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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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About Rs 3 bn paid as OT during past few months



Overtime gravy train for CPC refinery workers:

By Saman Indrajith

About Rs. 3,000 million had been paid as overtime for the employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation oil refinery, during the past few months, Parliament was told yesterday.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said that he had asked for a detailed report as to whom and on what grounds the overtime payments had been made and it would be submitted to Parliament.

Fielding a question asked by Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, Minister Wijesekera said instructions had been issued to regulate overtime.

MP Kiriella demanded to know why overtime had been paid to employees of an institution that had been shut down. “There are reports that over Rs 4,000 million has been paid as overtime to the workers of the refinery that was not functioning owing to the non-availability of crude oil. This is a crime,” Kiriella said.

Minister Wijesekera: “I made inquiries after I saw newspaper reports on payment of overtime to refinery workers. I inquired from the Finance Manager of the CPC. I was told that a sum between Rs 2.5 billion to Rs 3 billion had been paid as overtime. The refinery was not closed during the months of March and April. It was closed only during the last month. They had issued refined fuel on all seven days of the week continuously. When an institution operates full time in such a manner the employees would have to be paid for their overtime work. However, I admit that could have been done with some level of management in the payment process,” the Minister said.

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Wigneswaran claims RW accepted all his demands



Head of the Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK), C. V. Wigneswaran told the media recently that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed to all demands he had made, including the release of Tamil ‘political prisoners’, to secure his vote during last month’s Parliament election, to elect a President.

He made this statement following a meeting with the President in Colombo to discuss the establishment of an all-party government.

“We have made several requests and if the President is ready to comply with them, we will consider taking part in the all party government,” he said.

“We met him when he was Prime Minister. Before the parliamentary vote to elect the President, I made these demands and he agreed to them. That is why I voted for him. Now, it is for him to keep his promises. I am here to remind him of this,” Wigenswaran said.

Wickremesinghe, as the Prime Minister in the yahapalana government, vehemently denied that there were Tamil ‘political prisoners’ in the country. (RK)

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MPs are not immune from country’s laws – SJB



By Saman Indrajith

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that the MPs were not immune from the Penal Code despite the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act.

Premadasa said Cabinet Spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardane had claimed that incidents in Parliament could not be dealt with under the regular law.

“This claim sends the wrong message to people. Aren’t the provisions of the Penal Code or the Offences against Public Property Act applicable to the MPs? There were incidents in this Chamber during the 52-day coup conspiracy; some MPs damaged public property. There were investigations by the CID and also by Parliament.

The Secretary General announced the cost of the damage. When the process was on to prosecute those MPs responsible for the damage, political influence was exerted on the CID not to file cases against the culprits. It is against this background that Minister Gunawardane, in his position as the Cabinet spokesman, makes this false claim. His statement is sending a message saying that there is one law inside the Parliament and another outside it.

“He also claims that the Speaker decides whether these laws are applicable to Parliament or not,” Premadasa said.

Colombo District SJB MP Mujibur Rahuman said that people were already against the MPs and this new wrong message would further exacerbate their anger against elected members. “The Cabinet Spokesman says that the MPs have a different set of laws while the people are dealt with by the country’s laws. That is wrong. We are also liable for criminal offences that we commit,” Rahuman said.

“The CID conducted an investigation and was prepared to file cases, but that was prevented through political influence. The Cabinet Spokesman’s statement is fueling public hatred towards the MPs. Please, request the Cabinet Spokesman to refrain from making such statements,” he said.

Minister Gunawardane said that he was only responding to a question raised by a journalist and the question was about fairness of cracking down on protesters for destroying public property, during anti-government protests, when MPs, who damaged Parliament, property under the former government, are yet to be apprehended.

Minister Gunawardane said as a public representative in Parliament for the last 33 years he had only explained that the law would be implemented against those engaged in violent activities during peaceful protests.

“I said MPs had Parliament privileges and the Parliament law. I also explained that MPs attending Parliament cannot be arrested as they are engaged in legislative activities,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said that the MPs had no such legal immunity. and Parliament privileges only cover MPs from being arrested while they are on their way to attend and when they leave Parliament. “Therefore, there is no law that says they are exempt from other laws of the country,” Kiriella said.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, agreeing with Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella, said that all other laws in the country applied to the MPs.

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