Agasthya 6.3 Tales from wilderness
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Centre for Excellence in Conservation Science
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Many of us have heard about the famous cicada emergence in temperate region after leading a subterraneous life for 17 years. Their emergence in colossal numbers must be a fantastic sight so much that there exists a load of limericks and poems around the cicadas. Also, we can help ourselves with the numerous recordings of their songs from 'youtube' if we wanted. You walk the trails of KMTR pre-monsoon you will be exposed to the cicada chorus which can reach a crescendo every 10 to 15 minutes. But this is an annual feature, so I always wondered what kind of cycles our fellows have here. Recently, they have been recorded to have an earlier emergence and also advance their first song due to global climate change. Our encounters with cicadas in KMTR were of a different kind. Rani Krishnan, who was doing her field work in KMTR for her doctoral thesis, one day rushed to the site where Ganesh and I were doing the phenology of our plots and announced that Ormosia tranvancorica , the elegant endemic tree, was spraying fine droplets of water exactly at noon when the sun was above it. Seeing her staunch confidence, we convinced her that it is something worthy of publication maybe in prime journals like Nature or Science but she can start with a note to BNHS. Ganesh, of course had wry expression, and I quickly glanced up at the spraying trees. Back to base, there was Rani, taking out the rickety typewriter to write the note. We could hold it no longer and quickly revealed that it was indeed the cicadas that were squirting the fine rain and making a racket while they were courting and mating. Raniís face fell after reaching the crescendo of excitement. Actually it is amazing to see cicadas completely drench the tree gaps with their squirting.

Cicadas crossed our path again. We were trying to figure out who was the seed predator of Mystristica dactyloides from the ground which had been a long drawn effort. Ganesh had set many of us to discern it in the field. We were in different corners of the forest keeping a watch on 5 to 10 Mystristica fruits. All were glued to our target yet when we shone our torch to the spot, the seeds would disappear with just husks behind. We could not hear the scrambling whoever this ghost was which took away the seeds right under our noses because it was pre-monsoon and the cicadas were singing even late into the dusk. After many days of the cicada orchestra, we dimly lit the area with hurricanes lamps and sat on low platforms with the background music of course. Lo and behold we saw this cute little Spiny mouse descend from canopy and neatly lift the fruit and de-husk the fruits to carry the seeds! But cicadas continue to fascinate us and we hope to study their vocalization soon.



Editorial Team
Editor: Allwin Jesudasan
Associate editor: Rajkamal Goswami
Editorial Review: R. Ganesan, M. Soubadra Devy, T. Ganesh
Design and presentation: Kiran Salagame

Volume 6,  Issue 3
      November 2012

A S H O K A   T R U S T   F O R   R E S E A R C H   I N   E C O L O G Y   A N D   T H E   E N V I R O N M E N T

Tales from wilderness
ĎA cicada rain' and 'a cicada pain'
- M Soubadra Devy
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