Aye-ayes of Madagascar are creatures of the night, but have colour vision


This is a video of the aye-aye Kintana in Bristol zoo in England, made shortly after its birth. This is part I.

Part II is here.

From Arizona State University in the USA:

The aye-ayes have it: The preservation of color vision in a creature of the night

A quest to gain a more complete picture of color vision evolution has led Biodesign Institute researcher Brian Verrelli to an up-close, genetic encounter with one of the world’s most rare and bizarre-looking primates.

Verrelli and his ASU team have performed the first sweeping study of color vision in the aye-aye (pronounced “eye-eye”), a bushy-tailed, Madagascar native primate with a unique combination of physical features including extremely large eyes and ears, and elongated fingers for reaching hard to access insects and other foods. Verrelli, lead author George Perry, and collaborator Robert Martin’s results, published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, have led to some surprising conclusions on how this nocturnal primate may have retained color vision function.

Verrelli’s group focuses on color vision to better understand genetic variation between human and other primate populations and the truly big evolutionary questions as to what makes us human. “At least within humans and some other primates, we know that there are three different genes responsible for color vision,” said Verrelli. The genes, called opsins, come in three forms that shape our color vision palette, one for blue, another for green, and a third for red. …

To help trace back the evolution of color vision, Verrelli’s collaborator Perry turned to the endangered aye-aye, a primate representative of lemurs. These primates split from other groups including humans, apes, and monkeys more than sixty million years ago, and are thought to be in some ways representative of the early primates that lived at that time. “We chose the aye-aye specifically because it has a very interesting behavior in that it is fully nocturnal, and so, it raises an obvious and straightforward question: If you are an animal that lives at night, do you need color vision?”

In a simple case of ‘use it or lose it,’ the prevailing theory suggested that nocturnal primates cannot use color vision to see, and so the genes that they have for color vision accumulated mutations and degraded over evolutionary time. …

The results his team found were so startling that they had to recheck them twice. “When examining these genes in the aye-aye, we realized that they are not degrading,” said Verrelli. “In fact, for the green opsin gene, we did not find a single mutation in it. The opsin genes look to be absolutely fully functional, which is completely counter to how we had believed color vision evolved in nocturnal mammals.”

Primate evolution: here.

Fossil Madagascar lemurs: here.

New population of rare giant-mouse lemurs found in Madagascar: here.

Endangered primate species: here.

Scottish school students against army recruitment


This video is from the USA. It is called IRAQ WAR PROTEST – JAN. 27, 2007.

By Esme Choonara:

Edinburgh school students shout it out against army recruitment

School students from across Scotland are stepping up their campaign to end army recruitment in schools.

The School Students Against the War group in Edinburgh is holding a street event called Shout It Out! in the city centre this Saturday. The event will have music, speeches, stalls and workshops.

Patrick Orr, a fifth year student at Boroughmuir high school, is one of the organisers of Shout It Out!

Update: here.

Campaign to get Dutch troops out of Afghanistan


This video is part I of Achin Vanaik of the Transnational Institute talking about the ideological banners that are used to legitimise the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as US military aggression elsewhere. Recorded at the Felix Meritis, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on Sunday 17 June 2007.

Part II is here.

From the Dutch Socialist Party:

250,000 ‘Troops Out’ Leaflets Call for End to Mission in Uruzgan

September 3rd, 2007 • The Dutch mission in the Afghan province of Uruzgan must not be extended – that is the message of a leaflet distributed today by the ‘Troops Out of Afghanistan’ Committee.

The Committee includes the S[ocialist] P[arty], the Green Left party, the Stop the War coalition and the Platform against the New War. The leaflet, which takes the form of a newspaper presenting the Committee’s arguments against the prolongation of the mission, has a print run of 250,000, a huge number for a country whose population is just under 16.5 million. SP foreign affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel explained that the paper “puts the arguments behind the wish of the majority of the population that there should be no prolongation of the mission in Uruzgan. We can and must help the Afghan people, but in another way.’

Demonstration to get German troops out of Afghanistan: here.

New documents on US troops killing Iraqi and Afghan civilians


This video from the USA is called Iraq War Vets talk about random civilian killings.

From Associated Press:

Documents Reveals Patterns in U.S. Killing Civilians

Published: September 04, 2007 1:30 AM ET

Newly released documents regarding crimes committed by United States soldiers against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan detail a pattern of troops failing to understand and follow the rules that govern interrogations and deadly actions.

The documents, released today by the American Civil Liberties Union ahead of a lawsuit, total nearly 10,000 pages of courts-martial summaries, transcripts and military investigative reports about 22 cases. They show repeated examples of troops believing they were within the law when they killed local citizens.

The killings include the drowning of a man soldiers pushed from a bridge into the Tigris River as punishment for breaking curfew, and the suffocation during interrogation of a former Iraqi general believed to be helping insurgents.

In the suffocation, soldiers covered the man’s head with a sleeping bag, then wrapped his neck with an electrical cord for a “stress position” they said was an approved technique.

Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer was convicted of negligent homicide in the death of Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush after a January 2006 court-martial that received wide attention because of possible C.I.A. involvement in the interrogation.

See also here.

Internet game about bird migration


This video is about one week with the Birding association of South-West-Flanders (VWG Zuid-West-Vlaanderen) in Falsterbo, Sweden, where there is much bird migration, in 2005.

From the Audubon Society of New York in the USA:

In the spring and the fall, many birds fly long distances in search of food, water, shelter and space: the same basic things that you need to survive. Along these routes, they encounter many different types of habitats, from country and forest to neighborhoods and big cities, and at times, encounter dangers from both natural and manmade hazards.

In this game you will try to help your flock migrate safely by learning how choices you make each and every day around your home, school, and neighborhood can affect the fate of these migrating birds – in both positive and negative ways. By the time you’re done, you’ll have the skills and knowledge to help birds thrive and survive around your home.

Migratory sandpipers: here.

Best places in the USA to see migratory birds of prey: here.