UPSC Headlines: Bubonic Plague Returns, New Bird Species & Science Updates

GS 2 – First Case of Bubonic Plague Since 2005 in USA

Context: Oregon health authorities in the United States have verified the initial occurrence of bubonic plague in the state since 2005, raising apprehensions about the potential resurgence of this historical ailment.

What is the Bubonic Plague?

  • Bubonic plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which can spread between animals and humans.
  • Plague can take various forms, and bubonic plague is characterized by symptoms like fever, headache, weakness, and painful swollen lymph nodes, typically from flea bites.
  • Septicemic plague occurs when the bacteria enter the bloodstream, leading to more severe symptoms.
  • Pneumonic plague, the most dangerous form, is almost always fatal if untreated, involving rapid pneumonia development and potential spread through the inhalation of infectious droplets.

The Black Death, caused by the bubonic plague in the 14th century, remains one of the deadliest disease outbreaks in history, resulting in the deaths of millions in Europe.

GS 3 – New Lapwing Observed At Warangal Lake:

Context: During the Hyderabad Bird Race, bird enthusiasts in Telangana observed a spur-winged lapwing near Warangal, potentially marking the first sighting of this species in India.

More About The New Lapwing Observed at Warangal Lake:

  • The Telangana birdwatching team discovered a spur-winged lapwing, potentially the first sighting in India.
  • The bird, scientifically identified as Vanellus spinosus, was found near Bhattupalle village during the 14th Hyderabad Bird Race.
  • Native to North Africa, the Middle East, and Mediterranean regions, it has never been documented in the sub-continent.

New Lapwing

Scientific Name: Vanellus spinosus

IUCN Status: Least Concern

Description: Medium-sized bird with a distinctive black crown, white face, black spur on the shoulder, brownish-grey back, and wings with a white belly.

GS 3 – Ultradian rhythms

Context: Ultradian rhythms are repetitive physiological patterns that influence sleep cycles, hormone release, and vital bodily functions in all organisms.

More about Ultradian rhythms:

  • Life operates in cyclical processes, and ultradian rhythms are crucial physiological patterns adopted by all living organisms.
  • Unlike circadian rhythms, which follow a 24-hour cycle, ultradian rhythms recur more frequently, governing heartbeat, breathing, hormonal release, and brain-wave activity.
  • The sleep cycle is a well-known ultradian rhythm, characterized by alternating REM and non-REM sleep stages, with each cycle lasting about 90 minutes.
  • REM sleep involves dreaming, while non-REM sleep is vital for physical restoration and memory consolidation.
  • Ultradian rhythms impact hormone release patterns, including growth hormone, cortisol, and insulin, which are crucial for regulating metabolism, energy levels, and stress responses throughout the day.

GS 3 – Progress for Project Cheetah

Context: Kuno National Park witnesses the birth of seven cheetah cubs, indicating positive developments for the Project Cheetah.

More About the News:

  • Wildlife officials in Kuno National Park, Madhya Pradesh, celebrate the birth of seven cheetah cubs in January.
  • Namibian Cheetah Jwala gave birth to four cubs, while Asha contributed three to the growing population.
  • The birth of these cubs raises hopes for the successful adaptation of cheetahs to Indian conditions, overcoming previous challenges in the project.

Guidelines for Cub Care:

  • At the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre in South Africa, specialists underscore the crucial role of cubs remaining with their mother for the acquisition of hunting instincts.
  • They stress the necessity of vaccinations and supplements to facilitate proper development.
  • Intervention might be required in cases where the mother neglects or poses harm to the cubs, with hand-rearing considered a last resort.

Challenges and Odds of Survival:

  • Despite attempts to rear cheetah cubs in secure enclosures in Kuno, discussions emerge regarding the potential drawbacks of shielding them from natural dangers and limiting genetic diversity.
  • Studies indicate that novice cheetah mothers frequently lose their entire first litter but gain valuable experience from the process.
  • The survival rates for cheetah cubs in open systems, such as Tanzania’s Serengeti, are relatively modest, underscoring the difficulties encountered in reintroduction initiatives.

GS 3 – IPCC’s Assessment Reports

Context: The article discusses the recent activities of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), including findings from the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) and the initiation of the Seventh Assessment Cycle (AR7).


  • Since 1988, the IPCC has generated six assessment reports covering climate science, impacts, adaptation, vulnerability, and mitigation.
  • Scientists from 195 countries contribute to these reports, highlighting human responsibility for causing global warming.

Findings of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6):

  • There is limited time to restrict the global surface temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, underscoring the closeness to adaptation limits.
  • It offers strategies to mitigate warming, improve adaptation, and strengthen resilience in both natural and human-made systems.

The Inception of Seventh Assessment Report (AR7):

  • The IPCC’s AR7 cycle started after the release of the AR6 synthesis report.
  • Discussions were conducted in Turkey, focusing on budgeting, timelines, and the work program for the upcoming cycle.
  • These insights influenced discussions on various aspects, including the types of reports, special reports, and the perceived value of ‘full assessment reports.’
  • The Global Stocktake (GST) assesses advancements towards the objectives of the Paris Agreement every five years, with the inaugural GST taking place in 2022-2023.
  • The IPCC synchronizes its efforts with successive stocktakes, as member nations request assessment reports aligned with AR7 before the upcoming GST in 2028.

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GS 3 – Ancestor’s genomes and Modern Health

Context: The analysis explores how studies of ancient DNA offer a glimpse into the genetic composition of our ancestors, unveiling information about diseases, tools, lifestyles, and the historical context of infectious diseases.

More About the News:

  • Ancient DNA (aDNA) studies provide insights into the genetic makeup of ancestors, answering questions about their lifestyles, diseases, and tools.
  • Genomic techniques reconstruct genetic profiles from ancient skeletal remains, revealing genetic diversity, migration patterns, and disease prevalence.
  • Researchers use aDNA to understand the emergence, spread, and adaptation of infectious diseases throughout human history.
  • Recent papers highlight the use of aDNA sequences to explore genetic diseases in ancient humans, offering insights into medicines and tools used by early communities.
  • Genetic diseases caused by chromosomal abnormalities (e.g., Down’s syndrome, Klinefelter’s syndrome, Turner syndrome) can be studied through aDNA.
  • Advances in whole-genome sequencing allow the analysis of chromosomal abnormalities in fragmented and degraded DNA from ancient samples.
  • Researchers identify early instances of genetic diseases like Turner syndrome, Klinefelter’s syndrome, and Down’s syndrome in Iron Age Britain through aDNA.
  • Cardiovascular disease risk is assessed in ancient individuals by analyzing genetic variants associated with the disease, revealing its prevalence for at least 5,000 years.
  • Gleaning insights into ancient human lifestyles, aDNA analysis of birch pitch reveals microbial information related to oral health and hints at dietary habits.
  • aDNA studies contribute to understanding the creation and development of stone tools, as seen in the excavation of a cave in Ranis, Germany.
  • High-throughput sequencing of bone remains in the cave identifies Homo sapiens as toolmakers around 45,000 years ago.
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