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Look what the sea brought in | Chennai News – Times of India


CHENNAI: You’ve heard of the Fiddler on the Roof, but what about the fiddler on the coast — the flamboyant fighter who lives by the sea and loves to flaunt his claws? The new pocket guide on coastal fauna by the Madras Naturalists Society can introduce you to the blue-yellow resident of Chennai’s shoreline, along with more than 127 other creatures of the sea.
“The purpose of the study was to assess the health of coastal ecosystem,” says Vikas Madhav Nagarajan, a second year chemical engineering student and among those in charge of the eight-month long project that began last September. The group created a repository of the fauna in five important hotspots in Chennai and its neighbouring areas. Pulicat lagoon, Adyar Estuary, Kovalam creek, Mudaliarkuppam backwaters and Yedaiyanthittu Estuary were among biodiverse locations chosen.
The region has a range of coastal habitats including sand dunes and beaches, mangroves, backwaters, mud flats, estuaries, oyster reefs and sea-grass beds.
“This is part of a comprehensive study of the 1,076km Tamil Nadu coastline from Pazhaverkadu to Manakudy to document its biodiversity, threats, fisherfolk livelihoods and conservation status,” says G Vijay Kumar, honorary secretary, MNS. “Coastal ecosystems are among the most threatened habitats due to climate change and anthropogenic disturbances.”
The booklet, says Vikas, aims to familiarise the public with life found along the city’s shoreline and create interest in conserving and studying coastal ecosystems. “There are 913 species that have been recorded over decades. In these eight months we managed to find 709 of them,” he says.
The group also spoke to the fisherfolk to understand more about the species. “We have retained most of the local names as well.” So the pansy shell is called the ‘kadal thattai’ (sea disc) because of its flat shape and the Japanese bonnet is ‘thoppi sangu’ or hat conch.
“We hope this guide sparks interest and encourages public participation and collaboration to increase scientific knowledge,” says Vijay Kumar. Through an iNaturalist project, ‘Biodiversity of Chennai’, nearly 600 observers have helped document more than 2,600 species within the city. “Join the tribe,” he says.
The free booklet is available online at blackbuck.org.in. To participate in the citizen science project log on to www.inaturalist.org/projects/biodiversity-of-chennai.

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