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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pica; rare Pika and Sikkim cleanest State in the country

Sikkim has been adjudged the cleanest state in the country with all its four districts ranked among top 10 districts in terms of sanitation and cleanliness. As per the 'Swachh Survekshan Gramin 2016' report, released by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Sikkim scored 98.2 per cent on a scale of 100 in the ranking given on the basis of percentage of households having sanitary toilets. Sikkim scored 100 per cent marks on a scale of 100 in the ranking given on the basis of percentage of people using household/community toilet out of household having toilets, the Sikkim government said in statement.

The pica is a typographic unit of measure corresponding to approximate 1⁄72 of a foot, or 1⁄6 of an inch.  The pica contains 12 point units of measure. .1660 inch.  The earliest system designed in 1737 was based on Paris foot. The traditional names for the sizes like cicéro, Petit-Roman, and Gros-Text were replaced by "ten-point", "twelve-point", etc. From that time all work printer before the French Court or French Government had to be printed in this new measurements.

Much water has flown since ~  on Elders day, a couple of years ago, heard a new definition to the word ‘pica’.  Pica is a medical disorder characterized by an appetite for substances largely non-nutritive (e.g.,  clay, coal, sand, soil,  chalk, pencils leads, paper, etc.,)   Pica reportedly is seen particularly in small children and in pregnant women.  A Doctor who spoke in a Forum said that many Doctors confront patients with this ‘new pica’ syndrome - “Parents in India – Children in America” Syndrome .. otherwise parents left in wilderness though mostly taken care of monetarily !!

Moving away, a slight spell change – Pika.  For more than 20 years, the Ili pika (Ochotona iliensis), a type of tiny, mountain-dwelling mammal with a teddy bear face, had eluded scientists in the Tianshan Mountains (map) of northwestern China. People have seen the furry critter only a handful of times since it was discovered by accident in 1983. In fact, people have spotted only 29 live individuals, and little is known about the animal's ecology and behaviour. These members of the rabbit family look like tailless rats and have been in the news in North America for their sensitivity to impacts of climate change, like increasing temperature, which has caused several of the populations in pika series go extinct.

When PhD student Nishma Dahal embarked on her first trip to east Sikkim, little did she know it would lead to a stunning discovery in the eastern Himalayas. The efforts of Nishma and other researchers from National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) have led to the identification of a new species of pika, a mammal which resembles a tailless rat.

The new species, Ochotona sikimaria, is an important part of the ecosystem and is vulnerable to climate change. Members of the rabbit family, pikas have been in the news in North America for their sensitivity to increasing temperature, which has caused several populations to go extinct. Pikas live on high altitudes in mountainous regions, which makes them more susceptible to habitat loss due to the increasing global temperature. The discovery was a great challenge for Nishma as most pika species closely resemble one another. She started her work by collecting pika pellets to extract the DNA and identify the species.

Though the pellets are puny, Nishma was successful in amplifying the mammal's DNA from them. When Nishma compared these DNA sequences to those of other pika species in the world, she found them to be quite different. But this was only the beginning of her mission. To prove it was indeed a new species, Nishma had to compare the Sikkim pika to its close relatives, which are found in China. It took Nishma and Uma Ramakrishnan, whose laboratory at NCBS led the study, two years to build collaborations with researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Zoological Museum of Moscow and Stanford University to get detailed data on the sister species.

The NCBS research reveals while Ochotona sikimaria appears similar to the Moupin pika (found in China), they are quite distinct from a genetic and ecological perspective. So far, the new species seems to be limited to Sikkim. The NCBS team searched for the Sikkim pika in other Himalayan regions, including Arunachal Pradesh, central Nepal (Annapurna and Langtang), Ladakh and Spiti but to no avail. All is not well for this tiny mammal, says Nishma. "Unlike other mammalian species inhabiting such harsh environments, Pikas do not hibernate. They prepare for winter by collecting and storing hay piles. We must investigate their vulnerability to increasing global temperatures, and to do so we must better understand their ecology and population dynamics. Such information is lacking in the case of Asian Pikas," she said.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
2nd Oct 2016.

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