In ‘Nature So Bizarre’, our on-going series on Biodiversity, Katie Bagli introduces us to the wonderful world of flora and fauna – believing that the more we know them the more we’d want to protect them. Here is the third post in this series.
(Katie has many hats that she dons at various times. When she is not leading nature trails as a BNHS Volunteer (since 9 years), she is reading books (authored and illustrated by her) to children at major book stores. She is also one of the founders of the NGO ‘Save Rani Baugh’ where she has gathered many supporters to save many precious trees from being axed in the name of re-development. She loves children and is always ready to visit Shishuvan as a resource person, author and nature lover.)
The Able Dancers
The Whirligig Beetles spend most of their time on the surface of water, feeding on floating detritus. If alarmed, however, they begin to dance in circles rapidly swaying their bodies sideways, rather like a jig, hence the name ‘whirligig’. Sometimes, to escape predation, they dive underwater, carrying an air bubble under their hid wings which helps them to breathe. Their compound eyes are divided; the upper half is adapted to see above water and the lower half to see under water.
The Shy Feather dusters
Feather Dusters are marine worms that encase themselves in tubes made of mud. They have a head of very fine feathery crimson tentacles which are used to draw food from the water towards their mouth and also serve as gills for breathing. They look beautiful when they fan out their tentacles hence they are also called fan worms. But they are very shy and of a nervous temperament. With the slightest splash or even if a shadow is cast on them suddenly, they simply withdraw into their tubes. The fans come out again very slowly after quite some time as if they are unsure of their safety.
Fish that go fishing
Deep near the ocean bed may be found the Angler Fish. One of the fin spines is modified into a long rod that dangles above their head ending in a tassel that produces light. This serves the purpose of a fishing rod with bait at its end. The light attracts other smaller fish that are immediately gulped down by the Angler. Another strange feature of this fish is that prefer to walk on the ocean bed using their fins rather than swim.
A Grotesque Disguise
Many insects are known for their camouflage and disguise to avoid being detected, but the Tortoise Beetle takes the cake. Its larvae cover themselves with a medusa of their own faecal strands to make themselves nondescript and thus avoid predation. If, by chance, some of the faecal strands break off and a part of its body is seen, the repair work begins without delay and the patch is well concealed once again. To anchor these strands in position the larvae has a two-pronged fork-like protrusion rising from its abdomen.
A Pentopus or a Hexopus?
If you were to examine all the Octopuses in the sea you would be surprised to find that some of them have fewer than eight tentacles – perhaps five or six, in which case they should be called ‘Pentopus’ or ‘Hexopus’. This is because, when under stress, they have a tendency to chew up some of their arms! Over a period of time they regrow the tentacles.