Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 17 May, 2021

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New species of “Asian gracile skink” found from Western Ghats

What is the News?

A new species of an Asian gracile skink has been discovered recently at Anaikatti hills, Coimbatore.

About the new species of Asian gracile skink:

Asian gracile skink

Source: The Hindu

  • The New Species of Asian Gracile Skink has been named Subdoluseps nilgiriensis after Nilgiris. The species is closely related to Subdoluseps pruthi found in parts of the Eastern Ghats.
  • Features: The species has a slender body of just about 7 cm. It is sandy brown in colour. The unnoticeable limbs of skinks make them resemble snakes.
  • Protection Status: Subdoluseps nilgiriensis is currently considered a vulnerable species.
  • Significance: This species is only the third skink species discovered from mainland India in the last millennium.
  • Threats:
    • Seasonal forest fires
    • Housing constructions and brick kiln industries in the area.
    • Rapid urbanisation has also increased the road networks in the area.

Significance of this discovery:

  • The new species of Skink was found in a dry deciduous area. This shows that even the dry zones of our country are home to unrealised skink diversity. So these regions needs to be further explored.
    • Hence, there is an urgent need to change the notion that high biodiversity can be found only in wet and evergreen forests.
  • Further, most of the studies in Tamil Nadu are carried out only in the protected areas and focus only on megafaunas such as tigers, elephants and other such charismatic species.
    • However, we also need to study the little-known animal groups inside our forests. They are fundamental and indispensable components of our biodiversity.

About Skinks:

  • Skinks are lizards belonging to the family Scincidae, a family in the infraorder Scincomorpha.
  • Features: Skinks are characterized by their smaller legs in comparison to typical lizards. They are mostly found in a variety of habitats except for arctic and subarctic regions.
  • Behaviour: Many species of skink does digging and burrowing. They also spend the majority of their time underground. As they can stay safe from predators and the underground tunnels also help them with easy navigation.
  • Diet: Skinks are generally carnivorous and in particular insectivorous. They are known to feed on insects such as termites, crickets and small spiders.
  • Most skinks are diurnal and are usually secretive in their habits. So not much is known about their natural and evolutionary history.
  • The skinks are also non-venomous. They resemble snakes because of the inconspicuous limbs and the way they move on land.
  • Protection Status: Most of the species are placed under the data-deficient category.

Source: The Hindu


Centre releases “Covid-19 guidelines for rural areas”

What is the News?

The Central Government has released new guidelines in the wake of the spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in rural areas.

About the Covid-19 guidelines for rural areas:

 Three Tier Structure: The guidelines recommend a three-tier structure to manage Covid-19 pandemic in rural areas:

  • Firstly, 30-bed Covid Care Centres(CCCs) should be established in villages to treat mild cases.
    • The community halls and panchayat buildings can be transformed into CCCs. These centres should also be equipped with at least two oxygen cylinders.
  • Secondly, Primary Health Centres (PHCs), Community Health Centres (CHCs) and Sub-district Hospitals shall handle moderate cases of the Covid-19 cases. Persons having an oxygen saturation level below 94 will be treated here.
  • Thirdly, district hospitals or private hospitals should manage severe cases with ambulances available for the rapid transport of patients.

Other Key Covid-19 guidelines for rural areas:

  • Testing: Community Health Officers(CHOs) should be trained in performing Rapid Antigen Testing(RAT). These RAT kits should be provided at all public health facilities including Sub-centres (SCs) and PHCs.
  • Symptomatic Cases: The symptomatic cases can be treated at the village level after teleconsultation with the CHO. Further, the cases with comorbidity or low oxygen saturation will be sent to higher centres.
  • Surveillance: In every village, active surveillance should be done for influenza-like illness. This will periodically be held by ASHA workers. The Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Committee(VHSNC) will help ASHA workers in this regard.
  • Ayush Doctors: Qualified AYUSH doctors, final year AYUSH students or final year B.Sc nurses may be considered to run the Covid Care Centres(CCCs).
  • Contract Tracing: The guidelines also focused on the need for contact tracing at every level.
  • Covid kit: Each Covid-19 household would get a “home isolation kit” with paracetamol, ivermectin, multivitamin tablets. The kit will also have provisions for periodic measurements of patients’ oxygen level and fever.

Source: Indian Express


Understanding the feeding behaviour of “Northern Elephant seals”

What is the News?

Scientists have conducted the most thorough study of the unique feeding behaviour of northern elephant seals, especially focusing on the female elephant seals.

About the study:
  • The Northern Elephant seals are famous for their large breeding assembling. So the reproductive behaviour of them is well studied. But the female Seals are not observed in Coastal areas after breeding. So, the scientists know only a little about feeding behaviour.
  • To solve this, the scientists tracked 48 female elephant seals from Año Nuevo State Park in California. (this site is an important breeding colony).

Key Findings:

  • Elephant Seals were found to spend more than 20 hours every day – and sometimes a full 24 hours in continuous deep-diving to feeding. They feed on multitudes of small fish instead of larger prey favoured by other deep-diving marine mammals.
    • This is being done to gain the body fat essential for successful reproduction and insulation in the frozen depths.
  • Female elephant seals are only about one-third of the size compared to male elephant seals. So, they hunt smaller fish in a deep-sea region. On the other hand, male elephant seals feed only in coastal waters.
Elephant Seals:
  • Elephant seals are the largest seals on earth. They get their name from the prominent noses of the males that resemble an elephant’s trunk.
  • Features: Male Elephant seals grow to over 13 feet long and weigh up to 4,500 pounds. Females are slightly smaller, measuring up to 10 feet in length and weighing in at 1,500 pounds.
  • Diet: Elephant seals eat rays, skates, fish, squid, and sharks that live near the bottom of the ocean.

Species: There are two species of elephant seals:

Northern Elephant Seals:
  • Northern elephant seals are found across the Pacific coast of the United States, Canada and Mexico.
  • They generally breed and give birth in California and Baja California. That too usually on offshore islands from December to March. They fast during mating season, losing perhaps a third of their body weight.
Southern Elephant Seals:
  • Southern elephant seals are the largest of all seals. They live in sub-Antarctic and Antarctic waters that feature brutally cold conditions.
  • But these regions are rich in the fish, squid, and other marine foods these seals enjoy.
  • Southern elephant seals breed on land but spend their winters in the frigid Antarctic waters near the Antarctic pack ice.

Source: The Hindu


Ministry of Culture is reprinting “Mongolian Kanjur” manuscripts

What is the News?

The Ministry of Culture has taken up the project of reprinting 108 volumes of Mongolian Kanjur under the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM). Recently the Ministry announced that the reprinting of about 100 sets of Mongolian Kanjur will be completed by next year. These reprinted ones will be distributed in the main centres of Buddhism in Mongolia.

About Mongolian Kanjur:

  • Mongolian Kanjur is a Buddhist canonical text that has 108 volumes. It is considered to be the most important religious text in Mongolia.
  • Meaning: In the Mongolian language ‘Kanjur’ means ‘Concise Orders’- the words of Lord Buddha in particular.
  • Language: Mongolian Kanjur has been translated from Tibetan. The language of the Kanjur is Classical Mongolian.
  • Importance: Mongolian Kanjur is held in high esteem by the Mongolian Buddhists. They worship the Kanjur at temples and recite the lines of Kanjur in daily life as a sacred ritual.

National Mission for Manuscripts(NMM):

  • The National Mission for Manuscripts was established in February 2003, by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Government of India.
  • Objective: It aims to unearth and preserve the vast manuscript wealth of India. This will help India to connect its past with its future. It also helps to connect India’s memory with its aspirations.
  • National Nodal Agency for the Mission: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi.

What are Manuscripts?

  • A manuscript is a handwritten composition on paper, bark, cloth, metal, palm leaf or any other material dating back at least seventy-five years. They also have significant scientific, historical or aesthetic value.
  • Manuscripts are distinct from historical records such as epigraphs on rocks, firmans, revenue records. These historical records provide direct information on events or processes in history.
  • Further, Lithographs and printed volumes are also not considered manuscripts.

Source: PIB


“Protein–Antibody Conjugates (PACs)” – A combination of biologics and Antibody-Drug Conjugates

What is the News?

A team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences has developed a nanoparticle. This nanoparticle has the potential to revolutionize disease treatment including for cancer. The research is based on a method known as Protein–Antibody Conjugates or PACs.

What are Protein–Antibody Conjugates or PACs?

  • This is a new concept of combining two different approaches to drug delivery. Namely, Biological drugs and Antibody-Drug Conjugates(ADC).  Both these methods combined to produce Protein–Antibody Conjugate or PACs. This PAC can be used for targeted drug delivery.
  • Protein‐antibody conjugates(PACs) are used for antibody‐directed delivery of protein to specific cells.
  • This method ensures the precise and effective delivery of drugs to specific cells. Hence, this method could have an impact on treating diseases like pancreatic cancer.

What are biological drugs(biologics)?

  • A biologic drug (biologics) is a product that is produced from living organisms or contains components of living organisms. They can be composed of sugars, proteins, or nucleic acids or complex combinations of these substances.
  • The biological drug works by targeting a defective protein in the system by delivering proteins to it.
    • For example in case of insulin treatment. If a person is short of insulin, (which is a protein), then s/he will get an insulin shot to balance the system.

How are Biologics different from conventional drugs?

  • Conventional Drugs are made from chemical processes to create the active ingredient compound in a traditional lab.
    • On the other hand, a biologics drug is defined as a drug derived from living cells. They are not chemically manufactured.
  • Conventional Drugs generally have well-defined chemical structures. On the other hand, biologics are complex mixtures that are not easily identified or characterized.

What are Antibody Drug Conjugates?

  • Antibody-drug conjugates or ADCs are a class of biopharmaceutical drugs designed as a targeted therapy for treating diseases like cancer.
  • Unlike chemotherapy, ADCs are intended to target and kill tumour cells while sparing healthy cells.

Note: Antibodies is a protective protein produced by the immune system in order to attack antigens. The antigen is a toxin or other foreign substances that induces an immune response in the body.

Source: The Hindu


What is causing ‘Mice Rain’ in Eastern Australia?

What is the News?

The Government of New South Wales (NSW) in Australia is facing one of the worst mouse plagues. It has affected farmers, community members, and residents. In some affected areas, mice are falling out from rooftops causing “mice rain”.

What is Mice Rain?

  • The mice population in Australia has increased exponentially. These mice are causing extensive damages to the cultivated crop and stored food grains. In some places, mice falling out from rooftops. This situation is being referred to as Mice Rain.

How plague is related to mice rain?

  • Plague is a life-threatening infectious disease caused by rod-shaped bacteria called Yersinia pestis.
  • It is found in mammals such as mice. As the mice population is increasing, the spread of the disease is also increasing. This means that the plague is increasing due to Mice rain.

Causes of Plague:

  • Scientists have attributed the plague to an unusually abundant grain harvest earlier in the season. This resulted in a surplus of mice earlier in the season.
  • Further, mice have a short breeding cycle and a pair of breeding mice can give birth to a new litter every twenty-one days. Hence, this has led to an exponential increase in mice in Australia.

Effects of Plague:

  • Rodents such as mice are capable of destroying food grains. They can also cause widespread damage to domestic households, commercial businesses, farms, manufacturers, and livestock.
  • Further, rodents can not only chew materials but can also ruin supplies by excreting them.
  • Rodents can also cause diseases such as leptospirosis and typhus fever. They can also carry fleas or ticks that can harm pets and humans.

Way Forward:

  • Research carried out by the Grains Research and Development Corporation(GRDC) found that increasing zinc phosphide in mouse baits will help in reducing mouse numbers.
  • As a result of this research, the authorities have allowed makers to double the toxicity levels in mouse baits to tackle mice rain.

Source: Indian Express


Indian Navy hosts “Goa Maritime Symposium-2021”

What is the News?

Recently, Goa Maritime Symposium-2021 was hosted virtually by the Indian Navy.

About Goa Maritime Symposium:

  • Goa Maritime Symposium-2021 is hosted by the Indian Navy under the aegis of Naval War College, Goa.
  • Objective: It aims to build capacity amongst the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) Navies to tackle emerging common maritime threats.
  • Participating countries: Naval representatives from 13 Indian Ocean Littoral countries participated.
    • These include India, Bangladesh, Comoros, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
  • Theme: Maritime Security and Emerging Non-Traditional Threats: A Case for Proactive Role for IOR Navies.

Indian Ocean:

  • The Indian Ocean is the third-largest of the world’s oceanic divisions, covering 19.8% of the water on Earth’s surface.
  • It is bounded by Asia to the north, Africa to the west and Australia to the east.
  • The Indian Ocean has some large marginal or regional seas such as the Arabian Sea, the Laccadive Sea, the Somali Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Andaman Sea.

Source: PIB


“Cyclone Tauktae” expected to hit Gujarat

What is the News?

Cyclone Tauktae (pronounced Tau-Te) is expected to hit southern Gujarat of the country.

About Cyclone Tauktae:
  • Cyclone ‘Tauktae‘ name was suggested by Myanmar. Tauktae means a highly vocal lizard gecko.
  • This cyclone has been classified as a very severe cyclonic storm (VSCS).
  • The Cyclone has been developed in the Arabian Sea.
Why is Cyclone Tauktae unique?
  • Cyclone Tauktae will be the first cyclonic storm along the Indian coast in the year 2021.
  • This will also be the fourth cyclone in consecutive years to have developed in the Arabian Sea, that too in the pre-monsoon period (April to June).
    • All these cyclones since 2018 have been categorised as either ‘Severe Cyclone’ or above.
How are cyclones named?
  • Cyclones are officially named by one of the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) warning centres based across the globe.
Naming cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea:
  • The WMO/United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Panel on Tropical Cyclones (PTC) names the cyclones for this region since 2000.
  • The panel includes 13 countries –– India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Maldives, Oman, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
  • Each country sent in suggestions to the WMO/ESCAP Panel. After this, the panel finalizes the list alphabetically country-wise starting with Bangladesh followed by India, Iran, Maldives and so on.
Significance of Naming of a cyclone:
  • It helps in the quick identification of storms in warning messages
  • Names are presumed to be far easier to remember than numbers and technical terms.
  • Giving names to cyclones makes it easier for the media to report on tropical cyclones,
  • It heightens interest in warnings and increases community preparedness

Source: Indian Express


 

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