.
Most insects are orphans at birth. Their parents have died soon after the mating and after the depositing of eggs. Even if the majority of insects never live long enough to see their offspring, but they still, never neglect them. Female does everything possible for the safety of her young that she is never able to see. Females deposits eggs in such perfect places as give maximum protection from predators, adverse climatic conditions and enable the freshly hatched larvae to find food without any difficulty. In butterflies eggs are always laid on or very near to the larval food plant as they feed only on that particular species of the tree.
Many insects excavate tubular tunnels in the ground, lay their eggs at the bottom and then carefully refill the tunnel with mud. Some prepare egg cases or egg cocoons etc. in which the eggs are laid. Some insects go a further in their efforts to protect their eggs, they actually construct brood nests, in which the eggs incubate and the young larvae also find shelter. The brood nests protect both eggs and the young larvae. The female places sometimes even a small store of the larval food. The brood nest is constructed in all sorts of places like in the ground, in walls, in rocks and in the tree trunks.
The common leaf-cutting bee cut perfectly round large pieces of leaves often very large in size than her body. With these leaf pieces she joined some of them and prepares a cell. The potter wasp makes a oval pot, then she prepares some other pots just side by side to the first pot. As mentioned earlier, some insects also store food for their young larvae. This food includes fungi, pollen grains, honey, and many other freshly killed or paralyzed insects such as spiders, caterpillars, grasshoppers, bugs etc.
In this photo we can see the mother centipede curled against here babies giving them warmth as well as protection. She placed them secure under the rock crevices and fed them other tiny insects. This tiny white creepy, crawly ball was indeed interesting for shooting.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.
Long Long Eyes : For vision and fighting.
Just imagine our range of vision if we had our eyes at the end of long stalks like this stalk eyed fly. These flies use thes telescopie eyes to see, to fight and even to attract maximum females towards them. This Stalk-eyed fly is insect of the dipteran family. The family is distinguished by the possession of eyestalks: projections from the sides of the head with the eyes at the end. These species have bizarre head projections such as antlers, eyes that project out of the head, or eyes that are on stalks. The exaggeration of eye-stalks can be extreme, with males having an eyespan greater than their body length. Stalk-eyed flies are up to a centimeter long and have a largely terrestrial habit. There are several hundred species in the family, with the greatest diversity found all over the world and especially in Asian and African countries. Adult Diopsids are typically found on low-lying vegetation in humid areas, often near streams and rivers, where they feed on fungi and bacteria on decaying vegetation. The larvae develop in rotting vegetation.
Many stalk-eyed flies exhibit sexual dimorphism for eyespan, with males having much greater eyespan than females, and this has evolved many times within the family. Members of dimorphic species tend to disperse in moist undergrowth and low vegetation during the day and roost together at night in nocturnal clusters on rootlets or leaves. In some species males compete with each other to control these nocturnal aggregation sites, by literally "eyeing each other up": rearing up, spreading their front legs alongside their eye stalks and trying to knock each other over. The powerful male with the longer eyestalks forces the other to back off. Always when there is a female fly present during battle, the winner will mate with her. After mating the male fly guards her, keeping other males away to ensure that her offspring will be his. They release a special breeding scent from glands, visible on the fly as a lump on the underside of his abdomen. Females prefer to roost and to mate more frequently with large eyespan males. In contrast to many other invertebrate species, the basis of female choice is clear and willing to experimental investigation. The winner takes control of rootlets where females aggregate. Most mating occurs at dawn the following morning, before individuals disperse for the day.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.
Flame of the Forest.
This flower is of “Flame of the Forest” (Butea monosperma - frondosa) or “Palas” in Marathi. Normally this tree blooms early in summer months like March / April. But this year it bloomed very early in winter, in the month of December / January only. This Flame of the Forest tree is common in dry deciduous forests and easily found in Thane Mumbai region. Even a railway station near Karjat bears he name “Palasdari”, a tribute to this spectacular tree which is still grows there in abundance.
This tree is small to medium deciduous tree with a crooked trunk and branches. The leaves are trifoliate, all the leaflets are leathery and stiff, and the young leaflets are finely silky. The leaves fall off in winter, the flowers appears on the tree at the beginning of the hot season, that is, from February to March, when the tree is completely leafless. Flowers are bright, flaming scarlet-orange, velvety with black calyces, each some what shaped like the beak of a parrot, and borne in closely packed bunches. The flowers form a gorgeous canopy on the upper portion of the tree, which looks like a flame in the beginning of the hot weather. And right now all the “Palas” trees are in full bloom in Yeoor and nearby jungles. When the tree is in bloom, variety of birds and insects visit the tree for it’s flower nectar. Sunbirds, white eye, flowerpeckers, bulbuls, orioles, mynas, parakeets, drongos are some of them.
The fruit is a flat pod or legume, one seeded, pendulous and strongly nerved. When young, the pods are velvety with dense hair. When they grow they become more or less hairy. These young green pods look very elegant. The leaves are used to prepare plates and bowls; it is also used by “Panwalas” and by the garland makers to wrap the “pan” and garlands. The root fibers are used for ropes and whitewash brushes. The red gum of tree is used in the tanning industries. This ruby red gum, commercially known as “Bengal Kino” also used as a powerful astringent and is medicinally used in the treatment of many forms of chronic diarrhea. The seeds have long been used in India against roundworms and tapeworms.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.