World Biodiversity Day - 22nd May 2013

Biodiversity basically means the 'variety' in life forms. And it is found all around you. From the birds to the bees, from the shrubs to the trees, and the numerous shells in the open seas,.. everything is 'Biodiversity'.

Our biotic and abiotic natural resources are what sustains us and our needs. And biodiversity plays a major role in providing us with this constant supply of the natural resources that we need.The 22nd of May every year is celebrated as 'World Biodiversity Day', to acknowledge and appreciate the other forms of life for their need and importance in our own survival.

Many may be unaware of this fact that India is the 12th most megadiverse country in the world. The diversity of species found here is immense. So much so that it boasts of 390 species of mammals alone, making it the seventh richest country in mammalian life. It is also ninth in birds, fifth in reptiles and tenth in plant diversity, worldwide. The various highlands, plains, plateaus, desserts, coastlines and islands is what helps in having such a diverse collection of life forms here.

To enthral us about our own county's richness, lets look at some of the interesting flora and fauna that we find here. 
1. South Asian river dolphin (Platanista gangetica) is the National Aquatic Animal of India, but unfortunately it is also an endangered species of 'freshwater' dolphin. Entanglement in fishing nets and habitat loss are some of the major threats looming this species. They are quite unique in the way they navigate and hunt. Gangetic River Dolphins have evolved to be partially blind, and also the water bodies that they are found in, are usually murky. And so these dolphins rely on 'echolocation', wherein they emit calls and listen to the echoes, to locate and identify the environment. Interesting, isn't it!

2. King cobras (Ophiophagus hannah) are the world's longest venomous snakes. And the average length of these snakes are about 3 to 4 metres (9.8 to 13 feet)! The King cobra is also known as the 'snake-eater' because its diet usually comprises of other snakes. Kraits, pythons, rat snakes and even other cobra are included in its diet. The King cobras range includes the western ghats and some parts of north-east India.

3. Indian Skimmer (Rynchops albicollis) are unique birds, known for their fascinating method of fishing! 
They have unique beaks where the lower mandible is larger than the upper mandible. The skimmer skims through lakes and rivers with its beak wide open, cutting through the water, creating a continuous ripple during this course. And when it comes across a prey, while doing so, it just snaps its beak, holds its prey and flies off to perch and feast on its successful hunt. Sadly pollution, habitat loss and disturbance by humans have caused this birds to enter the 'vulnerable' conservation status. One of the places where you can find them is in National Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh, India. 

4. Indian Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes khasiana) is a carnivorous plant that is endemic to India. It is very rarely found in the wild and its distribution is restricted to the Khasi Hills region in Meghalaya. This carnivorous plant has a pitcher shaped flower (hence, the name) with a lid-like projection on top. And when an insect or any other suitable prey goes inside, the lid above closes and the plant eventually ingests the prey and absorbs the nutrients from it. A recent finding has also revealed that this pitcher plant species exhibits some form of 'bioluminescence', wherein the entrance of the pitcher shaped flower uses a blue glow to attract prey inside it!

This is just a mere glimpse of the unique biodiversity that our country boasts of. And the understanding to protect and conserve them for our very own 'dependence' on them should be inbuilt within us from the start. And hence lets celebrate 'World Biodiversity Day' by appreciating it and vowing to protect it, not just out of goodwill, but also that we may have a better future.


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