What is the mimicry of nature?

Nature has many sustainable solutions to numerous pressing problems that man is struggling to cope with today. Scientists and engineers study these unique models and systems of nature while designing new technologies. This biologically-inspired engineering, called biomimicry, biomimetics or bionics, is fast gaining popularity in many parts of the world.

American biologist Janine M. Benyus, who wrote the book. Biomimicry Innovation Inspired by Nature was the first to propose that learning from nature would be the perfect tool for eco-design

The leaf of the lotus plant has a way surface that is covered with tiny bumps or ridges. These ridges cause water droplets to roll off carrying away dust and dirt. This unique ability of the plant to clean itself called the Lotus Effect, was the inspiration behind self-cleaning paint coatings

Besides paints, roof tiles and optical sensors in public places like toll bridges also use innovations based on the Lotus Effect Research is also underway to create self-cleaning textiles. plastic and metals.


Inspired by insects

The Eastgate Centre, an office complex in Harare. Zimbabwe, has been designed to mimic the mounds of the African tower building termites (Macrotermes Michaelseni) which use a unique system to keep their homes cool. The insects have developed a method which involves opening and closing air vents in the mound in such a way that cool air is drawn inside while hot air escapes through the chimney. The Eastgate Centre uses 10 per cent less energy than conventional structures of the same size. by adopting the design and ventilation system of the termites.

Sportswear manufacturer Speedo's swimsuit. the Fastskin LZR Racer, has been fashioned from fabric that mimics the shape and rough texture of sharkskin. This 'sharkskin' swimsuit reduces drag, enabling competitive swimmers to shave a few crucial seconds off their race timings. This technology is also being used to develop coatings for ship hulls, submarines and aircraft fuselage.

The tropical boxfish, a reef-dwelling amphibian, inspired Daimler Chryslers concept car. The Bionic Car, as the automobile is called, mimics the fish's aerodynamic shape and the structure of its rigid protective skin. This innovation consumes 20 per cent less fuel and emits 80 per cent less nitrogen oxide than conventional automobiles. Researchers at the University of California have created two prototype glues after studying the way geckos move across ceilings and cling to polished glass. The soles of Tokay geckos have sticky ridges which contain half a million microscopic hairs. These tiny hairs which exert an attractive force on the wall or floor are responsible for the lizard's superb grip. The stickiness of gecko adhesive never wears off. The scientists cast two sets of imitation gecko toe hairs and then tipped the hairs with silicon rubber or polyester. In the lab, both materials adhered as well to most surfaces as gecko's feet.


Scientists at the Leeds University in England have built an experimental contraption that can shoot a spray of chemicals up to a distance of four metres. The device mimics the behaviour of the bombardier beetle, which squirts a hot explosive stream of venom to ward off predators. The chemical concoction is mixed in a sort of 'combustion chamber in the insect's abdomen, with inlet and exit valves determining the precise blend.

Researchers are utilising this technology to build pharmaceutical inhalers and long-range fire extinguishers.

Bullet train

The world's fastest train, the Japanese shinkansen bullet train includes a number of biomimetic innovations. The trains, which zip between cities at a speed of close to 321 km per hour, have serrations similar to those that allow owls to fly stealthily through the night. This feature is incorporated in the overhead wire collectors to reduce noise. The train's nose, which mimics the aerodynamic beak of the kingfisher, enables the train to exit tunnels without emitting sonic booms.

Velcro plants

It was only recently that man discovered the touch and close tape. Velcro. This discovery was inspired by nature, since seeds, fruits and even whole plants stowaway on the coats of animals by gripping on in the same manner as Velcro: and have been doing so since time immemorial.

It was in the 1950s that George de Mestral of Switzerland observed the burdock fruit which led him to develop Velcro. This fruit has barbed hooks that enable it to fasten itself to an animal's fur. And when the burr is brushed off the coat of the animal the casing splits open. The seeds of the burdock are thus spread over a wide area and do not have to germinate in one place

Stowaways like the burdock can be counted in the hundreds in the plant world

Froggy tape

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IT) Kanpur, who were working on creating a reusable sticky tape, received inspiration from an unusual source- the humble tree frog.

It was observed that the sticky toe pads of tree frogs have a patter of tiny channels that increase their adhesion to a surface and prevent the spread of cracks when the frog moves away.

Based on this study, scientists designed a novel sticky tape by placing elastic layers embedded with air or fluid-filled micro channels beneath the authesive layer. This new reusable tape is 30 times stickier than other adhesive tapes.

Picture Credit: Google

What's driftwood?

They are pieces of dead wood floating down a stream or river, having broken off from a tree that was growing near the water body. These woody remnants embark on a journey across the waters, creating a new future for them.

Ever seen pieces of dead wood drifting down streams or rivers? These pieces of wood are on a journey, sailing across the waters, carried by the currents as they move to embark on a new life. Driftwood refers to pieces of wood that were either the trunk or the branches of a tree that grew next to a river and which eventually broke off and fell into the water, thereby embarking on an odyssey across the river.

The driftwood that starts off on the journey from the forest can have a multitude of "afterlives". It can either end up on the ocean bed, get washed up on the beach, or even get refashioned into an artefact!

Once a dead log of wood becomes driftwood, it starts off on an adventure, an adventure dictated by the elements, exploring uncharted waters and eventually reaching its final destination. If you have been to the beach you must have come across driftwood.

Sometimes they may just be twigs, lying like debris on the beach or they can appear like an exquisite piece of wooden art sculpted by an artist. The driftwood always enriches the ecosystem it eventually visits. It might even have inspired us to create our first wooden rafts and boats. Dead trees have even been used as small watercraft or carriers. Sometimes the driftwood is in itself a tiny ecosystem. It feeds and even gives shelter to tiny beings such as insects, birds, etc.

On some occasions, these driftwood pieces that get carried by the waters become tangled in large groups called logjams and can sometimes clog a river. We even have logjams that are hundreds of years old. But in most cases, the driftwood keeps flowing downstream, eventually ending up in a new environment like a lakeshore or beach.

They also become a buffer against erosion in erosion-prone ecosystems such as open beaches. They even carry seeds front the forest to the coast which may germinate. Large pieces of wood are used as shelter by beach-dwelling animals. For instance, some shorebirds nest beside driftwood.

Driftwood also has an aesthetic and artistic value. The many forces of nature that have acted on the driftwood lead to the formation of intricate and ornate swirls and whorls and patterns. Driftwood is sought out by artists who turn it into artefacts.

Picture Credit: Google


What is the streak of light that shoots across the night sky called?

During Earth's journey around the Sun, there are times when its orbit crosses the orbit of a comet. It is when the planet moves through the comet debris trail that we witness meteor showers. The showers are named after the star or constellation which is close to where the meteors appear to radiate in the sky.

All of us may have seen streaks of light zip through the sky. We call them shooting stars and we also wish upon them. Well, what are these shooting stars? What are these streams of light?

Consider the objects in space. These are lumps of rock or objects in space with sizes ranging from grains to small asteroids. A small piece of a comet or asteroid is called a meteoroid.


These meteoroids can be considered as space rocks. They orbit the sun and when they enter Earth's atmosphere at a high speed, they burn because of frictional heating, causing the light. These rays of light are referred to as meteors.

When many meteors appear at once, we call it a meteor shower. During a meteor shower, a number of meteors can be seen radiating or originating from a point in the night sky.

But where do these meteoroids come from? How does Earth come across these? During Earth's journey around the Sun, there are times when its orbit crosses the orbit of a comet. It is when the planet moves through the comet debris trail that we witness meteor showers.

The meteor showers are named after the star or constellation which is close to where the meteors appear to radiate in the sky.

The Perseids meteor shower is the most famous meteor shower and they peak around August 12 every year.

Other notable meteor showers include the Leonids, Aquarids and Orionids and Taurids.

Now what happens when meteoroid survives the journey through the Earth's atmosphere and hits the ground? In that case, it becomes a meteorite.

Did you know that more than 50,000 meteorites have been found on Earth?

Picture Credit : Google 

Science and tech to nature's rescue

Of course, human technology can never completely replace nature. But, along with science, technology can help our world in several ways.

It is easy to presume our planet will recover with gentle human care alone. But, in reality, it would require a lot of supprt from various other quarters as well. For instance, science and technology. These two areas play a huge role in keeping our natural world going-now more than ever as we grapple with climate change.

Of course, human technology can never completely replace nature. But, along with science, technology can help our world in several ways. We require the science of data gathering simply to understand where we stand today - be it assessing the number of wildlife lost to wildfires in a region or the amount of glacial ice a mountain is losing every year or the next eruption of a dormant volcano. As for technology, everything from as simple as a camera trap to advanced mechanisms such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can help us track wildlife, crucial for conservation measures.

Data gathering and tracking wildlife are among the many ways in which science and technology help. If technically advanced systems can alert officials concerned about poaching or illegal tree-felling real-time, they can go a long way in grave loss. And, tools such as social media are powerful enough to cause positive changes through information sharing and collective demand for action.

As we start to run out of time to save our planet, it is imperative that we dip into every possible resource available to us, and keep working on improving such resources for the future too.

Picture Credit : Google 


What is so special about Dracula simia orchid?

The Dracula simia orchid resembles a monkey's face. Native to the tropical forests of south-eastern Ecuador, Dracula simia or monkey orchid, thrives at altitudes around 6,500 feet. The "Dracula" in the name refers to long spikes that resemble fangs at the end of their petals. The orchids bloom in any season and emit the scent of ripe oranges. Dracula simia is one of 118 species in the Dracula genus of orchids, many of which resemble monkey faces.

Dracula simia, also known as a monkey orchid, is native to southeastern Ecuador. Flourishing in the country's tropical highland forests, it's one of at least 10,000 types of orchids found in the tropics. Its long-tailed, reddish-brown flowers have a pair of dotted “eyes” that look remarkably like the face of a capuchin monkey, which makes it a sight to behold.

Besides their adorable looks, these monkey orchids are also quite fragrant. In fact, they smell like ripe oranges when in bloom. They can flower at any time of year and natively grow at around 6,500 feet. So if you want to catch a glimpse of them where they typically grow, prepare yourself for a hike.

The Dracula simia is just one of 118 species in the Dracula genus of orchids—many of which resemble monkeys. The genus got its name due to the rusty red color of several species. Though they are native to Central America and Peru, nearly half the genus can be found just in Ecuador.

These exotic flowers thrive in deep shade, love humidity, and, contrary to what you might think, prefer cold temperatures. However, if you want to take a stab at growing your own, it is possible to find vendors selling seeds online. But, before you take the plunge, please take note that cultivating these seeds isn't advised for orchid newcomers. Monkey orchid seeds are almost like dust and require specialized care in order to grow properly. And even when everything is done to perfection, it will take anywhere from three to eight years for the plant to reach blooming size.

If you feel that you have the know-how and can provide the proper environment, these are some Dracula orchids that are easier to grow: Dracula erythrocheateDracula bella, and Dracula cordobae. Just be sure to purchase seeds from a reputable dealer, as there are many scammers advertising monkey orchid seeds but are actually sending different species.

Picture Credit : Google 

How many ants are there for every person on Earth?

There are 2.5 million ants for every human on earth. A new study has estimated that the total global population of ants is a mind-blowing 20 quadrillion (20 by 15 zeroes) or approximately 2.5 million ants crawling around for every human.

The combined biomass of all ants on Earth amounts to 12 megatons of carbon. Biomass is the total quantity or weight of organisms in a given area. This exceeds the combined biomass of wild birds and mammals (2 million tons) and equals 20% of human biomass.

There are more than 12,000 known species of ants, generally black, brown or red in colour. Ants are most abundant in tropical and subtropical regions; they can be found nearly everywhere, except Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland and some island nations.

Ants serve as key ecological players for nutrient cycling, decomposition processes, plant seed dispersal and the agitation of soil. "Think about the amount of organic matter that 20 quadrillion ants transport, remove, recycle and eat. In fact, ants are so essential for the smooth working of biological processes that they can be seen as ecosystem engineers. The late ant scientist E.O. Wilson once called them 'the little things that run the world'," says entomologist Patrick Schultheiss, co-author of the study.

Picture Credit : Google 

Is there methane in clouds?

Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas that gets released into the atmosphere due to anthropological activities. It is responsible for about 30% of the Earth's warming.

Methane clouds have been in the news recently with large plumes of methane being spotted over countries such as China, India, Jordan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and so on. The recent methane hotspots were attributed to waste sectors in these countries. And the scenario is alarming.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas and is responsible for about 30% of the Earth's warming. According to scientists, the potent greenhouse gas has 84 times the warming power of carbon dioxide during its first two decades in the atmosphere. As such, reducing emissions of methane is one of the fastest ways to cool the planet.

Waste sector triggering methane clouds

A cloud of methane near a waste site in India was observed earlier this month. According to the satellite images taken, the methane plume is the result of the landfill in the country. The estimated emissions rate was 1.328 kg per hour of methane. These clouds of methane can cover vast areas and sometimes stretch for even 200 miles. All these observations were made through the satellite images released by the GHGSat, which is involved in high-resolution remote-sensing of greenhouse gas from space. Garbage and landfills can generate the potent greenhouse gas. This happens when organic material such as food waste breaks down in the absence of oxygen Landfills and wastewater are responsible for about 20% of the methane emissions generated from human activity. Not doing enough to stop these emissions can affect the global climate goals.

Sources of methane leak

Methane gets released into the atmosphere due to anthropological activities. It is also generated as a byproduct of oil and coal production and as part of agricultural activities. If not properly sealed, closed or abandoned coal mines can leak methane. This can go on for years.

Monitoring methane from space

Satellites can identify and track methane from anywhere, thereby aiding in tracking the methane footprint. This helps in climate transparency, bringing in accountability for countries and companies releasing methane. Greenhouse gases can be quantified and attributed in real-time. A total of 120 countries are part of the global methane pledge, which aims to cut the release of the gas by 30% by the end of this decade from the 2020 levels.

Picture Credit : Google 

1000 trees are presently ‘walking’ down the streets of the Dutch city of Leeuwarden

1000 trees are presently walking down the streets of the city of Leeuwarden, Netherlands. Or rather, the indigenous trees planted in big wooden containers are being lugged around by volunteers. The idea is to let people experience a greener and cleaner alternative.

The unique initiative has been launched as part of the art project 'Bosk, envisaged by architect Bruno Doedens and his collaborator, the late Joop Mulder.

The trees will keep moving around the city till August 14, after which they will be planted across the city. The idea emerged from Doedens 2021 essay Planet Paradise. The essay questions the relationship of humans with the natural world.

Bosk means forest in the local Frisian language. The move is an attempt to raise awareness about climate change. The trees are being moved by thousands of volunteers and roads are closed when the trees are walking. The trees rest on the weekend.

It all started in the month of May, when volunteers started moving the trees in huge wooden containers. After starting their journey, the trees first stopped at Stationsplein. outside Leeuwarden's train station.

Whilst the trees aren't moving, seating areas are provided between the trees to let the people experience life when there is more green cover. Around 60-70 varieties of native trees such as maple, oak, elm, willow, alder, and ash are planted in the wooden containers.

QR codes have been given which lets one know the details such as the species name, its lifespan, soil type, and so on. The city gardening team gets an alert whenever water is required by the tree. A soil sensor alert has been provided for this.

 The trees will get their permanent home in the city after 100 days. The trees will trundle down these roads until August 14 and will later be planted across the city where the greenery is limited.

Picture Credit : Google 

Nature's masterstroke

Autumn showcases nature in all its splendour. How do the colours of leaves change during the season? Why do leaves fall? How do animals react to the change in season? Come, let's find out

Autumn is a transitional period between summer and winter. It is one of the four seasons in the temperate zones. According to the Hindu calendar. Sharad ritu is synonymous with autumn. But autumn

is not very distinct in India, except in some parts of the Himalayas, especially the Kashmir Valley. In the northern hemisphere, autumn begins with the September equinox which occurs on September 22 or 23 each year. This is when the sun crosses the celestial equator and moves southward. During the equinox, the day and night are of nearly equal duration.

Fall colours

French littérateur Albert Camus has aptly described the season- "Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower!" Indeed as the days grow shorter with a perceptible nip in the air, Mother Nature too begins to discard her universal green and sets the countryside on fire with gorgeous red, orange, yellow or brown.

The leaves of many deciduous plants change colour. A leaf contains three pigments-chlorophyll (green), carotenoid (yellow, orange and brown) and anthocyanins (red). Of these, chlorophyll and carotenoid are present in leaf cells during the growth period. But the chlorophyll covers the carotenoid and hence we see only the green colour. Anthocyanins are produced only in autumn under certain conditions in some trees.

During winter, there is not much sunlight for photosynthesis to take place. Trees begin to temporarily shut down their food factory. The green chlorophyll begins to disappear from the leaves and the vivid colours of the carotenoid come alive.

The eastern parts of the U.S. and Canada, Scandinavia, western parts of Europe, China, Korea and Japan are famous for the spectacular fall foliage. Thousands of tourists flock to these places to soak in the flamboyance of nature before everything gets covered by a white blanket of snow!

Why do leaves fall?

The root, stem and branches of trees are able to withstand the harsh winter but not so the tender leaves- they freeze in winter. Therefore, the leaves are shed to ensure the tree's survival. With the onset of autumn, a layer of cells called the 'separation layer forms at the base of each leaf. When this layer is complete, the leaf is separated and it falls.


*As the mercury begins to drop in the late fall season, people look forward to the ‘Indian Summer’. It is an unusually warm, dry spell which follows frosty weather.

*Autumn is associated with a sense of melancholy, especially by poets. "To Autumn" by well-known English poet John Keats is an ode to the season.

*Chinar, the signature tree of Kashmir, paints the entire valley in gold and crimson red during autumn.

* In the West, the new academic year in schools and colleges coincides with the fall season.


Come autumn and animals know instinctively that the fun and frolic of summer is over and it's time for hard work! The falling temperature and reducing daylight trigger hormonal changes in animals. Many birds, animals and even insects begin their long, arduous journey to warmer places to escape the harsh weather ahead

Those who wish to stay put find their own ways to brave the winter. Furry animals grow a thicker coat, while birds grow extra feathers. As autumn gets underway, squirrels, beavers, rodents and even ants get busy gathering food for a snowy day. For those who plan to sleep through winter, autumn is feasting time! Bears chipmunks, hedgehogs, etc. consume excess food and store it as body fat to sustain them during hibernation.

Picture Credit : Google 

What is carbon dating?

You might have heard the phrase "carbon dating" mentioned in the context of the ongoing Gyanvapi mosque case. But what is carbon dating? Let's find out.

Scientific dating process

Carbon dating is a scientific process used to determine the age of an archaeological find or fossil. A key tool in the hands of scientists, archaeologists, and paleontologists, it is a widely used method of calculating the age of things that were once living by measuring the amounts of carbon, a chemical element, in them.

Carbon is found in every living being on Earth, meaning all living things have carbon in them in different forms. The method of carbon dating depends on the decay of carbon-14, a radioactive isotope found in Earth's atmosphere.

Radiocarbon dating, also referred to as carbon dating or carbon-14 dating, is a radiometric dating method. It uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 to estimate the age of carbon-containing materials up to 50,000 years old. The carbon dating method was proposed by American physicist Willard F. Libby in 1946 at the University of Chicago. One of the best discoveries that throws light on our present and past, carbon dating is also used in climate studies, biomedical applications and other fields.

Where is it used?

Anything that was once alive can undergo the carbon dating method. Things such as metal and stone do not have any organic material, so they can't be dated using this method.

How is it arrived at?

Radiocarbon is present in every living organism. However, once the organism dies, it stops absorbing the carbon-14 radioisotope and the amount of the isotope present in the organism's tissues goes down. According to scientists, carbon-14 has a half-life of about 5,730 years- that is, half the amount of the radioisotope present at any given time will spontaneously decay during the following 5,730 years. As carbon-14 is said to decay at this constant rate, an estimate of the date at which an organism died can be arrived at by measuring the amount of radiocarbon still remaining in it. So it is the decay of carbon-14 that enables the dating of archaeological and other finds.

Picture Credit : Google 

What is the mechanism of pollination?

When a bee stops at a flower to gather nectar and pollen, it contacts the anthers. Pollen from the anthers attaches to hairs on the bee's body. When the bee moves on, it carries that pollen to the stigma of the next flower it visits. This transfer of pollen between flowers results in pollination. Here's a look at two unusual plants that have unique mechanisms to attract other creatures for helping with their pollination


Marcgravia evenia, a plant native to Cuba, has bowl-shaped leaves that act as a satellite dish to reflect sound waves emitted by bats. They also enable the plants pollinators the Cuban nectar-feeding bats-to locate the plant easily amidst the surrounding foliage. Researchers believe that the plant has developed the bowl-shaped leaves in addition to its regular leaves because the curved shape reflects sound waves more efficiently. Even though many plant species are pollinated by bats, this is the first instance of a plant evolving special leaves to aid echolocation of bats.

Bizarre appearance

Hydnora africana is a bizarre-looking parasitic plant with no leaves. It lives off the roots of other plants. It grows completely under the ground except for its flower, which usually grows above the ground. The flower is fleshy from inside but hard as wood from the outside and attracts dung and carrion beetles with its strong, fetid smell. As these insect pollinators stop by, they get trapped in the stiff bristles that line the inner portion of the flower. The flower opens out after a while, allowing the insects to escape but only after they have picked up or deposited pollen. Once has taken place, the flower develops into an edible fruit containing over 20,000 seeds. Hydnora africana is native to the arid regions of southern Africa.

Picture Credit : Google 

How ‘Eureka’ Moments in Science Happen?

When the Apple fell on Newton or when Archimedes took a bath, history as we know it changed. Those are the 'Aha' moments when scientific discoveries were made. A look at some of these breakthrough moments.

Archimedes' principle - Archimedes

This was history's first-ever 'Eureka' moment. The story of how the Greek mathematician Archimedes discovered the principle of buoyancy is a tale worth recounting. It was whilst taking a bath in a tub that the idea hit Archimedes. When Archimedes noticed the amount of water being displaced from the tub as soon as he entered it, he reasoned that the volume of the water displaced is equal to the volume of the body that was submerged. He is said to have run across the streets naked, shrieking "Eureka" at his discovery of the law of buoyancy. And that gave us the Archimedes' principle.

Periodic Table - Dmitri Mendeleev

For Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, it all happened in a dream. The Periodic Table of Elements as we know it was conceptualised in a dream. For months, he was trying to arrive at a logical way to organise the chemical elements. Although he knew the atomic weight was a crucial element, he couldn't find a way to arrange it. One day, after racking his brain over the arrangement pattern, he fell asleep. And lo, the periodic table was born. The idea for the logical arrangement of the elements dawned on him during his dream. He later wrote "In a dream, I saw a table where all the elements fell into place as required."

Law of Gravity - Isaac Newton

Every child grew up listening to the tale of how an apple's fall changed science. It was when Isaac Newton noticed the apple fall that he first got the idea of gravity. He wondered what force attracted everything towards the Earth. The tree that inspired the idea of gravity in Newton still stands in the garden of Newton's old home.

Penicillin - Dr. Alexander Fleming

The discovery of penicillin, the world's first antibiotic, revolutionised the course of medicine. Dr. Alexander Fleming had just returned from a holiday and found mould growing on a petri dish of Staphylococcus bacteria. The green mould Penicillium notatum prevented the bacteria around it from growing. He isolated the mould, and understood it produced a substance that could kill the bacteria. He named the active agent penicillin and thus the world's first antibiotic was discovered.

First synthetic dye - William Perkin

The fashion industry must thank William Perkin for his discovery of the first synthetic dye. He was trying to find a cure for malaria, but he accidentally invented the first synthetic purple dye. Perkin was assisting German chemist August Wilhelm von Hofmann in the process of using coal tar to produce quinine which was an expensive anti-malarial drug. As he mixed different coal tar components with potassium dichromate and sulphuric acid, Perkin produced a purple sludge. The rest is history.

DID YOU KNOW? Newton recounted the story that inspired his theory of gravitation to scholar William Stukeley. It appeared in Stukeley's 1752 biography, "Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's Life." The UK's Royal Society converted the fragile manuscript into an electronic book in 2010 and made it accessible online to the public.

Picture Credit : Google


Our atmosphere is made up of 78% nitrogen. This element is essential for all living beings but we cannot directly take the nitrogen from the environment. We must absorb it through our food. The nitrogen cycle follows the circulation of nitrogen from the atmosphere to the soil, to animals and back. Nitrogen in the atmosphere falls to the earth through snow and rain. Once in the soil, the nitrogen combines with the hydrogen on the roots of the plants to form ammonia. This process is called Nitrogen fixation. Additional bacteria further combine this ammonia with oxygen in a process called Nitrification. At this point, the nitrogen is in a form called nitrite, which is further converted into nitrate by the bacteria. Plants can absorb nitrogen in this state through a process called assimilation and the rest is utilised by the bacteria. The remainder is released back into the atmosphere through the process of denitrification.

Nitrogen Cycle Explained – Stages of Nitrogen Cycle

Process of the Nitrogen Cycle consists of the following steps – Nitrogen fixation, Nitrification, Assimilation, Ammonification and Denitrification. These processes take place in several stages and are explained below:

Nitrogen Fixation Process

It is the initial step of the nitrogen cycle. Here, Atmospheric nitrogen (N2) which is primarily available in an inert form, is converted into the usable form -ammonia (NH3).

During the process of Nitrogen fixation, the inert form of nitrogen gas is deposited into soils from the atmosphere and surface waters, mainly through precipitation.

The entire process of Nitrogen fixation is completed by symbiotic bacteria, which are known as Diazotrophs. Azotobacter and Rhizobium also have a major role in this process. These bacteria consist of a nitrogenase enzyme, which has the capability to combine gaseous nitrogen with hydrogen to form ammonia.

Nitrogen fixation can occur either by atmospheric fixation- which involves lightening, or industrial fixation by manufacturing ammonia under high temperature and pressure conditions. This can also be fixed through man-made processes, primarily industrial processes that create ammonia and nitrogen-rich fertilisers.


Primary producers – plants take in the nitrogen compounds from the soil with the help of their roots, which are available in the form of ammonia, nitrite ions, nitrate ions or ammonium ions and are used in the formation of the plant and animal proteins. This way, it enters the food web when the primary consumers eat the plants.


When plants or animals die, the nitrogen present in the organic matter is released back into the soil. The decomposers, namely bacteria or fungi present in the soil, convert the organic matter back into ammonium. This process of decomposition produces ammonia, which is further used for other biological processes.


Denitrification is the process in which the nitrogen compounds make their way back into the atmosphere by converting nitrate (NO3-)  into gaseous nitrogen (N). This process of the nitrogen cycle is the final stage and occurs in the absence of oxygen. Denitrification is carried out by the denitrifying bacterial species- Clostridium and Pseudomonas, which will process nitrate to gain oxygen and gives out free nitrogen gas as a byproduct.


Nitrogen is abundant in the atmosphere, but it is unusable to plants or animals unless it is converted into nitrogen compounds.

Nitrogen-fixing bacteria play a crucial role in fixing atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen compounds that can be used by plants.

The plants absorb the usable nitrogen compounds from the soil through their roots. Then, these nitrogen compounds are used for the production of proteins and other compounds in the plant cell.

Animals assimilate nitrogen by consuming these plants or other animals that contain nitrogen. Humans consume proteins from these plants and animals. The nitrogen then assimilates into our body system.

During the final stages of the nitrogen cycle, bacteria and fungi help decompose organic matter, where the nitrogenous compounds get dissolved into the soil which is again used by the plants.

Some bacteria then convert these nitrogenous compounds in the soil and turn it into nitrogen gas. Eventually, it goes back to the atmosphere.

These sets of processes repeat continuously and thus maintain the percentage of nitrogen in the atmosphere.

Credit : BYJU’S 

Picture Credit : Google 


Keystone species play a unique and crucial role in the functioning of an ecosystem. The animals and organisms that come under this category help to maintain biodiversity within their community either by controlling populations of other species that would otherwise dominate the community or by providing critical resources for the survival of a wide range of organisms.

These species act as the glue that holds the system together. The term was coined by Dr Robert Paine in 1969, to describe the power a single species exerts on an ecosystem. Examples of keystone species include starfish, sea otters, beavers, wolves, elephants, prairiedogs and bees.

Keystone Species Examples

Sea Otter

The sea otter (shown below) is considered a keystone species as their consumption of sea urchins, preventing the destruction of kelp forests caused by the sea urchin population. Kelp forests are a critical habitat for many species in nearshore ecosystems. In the absence of sea otters, sea urchins feed on the nearshore kelp forests, thereby disrupting these nearshore ecosystems. However, when sea otters are present, their consumption of sea urchins restricts the sea urchin population to smaller organisms confined to protective crevices. Thus, the sea otter protects the kelp forests by reducing the local sea urchin population.

Large Mammalian Predators

While small predators are important keystone species in many ecosystems, as mentioned above, large mammalian predators are also considered keystone species in larger ecosystems. For example, the lion, jaguar (shown below), and gray wolf are considered keystone species as they help balance large ecosystems (e.g., Central and South American rainforests) by consuming a wide variety of prey species.

Sea Star

Sea stars (shown below) are another commonly recognized keystone species as they consume mussels in areas without natural predators. In many cases, when the sea star is removed from an ecosystem, the population of mussels proliferates uncontrollably, and negatively effects the resources available to other species within the ecosystem.

Credit :  Biology dictionary  

Picture Credit : Google 



Have you ever looked up at our moon and wondered if it was possible to grow plants there? According to a new study published in Communications Biology, the answer is maybe. Success in growing a plant on the moon, it seems, depends on where exactly the planting is done.

The research, performed by a team of two horticulturists and one geologist from the University of Florida, showed for the first time that plants could be grown in lunar soil. The results are an important step towards humanity's ambitions of making long-term stays on the moon possible.

Third-time lucky

The research has been in the making for a long time. This was the third time that these scientists had applied to NASA over the last 11 years for samples of soil brought back to the Earth by any or all of the six Apollo landing missions. Having been declined on the first two instances, the researchers got their wish this time around.

Probably because NASA themselves are planning longer excursions to our natural satellite, they parted with 12 grams of soil about 18 months ago. This soil was gathered by the crews of Apollos 11, 12, and 17 and were part of just 382 kg of lunar soil and rocks brought back during the Apollo missions.

The researchers chose the thale cress plant, both because of its hardiness and the fact that its genome has been fully sequenced. The planting was done in plastic plates with wells that are usually used to grow cell cultures. There were four wells apiece for each of the three Apollo missions, and they got a gram of soil each. Four more wells were used as a control, with simulated lunar soil prepared using earthly materials.

To their astonishment, researchers noticed that the seeds sprouted after two days. Regardless of whether they were growing in a lunar sample or in the control, they looked the same for the first six days. Differences began to emerge after that as the plants grown in lunar soil showed stress, developed slowly, and ended up being stunted.

Geological age factor

There were also differences within the lunar samples as the Apollo 11 plans grew most poorly, followed by Apollo 12 and then Apollo 17. The researchers concluded that the reason for this has to do with the age of the soil. While the samples brought back by Apollo 11 are older geologically than those brought back by Apollo 12, the samples from Apollo 17 are most recent in geological time.

The results from this research are very important as it helps us develop food sources for future astronauts who might live and operate in deep space for extended durations. Such plant growth research could also unlock innovations in agriculture that might allow us to grow plants under stressful conditions in places where food is scarce here on Earth.

Picture Credit : Google