Thursday, May 28, 2009

Investigate this Toad Mystery!

I was wondering the other day at morning: what creature’s scat (animal dropping) could it be! It was black, shiny, smooth and of light weight in the shape of a capsule, lying on the garden. Could it be that of a snake or a bandicoot? I saw the scats each morning and was bewildered.

One day I crushed a scat into pieces with a stick: I found the shiny black heads of ants of various sizes in a brownish matrix! I was astonished. Could it be that of a toad?

Connecting the places where the trails of scats were found led me to the junk room where the toads usually lurk at daytime. Yes, those scats were those of Toads only (Bufo fowleri, ‘Theaurai’ in Tamil). Here in Tamil Nadu, there is a belief that if one kills a toad the person will be contracting the disease, Leprosy! I had tried to kill these toads: but I am often cheated by them. After an hour of beating and ‘killing,’ when I turn up to see the toad’s body it would have disappeared! Toads cannot be killed: they escape by playing dead. But they have to be beaten to pieces for that – as they attract snakes into the garden. Toads have been described in Puranic Tamil songs that they are seen even inside stones! They easily burrow into the sand and aestivate – to escape the unbearable hot and dry summer; their extra moist skin saves them from being dried up. They emerge out of the sand as soon as the monsoon starts.
This wonder toad camouflages to merge with the surrounding – with its brownish skin coloration!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Maize that amazed me!

At school we are taught and shown that fruits are formed out of flowers after pollination. We also see it happen in reality in the Nature. I was wondering about a plant that flowered at its top but bore no fruit out of those flowers! After some weeks a fruit body appeared growing larger and larger from its side lower down! I found this wonder in
Sweet Corn (Zea mays var.rugosa or ‘Makka chollam’ in Tamil). Actually the punch of flowers on the tip of the stem is the male inflorescence (tassel) and that on the side (‘the fruit body’) is the female inflorescence (ears)! The corn matures out from this female inflorescence.

In yester years, this plant, the sweet corn was not seen cultivated here in South India. But now it is seen grown in every place through modern agricultural practices. It is very much adaptive to varying temperatures and grows fast to give a high yield – making itself a wonder plant!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Lizards use tactics!

The Common house lizard (Gecko) uses tactics to get its prey:
At dusk I close the glass doors of windows to prevent the entry of mosquitoes into the house. If any female mosquito present inside the house tries to get out (for mating with the male mosquito outdoors – and returning back inside for human blood!), it dashes with the glass pane. At this time the lizard that is waiting on there catches it and devours! At times lizards go out before the door is shut and waits on the outer surface of the windows. As I switch on the fluorescent light source (- UV rays emitting) inside the house, the insects present outdoors are attracted by the light and dash with the glass pane. Now the lizards feast upon them! Similarly, just before dawn they get mosquitoes that escape out!
These wonder lizards have keen observation, and are cleverer in using tactics!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Fixing this Swine Flu infection!

Man’s association with animals and birds has also affected his health. Such diseases are called Zoonotic diseases. But there are also other diseases of animals that do not spread to human beings. Unusually a disease known to spread within animals only, has now spread to human beings speedily, killing many people – in Mexico. This virus disease is the Swine Flu. It is seen in swine like the Bird Flu is seen in fowls. Now, (it has changed its mind finding swine boring!) it is infecting man – due to reassortment of genes within its strains. The importance of this Swine flu is its alarming speed in spreading – it has now leaped up to other continents also, from Mexico, making itself a Pandemic from the Epidemic nature! It spreads from man to man through coughing or sneezing or even by touching the articles handled and then moving the hand either to the nose or the mouth! People suffering with this disease have the symptoms as that of Influenza – fever with chills, body pain, and headache, loss of appetite, sore throat, runny nose and cough. Usually its attacks are milder, and even if they are stronger antiviral medicines make it milder leading to recovery.
How to defend yourself against an infection with the Swine flu virus? Simply build general immunity within you by taking balanced diet, taking rest between works and having a good night’s sleep. And make it a habit to wash your hands and face (with soap and water) and gargle after your work and on entering your house. Avoid touching the nose, eyes or the mouth without washing the hands. If this flu is reported in your region, wear face masks and avoid visiting crowded places and make stringent washing the hands and face. Swine flu will be driven out of your way!
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