Tag Archive | "discovery"

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Remotest Island on Earth: Bouvet Island

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

Though Earth is densely crowded with humans now, yet there are places which are really remote and humans place their feet not even in decades. One such place is the remotest island in the world. It is the Bouvet island, named after it’s discoverer. The island is so remote and difficult to approach that it took around a century for any human being to land in it after its first viewing.


Bouvet Island - The most remote island on Earth


The story of Bouvet island’s discovery is interesting. The island was first discovered by Jean-Baptiste-Charles Bouvet, a French Navigator in 1739. He was born into a distinguished naval family but orphaned at an early age. As a grown up boy he joined the French India company in 1731 and eventually attained the lieutenant rank soon. For three years he tried to persuad the company to send him south on an exploration to look for harbors suitable for company’s use. He was actually hoping to locate the land reported by Binot Paulmyer De Gonneville when he returned to France after a expedition in 1505. Gonneville stated that he had spent six months in a land far south, whose fine climate and friendly inhabitants commended it to french colonization. This virtual land was called “Gonneville Land” at that time. Gonneville probably referred to a land near Brazil, but Bouvet’s expectation was to find that land sailing far south from the Cape of Good Hope.

Finally his appeal was accepted by his company and he started his expedition equipped with two ships, the 280 tonAgile and 200 ton Marie. He was supplied with provisions sufficient for a voyage of one and a half year. Captain Ducloscommanded Marie and Bouvet commanded Agile as a leader. The two ships started their voyage on 19th July, 1738 from Breton port Lorient. Expecting to find a tropical or at least temperate land, they were ill-prepared for the increasing cold. Bouvet had chosen to explore the are of the world’s oceans most empty of land. With great determination he carried out a thorough search between latitudes 44 and 55 degree South. On 1st January, 1739 a land was first seen, a high rock cliff, possibly an island, or more likely according to Bouvet, a promitory of a larger land. Despite of bad climate and scurvy rife among his crew, Bouvet kept this island in view for tweleve days. While he desperately attempted to approach closer to the island, always being kep away by the impassible ice. They also didn’t dare to launch boats for the fear that they will not be able to find Agile and Marie again in the fog.Eventually the attempt had to be abandoned, leaving the true nature of his discovery unknown, Bouvet sailed back north to reach Cape of Good Hope on 24th February and lorient on June 24th.


Bouvet Island


Unfortunately, Bouvet, a very competent navigator but handicapped by the instruments available to hime at that time, gave the position of the island as 54 degree South and 11 degree East. He named the land he saw as Cape Circumcision. Many later expeditions were made to search for Cape Circumcision. But explorer like James Cook, James Clark Ross, Thomas Moore, etc. in mid 19th century failed to find the island. This was because, there location given by Bouvet was significantly erroneous. Meanwhile the island was rediscovered in 1808 by two British whalers in their vessels Snow Swan and Otter , James Lindsay and Thomas Hopper. Because of the wrong coordinates reported by Bouvet, they considered this as a new island and was named as “Lindsay Island”. On December 7 1822, American sealer Benjamin Morrell reported sending his second mate ashore where he took 172 fur seals. he is the first recorded landing on the island. He also measured the circumference as just 25 miles. In 1825, sealers Sprightly and Lively, under the command of Captain george Norris, sighted two islands.  He also landed the islands and named them as “Liverpool” and “Thompson”. After this sighting, for decades navigators could not sight the islands. Only in 1878, Captain Williams of America claimed the sighting of the island again. Captain Joseph Fuller also sighted both islands on 1893. But mysteriously, on 1898 when it was rediscovered by Carl Chun, there were undisputed only one island. The Thompson island was never sighted later. It is most likely that the island subsided under sea.

The Bouvet island is a small volcanic island, 6 miles by 4 miles in size. It is the most isolated and remotest island in the world, being 2000 km north of Antarctica and 2525 km south west of South Africa. Bouvet’s success of falling in with this microscopic and isolated spot of land in the course of a brief excursion southward of his normal course is one of the most remarkable lucky dips in the whole history of exploration.

In 1927, Bouvet island was claimed by Norway but British annexed it initially. But later it was accepted and became dependent territory of Norway in 1930. In 1971, Norway declared it as a nature reserve. The island still considered to be difficult to approach by sea. he easiest way to access the island is with a helicopter from a ship.

Comments (1)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Saola – The Discovery and Threats

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

In May 1992, Vietnamese and Foreign Biologists were taken by surprise by the discovery of three pairs of horns. These were horns of trophies killed by the local people of central Vietnam’s Vu Quang Nature reserve. The biologists were on field survey in the area. The size of the horns suggested about the existence of a large animal completely unknown to the outside world.


Saola - courtesy WWF


This discovery took the science community by shock. It was believed that after centuries of exploration by explorers across deserts, rainforests of the planet with even high technology left no place or large species unkown to the science.

After this discovery, scientists did extensive research in the area. In next few years this research led to the discovery of 20 partial specimen of this species, including three complete skin and several photos. Researchers were also able to trap the species in remotely set camera in the rain forests. With all these evidences, scientists came to the conclusion that this is a completely new species and it was named as Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis).

Saola was name already local people have been referring to this animal .  Sao means Spindle and La means post. The generic name Pseudoryx , of the species refers to slightly curved, backward-sweeping horns, resembling to those Oryxes found in Africa and Arabia. Saola is very distantly related to these arid-adapted antelopes though. The specific name of the scientific name   refers to efers to the two Vietnamese provinces Nghe An and Ha Tinh close to where it was found.

The saola stands about 85 cm at the shoulder and weighs approximately 90-100 kg.   The coat is a dark brown with a black stripe along the back. Its legs are darkish and there are white patches on the feet, and white stripes vertically across the cheeks, on the eyebrows and splotches on the nose and chin. All saolas have slightly backward-curved horns, which grow to half a meter in length. The genetic analysis reveals that it is a primitive member of the cattle family.

All known locations for the species are mountainous with steep river valleys, covered by evergreen or semideciduous forests between 300 – 1800 m (1000 – 6000′), with low human disturbance.  It is only found in the foothill of the Tuong Son range. Its distribution within this known ranges is uneven and fragmented in small patches. This range occurs in the border between Laos and Vietnam. It stays in the higher elevations during the wetter summer season, when streams at these altitudes have plenty of water, and moves down to the lowlands during the winter, when the mountain streams dry up.

Even after two decades of discovery, very little known about this large mammal. In the discovery article of Saola, the team proposed  a three months survey to observe the living animal. But Even after intense efforts, scientists have not been able to see a Saola in wild in its natural setting yet! Most of the information on the Saola is gathered from photos and local people’ knowledge.

Local people have reported having seen saola traveling in groups of two or three, rarely more.  Villagers say that the ox eats the leaves of fig trees and other bushes along riverbanks. Saola mark their territories by opening up a fleshy flap on their snout to reveal scent glands. They subsequently rub the underside against objects leaving a musky, pungent paste. The saolas’ colossal scent glands are thought to be the largest of any living mammal.

Though very little known about Saola, one thing is certain that its in a very critically threatened state. In 1994 IUCN listed the species as “Endangered”. But in 2006 its given “Critically Endangered” status due to reducing population.  The animal can’t survive in captivity. All efforts to keep in captivity have failed, the latest being late August 2010.  A Saola was captured by villagers in Laos but died in captivity before government conservationists could arrange for it to be released back in to the wild.

The actual size of the remaining population is unknown and its rarity, distinctiveness and vulnerability make it one of the greatest priorities for conservation in the region. The current population is thought to be a few hundred at maximum and possibly only a few dozen at a minimum.

In April 2011, a reserve was declared to help protect saolas. The Quang Nam’s People Committee inaugurated the Quang Nam Saola Nature Reserve in the Annamite mountains along the border of Vietnam and Laos.  This recent development has created hope for this extremely rare mammal in the world.

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , ,

Hybrid Whale Surprises Scientists

Posted on 26 January 2011 by RE Team

Principal Scientists Kevin Glover at Institute of Marine Research, Norway has revealed a hybrid whale DNA hunted in the northeastern Atlantic in 2007. The whale had the genetic blueprint of a hybrid, with an Antarctic minke mother and Northern minke whale father, Mr Glover came across this surprise while analyzing whale DNA recently.

Soon after Norwegians resumed commercial whale hunting in 1993—following a brief moratorium—the country established a DNA registry to analyze whale kills and help ensure that whale products come from legal sources.


Northern Minke Whale


After the first analysis, Glover came to know about another similar strange looking whale hunted in 1996 from one of his colleague. It didn’t have the white patch on its pectoral flippers like the northern minke whales do. He suspected this 15 year old whale to be of the same hybrid.

So Glover analyzed the DNA of the 1996 whale captured in the North Atlantic, and found a shocker: It was a pure Antarctic whale. The sample had been overlooked because the DNA archive was in its infancy when the whale was captured.


Antarctic Minke Whale


This Antarctic whale in the Arctic provided further evidence that Antarctic minkes can migrate to the home waters of their northern relatives and—as the hybrid shows—even mate with them.

Normally the two whale species, Antarctic minke whale and  Northern minke whale, both of which can reach 35 feet (11 meters) in length—undertake seasonal migrations that separate them by many miles of ocean.

Northern minkes head toward the North Pole in spring and ply waters up to the edge of Arctic ice during the summer. In autumn these whales head south, nearly as far as the Equator, to spend the winter.

Antarctic whales follow a similar pattern, moving between Antarctic ice and warmer mid-latitudes with the seasons.

But because the two hemispheres’ seasons are opposite, the minke species don’t share near-equatorial waters at the same time. Thus, they were never thought to meet—until now.

The discovery has now opened new questions to the scientists.  Is the hybrid whale a fluke, or the beginning of a trend? No one knows, but Glover said that his whale biologist colleague Nils Øien has an interesting theory.

Japanese studies showed that the numbers of Antarctic minke in the Southern Hemisphere appeared to drop significantly between the 1980s and 1990s. Other studies show that supplies of the krill—tiny marine crustaceans—that fuel the Antarctic food chain also dropped during this period.

“Japanese research has even shown that the fat layer on whales down there has decreased—not to the point of malnutrition, but suggesting a decreased access to food,” Glover said.

“So we speculate that the amount of krill and available food has decreased, and maybe as a result the whales are starting to go scouting for food.

“It could be that these individuals are straying away from their territory in the search for food, and a few of them may have found their way to the Arctic Circle.”

We hope Scientists will soon come to a conclusion!

Comments (0)

Tags: , , ,

Stunning new species discovered of 2010

Posted on 04 January 2011 by RE Team

The era of new discoveries may be a history now, but 2010 brought good news for the explorers. A large of species are discovered during the year across the globe. This is a sign that nature is carefully hiding secretes from us and we need to put more efforts to find them all.

The discoveries of 2010 are mostly concentrated to some specific geographical zones or special biological missions. Amazon rain forests, the greater Mekong region, Ecuador, Deep sea/ocean are some of the regions from where large number of species are discovered.  Missions like ’search for lost frogs’ has also helped finding number of new amphibians.

We have highlighted few of the amazing species discovered during the year 2010.


The Giant spider in Middle Eastern sand Dunes:

In early 2010, scientists discovered a giant species of spider hiding in sand dunes on the Israel-Jordan border. With a leg span that stretches 5.5 inches, the spider, named as Cerbalus aravensis, is the biggest of its type in the Middle East. The new discoveries in this region in the earth is very rare. it is really stunning that a spider of this giant size was not known to scientists till now!



The giant spider


The slug-sucking snake and the Scaly-eyed gecko of  Ecuador:

On January 14th, 2010, a team of U.S. and Ecuadorian researchers, the nonprofit, Arizona based Reptile & Amphibian Ecology International announced a lists of 30 unknown species found in Ecuador’s highland forests. Among the discoveries two interesting species are the slug-sucking snake and a scaly-eyed Gecko. In just 20 minutes of nighttime searching in a rare patch of coastal dry forest in Ecuador, scientists spot the new species of snake.  The slug-sucking snake is one of a small group that feasts on gastropods such as slugs and snails. Not only is the snake an unknown species, but its closest relative lives almost 560 kilometers away in Peru.

The scaly-eyed gecko , given a scientific name as Lepidoblepharis buchwaldi , can perch comfortably atop a pencil eraser, even as an adult. They crawl around in leaf litter on the forest floor, and they are so small they are very hard to find.


The scaly eyed mini gecko


The carnivorous pitcher plant of Cambodia:

The Cardamom Mountains rain forests are one of the largest, isolated and still mostly unexplored forests in southeast  Asia. This mountain range has been carefully keeping species and lives unknown to outside world due to lack of proper research. But there are recent efforts in this direction by researchers and sceintists to discover this hidden treasure of nature. One such successful mission is reported yesterday by Fauna and Flora International (FFI). The organization has discovered a new unique species which is a carnivorous pitcher plant. It is named as “Nepenthes holdenii“.


Nepenthes holdenii - The carnivore plant


The bald parrot of Amazon:

More than thousand species have been discovered in the amazon rain forest in last ten years. The most recent of them is the bald parrot, reported by WWF in 2010. The bald parrot, named as Pyrilia aurantiocephala,  a member of the true parrot family, has an extraordinary bald head. It displays an astonishing spectrum of colours. Known only from a few localities in the Lower Madeira and Upper Tapajos rivers in Brazil, the species has been listed as ‘near threatened’, due to its moderately small population, which is declining owing to habitat loss.


The bald parrot of Amazon


The mongoose like mammal carnivore of Madagaskar:

Madagascar, which is home to many unique species, has claimed a species on Oct, 2010 that is unknown to the rest of the world till date. The species is a small mammal carnivore having similarities to Mongoose found in one of the world’s most endangered lakes, Lac Alaotra. It is the first new species of meat-eating mammal discovered in 24 years. The species was named as Durrell’s vontsira (Salanoia durrelli), in the honor of the late conservationist and writer Gerald.


Durrell’s vontsira



The tiny frog of Malaysia:

In the month of August, 2010, in the jungles of Borneo, Dr Indraneil Das and colleague Alexander Haas discovered a new tiny species. It is a frog measuring only 3 mm in length. The full grown adults of the species are of the size 9mm to 12mm. This species named as “Microhyla nepenthicola” was found in Kubah National Park, Malaysia. This is one of the smallest known frog species in the world.


Microhyla nepenthicola - the tiny frog


The squidworm of deep sea:

A discovery made late 2010 from the deep sea near Philippine islands created excitement among the biologists. This species is neither a squid nor a worm, named a squidworm, could represent a missing link, or transitional species.


The Squidworm

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , ,

Squidworm: New Excitement for Biologists

Posted on 06 December 2010 by RE Team

“This illustrates how much we have to learn about even the large, common inhabitants of deep pelagic communities,” said Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

“When the image came onto the screen, everyone said, Oh my gosh, what’s that?” recalled marine zoologist Laurence Madin of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

“This is an intermediate species between the benthic ancestors — things living in the mud on the seafloor — and other species that live in the water column but never go to the floor,”  said Karen Osborn, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. ”I was really excited,” Osborn added,  “It was so tantalizing because the animal was so different from anything previously described, with the fantastic headgear. I would estimate that when exploring the deep water column, more than half the animals we see are undescribed or new to science.”




These are some of the examples of excitements among the scientists after the discovery of a new species under ocean water named as Squidworm. This species is neither a squid nor a worm. It is an especially exciting discovery because the species could represent a missing link, or transitional species.

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the University of California, Santa Cruz have recently discovered the squidworm at around 3000 meters under ocean water, just above the ocean floor. The scientists used a remotely operated submersible robot to find squid. The species is named asTeuthidodrilus samae, or “squid worm of the Sama”—the Sama being a culture with ties to Philippine islands not far from the discovery site.

The Squidworm grows up to 9.4 centimeters (3.7 inches) in length. Swimming upright, it navigates by moving two body-length rows of thin, paddle-shaped protrusions that cascade like dominoes. It has ten tentacles as long or longer than its body stick out of its head, along with six pairs of curved nuchal organs that allow the squidworm to taste and smell underwater.

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , ,

New discovery in the remote mountains of Cambodia

Posted on 25 November 2010 by RE Team

The Cardamom Mountains rain forests are one of the largest, isolated and still mostly unexplored forests in southeast  Asia. This mountain range has been carefully keeping species and lives unkonown to outside world due to lack of proper research. But there are recent efforts in this direction by researchers and sceintists to discover this hidden treasure of nature. One such successful mission is reported yesterday by Fauna and Flora International (FFI). The organization has discovered a new unique species which is a carnivorous pitcher plant. It is named as “Nepenthes holdenii“.


Nepenthes Holdenii


In 2008, British photographer and biologist, Jeremy Holden,contacted the first author to study an apparently undiagnosed Nepenthes that he observed on an isolated peak from the Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia. This taxon was first observed during field surveys conducted for Fauna & Flora International (FFI) in the Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary in February 2006. Populations were seen in four different locations around a single mountain system, all in dry, steep terrain characterised by open areas of tall grasses and pine trees at 600-750 meters above sea level. In August 2009, French botanist F.S. Mey visited Cambodia together with J. Holden in order to study and collect the unidentified Nepenthes. During this expedition, a second population of the taxon was found on a neighbouring peak. Studies of the two populations in situ emonstrated that the taxon possesses a unique combination of features that distinguish it from all other known Nepenthes taxa. Comparison of wild plants and herbarium material confirmed that this is an undescribed taxon. It appears to belong to a group of closely  related Indochinese species that share similar ecological habitats. This new species is named as ‘Nepenthes holdenii’. The description of the new taxon Nepenthes holdenii brings the number of Cambodian Nepenthes species to five.

The large red and green pitchers that characterize ‘Nepenthes holdenii’ are actually modified leaves designed to capture and digest insects. The pitchers can reach up to 30 centimeters long. The carnivorous strategy allows the plants to gain additional nutrients and flourish in otherwise impoverished soils. A further unusual adaptation seen in this new species is its ability to cope with fire and extended periods of drought. Cambodia’s dry season causes forests to desiccate and forest fires are common. Nepenthes holdenii exploits the clearings caused by these regular blazes by producing a large underground tuber which sends up a new pitcher- bearing vine after the fires have passed.

This discovery has once more proved a need of deeper research into the Cardamom Mountains to find the treasure of biodiversity.

Comments (0)


Photos of Nature