Elephant ancestors Moeritherium and Barytherium


This video says about itself:

Finding A Fossil Gompotherium [sic; Gomphotherium] Elephant Tooth Scuba Diving

Here I find a small gompotherium tooth. It was an ancient elephant from the early Miocene.

From Discovery News:

Ancient Mammals Fill Elephant Family Tree

Jennifer Viegas

April 15, 2008 — Fossils of two ancient, extinct mammals are helping piece together the elephant family tree.

Modern elephants and their relatives, which fall into the order Proboscidea, form a diverse clan that includes hyraxes, manatees and dugongs. That group can now be linked to two extinct beasts, known as Barytherium and Moeritherium, which emerged around 50 million years ago.

Surprisingly, they didn’t look much like elephants or their living relatives either.

According to Alexander Liu, lead researcher on a new study of the fossils, Moeritherium was much smaller than today’s elephants and was instead “similar in size and stature to a modern tapir, having a prehensile upper lip rather than a trunk and weighing roughly 250 to 300 kg (551 to 661 pounds).”

Modern elephants, by contrast, can weigh up to 24,000 pounds.

Barytherium, on the other hand, was a little more elephant-like, given its trunk, but was still much smaller than today’s elephants, Liu told Discovery News.

Liu, a researcher in the University of Oxford’s Department of Earth Sciences, along with colleagues Erik Seiffert and Elwyn Simons, reconstructed the habitats and behaviors of the two extinct animals just by analyzing 11 of the beasts’ teeth.

Their findings are published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Their detective work involved studying carbon and oxygen isotopes found in the teeth, which date to 37 million years ago and were excavated at the Birket Qarun Formation in northern Egypt. …

Despite these reservations, Sanders believes the new research “sets a good framework” for additional studies on the elephant family tree. He hopes Liu and his team will study remains from other elephant relatives, such as Phosphatherium and Numidotherium, in the future.

See also here.

Miocene German elephants: here.

New Proboscideans (Mammalia) from the middle Miocene of Thailand: here.

Dinotherium: here.

Babar the elephant books: here.

Miocene Mammals of Oregon: here.

Scientists have found evidence that cavemen near the U.S.-Mexico border were butchering gomphotheres, elephant-like beasts from the Ice Age, that were believed to be nearly extinct in North America by the time humans appeared there: here.

Scientists at the University of Leicester are using an unusual resource to investigate ancient climates – prehistoric animal urine. The animal in question is the rock hyrax, a common species in countries such as Namibia and Botswana. They look like large guinea pigs but are actually related to the elephant. Hyraxes use specific locations as communal toilets, some of which have been used by generations of animals for thousands of years. The urine crystallises and builds up in stratified accumulations known as ‘middens,’ providing a previously untapped resource for studying long-term climate change: here.

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New snout beetle species discovered in Thailand


This video is called Butterfly garden & Insect World Phuket Thailand.

From the Bangkok Post in Thailand:

New species of snout beetle discovered

APINYA WIPATAYOTIN

A team of Thai entomologists has discovered the world’s three newest species of snout beetle in the eastern forest complex, which is indicative of the region’s plentiful biodiversity.

The newly found species were named Articerodes thailandicus, Articerodes omomoi and Articerodes jariyae. They belong to the Pselaphinae subfamily which groups more than 10,000 species of beetle widely found in many parts of the world.

Watana Sukchoowong, an entomologist at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said that before the discovery of the three new species Thailand recorded only 40 species of snout beetle in the Pselaphinae subfamily.

Specimens of the three new species were found at Khao Ang Rue Nai wildlife sanctuary in Chachoengsao province, Khao Soi Dao wildlife sanctuary and Khao Khitchakut national park in Chanthaburi province, the entomologist said.

A century of conservation in the Netherlands


This is a video about Dutch national park Dwingelderveld.

According to the Dutch conservation organization Natuurmonumenten, it recently increased the land surface which it owns to over 100,000 hectare.

It reached this milestone by acquiring land for the Grensmaas nature reserve in the southern Netherlands, along the Meuse river.

In 1906, Natuurmonumenten acquired its first property: the Naardermeer.

Protecting birds in Bermuda


Phaethon lepturus, White-tailed tropicbird, nesting

From BirdLife:

Bermuda’s new National Park extends IBA protection

15-04-2008

The largest island in Bermuda’s Castle Harbour, part of Bermuda’s only Important Bird Area (IBA), is to become the Cooper’s Island National Nature Reserve, classed as a National Park.

The entire world population of Endangered Bermuda Petrel or Cahow Pterodroma cahow nests within 1 km of Cooper’s Island, and the southern promontory of the island is the only area from which the Cahow can be easily observed from land. Cooper’s Island is close to the Nonsuch Island Nature Reserve, site of a five-year translocation project to re-establish a breeding population of Cahows beyond the reach of hurricane damage.

The 77 acre (32.2 hectare) Cooper’s Island is also home to a large number of nesting White-tailed Tropicbirds Phaethon lepturus, and with the other Castle Harbour islands plays host to the largest colonies of this species on Bermuda, at over 600 nesting pairs.

“Almost all of the area designated as an IBA is now protected to some extent,” said Jeremy Madeiros of Bermuda’s Department of Conservation Services.

Parts of the island are still used for purposes not strictly compatible with a Nature Reserve, including a radar tower, marine communications antenna and police firing range, but the Department of Conservation is talking to all parties to minimise light levels, guy wires and similar threats to Cahows and other night-flying birds. …

Cooper’s Island is one of the most important sites on Bermuda for neotropical migrants, both passage migrants and overwintering birds. “It is especially important for shorebirds, including the listed Piping Plover Charadrius melodus, Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola and Killdeer Charadrius vociferus, which use the large beach areas, and raptors, especially Osprey Pandion haliaetus and Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus,” said Madeiros. …

The Critically Endangered Bermuda Skink Eumeces longirostris, a ground lizard which lives in Cahow nest burrows, eating insects and parasites and helping to keep the burrows clean, will be re-introduced to Cooper’s Island.

From Wikipedia:

The [Cooper's] island has been used by many United States Government agencies, having been the property of the US Army, US Air Force and US Navy (which relinquished the island in 1995), as well as previously being occupied by a NASA space tracking station.

Neotropical migratory bird grants link sites and people along the Americas flyway: here.

African American singer Mavis Staples and civil rights


This is a music video of Mavis Staples “Eyes On The Prize”, with film footage of the 1950s-1960s civil rights struggle in the USA. The lyrics of that song are here.

From British daily The Guardian:

The long march

Mavis Staples helped soundtrack the 60s civil rights movement. Now the only member of the Staple Singers regularly performing, she tells Laura Barton she’s hoping Barack Obama will finish what Martin Luther King started

Tuesday April 15, 2008

The jazz writer Stanley Crouch once described the sound of the Staple Singers as “joy and thunder”. From the 50s, the family group, led by Roebuck “Pops” Staples, married a rumbling gospel with soul and blues and politics, creating hits such as I’ll Take You There and Respect Yourself. Today, only Mavis, the youngest member, continues to perform; her father died in 2000, her brother Pervis has retired, her sister Cleotha suffers from Alzheimer’s, while her other sister, Yvonne, sings occasional back-up on tour. So it is reassuring to hear Mavis Staples’ powerful new album, recorded with Ry Cooder, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Original Freedom Singers: that distinctive voice is still there – still joyful, still thunderous.

This afternoon, Staples recalls the day the president of her record company suggested she record an album of freedom songs. She was sceptical. “I said, ‘D’you think people want to hear freedom songs today?’” But she soon realised, she says, the strength of the idea: “Because Dr King, he brought us a mighty long way, but the bigotry, the injustice, it’s all still here.” She looks ferocious, in spite of her make-up and pale pink scarf. “We’re freer, but we’re not equal – in our jobs, our schooling, we’re still at the bottom of the totem pole. And Dr King, his dream is not being realised.”

The music of the Staple Singers soundtracked the civil rights movement: it was their songs that were sung on protest marches; Martin Luther King was a close friend of Pops Staples. “Pop, he always told the songwriters: if you wanna write for the Staples, read the headlines,” she says. “‘Cause we wanna sing about what’s happening in the world. And this is still happening.” She shakes her head with dismay. “Every time I pick up the paper. In Chicago today, a black family can move into a neighbourhood, and they get all settled in and the next morning they wake up, their garage is spraypainted: n-word, get out. It’s terrifying. I looked at [Hurricane] Katrina, I had flashbacks. My sister and I, we feel it from time to time – the girl behind the desk, she’ll see us standing there looking right at her, but she’ll wait on the white person. And I’m easy, but Yvonne, she won’t take it. She’ll say, ‘Well, wait a minute! We’re next! Don’t try that!’” …

These reminiscences are delivered over the songs like freestyle poetry, and cover the time Staples first became aware of racial segregation (someone remonstrated with her for almost drinking from a white drinking fountain when she was eight); the time the Staple Singers were arrested in Arkansas; and the occasion when she inadvertantly integrated a launderette in Mississippi. “I was down in Mississippi visiting my grandfather,” she recalls, “and I went up to the laundromat. I didn’t know there was a white side and a black side, but I went in and I happened to go in the black side, and all the machines were taken. And I said, ‘I can’t wait!’ So I was on my way back to my grandfather’s and on the way I passed the white side; just two white ladies sitting in there. So I went in, started washing, they didn’t say anything to me. All of a sudden, black ladies, I saw ‘em peepin’ … ” She starts to laugh. “And I guess they thought, ‘Oh, she’s in there’, so they came over and started washing their clothes, too. And when I got back to the house, my grandfather was preaching, ‘Yeah, my baby Mable!’ – he never called me Mavis, he just had one tooth. Someone had gone round and told him, ‘Your grand-baby has gone and integrated the washeteria!’”

I ask Staples why she thinks music played such a significant role in the civil rights movement, and she tells me about going back to Washington DC to speak to congressman John Lewis, an associate of King who has written the album’s liner notes. “He said to me, ‘Your father, your family, you all kept us going, your music kept us going, the songs you sang kept us going.’ And they did, we were writing our own freedom songs. March Up Freedom’s Highway – we wrote that for the march from Selma to Montgomery. And It’s a Long Walk to DC, But I Got My Walking Shoes On – we wrote that for the march to Washington.

“Music is good for the soul,” she continues. “It just kept you marching. And we would march all day, and then we’d go to someone’s house and have a big dinner, then we’d just all talk about what we’d done that day. It reminded me of the folk singers, when they’d call us to the folk festivals, and there’d be Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Richie Havens. And after we sang the festivals, they’d take their acoustic guitars and go to one of these big houses and just sit on the floor and just everybody sing together. There’s songs on the CD that relate to that time, like We Shall Not Be Moved – we’d go to a restaurant and they wouldn’t serve us, and they’d call the police to get us outta there. And we’d lock arms and we’d sing, ‘We shall, we shall not be moved,’ and everybody would just hold as tight as we could until the police came and pulled us apart. Music is just powerful.”

Does she feel that musicians have a political responsibility? “I have to speak only for us,” she says, tentatively. “But I would love to hear other singers sing it. I would love to hear a rapper rap freedom. We thought about it too late – if I had asked Common or Kanye [see also here] to rap on just on one song, maybe.” She sighs, her mood turned cloudy at the opportunity missed. “Because you want the young people to hear these songs. You want them to know their black history. I had a schoolteacher living next door to me, and she told me that when Rosa Parks passed away, a girl in her class, 17 years old, asked her, ‘What did she do? Who was she?’ And Rosa Parks started it all!”

See also here.

Marcus Garvey: here.

A recent book by author Jeffrey Perry aims to help a new generation of activists rediscover the Black radical Hubert Harrison: here. And here.