Biodiversity of an Indian pothole

Potholes – they are everywhere. If a place receives any natural rainfall; over time all kinds of roads develop potholes. Nothing good about them; they cause problems on the road, traffic and even accidents. You walk past them looking at them and wishing they would go away.


Until yesterday; I had the exact same opinion as you. Looking around for a water to sample; and without luck since it was dry spell in Delhi, I decided to sample a little puddle of water (not the one featured above – that’s just a representative pothole) in a pothole close to NSIT campus in Dwarika, Delhi. The one I sampled was significantly smaller. And a whole new world opened to me. Frankly, I was quiet surprised to find a beautiful world of diatoms gliding inside this unassuming, isolated oasis we call a pothole.

This is a classic example of our limited view of where biodiversity resides. It’s also an example of a bias – I had just assumed nothing could be found in a pothole, since it looked like a seemingly isolated patch on the road. I was proven wrong dramatically. In fact, it reminds me of the fact that you can find beauty in places you least expect them.

Next time, I will keep my eyes wide open. I invite you all to go out and sample your surroundings. If we decide to sample waters in our surroundings, we could increase the number of known species of Diatoms by a triple fold. It’s assumed that only one-quarter of all species of Diatoms are known to scientists. When you think about places where scientists have not actually samples extensively, this could potentially be even a larger number.

This is also an invitation to all the @DBTIndia Foldscope workshop participants. Let’s make a list of all places you can find Diatoms. These beautiful and isolated gliding glass houses are something to cherish; so go look out for them.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. laksiyer says:

    Wow. Look at that. Wouldnt it be great to do a time course of life in a pothole. Once a pothole fills, you sample it periodically, measure the diversity of life, and succession. It is a good lesson in statistical sampling, studying biodiversity and the cherry on the top is that you might find something new.

  2. Manu says:

    @Laks: you are right. I am thinking of engaging with 2 or 3 workshop participants and have them follow through this and map the biodiversity well. Also; I wonder how oil residues complicates the composition of these potholes. Let’s map them before someone

  3. Manu says:

    Could not finish the sentence above – I wanted to say: ” Let’s map them before someone plugs all the potholes 🙂 ”


  4. heshsham says:

    @Manu I am visiting okhla industrial area tomorrow and will post images and videos soon, thanks for sharing your exploration.

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