Category: Decoding Nature

How the elusive otter has made its home in Goa’s mangroves

Human-dominated mangroves are far from what is considered an ideal environment for otters. And yet this estuarine island on India’s western coast is home to a thriving population of the threatened smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata). Recent studies of this elusive species living in the brackish waters of Chorao island—far from the freshwater sources that otters are typically believed to rely on—offer new insights into otter behaviour that could inform future conservation efforts.

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Why does Nemo the clownfish have three white stripes? The riddle solved at last

Nemo, alias Amphiprion ocellaris, belongs to the clownfish group, which includes about 30 species. Their colour pattern is characterised by a yellow, orange, brown or black colour with vertical white stripes composed of light-reflecting cells called iridophores.

In addition to other physical characteristics, clownfish species are distinguished by their number of vertical white stripes. Thus, some species have no stripes (Amphiprion ephippium), only one (Amphiprion frenatus) or just two (Amphiprion sebae). Amphiprion ocellaris, the famous Nemo, has three stripes. What can explain the difference in the number of bands between these species?

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Can a scientific name save one of Earth’s most iconic freshwater fish from extinction?

The mahseers are an iconic group of fish found throughout the fast-flowing rivers of South and South-East Asia. Characterised by their large scales, attractive appearance and potentially vast size, the mahseers have long been afforded saintly status as “God’s fishes”. They are also known to anglers as some of the world’s hardest fighting freshwater game fish, earning them the reputation of “tigers of the water”.

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Prehistoric people started to spread domesticated bananas across the world 6,000 years ago

In a globalised world, we routinely move enormous quantities of food around the planet in trade and for aid. Many countries, including India, would struggle to feed their populations without food imports. Most people are used to being able to buy a wide range of produce which domestic farmers would struggle – or find impossible – to grow. A typical example is the banana, once a prized exotic novelty, but now a staple in many country’s supermarkets.

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Half of Earth’s satellites restrict use of climate data

When governments restrict who can access data, or limit how people can use or redistribute it, that slows the progress of science. Now, as U.S. climate funding is under threat, it’s more important than ever to ensure that researchers and others make the most of the collected data.

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