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Silkworm Cocoons UPSC NOTE

 Why in News 

  • Silk is an acme of domestication, comparable in its success to basmati rice, alphonso mangoes, and the golden retriever. 

  • Today, the tools are at hand for scientists to make and compare genetically identical hybrid silk moths that differ only in which of a gene’s two parental versions is inactivated

Queen of Fibres

  • Silk, the queen of fibres, is drawn or reeled from cocoons of thesilk moth (Bombyx mori). 

  • Humans domesticated it more than 5,000 years ago in China. 

  • The ancestral moth is today found in China, the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and far eastern Russia, whereas the domesticated moth is reared all over the world, including in India. 

  • In fact, India is the world’s second largest producer of raw silk after China.

  • Caterpillars, also known as silkworms, of both these species feed exclusively on leaves of mulberry plants (genus Morus).

  • The domesticated mothis much larger thanits wild progenitor, and thus extrudes a longer silk fibre to build its larger cocoon, up to 900 metres long.

  • It depends wholly on human care for its survival and reproduction

  • Since having been domesticated, it has lost the ability to fly, .

  • Its need for camouflage no longer exists, it has also lost its caterpillar and adult-stage pigmentation.

What are muga, tasar, and eri?

  • Wild silks – which include the muga, tasar, and eri silks – are obtained from other moth species: namely, Antheraea assama, Antheraea mylitta, and Samia cynthia ricini.

  • These moths survive relatively independently of human care, and their caterpillars forage on a wider variety of trees. 

  • Non-mulberry silks comprise about 30% of all silk produced in India. 

  • These silks have shorter, coarser, and harder threads compared to the long, fine, and smooth threads of the mulberry silks.

  • The ancestral mulberry moth makes (boringly uniform) brown-yellow cocoons

  • In contrast, domesticated silk moth cocoons come in an eye-catching palette of yellow-red, gold, flesh, pink, pale green, deep green or white

  • Human handlers selected the differently coloured cocoons whenever they emerged, possibly in the hope of breeding for coloured silks. 

  • The pigments that coloured the cocoons are water-soluble, so they gradually fade away. The coloured silks we see in the market are instead produced by using acid dyes.

Importance of carotenoids and flavonoids in cocoons

  • Carotenoids and flavonoids are two types of plant pigments that play important roles in the development and survival of cocoons.

  • Carotenoids are responsible for the yellow, orange, and red colors of many fruits and vegetables

  • They also act as antioxidants, which help to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. 

  • In cocoons, carotenoids are thought to help to protect the pupae from harmful sunlight and to provide them with camouflage.

  • Flavonoids are a group of plant pigments that are found in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and flowers

  • They are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties

  • In cocoons, flavonoids are thought to help to protect the pupae from infection and to promote their development.


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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Silkworm Cocoons UPSC NOTE
Silkworm Cocoons UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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