Lesson 1, Topic 10
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Since we are home to around 8.5 million species, we need to just have a way to study them. We need to preserve those that have gone or might go extinct and for this we have special tools for the areas marked out.
So when you were young, you would have pressed flowers and leaves in books and collected them. Right? A collection of these would have kick-started something called a Herbarium. So a store house of a dead, dried, pressed, preserved plants specimens on paper sheets — called herbarium sheets — is called a Herbarium.
These sheets would have labeled information on the dates, place of collection, the collector’s name, and other such important information. You can find some of the most important herbaria in the world — Paris, Geneva, London, New york, and Washington. In India, you have a few of them in Kolkata, Lucknow, and Dehradun. So what is the process to go ahead and preserve a particular plant specimen? We need some tools to get the samples, Right ? Like scissors for twigs, knives for say woody twigs, hook poles for tall trees, diggers for tools, the box where you carry all of these stuff is not just a simple box, mind you! It’s called a Vasculum. These specimens are spread out and dried by pressing in between special papers and these papers are replaced continuously to avoid fungus growth on the specimen. Further drying happens in a plant press; like the word suggests – two boards press the paper sheet like this. Bigger specimens aren’t cut. They fold it in a neat ‘N’ or a ‘W’ form. Leaves are spread are to show the dorsil and ventrilsurfaces — both. Now dry specimens are placed on thick paper or card sheet but sewing it with an adhesive; little flowers or seeds have to be placed in envelops. So you can press plants and preserve them. But what about animals? Big Animals are usually stuffed and chemically treated for long term preservation. Smaller ones are preserved in a preservative solution in jars. So animals and plants can go extinct. And the first we should do that… we can do to protect them from extinction. But if at all they do go extinct, we actually have ways to preserve the remains and parts and draw useful conclusions on their lineage.