RARE SPECIES

An AMU scientist discovers a rare cave-dwelling crab species in Meghalaya

Meghalaya boasts some of the world’s longest natural caves, which are treasure troves of information on climate and wildlife.

A young scientist has just discovered a new species of cave-dwelling crabs in the north-eastern Indian state of Meghalaya. It is the first ever species of a cave-dwelling crab to be discovered in India.

Nestled in the Himalayas, Meghalaya is known for the magical beauty of its rich forests and water bodies. It is one of India’s four biodiversity hotspots – in the whole world, there are 34 biodiversity hotspots.

Less known is the fact that Meghalaya also boasts some of the world’s longest natural caves and it is in once such cave that these tiny creatures were discovered by 29-year-old Parveen Farzana Absar. Absar is pursuing a Masters in wildlife sciences from Aligarh Muslim University, and was researching cave biology in the east-Jaintia hills at the time of the discovery.

The crab she found is albino, almost blind and lives in dark crevices of the caves with the adults reaching a tiny size of just 2 centimetres.

“These species have adapted to the dark environment of cave… So this crab is almost blind and without colour,” Absar said. She also noted that unlike other crabs, the thin and slender legs of the albino crab have hair on them.

An underside view of a female crab, note the hair on the legs. Photo credit: Parveen F Absar.
An underside view of a female crab, note the hair on the legs. Photo credit: Parveen F Absar.

Recounting the moment when Absar found the new species just 200 meters from the mouth of one of the longest caves in the country (the name and location of the cave are being kept confidential at the request of the scientist), she told thethirdpole.net, “After my routine exploration, when I was on my way out, I saw these small shiny things and I picked them up and saw that they were crabs. I found a male, a female and a baby crab. I think finding a male crab was really a big thing and I was very fortunate because chances of finding a male specimen are very low. In my 11 years of experience, I have never seen such crabs.”

The young scientist instantly knew that there was something special and different about the crabs and submitted the specimen to the Zoological Survey of India in Kolkata, where scientists confirmed within days that it was indeed a new species that is now believed to be from the genus Teretamon. This is only the third species discovered so far under this genus – the first one was found in Myanmar and the second one was found in the Indian state of Mizoram but both previous species were either forest or freshwater species unlike this one that dwells in caves. The discovery is listed to be published in Zootaxa, the ultimate peer-reviewed science journal for taxonomy.

Absar, who has been asked to name the species, has thought of calling it Teretamon absarum based on her family name as a tribute to her parents.

The male of the species is slightly smaller, and this one has one claw missing. Photo credit: Parveen F Absar.
The male of the species is slightly smaller, and this one has one claw missing. Photo credit: Parveen F Absar.

Orus Ilyas, an assistant professor at Aligarh Muslim University in the wildlife sciences department, under who Absar is doing her dissertation, told thethirdpole.net that Absar was amongst the youngest discoverers of a new species, which is an honour for the state as well as the country. He added, “She didn’t have funding to carry out her research, yet out of her sheer interest in the cave ecosystem, she did it on her own.”

Hidden world of Meghalaya’s caves

Talking about the secretive, magical world of cave biodiversity, Absar said, “Fauna in caves is very small, peculiar and tough to explore.” These caves are just not about crabs. “There are fish, shrimp, spiders and millipedes as well but they are microscopic and transparent. Often they [millipedes] look like veins moving on rocks to the naked eye.”

Meghalaya has a dense network of over 1,600 caves. Many of them hold secrets of earth’s past, and may give us vital clues of the evolution of particular species, and may also hold other surprises in yet-undiscovered species.

Shardul Bajikar, the former director of Sanctuary Asia magazine who now runs his own magazine Adventure Sports and Beyond, told thethirdpole.net, “We explore different things like land ecosystems, marine ecosystems, high-altitude ecosystems and have reasonable information [about them], but this [the cave ecosystem] is one dimension of the earth which we have not explored especially in India.”

These caves can also be a storehouse of well-preserved records of climate change. Its limestone features can throw up a mine of information of past climatic events in chronological order.

Meghalaya’s network of caves sprawls over Jaintia, Khasi and Garo Hills districts and has nine of the 10 longest caves in the country, running up to 30 km in length. Exploring them is not an easy task. Given the tough terrain, labyrinths, streams and rivers, speleology is a physically demanding activity.

Bajikar, who is also organising a caving initiation expedition this year in Meghalaya, said, “Over the last decade, a few Indians [mostly from the Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association, and a few from Allied Petzl and the Indian Navy] and other foreign cavers have been organising expeditions to explore and document these hidden treasures of the vast and intricate cave systems of Meghalaya. As on date just over one thousand caves have been explored and mapped, yielding a total mapped cave passage of over 455 km. This initiation expedition is probably the first attempt to introduce caving as a technical discipline to a small select group of adventure lovers to increase our numbers.”

But threats loom large on these geological wonders and biodiversity-rich caves. Unrestricted development, limestone mining, rat-hole coal mining, exploitation by visitors, and the dumping of garbage are taking a toll of these caves. Continuing neglect of these caves can ruin these natural treasures, and the knowledge they hold, long before they are revealed to the world.

This article first appeared on The Third Pole.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Also those looking to upgrade their TV to a smart one can get Rs. 20,000 off by exchanging it for the Sony Bravia 108cm Android TV.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and the super compact JBL Go Portable Speaker at 56% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.