WHY DO ANIMALS MIGRATE?

Every year at a particular time, a wide variety of animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and even insects undertake migration - they move in large numbers from one place to another in search of food and water or suitable breeding ground.

Some habitats may have unfavourable climate such as extreme heat, or cold or wet conditions, which the animals may want to escape from. On the other hand, some habitats may offer easy access to food and water or better shelter, beckoning animals to move there so that they could flourish. But migration is temporary; it always includes a return journey.

Why is animal migration important?

Migration of animals plays a very important role in the Earth's ecosystem. Migratory animals help in pollination and seed dispersal. They provide food for other animals and also control the population of species in various ecosystems. For example, migratory birds reproduce and their young ones eat insects that may destroy crops. Locust attack is a major disaster that arises from the absence of birds.

Climate change

Several animal species have changed their migration routes in response to the changing climate. The rising temperatures on land and sea are forcing more and more animals to migrate to cooler climates. The moose, found in the northern U.S. and Canada, is a cold-weather animal. But milder winters have led to an increase in the population of winter ticks. These blood-sucking parasites are killing dozens of moose every year, forcing them to move farther north.

Habitat destruction

Habitat destruction is mostly a result of human activities. These include farming, cutting down trees for construction activities. filling wetlands, building dams, digging for oil and gas exploration, amongst others.

Habitat destruction makes it difficult for migrating animals to find places to rest and get food on their migratory paths. Several fish species migrate from open waters to headwaters to breed or spawn. But dams, which are constructed for water retention or hydroelectric power generation, can completely disrupt migratory pathways for fish.

In China, thousands of Siberian cranes spend the winter at the Poyang Lake. However, drought and water management in the region have destroyed the cranes habitat, forcing them to travel to suboptimal areas. Now, a proposed dam at the outlet of the lake is a new threat that will reduce the quality of the restricted area these birds rely on.

Human behaviour

Migratory animals also face a unique threat of obstruction along their migratory routes. Roads, fences, dams, wind farms, and buildings extending into forests can create huge obstacles. Here are a few examples.

Every year, thousands of wildebeest and zebras in the savannah grasslands of Africa undertake an arduous migration over the vast expanse of land in search of food and water. In the last decade, however, several small enclosed plots have disrupted free movement of animals on their migratory path.

Tens of millions of red crabs cover roads on Christmas Island and Cuba as they undertake their annual migration, travelling from the forest to the coast to spawn. Millions die each season on the road as they get crushed by passing vehicles.

Poorly located windmills too can result in the death of migratory birds. The Wolfe Island Wind Farm, located in North America, is one of the deadliest barriers to migratory birds.

Picture Credit : Google 

WHICH IS THE MOST VENOMOUS SNAKE IN THE WORLD?

The inland taipan is the world’s most venomous snake, but this Australian taipan is so shy that hardly anything was known about it by Western science for nearly a hundred years after it was first described in 1879.

The inland taipan’s alternative name, ‘fierce snake’, points to the potency of its venom rather than its behaviour. The other Australian taipan that it shares a common ancestor with, namely the coastal taipan, is far more aggressive.

The inland taipan lives in the remote black soil plains of the outback where the borders of South Australia and Queensland meet.

The inland taipan is most active in the early hours of the day, when it surfaces to hunt for prey and to bask in the morning sun. After a few hours it retreats back into its shelter for the remainder of the day, although in cool weather it may show up above ground in the afternoon too.

The inland taipan has adapted to the extremes of the outback climate by dramatic seasonal changes in its coloration. The color of its back varies from a dark brown to almost black in winter. During the summer months it changes to a pale straw color.

These color changes allow the inland taipan to control its temperature, with the darker markings efficient at absorbing heat and the lighter ones good at reflecting it. The head of the inland taipan is much darker compared to the rest of the body, which makes it possible for the snake to warm up quickly by exposing only its head to the sun.

The inland taipan is one of the few Australian snakes to specialize in eating mammals. It will mainly prey on small to medium-sized rodents, especially the native long-haired rat (Rattus villosisimus), though it will also eat the plains rat (Pseudomys australis) and the introduced house mouse (Mus musculus). The venom of the inland taipan is considered to be the most lethal of any snake, surpassing even the venom of sea snakes. It has evolved over time to be especially effective in killing mammals, which also makes it extremely toxic to humans.

The venom from a single bite is said to be enough to kill at least 100 men. On top of its extreme neurotoxicity, the venom also contains an enzyme called a ‘spreading factor’ that speeds up the absorption. An untreated bite has the potential to kill a person in 30 to 45 minutes, which makes immediate medical attention critical. If provoked, the inland taipan curves its forebody into a raised S-shape in an attempt to fend off the offender. This threat display also prepares the snake for striking.

Credit : Active wild 

Picture Credit : Google 

WHY DO FIREFLIES GLOW AND BLINK?

Apparently, there are over 2,000 species of fireflies, also known as lightning bugs. They emit tiny flashes of light in the dark, which is what gives them their names. However, the latter part of their names is misleading - they are neither flies nor bugs. So, what are they, and why do they emit light?

Fireflies are basically beetles, and most of them have wings. Inhabiting humid areas in Asia and the Americas, the (adult) insects invariably feed on nectar and plant pollen. The larvae of these beetles feed on worms, snails, and insects. These omnivores have a lifespan of about two months, and grow up to be about an inch.

Fireflies have organs under their abdomens that absorb Oxygen. This oxygen mixes with a compound called luciferin, present in the organism. This results in the light that appears at the ends of their abdomen.

So, what is the purpose of this light? The light they emit is used as a means to communicate with other fireflies, and also to find a mate. It is interesting to note that the light-emitting patterns among different firefly species are unique. Despite attracting attention to themselves with their light, fireflies are largely safe from birds or other creatures. This is because fireflies "release drops of toxic, foul-tasting blood". Also, their "flashing is a warning light to predators to stay away". It is said that these "dazzling beetles are disappearing from long-established habitats".

Though they are not in grave danger right now, factors such as habitat loss, pesticides, night-time lights, water and air pollution, etc. may affect them in the long run.

Did you know?

Though both fireflies and glow worms are bioluminescent (emitting light), they are different. Just like fireflies aren't flies at all, glow worms aren't worms either. Glow worms are actually the larvae of a mosquito-like fly.

Picture Credit : Google 

WHICH IS THE ASIA'S LARGEST SAL FOREST?

Saranda Forest is Asia's largest Sal forest. Referred to as "the land of seven hundred hills", the 82,000-hectare forest is located in West Singhbhum district in Jharkhand. It is famous for its majestic Sal trees, the principal dominating tree species, and is home to wild elephants and the endangered flying lizard. The forest stands atop one of the world's largest single deposits of iron ore - over 2,000 million tonnes. Unchecked mining has destroyed  extensive swathes of Saranda, an estimated 14,410 have been lost to mining.

The magical sunrise and sunset of Kiriburu in the hills of Saranda is a spectacular sight. Saranda is often referred to as the land of seven hundred hills and is blessed with numerous waterfalls. This place is a delight for nature lovers and trekkers. Tourists can visit the twin cities of Kiriburu and Meghahatuburu, which are famous for their iron ore mines, governed by the Steel Authority of India Limited.

Some of the wild animals found here are Wild Elephants, Sambar, Chital, Beers, Bison, Tigers, and Leopards. Although the forest is stuffed with a huge number of Sal (Shorea robusta) trees, some of the other trees which are also found in large numbers are Mangoes, Jamun, Jackfruit, Guava, Mahua, Kusum, Tilai, Harin Hara (Armossa Rohitulea), Gular (Ficus Glomerata), and Asan. River Karo and Koina flow through the forest, contributing to a variety of flora and fauna. Due to the presence of a high amount of iron ore, the soil in the entire forest is red in color.

It is advisable to hire a guide while exploring the forest because there may be chances of getting lost as the forest is too dense and also there are a lot of wild animals. To explore some of the core parts of the forest, permission from the DFO (Divisional Forest Officer) is needed.

Credit :  Tripinfi

Picture Credit : Google 

What are the characteristic features of hippopoptamuses?


       In a zoo, visitors spend more time watching a hippo! This may be because of the physical features that make it distinctly different from other animals.



       A hippo has a bulky body. After elephants, hippos are regarded as the biggest land animal on Earth! A male hippo typically weighs about 2000 kg! It is 3.5 metres long and 1.5 metres tall too.



      Hippos love spending time in water. One reason for their love for water is to keep themselves cool in the scorching heat of African summers. Rivers and lakes infested with hippos are dangerous places to visit in Africa, as these animals are unpredictable. Their eyes, nose, and ears are located on the top of their head. These features help them stay submerged in water and still breathe and see.



      There is a popular misconception that they sweat blood when out of water.



      However, the truth is that the animals sweat an oily red the animals sweat an oily red liquid, which acts as a sun block, and helps them protect their skin from drying out in the hot sun.



Picture Credit : Google