Songbirds and humans both learn language by listening to and imitating others!
Zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) are a very common bird found almost in all parts of Australia. They are native to Australia, but they were also introduced in Puerto Rico and Portugal and can now be found there as well.
Australian zebra finches, which weigh less than half an ounce, are known to be loud singers. But only the male has the singing ability; the male uses his boisterous songs to attract females. However, both males and females can produce calls; they produce about 10 different types of calls. The species is well known for being the first wild bird whose genetic code has been cracked, after the chicken, and some 800 genes have been found, which have seemed to have a link with the song learning.
The red-beaked young males usually start vocalization by babbling, much like a human toddler, and learn songs by imitating their elders. Similarities can be found in the songs of these birds, a fact stated by Aristotle over 2,000 years ago in his “Historia Animalium (History of Animals).” The sweet twittering songs comprise only a small number of 3 to 8 distinct syllables; short, buzzy sounds with a distinctive structure and repeat in a fixed order.
Black market trade of wild animals and plants, living or dead, for their parts or products derived from them, is a multibillion-dollar business, third only to drugs and arms. The illegal wildlife trade generates a hefty sum of $5 to $20 billion per year.
The black market trade of wildlife is both unethical and unsustainable. Endangered species are the common contraband for their rarity and economic values of exotic products. But, not all wildlife trade is illegal! Many wildlife species are exclusively bred and harvested for their legitimate trade as food sources, pets, ornamental values, touristic and medicinal purposes.
Things get messy when wildlife trade escalates unsustainably, negatively impacting the natural resources, biodiversity, and local businesses in the region that might benefit from the tourism and legal trade.
Nonetheless, the line between legal and illegal trade has been blurred with poachers trying to pass off their illicit wildlife products as legal. Captive breeding of wildlife species for such products spikes the demand and increases poaching in the wild.
But the question arises, “Why would someone covet the word’s most charismatic wildlife species?”
The answer is simple! Some animals like African Gray Parrots, cuddly Asian Otters, and squirrels are desired as pets, pangolin meat and shark fins as a delicacy; and the body parts of tigers, bears, and pangolins are used in traditional Asian medicines; while elephant ivory, and tiger skins and bones are often traded as souvenirs or as a status symbol.
Cryptocurrency was a relatively obscure term and was not really spoken about out loud ten years back. But now it’s a whole new ball game with the cryptocurrency of different origins and names having a worth up to 70,000 dollars a coin at its peak. What is the basic definition of this cryptocurrency? It is a virtual currency that uses complex encryption algorithms. It is highly decentralized, and it is highly secure, and has a zero chance of being counterfeited.
The most famous one is Bitcoin. It was made by a group of unknown people, and all there is to remember them by is the pseudonym: Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoins which are now synonymous with the word cryptocurrency, have taken the world by storm. From relatively obscure to a full-blown phenomenon, especially after the series of tweets by Tech Giants are turning heads and appear to be a brilliant investment opportunity for many people. The investment in them is one that can have a huge upside and great returns. But will they make paper currency and coins a thing of the past? And what are the effects of cryptocurrency on the environment?
The human-induced degradation of arid, semi-arid, or sub-humid land (collectively known as dryland) and loss of vegetative cover are termed Desertification. The term might have pulled out a Sahara Desert sketch or any other desert in your mind. However, it is not limited to one. It encompasses all the changes in soil quality, vegetative cover, water resources, wildlife, and land-use changes.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), established by the United Nations in 1994, defines drylands as “areas other than polar and sub-polar regions where the ratio of annual precipitation to potential evapotranspiration ranges between 0.05 to 0.65 or 5% to 65%”. Desertification hardly hits the drylands as these regions receive little or no annual precipitation.
Plastic, previously lauded for its longevity, has become a serious threat to the planet. From our kitchens to roadsides, hanging with the branches of the trees to floating in our water channels, from deep oceanic trenches to far north at the highest of the peaks--it is found everywhere! Our life is incomplete without single-use plastics like plastic bags, bottles, coffee cups, straws, grocery and trash bags, food packaging and storage containers, utensils and cutlery, just to name a few.
All of these single-use plastics are responsible for a major chunk (about 40%) of plastic pollution, particularly in the marine environment.
Being a fossil product, it takes up to 1,000 years to naturally degrade, meaning that every bit of plastic ever produced still exists, either in landfills or oceans. But this hasn’t affected its production, which has been soaring since the 1950s and became popular in the 1970s, then replaced paper by the end of the 1980s. According to a 2017 study, about 18.2 trillion pounds of plastic has been produced so far, and the number is bound to double by 2050.
There are millions and millions (~8.6 million) species of plants and animals. They have two kinds of names. The local names and the scientific names. Their local names might cause certain difficulties. For example, starfish is called so because it looks like a star. But is it a fish? A fish by definition is a limbless cold-blooded vertebrate animal with gills and fins living wholly in water.
Similarly, an ornithologist from the 'land down under' is talking to his fellow scientists from Europe, and he wants to talk about magpies. Easy right? But which magpie is he talking about? The Australian or Eurasian?
And this is how confusion is generated. Imagine the confusion when millions and millions of people with different languages talk about the same species (with different common names) and vice versa. Also, the local name provides no precise information as to which group the organism belongs to. This is where scientific names are very helpful.
The use of scientific names, Greek or Latin, for plants and animals helps reduce this confusion. And also, the organisms are divided into many categories, which help them be classified.
California is home to the Californian tiger salamander, which has a scientific name Ambystoma californiense. It is an amphibian that has large round snouts and has small eyes with black iris. They are called tigers because of the yellow bars on their skin.
The males of species can be distinguished from the females by the presence of swollen cloacae during the mating season. An adult male of the species can be up to 8 inches, and females are smaller in size, and can be about 7 inches. They eat insects and larvae of other species.
Long before the landfill and environmental regulations, anything and everything was simply dumped directly or buried under the ground at an abandoned site, typically known as dumpsites. A landfill serves the same function as a dumping site, except that the former is well-engineered and regulated by the government.
According to the U.S. EPA, 4.4 pounds of trash are produced per capita per day in the U.S., amounting to over 250 million tonnes of garbage per year. We’re generating trash more than we can deal with sustainably. Only a tiny fraction of this trash is recycled, rest (or a part of it) ends in incinerators, landfills, or oceans-where it’d be sitting centuries from now. Only 9% of the plastic ever produced is recycled!
Not many species have survived through all the catastrophic Mass Extinctions, but the horseshoe crab did! It has outlived dinosaurs; it has been around for more than 450 Million Years, which is the reason why it is dubbed as The Living Fossil.
The horseshoe crab is actually not a crab and also not a crustacean. It is an arthropod that lives in shallow water and muddy pockets. Of its four living species, three are found in Asia and only Limulus polyphemus is found on the Atlantic coast of North America.
Why is Limulus Amebocyte Lysate important to humans?
The horseshoe crab was used as bait by fishermen and as a fertilizer by farmers. But in recent years, this crab has been found to be the source of an invaluable chemical found in its blood. It is called Limulus Amebocyte Lysate also known as LAL. Limulus comes from the genus name Limulus polyphemus, Amebocyte is cells in the crab’s blood, and the lysate is the extract once Amebocyte has been “degraded.”
The ocean plays an integral role in sustaining our environment and climate, so do sharks and every other creature that lives below the surface. Life on earth depends on the delicate balance of this vast life support system. Sharks have gained an identity of the vengeful, bloodthirsty monsters of the deep, as portrayed by award-winning movies like Jaws. Ever since the movie, the box office has seen an onslaught of shark movies. The balance between the shark vs. human attacks has been shockingly disturbed by shark culling.