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Rock Agama Study Reveals


The presence of these ectotherms indicates warmer patches in the city, presence of insects.


GS Paper 3: Biodiversity Conservation

Mains Question

What exactly is a wetland? Explain the Ramsar concept of “wise use” in relation to wetland conservation. Give two Ramsar sites in India as examples. (150 Words)

The Survey

  • The Peninsular Rock Agama (Psammophilus dorsalis), a type of garden lizard, is common in southern India. The presence of the animal in urban areas has been impacted by habitat loss and other urbanisation-related factors.
  • Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, conducted a study to characterise urbanisation in the region and to understand where the rock agama live in and around Bengaluru in particular.
  • The implication is that conservation efforts must aim to preserve rocky areas while also revitalising landscapes through tree planting.

Look for warmth

  • This lizard is a large animal with striking orange and black colouring.
  • They do not produce their own body heat, so they must seek warmth from outside sources, such as a warm rock or a sunny spot on the wall.
  • They are important in ecology for a variety of reasons, including the ability to show which parts of the city are warming and how the food web is changing.
  • These lizards cannot live in areas where there are no insects because they eat them and are eaten by raptors, snakes, and dogs.
  • “Because they provide so many services, including pollination, insects are essential components of a healthy ecosystem.”
  • So, while rock agamas are fascinating in their own right, they are also an excellent model system for understanding other aspects of the ecosystem.

Perspectives on urbanisation

  • The study provided intriguing insights into Bengaluru’s urbanisation.
  • “Distance to city centre and proportion of built-up area are commonly used to understand urbanisation,” says Nitya Prakash Mohanty, a postdoctoral fellow at the centre and one of the paper’s authors.
  • “After about 20 kilometres from the general post office, Bengaluru is a heterogeneous matrix of crops, plantations, and rocky habitats. Artificial light at night was closely linked with built-up areas in the city, but other ecological conditions such as the number of bird predators or habitat connectivity showed large variation and no clear patterns from the city centre.”

Small animals are important

  • Normally, biodiversity conservation conjures up images of large animals such as tigers, elephants, or even birds, but organisms such as the rock agama play an equally important role in the ecosystem.
  • “There is a lot of flora and fauna that is rapidly disappearing in cities like Bengaluru.” One such species is the rock agama, which is dependent on rocky scrub habitats that are being converted into buildings and plantations.
  • The study, in addition to characterising Bengaluru’s growth, emphasises that smaller fauna and flora may be key indicators of the health of the ecosystem and must be preserved as well.

December 2023