September 29, 2006

Promiscuous queen bees make healthier hives

00:01 28 September 2006 news service
John Pickrell

The queens of bees, ants and wasps that indulge in the most promiscuous and lengthy sex marathons produce the healthiest colonies, a new study reveals.

Honeybee queens that mated with multiple drones were shown to foster bee hives with wider genetic variation. This variation meant they were much better able to fend off a debilitating disease, researchers found.

For many social insect queens, mating is a costly activity. In honeybees, for example, it involves her flying many kilometres from the hive to rendezvous sites with male drones – the longer she stays to mate, the more precious energy she expends, and the greater the chance there is that she will be devoured by predators.

This has made experts wonder why the queens of some species of social insects indulge in multiple sexual encounters, while others make do with a single male. Ideas include that the resulting genetic variation could help improve the division of labour in a colony, or that multiple mating might simply be a strategy to collect more sperm.

(In the picture:Queen bees, such as the one marked with a numbered tag, foster healthier colonies by 'sleeping around' (Image: David Tarpy))

Hotbed for life

But perhaps the most convincing theory is that queens that take many lovers produce colonies that are better protected against disease. "Insects living very closely in nutrient-rich environments are hotbeds for micro-organisms – they need mechanisms to protect against disease," says apiculturalist (bee expert) David Tarpy at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, US.

To test this theory, Tarpy experimentally inseminated honeybee queens (Apis mellifera) with the sperm of either one or 10 drones. Twenty-four "multiple-mate" queens and 25 singly-mated queens were then encouraged to set up colonies in bee hives kept by Tarpy's colleague Thomas Seeley at Cornell University in Ithaca, US.

Once these colonies were established, Seeley sprayed them with water tainted with American foulbrood disease, a highly virulent infector of bee larvae.

The hives were tested for spread of infection five and nine weeks later. Though no colonies had completely escaped infection, the researchers found that colonies fathered by single drones were significantly weaker and were experiencing more intense outbreaks of disease.

Wipe out

The findings strongly suggest that multiple mating increases a colony's resistance to parasites, Tarpy says. "Honeybee queens are hedging their bets by mating with many males," he says. The resultant offspring would have a wider range of disease resistance and susceptibilities, meaning they are less likely to be wiped out in one go.

"This is convincing evidence that multiple-mated hives seem to suffer less disease," says Francis Ratnieks, who heads up Sheffield University's Apiculture and Social Insect Laboratory in the UK. "There are lots of ideas in this area, but not many good experimental studies."

The finding could have wider implications. Honeybees are thought to be directly responsible for about one-third of everything eaten in the US, due to service they provide as pollinators, says Tarpy. They are therefore worth an estimated $20 billion annually to the agricultural industry. Many of these are domesticated bees, and some are artificially inseminated.

Though honeybees naturally take 10 to 20 mates – beekeepers could help ensure hives are steeled against the ravages of disease by ensuring queens are as promiscuous as possible, perhaps through artificial insemination, says Tarpy.

Journal reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B (DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2006.3702)

Silky-footed tarantulas don't come unstuck

27 September 2006
From New Scientist Print Edition.
Michael Reilly

They have a deadly bite, but a soft footfall. Tarantulas, it turns out, can spin silk with their feet.

To crawl vertically and cling upside down, most spiders use minute claws and pads on their feet or "tarsi". These work on rough surfaces, but may fail on smooth or dirty ones. While this is not a problem for small spiders that can survive long falls, for a heavy tarantula a slip could be fatal.

To figure out how tarantulas make their way safely up vertical surfaces, Adam Summers of the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues analysed the footprints of Costa Rican zebra tarantulas (Aphonopelma seemanni) as they climbed a glass wall. This revealed that the spiders left fragments of sticky silk a few micrometres in diameter and up to 2.5 centimetres long.

On looking closely at the spiders' feet the researchers found microscopic spigots that resembled the creatures' abdominal silk-producing spinnerets (Nature, vol 443, p 407). "With all the work that's been done on spider feet it's amazing to find something like this. Somehow it has been missed before," says Summers.

“With all the work that's been done on spider feet it's amazing to find this. Somehow it has been missed before”The discovery of these structures raises an interesting evolutionary question, as abdominal spinnerets are widely considered to be the remnants of ancient appendages. "It is thought that abdominal spinnerets could be vestigial legs," says Todd Blackledge, who works on spider silk at the University of Akron in Ohio. The spinnerets have jointed segments and have been shown to move in sync with the legs when spiders walk.

So far Summers and colleagues have found foot spigots only in tarantulas, so it is possible that they are a relatively recent adaptation to supplement the claws and pads. Identifying the genes involved in tarsal silk production will help determine whether they evolved to increase traction, or if they were co-opted from an organ with some other function. Testing these hypotheses will require detailed surveys of all spider species, says Summers, looking for any that might also have silken toes.

From issue 2571 of New Scientist magazine, 27 September 2006, page 12.

September 28, 2006


A small village on the bank of the river
The clear water could make you shiver
But soon the pollution
Caused it's execution
Now the river is a black, dirty sewer!


September 25, 2006

I lament

Snowy cotton mounds?
No!,white fluffy clouds.
Behind them the pink sky
Gives a tone-a bit shy.

Orange splashes here and there,
Absolute beauty at a wrongwhere!
Headlights and the running ants,
"Money,Money!", the greedy chants.

Not even a second, to look up to
Nature's show, its colours and hues.
I lament, while watering the plants;
Lovely sky and the echoing chants.

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."
-Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

Thanks TOI

Thanks to Times Of India for quick response to this grave matter.

Chopping trees for garba? Bad idea


Ahmedabad: Chopping trees inside your society to make space for garba? Bad idea! Volunteers of environment NGOs are doing the rounds around societies and they would report felling of trees to civic authorities, an offence that could attract fine. 
A complaint against Goyal Intercity society block 'A' has already been registered by a volunteer of environment NGO Tarumitra, Hershal Pandya, with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), for lopping off all branches of 14 trees. 
"Some 14 fully grown trees inside the society compound have been reduced to 10-15 feet of naked trunks to make way for residents to do garba. The society took no prior permission and I reported the incident to the AMC," says Pandya. 
 AMC officials have warned residential societies to desist from chopping or badly pruning trees without permission. "I will look into this complaint and if the residents have lopped off branches, they will be fined. Mild pruning is permissible, but you cannot lop off branches this way," says general manager of AMC's parks & gardens department, IP Kakkad. 
While the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation itself has been chopping a number of trees as a part of its roadwidening exercise, many residents, too, are known to mercilessly cut trees within their societies without realising that they are committing an offence. 
 "We have reported two incidents of tree felling in the city recently, including a huge Neem tree chopped at Chandralok Apartments in Shahibaug and 4-5 trees cut in Swaymbhu Apartments near AMA," says Bhavna Ramrakhiani of Ahmedabad Community Foundation. 
The AMC started a 'green hotline' after a number of such incidents were reported earlier this year.


"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."
-Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss)
Black roses,
Sad Moses,
Bright smoke,
Glistening coke.

No more kisses,
Masked-beaked noses.
Exaggerated picture is,
Reality can-be this!

Lovely, chirpy, green nature,
Holds in-it-a beautiful future.
Let's save it, conserve it, re-kindle it,
Dark-is murdered, when-a candle is lit.

September 23, 2006

Ruthless Tree Cutting - For Navratri

I was pretty shocked to see people cutting down trees to nothing but a naked trunk.
Fourteen Trees in a row, standing naked and in front of them, a stage for band to play during navratri.
This is a scene in Goyal Intercity A, Nr S.A.L. Hospital. They are a set of ten-storeyed buildings with people of the upper strata living there.
It was a very sad thing to see uneducativeness of so called literate people.
I have already complained to the municipality and also informed the press. I hope they bring up the issue and enlighten the darkened minds.
May God bless them with some knowledge and love for nature! Else there is no stopping to the increase in gloom spread over the world........alas!.....i hope........may God......


"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."
-Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

Lions Dying in Indian Zoo after Failed Experiment

Just a note :-) I think the Indian culture and Indianness shows up in this article.
Lions Dying in Indian Zoo after Failed Experiment

September 18, 2006 — By Palash Kumar, Reuters

CHANDIGARH, India — Twenty-one lions are dying in a zoo in north India after a cross-breeding experiment to boost the park's attractions went disastrously wrong.

In the 1980s officials at the Chhatbir Zoo in the northern city of Chandigarh, bred captive Asiatic lions with a pair of African circus animals, resulting in a hybrid species.

Within a few years it became obvious it had not worked.

The offspring found it hard to walk, let alone run, because their hind legs were weak. And by the mid 1990s the big cats -- which live for up to 20 years in captivity -- showed symptoms of failing immune systems.

But it wasn't until 2000 that the breeding programme was ended, and the male lions given vasectomies, by which time the zoo had 70 to 80 such lions.

Their number dwindled slowly, with disease killing some and some dying of wounds inflicted by other lions.

Authorities say they are waiting for the population to "phase out" before they can start breeding pure Asiatic lions.

"But the effort here is to help them die with dignity," said Dharminder Sharma, a senior zoo official. "We give them all the facilities to live a happy life in their last years. Some of the old lions are even given boneless meat."

Last year the zoo opened a special enclosure, away from the main exhibit area, where it keeps lions who have become too feeble to defend themselves.

It has been dubbed an "old age home" for lions.

Ailing Lakshmi and Lajwanti now live in these sheds, which have a small caged courtyard.

Both are hybrid and are extremely weak. They can barely stand up or walk. Their only activity is a small but painful walk to eat their meals. However, if challenged, they can still muster a spine-chilling roar.

In August, Lakshmi stopped eating. Doctors at the zoo put her on a drip and fed her glucose through water.

"Those were nervous times for us," said Sharma.

"We tried very hard to keep her alive and eventually succeeded when she slowly started to eat ... Even if they are meant to die, it doesn't meant we kill them by not treating them," he added.

Asiatic lions are found only in India and, at present, there are about 300 of them in the Gir national park in the western state of Gujarat.

In the mid-20th century, their numbers were less then 15 as they were vigorously hunted by the Maharajas and princes for whom the majestic animal was the most coveted game. The population recovered after a breeding programme launched in the Gir sanctuary in the 1960s.

Source: Reuters

Contact Info:

Website :


"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."
-Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

Lebanon Begins To Clean Ravaged Coast After Wartime Oil Spill

Lebanon Begins To Clean Ravaged Coast After Wartime Oil Spill

September 22, 2006 — By Henry Meyer, Associated Press

BEIRUT — Shovel-wielding volunteers sifted through oil-stained sand on a beach where tourists once swam, now emptied by a massive spill caused by Israeli bombardment. Two months later, only 3 percent of the oil has been recovered.

"It's going to take a year before it's back to normal," said Commander Christian Nedelec, the head of an eight-person French team that has been helping the Lebanese government clean up the slick.

Lebanon's tourist and fishing industries remain battered by what has been described as the country's worst-ever environmental catastrophe, which erupted when Israeli warplanes struck the Jiyeh power plant in mid-July, spilling up to 110,000 barrels of fuel oil into the clear Mediterranean waters.

Less than 3,500 barrels have been cleaned up. Lebanon couldn't start any offshore operation for weeks, waiting for Israel to lift its naval and air blockade on Sept. 8.

Around two-thirds of Lebanon's picturesque and rocky Mediterranean coast has been fouled by the oil slick, which extends about 95 miles and has reached Syria's shoreline to the north.

"The timing is quite essential with an oil spill. The more you wait, the more it spreads," said Luisa Colasimone of the United Nations Environmental Program.

On Sunday, 20 volunteers were cleaning up the black gunk that tarred the 1.1-mile-long beach, Ramlat el-Baida -- Arabic for "white sand." The only public beach within about 60 miles of the capital, it is usually crowded with locals and tourists on summer weekends.

Tarek Moukaddem, an 18-year-old student, has come six or seven times to help clean, traveling by bus from his hometown north of Beirut.

"I usually spend all my time here. I'm here to clean it so I can come here with my friends and swim next summer," he said.

The airstrike at Jiyeh destroyed six fuel tanks at the plant. Israel said it hit the site, 12 miles south of Beirut, as part of a broader campaign against infrastructure used by Hezbollah guerrillas. Many Lebanese accuse it of hitting the station and other sites with few ties to Hezbollah simply to punish the country and force the government to take action against the guerrillas.

Israel insists the circumstances of the spill are unclear and it has not accepted responsibility.

"It's not clear that Israel was directly responsible for the oil slick. We certainly did not intentionally attack the oil containers," said Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mark Regev.

That explanation is of scant consolation to Mohamed Itani, a Beirut fisherman who not been out to sea in his boat since the spill, and is struggling to support his 7-year-old twin sons and his wife, who is expecting a third child.

The 35-year-old sat idly drinking tea, looking despondently at the thick, black sludge that has blocked the mouth of the small fishing port.

Along the length of Lebanon's coast, usually visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, more than 30 sandy beaches and rocky coves are covered with oil.

Lebanon's archaeological heritage also has suffered. Some 25 miles north of Beirut in the ancient Phoenician port city of Byblos, whose history stretches back 7,000 years, famous ruins were blackened by the slick.

The oil seeped into the foundation of the medieval harbor wall, staining the stones of the two ancient towers at the port's entrance. U.N. experts warn that the site will have to be cleaned for 10 weeks with hand brushes -- before winter to prevent permanent devastation.

It is marine life that could suffer the worst consequences, because in the Mediterranean, currents don't come in enough often from the ocean to sweep away pollutants.

Lebanese waters are known as a passage for migrating schools of fish, particularly tuna. The oil, which sank to the bottom of the sea, where it threatens plants and fish that live on the sea floor, could resurface unless treated and contaminate the coast for years to come.

It could take up to 10 years for the ecosystem of the eastern Mediterranean to recover fully, according to the country's environment minister, Yaacoub Sarraf.

Several Mediterranean countries including France, Spain and Italy have sent teams to help the Lebanese navy in coping with the oil spill, whose cleanup could cost $100 million.

Lebanon, meanwhile, plans to sue Israel for damages, though it has not said how much it will claim.

Rick Steiner, an American oil spill expert who worked on the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster and has been advising the Lebanese government, says Israel should pay $1 billion, including lost revenues from fishing and tourism.


Associated Press writer Steve Weizman contributed to this report from Jerusalem.

Source: Associated Press

Contact Info:

Website :

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."
-Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

Taru Mitra Gujarat

What is this Taru Mitra Gujarat?

"Taru Mitra" in gujarati,sanskrit and hindi means "Friends of Trees"

We are a group of citizens concerned about the environment of the state and largely, the earth.

We are based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat and our present activities revolve around the city of Amdavad.(thats in gujarati!) Our activities are also related to "Trees". We are engaged in stopping of Tree-cutting, growing more trees and in environmental education.

For more details on our group, please visit: Taru Mitra Gujarat Website

On this blog:
I intend to post News & Articles related to the Global Environment and Indian scenario"