Diversity Desk

Biological Capital’ links…

‘Biodiversity starts in the distant past and it points toward the future’ ~Frans Lanting

Courtesy(Fig.): Encyclopedia Britannica

B I O D I V E R S I T Y  Status Report of the WORLD , INDIA and KERALA(?)

The L I F E

The age of the Earth is about 4.54 billion years old. Scientific evidence suggests that life began on Earth at least 3.7 billion years ago. Living organisms are classified into: Acellular (virus, viroids etc) & Cellular (Bacteria & Eukaryotes) life.

DOMAINS of Cellular Life: Archaea (organisms without distinct nucleus, living in extreme environments, doesn’t having peptidoglycan cellwall), Bacteria (organisms without distinct nucleus, having Peptidoglycan / Lipopolysaccharide cellwall) & Eukarya (organisms with distinct nucleus) ~ Carl Woese et al., 1977


Phylogenetic tree of life

KINGDOMS of Eukarya Domain: Protista [plant like (algae),animal like (protozoa), fungal like (molds)organisms], Plantae, Fungi & Animalia  ~  Life, 2009


Eukaryotes first developed approximately 1.6–2.1 billion years ago (during the Proterozoic eon). A projected estimate suggests that out of the 8.7 million eukaryotic organisms, 7.7 million species of animals may exists on earth.~ PLOS BIOLOGY, Aug 2011

  • Viridi Vitae:  A projected estimate suggests that global total for all land plants (viridiplantae or embryophyta) is around 5,00,000 species under 10 phyla viz., Anthoceratophyta (hornworts ~ 200-250 species @Villarreal et al.,2010), Bryophyta (mosses ~ 9000 species @ Magill, 2010), Marchantiophyta (liverworts ~ 7500 species @Von Konrat et al., 2010), Lycopodiophyta (lycophytes ~ 1300 species), Pteridophyta (ferns ~ 10,000 species @Ranker and Sundue, 2015), Coniferophyta or Pinophyta, Cycadophyta, Ginkophyta, Gnetophyta  (all under gymnosperms ~ 1000 species @Christenhusz et al., 2011) & Magnoliophyta (angiosperms ~ 4,50,000 spp.,of which 10-20% are still unknown to science) ~ Corlett, 2016 (some authors consider Coniferophyta, Cycadophyta, Ginkophyta, Gnetophyta & Magnoliophyta together belonging to the Phylum Tracheophyta and the above taxa as its classes )
    • A revised estimates found that 3,69,434 species has been described under flowering plants; 1,058 spp. under gymnosperms ; 12,729 spp. of “pteridophytes” (incl. lycophytes) and 20,240 spp. under “bryophytes” (Lughadha et al, 2016).
  • Fungi File:  About 1,00,000 fungi had been described  under 8 phyla, viz. Cryptomycota (hidden fungi ~ 10 pp.), Microsporidia (~ 1500 spp.), Chytridiomycota (flagellated fungi~ 710 spp.), Blastocladiomycota (‘little pot’ fungi~ 180 spp.), Neocallimastigomycota (~ 20 spp.), Glomeromycota (arbuscular mycorrhiza ~ 170 spp. ), Ascomycota ( sac fungi~ 64,o50 spp.), and Basidiomycota (club fungi ~ 31,500 spp.). Projected estimate suggest as many as 5.1 million fungal species exist. ~ Kirk et al. (2008) Dictionary of the Fungi
  • Algae Arithmetic: Current estimate suggests  about 72,500 algal species (plant like protists) had been described under 8 phyla viz., Cyanophyta (cyanobacteria or Blue-green algae ~ 8,000 spp.), Rhodophyta (red algae ~ 14,000 spp.), Ochrophyta ( golden algae + yellow-green algae + brown algae + diatoms ~ 21,000 spp.), Euglenophyta ( ~3,000 spp.), Dinophyta or Pyrrhophyta (fire algae/dinoflagellates/red tides ~2,300 spp), Glaucophyta ( ~ 30 spp.) , Charophyta (~9,000 spp.) and Chlorophyta (green algae ~ 14000 spp.) ~ Guiry, 2012
  • Protozoa Profile: About 1,25,000 species of protozoans (animal like protists) has been described under 6 phyla, viz.  Rhizopoda (amoebas ~ 11,550 spp.), Actinopoda (radiolarians ~ 650 spp.), Foraminifera (forams ~ 50,000 spp.), Sarcomastigophora (zoomastigotes/zooflagellates ~ 8500 spp.), Ciliophora (ciliates ~ 10,000 spp.), Apicomplexa (sporozoans ~ 30,000 spp.)~ 10 refs.
  • Mighty Molds:  About 2000 spp. of molds( fungal like protists) has been described under 3 phyla,viz. Oomycota ( Water molds, mildews ~ 500 spp. ), Acrasiomycota (cellular slime molds ~ 500 spp.) & Myxomycota (plasmodial slime molds ~ 500 spp.) ~10+ refs.
  • Amazing Animals: About 1.8 million species of animals has been described under 35 phyla., viz. Porifera (sponges ~ 5,000 spp.); Cnidaria (jellyfishes, sea anemones etc ~ 1,500 spp. ); Insecta (butterflies, moths, bees, flies, bugs etc. ~  8,50,000 species); Arachnida (spiders, mites & scorpions ~ 57,000 spp. ); Myriapoda (centipedes, millipedes, etc ~ 13,000 spp.); Crustacea (crabs, shrimp & lobsters ~ 35,000 spp.); Mollusca (shellfish, snails & squid ~ 1,10,000 spp. ); Echinodermata (starfish, sea urchins & sea cucumbers ~ 6,000 spp.); Entoprocta (goblet worms ~ 150 spp.); Annelida (segmented worms ~ 12,000 spp.); Chaetognatha (arrow worms ~ 70 spp.); Gnathostomulida (jaw worms ~ 100 spp. ); Hemichordata (acorn/tongue worms ~ 90 spp. ); Nematoda (roundworms ~ 12,000 spp.); Nematomorpha (horsehair worms ~ 320 spp.); Nemertea (ribbon worms ~ 650 spp.) ; Onychophora (velvet worms ~ 200 spp.); Phoronida (horseshoe worms ~ 11 spp.); Platyhelminthes (flatworms ~ 11,000 spp.); Xenoturbellida (strong flatworm ~ 2spp ); .); Cycliophora (symbions ~3 spp.); Sipuncula (peanut worms ~ 300 spp); Cestoda (tapeworms ~ 1500 spp); Kinorhyncha (mud dragons ~ 150 spp.); Priapulida (~16 spp.); Rhombozoa ( ~75 spp.); Rotifera (~ 2,000 spp.); Loricifera (brush heads ~ 125 spp.); Tardigrada (water bears ~ 1000 spp.); Placozoa (plate animals ~ 1 sp. ); Orthonectida ( ~ 20 spp.); Micrognathozoa ( 1 sp.); Gastrotricha (meiofauna ~ 690 spp.); Bryozoa (moss animals ~ 5,000 spp.); Chordata: class Pisces (sharks, fishes ~ 19,000 spp.), class Amphibia (frogs, toads etc ~ 3,000 spp.),class  Reptilia (snakes, lizards, turtles, crocodiles etc ~ 6,000 spp.), class  Aves (birds ~ 10,000 spp.), class  Mammalia (~ 4,500 spp.).~ 10+ refs.


The art and science of  understanding the biological and environmental history of Earth through the study of fossil animals, fungi, plants, and protists. Sometimes referred as ‘Geobiology’.

Geological Time Scale: The period is the basic unit of geological time in which a single type of rock system is formed. Two or more periods (some periods are divided into epochs) comprise a geological Era. Two or more Eras form an Eon, which is the largest division of geologic time.

Phanerozoic Eon (540 mya trough today) & Eukarya diversification:

  • Paleozoic Era Periods: Cambrian (540 – 500 mya), Ordovician (505 – 438 mya), Silurian (438 – 408 mya), Devonian (408 – 360 mya), Carboniferous (360 – 280 mya), Permian (280 -248 mya)]
  • Mesozoic Era [ Periods: Triassic (248 – 208 mya), Jurassic (208 – 146 mya), Cretaceous (146 – 65 mya) ]
  • Cenozoic Era [65 mya through today ]. mya = million years ago (1 million = 10,00,000 ) 


Currently, there are 19, 635 spp. (5% of world spp.) of vascular plants  found in India. Out of which, 18,259 spp. belongs to flowering plants. Endemics:  4,303 spp. (over 23 % spp. found only in India) of flowering plants, 12 spp. of gymnosperms – mostly Cycads, and 66 fern spp.

Western Ghats ,one among the 10 ‘Hottest Biodiversity Hotspots’ of the World, has over 7,402 species of flowering plants, 1,814 species of non-flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, 179 amphibian species, 6,000 insects species and 290 freshwater fish species; it is likely that many undiscovered species live in the Western Ghats. At least 325 globally threatened species occur in the Western Ghats. The region tops the list in India with about 2,116 endemic plant species.


Mannamalai, Kerala (2659 m above MSL) the second highest mountain peak of Western Ghats (other highest peaks: Anaimudi, Kerala ~2695 m above MSL & Meesappulimala, Kerala ~ 2640 m above MSL )


1. Flowers of India >> Indian Gene Centre of Crops >> Seed plants of Kerala

2. Butterflies of India >> Guide to Butterflies & Moths

3. Birds of India & Amphibians of Western Ghats

4. Mammals of India & Indian Nature watch

5. Spiders of South India &  Dragonflies and Damselflies of India

6.Algae of IndiaFungi & Lichens of India >> World of Fungi

7. Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index &  MedPlants of India> Medplants Kerala (in Mal.) 

8. RET plants of Southern Western Ghats(Kerala) >> Indian Endangered Species

9. Resource page of Botanical Survey of IndiaENVIS Centre on Floral Diversity

10. Resource page of Zoological Survey of IndiaENVIS Centre on Faunal Diversity

Refer National Biodiversity Authority & A handbook on Biodiversity Management Committee  

ITOL_Tree_of_lifeCourtesy (Fig.): Tree of Life


1. PLANTLISTWorld Species Checklist of Vascular plant (flowering plants, conifers, ferns and their allies) and of Bryophytes (mosses and liverworts); Contains 642 plant families and 17,020 plant genera (updated on March 2015) ~ a collaborative project of RBG & MBG

2. INDEX FUNGORUM , MycologyNet & MycoGallery: World species checklist on Fungi

3. AlgaeBase , PhycologyNet & PhycoGallery: World species checklist on Algae

4. Encyclopedia Of Life : Information on all species known to Science

5. WoRMS : World Register of Marine speciesOBIS > MSI Portal

6. Cataloaugue of Life : World Index on known living species of earth

7. Global Biodiversity Information facility (GBIF) & Image Gallery

8. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS)

9. DIVERSITAS : Programme for integrating biodiversity for human well being

10. International Union for Biological Sciences (IUBS) & Wikimedia Commons

(?) incompleted profile; Other resources: Plant diversity of Kerala , Birds of Kerala, Vertebrates of Kerala

B I O D I V E R S I T Y  C O N S E R V A T I O N

The current ‘Sixth mass extinction‘ rates are high, at 100 to 1000 times greater than background extinction rates calculated over the eras. Although new species appear, existing species go extinct at a rate 1000 times that of species formation . Many biologists agree that we are in the midst of a mass extinction, a time when 75% or more of species are lost over a short geological time scale. The last great mass extinction (5th ) was 65 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous, when the dinosaurs went extinct. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that 22% of known mammals, 32% of amphibians, 14% of birds, and 32% of gymnosperms are threatened with extinction . Species that were abundant within the last 200 years have gone extinct !

In this scenario,  humans should concerned about saving biodiversity because of the benefits it provides us–biological resources and ecosystem services. However, nature provides social and spiritual benefits as well.

22, MAY : The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.

Biodiversity Hotspots ><IUCN Redlist Categories & Criteria, 2016; Redlist of Threatened species &  Redlist of Ecosystems >< Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) Categories & Criteria, 2016 >



Countries with highest number of endemic species -atleast 5,000 spp. of endemic plants. 

The world’s top biodiversity-rich continent is America, with 7 megadiverse countries:
Brazil  Colombia Ecuador  Unites States  Mexico  Peru  VenezuelaAsia ranks the second, with 5 megadiverse countries: The Philippines  India  Indonesia  Malaysia  ChinaAfrica ranks number three, with 3 megadiverse countriesMadagascar  Democratic Republic of the Congo  Republic of South AfricaOceania ranks number 4, with 2 megadiverse countries:  Australia  Papua New Guinea; Europe has no megadiverse country.


17 Megadiverse countries ~ Conservational International


[Page updated in June 2015]


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