Tag Archives: Biology

View from Window

The view from from window of my room at 4 O’clock in the Evening:
It is 4 O’clock in the evening. The sunshine is becoming pale at the approach of the evening. The mornings, evenings and nights are becoming cooler. Sky is still clear. Sitting in the same room of my home on the third floor, I am looking at the scene out side from the window.
The outline of trees looks like the drawing of a child making lines with a pencil which are not straight but serrated. The shadows and lights are playing exclusive games in the branches which are swaying due to strong breeze. When one is there other is gone and vice versa. There is a meadow below and cows and buffaloes are grazing lazily. As they graze, cranes accompany them to catch the insects which are scurried due to the grazing animals. Many of them can be seen perching over the tops of animals.
The shadows of the rows of trees are beginning to lengthen and crawling over over the fields and are moving towards my room. Some boys are trying to catch fish from a pond near the edge of tree rows. The pond is irregular in shape and its still water looks shines due to sunlight falling on it. From above it looks like a shard of glass, very longish and narrow. White cranes and black egrets are plunging into the water occasionally and rest of the time sit on the nearby bushes.
Airplanes keep on coming at very low height as they are descending preparing for landing at Chandigarh airport which is very near. Sometimes very huge cargo plane is seen passing very near our buildings with deafening noise.

Evening

Sitting in the room of my home which has large glass panels opening in West direction, I am looking at the Sun going down leaving behind a copper colored hue in the West. The sky is smeared with mild clouds of different transparencies. There are thick columns of of poplar trees which are now loosing their individuality and taking on dark shroud. There are kites flying and sometimes swooping down on their prey. Snow white cranes are leaving the grazing grass grounds and flying towards their homes. Even as I am typing these words the whole scene is becoming ambiguous and soon darkness will swallow the day.

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Castaway Plants?

They are not cultivated by the people like so many plants which decorate the homes, offices and other public places. They grow by themselves on the edges of the roads and other places wherever they get a chance. They are weeded out of the fields by the farmers to clear the land for useful crops. They are very sturdy and can survive the adverse conditions.

They are like the poor children who have no access to health care amenities and sanitation facilities. Some of them who survive all the diseases become very tough and become immune to every ailment.

Almost every one ignore their existence and treat them as an undesired growth. But even then they possess certain charm which a sensitive mind cannot ignore. They may have flowers of various hues and diminutive sizes. The flowers may exude fragrances.

As they say that a plant is considered a weed until its properties are not fully known. They may have medicinal properties.

Below are the pictures of some such plants growing in our area.

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Ad Makers thrive on ignorance of Public

In many ads about germicides, it is claimed that so and so soap kills 99.9% bacteria. This means that if there were 100000 of these microscopic beings, after treatment 99900 will be killed but still 100 will stay alive. One thing they don’t tell is that bacteria growth is exponential and within no time they will multiply again.  As the number of surviving bacteria will be less and amount of food is same as before, their proliferation rate is very high and they will grow within no time to large numbers. Only limiting factor against their growth is the starvation when the food is exhausted. Don’t be fooled that they die when the food is exhausted. No, they become dormant and wait for the food to become available again and again they revive.

The fact is we are born with “conditions apply’ tags and we are bound to play host to millions of bacteria who live inside and outer skin of our bodies. Many of these are beneficial to us.

What the bacteria lack is size they amply make up in sheer numbers.They live everywhere and there is no escape from them except immunity levels which are different from person to person and also with age.

Lack of knowledge of general people is used by the manufactures to fool them.

Price Paid for Being Humans-1

It is a scientific fact that all living things evolved from the simplest single cell bacteria. These are called cyano-bacteria or green algae. They were the first harvesters of sun energy using photosynthesis and making food for themselves. Thus the food comes from the Sun.

Slowly, the life diversified, especially after the introduction of oxygen into the atmosphere thanks to these green algae. Living beings evolved which cannot make their own food like plants but use the food prepared by the plants and burn it with oxygen.

Then Darwin came and after a massive study and observations in the Canary Islands announced that higher forms of living things evolve slowly from the lower forms. This is a consequence of struggle for survival and survival rate of the fittest or the species which are capable of modifying themselves according to the environment are the best. Humans are a mere speck in this diversity majority of which is staked by the bacteria.

From water to land and from crawling to walking on four limbs, human freed their forelimbs to use them as tools and also stand upright which helps in running away from danger, following the prey and gain the greater ability to watch up to far away distances to locate the danger as well as food. But we have to pay the price for this in the form of backaches, diseases and difficult child birth.

Natural selection continuously sifts the best from the individuals of each generation. But this sometimes occurs clumsily, as old parts and genes are co-opted for new roles. As a result, all species inhabit bodies imperfect for the lives they live. Our own bodies are worse off than most simply because of the many differences between the wilderness in which we evolved and the modern world in which we live. We feel the consequences every day. Here is the first.

Our cells are weird chimeras
Multicellular life started when two cells merged and fused into one. The hunter cell swallowed the prey cell and encapsulated it. Then the prey became the mitochondrion. This is the machinery which provides the cell energy and makes possible its survival. Most of the time, this ancient symbiosis proceeds amicably.

But every so often, our mitochondria and their surrounding cells fight. The result is diseases, such as mitochondrial myopathies (a range of muscle diseases) or Leigh’s disease (which affects the central nervous system).

Other handicaps shall be discussed in subsequent posts.

It is Green All Around

The effect of Spring season is different on different species of trees. Some are in great hurry and begin to change their habits at the earliest. Some are very patient and wait on and begin to sprout the beautiful transparent light colored leaves when the leaves of the early starters have already become dull and dark green.

Banyan trees are different. I saw them shed copious quantities of the dry leaves daily with the help of strong breeze. When they became almost skeletons, new copper colored leaves come out all over the tree. The trees look to be made of copper.

There are other trees which do not bring out leaves at all but flowers. Very beautiful golden color bunches hang from the skeleton of branches. The flowers can be seen against the azure skies as backdrop. Another category brings forth both leaves as well as flowers.

What do these trees ask from us? Except a little care when they are small and tender, not to be tinkered with unnecessarily. They give us everything without asking. First of all, all the carbon dioxide which animals generate daily through there metabolism and other means of comfort like factories, electric appliances etc, is taken over by these trees and plants. They eat it and convert it into glucose and higher carbohydrates and release oxygen. These are the things which animals survive on. Thus we see that animals and plants are dependent on one another. So if we release carbon dioxide which exceeds what is required by plants then we have carbon dioxide that causes problems like breathing discomfort and acts as a trap for heat which is generated on the Earth and causes heating. To obviate this we have to have more plants.

Today I took some more photos. Please look closely.

Cool and Fragrant Shade of Unknown Tree

Heat is building up rapidly and temperature is shooting up. Many trees like Amaltas, Gulmohur and cannonball are bearing beautiful flowers which seem to challenge the Sun‘s assault on the mother earth. Earth is parching up. The delicate flowers of spring season have begun to wither. Soon the grasses will be gone. The hills have become devoid of greenery. Every tree, plant and animal shall be looking up hands raised towards heavens.

In the morning, during walks, body begins to perspire profusely and within minutes you feel exhausted.The runnels of perspiration run though the back. The body desires for cool shades and water to rejuvenate.

I have found this tree during my walks. Its branches are covered with corpulent newly born leaves which are light green and shiny. The shade is very thick and cool. The boughs are laden with bunches of cream colored small flowers. These flowers fall like rain from the branches and ground is carpeted with them. There are birds which dart in and out of the boughs. I think they come here attracted by the cool shade fragrance of these flowers.

You will like to sit beneath the cool shade of these tree. Or you lie down and stare into its beautiful resplendent leaves and listened to the singing of the birds. The same air which is heating up due to the heartless sun becomes cool breeze under the shade and refresh your senses. Here are some of photographs.

Cannonball tree

Whenever I saw these trees in my neighborhood, I was surprised by their odd features. These are very upright and very tall trees. There are four or five trees in our area at Panvel near Mumbai. There are big ball like fruits of khaki color hanging just below the main canopy, very near to the beginning of the trunk. Some of them are as big as musk melons. I am sure that if it hit someone who happens to be under the tree, it may cause a grievous injury. Ants gather on these fruits. Big shoots come out which are bend downward and have many buds of creamy color. Very beautiful pink color flowers come out of the buds.The flowers have six petals which are thick and waxy in nature. I did not know the name of the tree then.

Today, as I was passing underneath one of these trees on the roadside, I noticed that tree is in full bloom. There is strong fragrance all around. Bees are hovering on the flowers and enter the flower and fly over to another one. They are helping in the process of cross pollination.

After some search on the internet, I came to know that the tree is commonly called Cannon Ball tree because of those big and heavy ball like fruits. Its scientific name is Couroupita guianensis and it is said to the native of Brazil, a claim which may not be very true because in India these trees are growing for thousands of years.

The trees in India have various names according to the states of their habitat. It is called Shiva Kamal or Kailashpati. In Tamil it is called Nagalingam. All these names suggests a relation to Shiva. Due to this, these trees are revered and are found near the Shiva temples. The flower shape resembles the hood of Naga, a sacred snake. In Kannada it is called Nagalinga Pushpa and Mallikarjuna flowers in Telugu.  Even here, I saw many people gathering these flowers in the morning and upon asking told that these are offered to the God Shiva.

Buddhists also plant this tree at Buddhist temples. The fruits fall down with a great force when the stem is unable to bear its weight. It cracks on falling and emits a foul odor. The ants however like these fruits and gather within no time after the fruit has cracked and split apart.

Here are some pictures, I took with my htc mobile camera. I think you will like these.

Plants are very Smart Indeed

Plants are very smart, efficient and unforgiving in the energy management. Unlike the animals, who cannot regrow their limbs, plants see to it that inefficient leaves are cast off and replaced by new efficient one’s so that the food making machine continue to run smoothly. The leaves make the food by combining carbon dioxide and water in the presence of chlorophyll which shepherds the energy from sun and store it in the plant. Animals make use of this energy by eating the plant parts. This pigment imparts green color to the leaves and masks the faint colors of other chemicals like caroteneoids.

As soon as, the plant know that the a given leaf is under performing, it gradually decrease the supply of chlorophyll and also reclaims whatever it can of the other components. Gradually the color of leaf begins to become yellowish and it looses it strength and fall off the branch. Older leaves are constantly replenished and plant continues to make its food.

When the winter comes, the Sun is hardly visible because sky is mostly overcast. So the plants plan to shut down the food making factories. They withdraw the chlorophyll from the leaves and like polar bears go into a state of hibernation. Leaves acquire beautiful brown, reddish and yellowish hues due to the waning of the effect of chlorophyll. As the winter recedes, Sun comes out, the food making is resumed.

Watching the Evolution

I had a long cherished wish to watch the evolution in the making. But lifespan of us humans is infinitely short to witness the events taking place during the evolution which span over thousands or sometimes million years. But my desire grew with time. So I many a times felt anguished and helpless. We are living in a time when it is quite easy to access information. On the scientific front, there are wonderful instrument which are available making the life of a scientist comparatively easy. Think of the times, when Darwin, Newton, Kekule did their research. They were the really creative and genius people.

For a time assume I have been granted the power to travel back in time without affecting my present form. I remain the same. I have also been enabled to reach where ever I wish to in this universe. So I am flying on the wings of thoughts. I hover over some islands of Hawaii. The time is 5 millions years ago. What do I see?

The island is reeling under a very powerful hurricane. The trees are uprooted and being flung like light toys. The birds, especially those dwelling in the trees are swept away. As the fury of hurricane is spent, there are ruins everywhere. Devastation is all around. But there are birds called “Pollenpeepers” which have successfully weather the storm. One reason for their survival is that they live in the bushes nearer the ground.

So now it is the aftermath of the hurricane. Life again sprouts. Due to the sweeping away of so many birds, the pressure on the pollen peepers is relieved. They find plenty to eat and begin to spread across the whole island. 1 million years go by.

Still the pressure is low. But the climate in the North and South of the island is becoming disparate. While North is wetter, the south is dry. In the North, the tall trees are flourishing while in the South it is bushes all around. The birds in the North eat insects in the Northern part and seeds in the South as the availability is such. The birds are assuming different features. For example, the beaks of the birds are becoming narrower suitable to catch insects whereas the Southern cousins have wider beaks to hold the seeds. Another million years go by.

The weather in the South takes a turn. It is becoming wetter like Northern part. hovering above, I see more and more clouds and rains in the South now. The bushes are being replaced by the taller trees. Availability of seeds is decreasing causing problems for the birds in the South. As the weather is becoming like the North, I can see the birds in the from North migrating to south also. The situation for southern birds is becoming very testing.

Now they are being outnumbered and decimated. The birds with narrow beaks are climbing another echelon of the evolutionary ladder. In the present times, I can see only the birds with narrow beaks dominating the whole island. I salute the Darwin who once carried out his work in these islands although those were very tough times and it was not easy to express such revolutionary evolutionary ideas.

It is all magical. I have seen a glimpse of the evolution in the making. I am again back to original self. but I feel how miniscule is our entity in the scheme of nature’s grand play.

Abutilon ranadei (Ghanti Mudra): Endangered Species of Indian Flower

Abutilon ranadei is critically endangered species of ornamental flower of Maharashtra where it is called Ghanti Mudra or Son Ghanta. It was first collected at Amba Ghat in the Kolhapur District of Maharashtra State by Namdeorao B. Ranade, who was the  keeper of the Herbarium at the College of Science, Pune. Kew botanist Otto Stapf and G.M. Woodrow described it as a new species in 1894 and named it in honour of Mr Ranade.

Because of its narrow range and extreme rarity, in the past it has been rated as Endangered or even presumed extinct, and has only recently been assigned to the critically endangered category. In addition to its type locality, it has now been collected in nine new locations: in Pune (Shilimb, Rajgad, Torna Fort, Purandhar Fort), Satara (Vasota Fort), Sangali (Gothne, Prachitgad), Kolhapur (Radhanagari), and Sindhudurg (Amboli) Districts of Maharashtra State.

It is an undershrub, measuring 2.5-3.5 m high. The vegetative plant parts bear star-shaped hairs. The leaves are ovate to rounded-ovate, with tips that taper to a point, heart-shaped bases and scalloped to toothed margins. The solitary flowers are about 2.5 cm in diameter. The calyx is bell-shaped, with lobes free up to the middle, and is covered with glands and star-shaped hairs. The corolla is bell-shaped with pale purple petals with orange-yellow tips. The petals are twice as long as the calyx. The staminal column is 2-3.5 cm long and is hairless with purple lines. The filaments are white with a reddish base, 3-5 mm long, and have dumbbell-shaped glandular hairs in the upper part. The anther lobes are kidney-shaped and are initially green, turning dark rose at maturity and brownish-violet at dehiscence. There are five styles, which are up to 7 mm long and sparsely hairy. The five carpels have a sharp point and are densely hairy throughout. The fruits are schizocarpic (split into a number of seed-containing parts).

The species has danger of extinction from natural as well as man made threats. Anthropogenic threats include the periodic harvesting of firewood from the edges of the forests where it occurs, forest fires, and the collection of Strobilanthes callosa stems for house-building and agricultural practices, which disturb the habitat of this dwindling species. A. ranadei also faces natural pests such as tropical red spider mites, striped mealy bugs, cabbage semi-loopers, aphids, purple scale insects, leaf miners and snails. Amongst the known natural pests, mealy bugs present the most common threat.

Pollination Stage of Flower