What animals are the masters of camouflage?

Scorpionfish

Scorpionfish, one of the most venomous fish in the world, are found across the world in warm waters. They are most common in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They are also known as rockfish and stonefish as they commonly live among rocks. They are perch-like fish with large, spiny heads and strong, sometimes venomous. fin spines. While their spines protect them from predators, it is their colouring that helps them in hiding. They are carnivorous and generally sedentary. The fin spines, even ones without venom, can inflict deep, painful wounds. While some are dull in colour, others are brighter, often some shade of red. The largest members of the family grow about 39 inches long.

Walkingstick

Suddenly seeing a twig crawling down a tree trunk? It isn't a twig but a walkingstick, also called stick insect. The stick-like trickster uses its appearance to save itself from enemies. They are commonly found in tropical and temperate (or mild) forests across the world. Though related to grasshoppers, crickets, and mantises, these crawlies are either brown, green, or black. They're also the world's longest insects. The largest one found was 22 inches long with its legs extended. They spend most of their time on trees, munching on leaves. When predators like birds approach, the bug tries to remain still to blend with the branches. However, if the predator manages to catch the bug by its legs, the insect can detach the leg and scuttle away. The leg will later regenerate, or grow back.

Camouflage

Also known as cryptic colouration, is a defence mechanism used by organisms to disguise their appearence, usually to blend/ in with their surroundings. This tactic is used to mask their location, identity and even movement. This helps the prey to protect themselves from predators.

Chameleon

Chameleons have the ability to change their colour and pattern. They are found in warm climates and in parts of the Middle East, southwestern Asia, and southern Europe, Madagascar nearly all of Africa, and parts of India and Sri Lanka. There are more than 200 species of chameleons, of which 76 are found on the island of Madagascar. Their diet consists of insects and plants, though some may eat rodents or small birds. They live in a range of habitats, including deserts, rainforests, and savannahs. The word chameleon comes from the Greek 'khamai' meaning on the ground, earth and leon' meaning 'lion'. probably because the head of some species resembles a lion's mane. The distinctive features of these lizards are their telescopic eyes, grasping tail, colour-changing skin, and projectile tongue.

Great Potoo

The Great Potoo is a nocturnal bird of the American tropics. Its name is similar to its wailing cry, "po-TOO," made by some species. Their patterns of grey, black, and brown plumage resemble tree bark. Their camouflage helps them to even sleep while perched out in the open during daylight During the day, the birds sleep, vertically perched and virtually indistinguishable from the dead branches they roost on They wake up at dusk with their huge, wide-open eyes capable of spotting moths and other flying insects in the dark. They are mainly solitary creatures and highly restricted nesters. Instead of building a nest, they choose a branch or stub with a crevice just enough to accommodate the single egg they lay.

Nightjar

Nightjar is a medium-sized bird that are mostly active at night feeding on flying insects. They have a protective colouring of grey, brown, or reddish brown. There are about 60 to 70 species of nightjars. They are found almost worldwide in temperate to tropical regions, except for New Zealand and some islands of Oceania. They do not make nests, instead deposit their eggs on the ground or on the leaf-covered floor of the woodland. Some of the species, mainly the North American nighthawks, have adapted to urban life and nest on flat gravel-covered rooftops. The nightjar’s soft plumage and variegated colouring help it blend in with its surroundings. Despite their skill at camouflage, some nightjar species are endangered.

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Is our world undergoing the sixth mass extinction?

There's proof we are increasingly losing species, and this is not good for us humans

What is mass extinction?

To be classified as a mass extinction, at least 75 % of all the species on Earth must go extinct within a short geological period of less than 2.8 million years. That timeframe seems long to us because modern humans have only existed for about 2,00,000 years so far.

Mass extinction is not new

Extinctions and speciations (species evolving over time) do not happen at uniform rates through time; instead, they tend to occur in large pulses interspersed by long periods of relative stability. These extinction pulses are what scientists refer to as mass extinction events. The Cambrian explosion was a burst of speciation some 540 million years ago. Since then, at least five mass extinction events have been identified in the fossil record (and probably scores of smaller ones). Arguably the most infamous of these was when a giant asteroid smashed into Earth about 66 million years ago in what is now the Gulf of Mexico. The collision vapourised species immediately within the blast zone. Species were killed off later by resultant climate change and volcanic activity too.

Are humans responsible for the current crisis?

Humans have been implicated in smaller extinction events going back to the late Pleistocene (around 50,000 years ago) to the early Holocene (around 12.000 years ago) when most of the megafauna, such as woolly mammoths, giant sloths. diprotodons, and cave bears, disappeared from nearly every continent over a few thousand years. Much later, the expansion of European colonists throughout the world from about the 14th Century precipitated an extinction cascade first on islands, and then to areas of continental mainland as the drive to exploit natural resources accelerated. Over the last 500 hundred years, there have been more than 700 documented extinctions of vertebrates and 600 plant species. These extinctions come nowhere near the 75 % threshold to include the modern era among the previous mass-extinction events. But those are just the extinctions humans have recorded. In fact. many species go extinct before they are even discovered- perhaps as many as 25 % of total extinctions are never noticed by humans. But it's not the total number of extinctions we should focus on; rather, it's the extinction rate. Even the most conservative estimates place the modern era well within the expected range to qualify as a mass extinction. If the current rate of extinction continues we could lose most species by 2200.

When species disappear

One may think that so long as the species that provide resources for modern societies survive, there's no reason to consider extinction a problem. The evidence suggests otherwise. Species loss also erodes the services biodiversity provides us. These include reduced carbon removal from atmosphere (which climate change), reduced pollination and increased soil degradation that compromise our food production, poorer water and air quality, more frequent and intense flooding and fires, and poorer human health. Even human diseases such as HIV/ AIDS, Ebola, and COVID-19 are the result of our collective indifference to the integrity of natural ecosystems.

There's still hope

We could potentially limit the damage if societies around the globe embraced certain fundamental, yet achievable, changes. We could abolish the goal of continuous economic growth, and force companies to restore the environment. We could limit undue corporate influence on political decision-making. Educating and empowering women would also help stem environmental destruction.

Did you know?

  • In the timeline of fossil evidence going right back to the first inkling of any life on Earth- over 3.5 billion years ago - almost 99 % of all species that have ever existed are now extinct. That means that as species evolve over time, they replace other species that go extinct.
  • When the giant asteroid hit our planet, about 76 % of all species around at the time went extinct, of which the disappearance of the dinosaurs is most well-known. But dinosaurs didn't disappear altogether-the survivors just evolved into birds.

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What is wind tree system?

Get to know about wind trees and how they help harness energy.

French innovator Jérôme Michaud-Larivière designed the Wind Tree as a sustainable energy-harnessing device that would also enhance urban landscapes. A wind tree is a tree-shaped structure that harnesses wind energy using small trembling wind turbines called 'aeroleaves’ that look exactly like leaves on a tree.  The micro-turbines work well even when there is little wind. Just a gentle breeze as light as 7 kmph is sufficient. This is something a conventional windmill cannot do.

French innovator Jérôme Michaud-Larivière designed the Wind Tree as an elegant, sustainable energy-harnessing device that would enhance urban landscapes. The first Wind Tree was a 3-m-tall structure with 72 aeroleaves. It produced 3.1kW of power. ‘Wind Bush’ is a combination of aeroleaves and photovoltaic petals that harnesses both wind and solar energy.

 For the Indian market, Larivière has created ‘Lotus’, an affordable wind tree minus the solar petals.

Picture credit : Google 

Where is world's Largest Solar Tree?

The largest solar tree in the world has been installed at the CSIR-CMERI Centre of Excellence for Farm Machinery in Ludhiana, Punjab.

A solar power tree is a device that is shaped like a tree with its steel branches holding the solar photovoltaic panels.

Just like a natural tree, the steel branches of the solar tree are arranged in such a fashion that every solar panel is properly exposed to the Sun. Moreover, the panels can be mechanically tilted east or west to derive maximum benefit of the Sun's position. The height of the tree is about 9-10 metres. One tree can produce about 5kW of power.

One of the main hurdles in installing solar power plants is the lack of availability of large spaces. Often, farmers are reluctant to sacrifice their cultivable land for solar power production. But a solar tree with its vertically arranged branches, occupies only four sqft of area, leaving almost the entire land free for cultivation. The energy generated can be used to run pumps, e-tractors and tillers as a green alternative to diesel.

India's first solar power tree was produced by Central Mechanical Engineering and Research Institute (CMERI), at Durgapur. The largest solar tree in the world has been installed at the CSIR-CMERI Centre of Excellence for Farm Machinery in Ludhiana. Its total solar PV panel surface area is 309.83 m2. CMERI hopes to install many such solar trees along highways and farmlands.

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What is the device of Ulta Chaata used for?

Ulta Chaata, a concave structure, collects rainwater in the monsoon and converts it into potable water. Find out how it's done.

Ulta Chaata, as the name suggests, resembles an inverted umbrella. It is a large concave structure that collects rainwater in the monsoon and converts it into potable water, while the solar panels fitted alongside the canopy, produce energy in the dry season.

The rainwater collected in the bowl of the Chaata, trickles down the stalk to reach a filtering unit of activated carbon where it is cleared of impurities. A duster of ten or more Ulta Chaatas is connected to a common device where the water undergoes further filtration to remove microorganisms, making it fit for drinking. A single unit can harvest as much as 100,000 litres of water every year.

The solar energy harnessed in the dry season is stored in the battery and is used not just to light up the Chaata, but also the premises. Unlike a typical rainwater harvesting unit, Ulta Chaata's attractive design lends itself well to the aesthetics of the surroundings, especially when lit up.

The device takes up to one sq. ft of area. Ulta Chaatas can be installed as sustainable workstations in open spaces. They can provide a green roof for reception areas, cafeterias, gazebos, car parks, bus stops and even railway stations.

Besides a number of corporates, Guntakal railway station in Andhra  Pradesh has installed six such structures on its premises.

Ulta Chaata is the brainchild of a Mumbai-based environmentally conscious couple Priya Vakil and Samit Choksy whose start-up ThinkPhi designs sustainable products.

Ulta Chaatas can be installed as sustainable workstations in open spaces. They can provide a green roof for reception areas, cafeterias, car parks, bus stops and even railway stations.

QUICK FACTS

  • A single unit of Ulta Chaata can harvest as much as 100,000. litres of water every year.
  •  Ulta Chaata's attractive design lends itself to the aesthetics of the surroundings.
  • The solar panels fitted alongside the canopy produce energy in the dry season.

Picture Credit : Google