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Study identifies distinct frog species not belonging to generic ‘hourglass’ classification



by Ifham Nizam

A study on the abnormalities and polymorphisms of amphibians found within and outside the Horton Plains National Park has identified a distinct frog species that does not belong to its generic “hourglass frog” classification.

The study was conducted by graduate research assistant Praneeth Silva of Sri Jayewardenepura University’s Department of Zoology under the supervision of Prof. W. A. D. Mahaulpatha, senior lecturer and head, Department of Zoology.

“Our study on amphibian abnormalities and causes found that Taruga eques species is faced with bigger threats in both localities in comparison to other amphibian species”, Silva told The Sunday Island.

Within and outside regions of the Sri Lankan Plains, habitat modifications due to human activities were the main threat on Taruga eques. The study also found that natural predators were the main cause for formation of amphibian abnormalities found within the Plains.

The study revealed a novel pattern polymorphism of Taruga eques in that a variety of the species without the hourglass was identified within and outside the Plains, indicating that the common name Taruga eques cannot be broadly classified as an “hour-glass frog”. At the end of the study, new six dorsal colour variations and five dorsal pigment patterns of Taruga eques could be newly introduced to the science.

Amphibian body colouration and pigment patterns play a vital role for their survival in the environment. Polymorp-hism (happening together in the same habitat of two or more distinct species results in rarest of them getting mutated to be like the main species) has probably led Taruga eques to be seen as hourglass tree frog though in reality the situation is likely to be rather different.

Silva said that a total of 694 amphibians belonging to four families and 11 species were recorded in five lentic water bodies which were studied. Five hundred and eleven (511) individuals were examined inside the Plains and 183 outside the region. Of the 511 individuals, only 4.5 percent of the amphibians had abnormalities. Of the 183 individuals examined outside the Plains, 80.87 percent had abnormalities.

Of the 511 inspected amphibians within the Plains, 0.59 percent suffered from ectromelia and four percent had cysts. Of the 183 amphibians examined outside the Plains, 80.33 percent had cysts and 0.55 percent had femoral projections. Cysts accounted for most of the abnormalities in both environments. Most of the infections (60 percent) recorded in the amphibians inside the Plains were mild. In contrast 77.55 percent of the infections recorded in the amphibians outside the Plains were moderate.

A research associate attached to the University of Indonesia Research Centre for Climate Change Thasun Amarasinghe said that not only hourglass tree frogs but almost all amphibians in Sri Lanka are under threat.

“They are called hourglass tree frogs as they have a colour pattern like an hour glass mark on their dorsum (back). They are highland species, and are very sensitive to temperature and humidity so in addition to habitat loss and forest fragmentation, there will be a future threat to them due to climate change”, he warned.

The major conclusion of the study was the natural selection results in the ‘polymorphisms’ to face the threat of predation. Moreover, colour and pattern polymorphisms manifest due to strong selection by visually oriented predators and the polymorphisms are highly valuable for the species to ensure their survival in the environment, while helping them to avoid abnormalities.

(Pix courtesy Praneeth Silva)


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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for



By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time



State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.



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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30



The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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