When Charles Darwin put forth his theory of natural selection, he argued that all species of life evolved by adapting to their environments to survive. Most of such adaptations are evident in those life forms living in their natural habitat. But what about those that are locked up in laboratories and used as ‘model organisms’ in experiments to understand biological systems? How are their natural habitats and what kind of adaptations have they developed to survive in these habitats? A series of studies by scientists have now thrown some light on these questions in the life of zebrafish, a commonly used fish in laboratories.
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Relationships between various organisms stem to achieve an ultimate objective - survival. In mutualistic relationships, all involved in the relationship help each other survive, whereas in parasitic relationships, only one of those have an upper hand. But in spite of this chaos, how does nature maintain a balance? In a new study, scientists have studied examples of such relationships between termites and fungi - both mutualistic and parasitic - and have uncovered some interesting strategies adopted by these fungi to survive and thrive.
Nature has bestowed each organism the ability to adapt and evolve with time and each such adaptations strengthens the ability of the organism to flourish. The story of carpenter bees, a close relative of honey bees and bumblebees, is no different. In a research study, scientist have observed how different adaptations of males of three different species of carpenter bees influence their ability to find a mate.
The 3rd of March every year was declared World Wildlife Day by the United Nations General Assembly to mark the signing of the landmark Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973. Aimed at celebrating and raising awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants, the day is a chance for us to think about the major threats to wildlife including habitat change, over-exploitation and illicit trafficking.
“Where are house sparrows these days? They have just become extinct!”, is a common rhetoric we hear these days in the cities. Yet, it is impossible to scientifically assert that they are dwindling in numbers, since there has not been any systematic observation or data gathered about them.
The case of the ‘vanishing’ sparrows in cities like Bengaluru throws light on an important issue associated with biodiversity – the lack of data. Old-timers across the city are able to recall a time when sparrows were ubiquitous and also observe them diminish by the day. To add to this, there has been significant drop in the tree cover and the number of insects and birds in our neighbourhood. But, to objectively answer any questions like the change in the numbers of any species, the total number of species present and the effects of a vanishing species on an ecosystem, rigorous observations, documentation and research is a necessity. In the lack of these, it is simply impossible to infer or conclude that there has been a change, let alone the decline or disappearance of certain species. This drives us to reconsider the strategies of understanding biodiversity.