Biology Current Affairs - 2020

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Two new plant species discovered in Western Ghats

Two new plant species were discovered in Edmalayalar, Pooyamkutty-Adamalayar and Neriamangalam forest regions of Western Ghats in Ernakulam district of Kerala.

The discovered species have been christened as Vellithumpa and Eriocaulon manoharanii.

They were discovered by a team of researchers led by Professor C.N. Sunil during investigations conducted as part of a UGC-sponsored project on the flowering plants.

Vellithumpa (Anisochilus shoolamudianus)

  • It is a very rare species of shrub plant belonging to the mint family. It was discovered growing on steep wet rocks on Shoolamudy peak in deep inside the Edmalayalar forest range.
  • The species was named after the place of collection and was given vernacular name Vellithumpa (mean’s silver flower) as it has white silvery hairs under the leaves and bears small white flowers with red anthers in cylindrical closely packed clusters.

Eriocaulon manoharanii

  • It is herbaceous plant belonging to the pipeworts family. It was found discovered in the wet rocky mountain grasslands of Mamalakandam-Munippara area in the Neriamangalam forest range.
  • The species was named after T.M. Manoharan, former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests in recognition of his contributions to wildlife protection and biodiversity conservation.
  • The plant bears small white flowers which grows in clusters and has patchy distribution which gives scenic beauty to the valleys and grasslands.

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Juvenile Camel’s key source of MERS: Study

As per recently published study, camels aged less than four years might be a major source of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The study was published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases

The research study was undertaken by international team who had looked for evidence of current or past infection in more than 800 dromedary camels (also called Arabian camels).

In this study researchers have found out that

  • More than 90 per cent of camels were infected by MERS virus the age of two and virus shedding was more common in calves than in adults.
  • Changes in animal husbandry may reduce the occurrence of human MERs infections.
  • Dromedary camels that are living in the Middle East have antibodies that recognised MERS virus protein which is a strong sign of past infection.
  • However the spread of MERS virus in humans is still unknown but it might spread due direct contact with body fluids from infected camels.
  • Alternatively, it might have spread by drinking unpasteurised camel milk and possibly by transfer through the contaminated virus present in the saliva of an infected calf to their mothers.

Facts about Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

  • MERS belongs to the family of coronaviruses which includes large family of viruses such as common cold and Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
  • It was discovered in 2012 and was mostly centred in Saudi Arabia. But cases might have occurred before.
  • Source: MERS is a betacoronavirus derived from bats. Camels have shown to have antibodies to MERS, but the exact source of infection in camels has not been identified.
  • Transmission: It can be transmitted from infected person to others after close contact via a respiratory route. It spread’s in droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • Symptoms: fever, breathing problems, pneumonia and kidney failure.
  • Treatment: Till date there is no vaccine available to prevent it. However intensive medical care can help patient to breath.

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