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Goa pins ‘bird’ing hopes to attract tourists

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Panaji: Goa which houses 400 of India’s 1,100-odd avian species is now banking on the birds in the hope it can spur the arrival of high-end tourists in the state.

Picture credit: dpauls.com
Picture credit: dpauls.com

Avi-tourism, according to Goa tourism ministry officials, will help the state attract high-end tourists through an inherent strength the tropical state always had, but never capitalized on.

“Goa accounts for 400 out of the 1,100-odd bird species in India. This is a fact which is not known to many. We are in the process of promoting birding as a tourism activity in order to attract high-spending tourists to the state. Avi-tourism is generally associated with family tourism, a concept Goa wants to promote,” Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar told IANS.

Conventionally known as a beach tourism destination which attracts three million tourists every year, Goa’s relatively unexplored hinterland is dotted by five wildlife sanctuaries and one bird sanctuary.

While beasts like the Great Indian Gaur, Royal Bengal Tiger, leopards, panthers, cheetals and blue bulls are already an attraction, the tourism department aims to add more focus to the areas by formally introducing the concept of birding.

For now, Goa has four Important Bird Areas (IBAs) identified by the global programme of the Bombay Natural History Society in tandem with Britain’s Bird Life International – namely Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary and Carambolim Lake, in addition to the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.

Picture credit: goa-tourism.com
Picture credit: goa-tourism.com

The tourism department, in association with the forest department, is also trying to include three more IBAs – Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary and Navelim wetlands in Bicholim – for those keen on avi-tourism.

“Goa has greater potential for avi-tourism than is currently being realized. Goa offers the perfect setting for ornithologists and bird-watchers, which would include fanatics for the highly specialized ones and those who are into it as a hobby,” Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) chairman Nilesh Cabral said.

“Avi-tourism has attracted attention in recent years as an environmentally-friendly activity,” he added.

The tourism department has already tied up with the Bird Institute of Goa, an autonomous society based in Panaji, to promote ornithological interest in the state. The combine would develop bird trails in Goa for tourists.

The GTDC has also resolved to rename 45 rooms at a tourist residency near Old Goa, a popular tourist site close to the Salim Ali bird sanctuary that it operates, after birds found in the area.

The months of October to February are the richest when it comes to avian diversity in Goa, especially on account of the wide range of migratory birds which flock to Goa’s wetland hot spots – namely, the painted stork (mycteria leucocephala), asian openbill (anastomus oscitans), black stork, (ciconia nigra), woolly-necked stork (ciconia episcopus), white stork (ciconia) and the like.

The state’s exotic avian list also includes the frog mouth bird, blue-eared kingfisher, collared kingfisher, Malabar grey hornbill, grey-headed bulbul, rufous babbler and the state bird – the flame-throated bulbul.

Goa Tourism’s avi-tourism ambitions may also get a shot in the arm from the Konkan Railway corporation’s plans to further develop the Carambolim Lake – known as a home for a wide variety of bird-life, including migratory birds – as a birding hub by planting more trees bearing fruits like mangos, almonds, cashewnuts and chikoos around and along the Karmali station, located alongside the lake.

The lake is home to bids like purple heron, gray heron, jacana, pintail, indian stork, cuckoo, waterfowl, egrets, moorhen, lesser whistling teal, shoveler, garganey, red-rumped swallow and the coot – and, in the recent past, even the pink flamingo.

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Did You Hear about the New Species of Spiders Named After Leonardo DiCaprio, Bernie Sanders and Barrack Obama?

The new species of spiders have been named in honor of leaders and artists who promoted sensible approaches for a better world

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spiders
Did you hear about the Bernie Sanders spider? (representational image) Pixabay

Vermont, September 30, 2017 : What if we tell you that a team of researchers has recognized and named 15 new species of spiders in the Caribbean after your favorite stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders?

Not in Hollywood, Washington, DC or Vermont – but you might now be able to catch a glimpse of Spintharus davidattenboroughi, S. barackobamai, S, michelleobamaae, S. berniesandersi, S. davidbowiei along with S. leonardodicaprioi on the Caribbean islands and some other southern spots.

Ingi Agnarsson, expert of spiders and professor of biology at University of Vermont, who led the new study revealed the rationale behind the undergraduate study and on choosing the intriguing names. “(We) wanted to honor people who stood up for both human rights and warned about climate change—leaders and artists who promoted sensible approaches for a better world”, he said.

ALSO READ Exclusive : Our Islands Are Vanishing! | Tracing the Inundation of Parali I Island

The Smiley-Faced Spider

Popularly recognized as a global hotspot for biodiversity, there continues to be several species in the Caribbean that are outside the spectrum of research and study. This includes the ‘smiley faced’ spider in the genus Spintharus- named for a smiley face pattern on their abdomens.

Previously recognized as one widespread species, researchers from the UVM discovered that there exist many more endemic species within the genus, 15 of which have been recognized in the research.

These samples were collected from Florida, South Carolina, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico, the Lesser Antilles and Columbia.

Each team member got to decide names for the new species of spiders. Alongside naming them after friends and family members, many species have been named after distinguished figures.

“We all named the Bernie Sanders spider together,” said Lily Sargeant, one of the students who worked on the project. “We all have tremendous respect for Bernie. He presents a feeling of hope.”

Some of the other names include,

Spintharus davidbowiei

Named after the great artist David Bowie, who passed away in 2016. His music will continue to inspire generations and the authors decided to honor his legacy by naming a spider in his name.

Spintharus barackobamai

Named after the widely popular, and largely loved, former President of the United States Barack Obama. The authors love him for his statesmanship and humanitarianism, and named the spider species after him, to honor their president and his devoted service.

Spintharus michelleobamaae

Named in honor of the Former First Lady of the United States for her poise, confidence and elegance, her fight for human rights and for always striving to uphold the principles of justice, fairness and equality for all.

Spintharus davidattenboroughi

The authors of the research also named a species of spiders after the naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, to recognize and celebrate his efforts to educate people of the wonders of the natural world and sowing a seed of caring for nature in humanity.

The study has been published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

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Reason Behind Multicolored Bird Feathers is Unveiled, Find Out Here!

It has previously been discovered that different patterns and colors help camouflage the birds from predators

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Honeyeater bird. Pixabay

Chicago, Aug 08, 2017: Ever wondered how birds carry multicolored feathers to show off? While some birds are bright in color as one can spot them remotely, some are colored and appear deceiving so much that you’ll never realize if you’re even looking at the bird!

There are more than 18,000 bird species on Earth, and every species is differently colored.  The feathers of the birds are composed of intricate combinations of mottles, scales, bars, and spots, making each one unique and resembling different.

It has previously been discovered that different patterns and colors help camouflage the birds from predators.

A study on about 9000 bird species’ plumage coloration was conducted by Dr. Ismael Galvan and his team of expert researchers to answer the very question: How birds get such different colors?

ALSO READ: Traffic Noise can reduce Birds’ ability to hear an Alarm call, making them Vulnerable to Predators

Two types of pigments are responsible for the plumage coloration: melanins, which produce a range of black, gray, brown, and orange colors and carotenoids, which are used by specialized feather structures to generate brighter color shades.

Melanins are synthesized by in the birds’ bodies in special cells called “melanocytes,” which work together with feather follicles to achieve a fine control of coloration.

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Carotenoids are present in certain food items that circulate through the bloodstream and to the feather follicles when birds consume such food items. The birds cannot produce carotenoids, nor can they exercise direct cellular control of synthesizing and depositing carotenoids. The specialized feather structures react to the consumed carotenoids with a mechanism that is not regulated by specialized cells.

Carotenoids are more commonly examined in the study of bird coloration, however, Dr. Galvan and group are the first to test whether melanins are indeed the only pigmentary element that birds’ bodies directly control on a cellular level.

Galvan says, “Knowing beforehand that different pigments and structures produce different types of colors in feathers, we examined the appearance of the plumage of all species of extant birds and determined if the color patches that they contain are produced by melanins or by other pigmentary elements.”

He further added, “We also identified those plumage patterns that can be considered complex, defining them as those formed by combinations of two or more discernible colors that occur more than two times uninterruptedly through the plumage”, reports ANI.

According to the researchers, 32% of the species examined have complex plumage patterns, with the large majority of these complex patterns produced by melanins rather than carotenoids.

To put simply, carotenoids produce color patches, whereas melanins produce intricate patterns

However, in exceptional cases, unusual colors appear to be produced by their bodies making metabolic alterations to the carotenoid colors that they consume. Some of these are Fruit doves, cotingas and one type of stork have complex plumage patterns without melanins.

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Mystery Unlocked: Bird Egg Shapes and Flight Ability are co-related, says Study

The analysis revealed that birds tend to lay eggs that are more asymmetric and more elliptical if they are better fliers

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Bird egg
Different shapes of bird eggs. Pixabay
  • Team of researchers has found that the egg shape is related to flight ability
  • The team used photographs to analyze the shapes of nearly 50,000 eggs representing 1,400 species.
  • The egg membrane may also play a critical role in determining the shape

New York, June 24, 2017: In what could perhaps crack the long-term mystery behind the astonishing variety of bird egg shapes, an international team of researchers has found that the egg shape is related to flight ability, with good fliers tending to lay pointy or elliptical eggs.

Avian eggs have fascinated humans for millennia because they come in different shapes — elliptical in hummingbirds, spherical in owls, pointy ovoids in shorebirds and almost everything in between. But we still lack the answer to this simple question — why did different egg shapes evolve, and how?

The new study published in the journal Science suggests that egg shape is related to flight ability, and that the egg membrane may play a critical role in determining shape.

“In contrast to classic hypotheses, we discovered that flight may influence egg shape. Birds that are good fliers tend to lay asymmetric or elliptical eggs,” said the study’s lead author Mary Caswell Stoddard of Princeton University in New Jersey, US.

“In addition, we propose that the stretchy egg membrane, not the hard shell, is responsible for generating the diversity of egg shapes we see in nature,” Caswell said.

To unravel the mystery of egg shape, the researchers used a multi-step, multidisciplinary process, applying tools from computer science, comparative biology, mathematics and biophysics.

First, the team used photographs to analyse the shapes of nearly 50,000 eggs representing 1,400 species.

The eggs, from the online database of The Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at Berkeley, came from across the globe and were largely collected by naturalists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Using computer code, the researchers quantified each egg’s asymmetry and ellipticity.

By combining the power of high-throughput digital image analysis with the wealth of data in the museum egg collection, the team was able to map the world of egg shapes.

The team then developed a biophysical model to explain how processes in the bird’s oviduct might generate different egg shapes.

The team also used an evolutionary framework to test hypotheses about egg shape.

Using a recently constructed phylogeny, or family tree, of birds, the researchers compared egg shapes across different bird lineages. In this analysis, they included details about nest type and location, clutch size, diet and flight ability.

Also Read: Why Birds have Beaks? Researchers discover a Dinosaur Species that shed its “Milk teeth” but did not Replace them 

The analysis revealed that birds tend to lay eggs that are more asymmetric and more elliptical if they are better fliers.

The researchers suggest that as birds’ bodies became adapted for powered flight, this resulted in morphological changes like reduced body size and a reduced abdominal cavity.

The discovery that morphological constraints associated with flight may contribute to egg shape challenges the conventional wisdom that egg shape is largely influenced by clutch size or nest location. (IANS)