Honduran dictators kill


From Associated Press:

[Honduran President] Zelaya told the Argentine cable channel Todo Noticias that 10 of his supporters had been killed, though he gave no details. Authorities said there were no deaths at all, though they said one person suffered a gunshot wound.

Dr. Mario Sanchez at the Escuela Hospital in Tegucigalpa said three people were treated for gunshot wounds there, however.

From AFP today:

“These fascists have dared to surround the embassy of Brazil, have beaten people, they have killed two comrades and tortured people,” said Bertha Caceres of the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras.

Tirza Flores, a member of the group Judges for Democracy, described a “situation of total chaos” and said police were making “mass arrests.”

From RTÉ news in Ireland:

A man has been shot dead in a clash between police and supporters of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

It was the first reported death in political violence since Mr Zelaya, who was forced into exile by a 28 June coup, arrived back to Honduras on Monday and sought refuge in the Brazilian embassy.

The man, a Zelaya supporter aged 65, was killed in the Flor del Campo district of the capital.

From Xinhua news agency:

Two people died during a turmoil arose in the country since Monday when ousted President Manuel Zelaya returned to Honduras, Honduran police spokesman Orlin Cerrato said on Wednesday.

This is definitely not the first time that the Honduras dictators have killed.

Shaun Joseph, recently returned from a solidarity delegation to Honduras, analyzes the latest stage in the struggle to stop the coup against Manuel Zelaya: here.

The United Nations has suspended electoral assistance worth about $1.3m to Honduras, saying that conditions in the country are “not favourable” for polls scheduled for November: here.

Invasive species in the Wadden Sea


Botrylloides violaceus

From GiMaRIS in the Netherlands:

In three weeks time 28 non-native species are found of which twelve are new to the Dutch Wadden Sea. Some of these species like Botrylloides violaceus, which is introduced from the NW Pacific, are very brightly coloured.

Botrylloides violaceus is a sea squirt. Like Didemnum vexillum, another new Wadden Sea species. Also two Japanese crab species, including the Asian shore crab, were discovered for the first time ever in the Wadden Sea.

Source: NRC Handelsblad daily, paper edition, 22 September 2009, page 8.

Invasive Alien Species, ranging from disease and plants, to rats and goats, are one of the top three threats to life on this planet, according to a new publication coordinated by the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP), of which BirdLife International is a partner: here.

The sea squirt offers hope for Alzheimer’s sufferers: here.

What Sea Squirts Can Teach Us About the Heart: here.

Rare Indian lotus threatened


Nymphaea tetragona

From the BBC:

Rare Indian lotus ‘disappearing’

By Parameswaran Sivaramakrishnan
BBC Tamil service

A rare species of lotus is on the verge of disappearing from India, according to scientists.

An expert told BBC News that efforts to save Nymphaea tetragona, found only in a small private pond in India, have not been effective.

Despite a variety of methods of propagation, the plants have failed to grow in sufficiently large numbers.

Leading botanist Pramod Tandon said that it is now as important to save the existing examples as to propagate them.

N. tetragona, technically a water lily, is globally rare.

In India the only surviving examples live on a small piece of private land in the north-eastern state of Meghalaya. …

As only 20 to 30 plants are left, it is the conservation efforts to protect the area where they are that are of paramount importance.

How cities drive plants extinct : here.

Honduras dictators escalate conflict with Brazil and their own people


This is a video in Spanish, about Hondurans happy about the return of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya; before the dictatorship’s forces attacked them violently.

Brazil has urged the UN to convene an emergency meeting to resolve the tense stand-off in Honduras, where the country’s deposed president has been forced to take refuge in the Brazilian embassy: here.

London wildlife survey results


This video from England is about a mother fox and 6 young foxes filmed in London.

From Wildlife Extra:

London wildlife survey results

23/09/2009 09:17:19

Make Your Nature Count

September 2009. You’re more likely to see a fox in London than you will in the countryside. That’s the finding of the RSPB’s first ever spring survey, Make Your Nature Count.

More than 62,000 people took part in the new wildlife stock-take. Participants were asked to note the birds as well as other garden visitors, such as squirrels, frogs and toads.

Pigeons are most common – Cats in 86% of gardens

In London pigeons are the most common garden visitors, followed by blackbirds and robins. Traditionally, house sparrows and starlings were the top two most common species, but, worryingly, they’ve slipped to seventh and eighth places respectively. Cats were recorded in 86% of the gardens surveyed, almost equalled by the number of squirrels. Foxes were third placed, appearing in 70 per cent of gardens.

Global warming will threaten the capital’s wildlife habitats by increasing the risk of flooding in the winter and drought in the summer, the London Climate Change Partnership said on Sunday: here.

Wales: Red squirrels have found their way across the Menai Strait from Anglesey to Gwynedd, conservationists believe: here.

Red squirrels are returning to areas of Scotland where they have not been seen for years, according to campaigners: here.

New plateosaurus in natural history museum


This video is called Plateosaurus Tribute.

On Wednesday 30 September, a recently aquired plateosaurus fossil skeleton will be assembled in Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands.

This assembling will be open to the museum public.

The plateosaurus is over five meter in size. It is from Frick in Switzerland, where over a hundred specimens of this dinosaur have been discovered in a mass grave.

This will be the third dinosaur in the Naturalis museum.

Special Issue: Unearthing the Anatomy of Dinosaurs: New Insights Into Their Functional Morphology and Paleobiology: here.

Bush’s torture produces untruths


This video from the USA is called Keith Olbermann: “Waterboarding is Torture”, and It’s Settled Law – 4/23/09.

Torture is not just criminal. It also does not lead to the results which its advocates claim.

From the BBC:

Torturing ‘does not get truth’

Torture techniques used on suspected terrorists by the Bush administration may have failed to get to the truth, researchers say.

Professor Shane O’Mara of Trinity College, Dublin, said the interrogation techniques had a detrimental effect on brain functions related to memory.

He listed 10 methods of what he called torture used by the US, including stress positions and waterboarding.

His review is published in the journal, Trends in Cognitive Science.

‘Lack of control’

Professor O’Mara said US Department of Justice memos released in April showed that the Americans believed that prolonged periods of shock, anxiety, disorientation and lack of control were more effective than standard interrogation in extracting the truth.

He said: “This is based on the assumption that subjects will be motivated to reveal truthful information to end interrogation, and that extreme stress, shock and anxiety do not impact on memory.

“However this model of the impact of extreme stress on memory and the brain is utterly unsupported by scientific evidence.”

He said studies of extreme stress with special forces soldiers had found that their recall of previously learned information was impaired afterwards.

“Waterboarding in particular is an extreme stressor and has the potential to elicit widespread stress-induced changes in the brain.”

Professor O’Mara said contemporary neuroscientific models of human memory showed that the hippocampus and prefrontal cortices of the brain were very important.

The stress hormone, cortisol, binds to receptors in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex increasing neuronal excitability which compromises the normal functioning of the brain if it is sustained.

And other stress hormones called catecholamines could lead to an increase in blood pressure and heart rate which could cause long-term damage to the brain and body if they were maintained at a high level for a long time.

Conditioning

Professor O’Mara said a common argument in favour of torture was that it would reliably elicit truthful information from the captive’s long-term memory.

But psychological studies had suggested that during extreme stress and anxiety, the captive would be conditioned to associate speaking with periods of safety.

And because torture was stressful for the torturers the fact that the captive was speaking also provided a safety signal to the captor.

“Making the captive talk may become the end – not the truth of what the captive is revealing.

“These techniques cause severe, repeated and prolonged stress, which compromises brain tissue supporting memory and executive function.

“The fact that the detrimental effects of these techniques on the brain are not visible to the naked eye makes them no less real.”

Memory disruption

Dr David Harper, a clinical psychologist from the University of East London, said the study appeared to be consistent with previous research on memory and trauma and with evidence of previous torture survivors and those in the intelligence community critical of psychological torture techniques. …

Techniques used by US

Walling – captive is placed with heels touching the wall and is pulled away and pushed back into it with force
Wall standing – captive stands four to five feet from wall with fingertips supporting all the body weight to induce muscle fatigue
Cramped confinement – captive place in small box in darkness for up to two hours, in a larger box for up to 18 hours
Sleep deprivation – captive is deprived of sleep for up to 11 days
Stress positions – captive sits on floor with legs straight out in front and arms raised above head or is made to kneel on the floor while leaning back at a 45 degree angle
Waterboarding – captive is bound head down on an inclined bench with a cloth over the eyes. Water is applied to the cloth for 20 to 40 seconds at a time inducing fast breathing and perception of drowning

This paper looks like interesting lecture for Dick Cheney when he will be in his cell, standing trial for his torture and other crimes.

The season premiere of NBC’s crime drama “Law & Order” was a rarity for American television: an unsparing and essentially honest examination of the crimes being committed by the American government, in the name of the “war on terror”: here.

Australia: The government has intensified its efforts to stop Mamdouh Habib, a 53-year-old Australian citizen and father of four, from suing over its role in his illegal detention and torture in Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay between 2001 and 2005: here.

Costa Rican dung beetle named after Darwin


Illustration of the dung beetle named Canthidium darwini, discovered on a Museum-led expedition to Costa Rica

From the American Museum of Natural History in the USA:

Dung beetle named after Darwin

September 22nd, 2009

A dung beetle from Costa Rica has been named after Charles Darwin and the Darwin Initiative. It was discovered during a Natural History Museum led expedition.

The beetle, named Canthidium (Eucanthidium) darwini, was discovered in a remote and unexplored UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Talamanca Mountains as part of a Natural History Museum led project.

It was found on one of 7 expeditions to the area that were funded by the UK government‘s Darwin Initiative, which aims to assist biodiversity conservation in some of the world’s poorest countries.

The naming is timely, as this year has seen many anniversaries of the great biologist; the 150th year since his ground-breaking publication On the Origin of Species, the 200th year since Darwin’s birth and nationwide events are taking place in 2008-2009 as part of Darwin200.

The expeditions were led jointly by the Natural History Museum, INBio, and Panama’s national authority for the environment ANAM. The aim was to produce tools for the conservation of an important area of the world’s biodiversity.

Museum biodiversity expert Alex Monro led the expedition that discovered the beetle. ‘These expeditions were very tough,’ says Monro. ‘This particular one lasted 3 weeks, camping and hiking and using baited traps set along transect lines (sample points).’

There are about 180 dung beetle species in Costa Rica and Canthidium darwini is one of 68 species collected as part of the project, 2 of which are new to science.

‘At 4mm in length this beetle is relatively small,’ says Monro. ‘Angel Solís, expert for this group of beetles in Costa Rica and Panama, says that it appears to be most closely related to a species the other side of the mountain on the Pacific coast.’

During the 7 trips, more than 30 previously unknown species of beetle, amphibian and plant were discovered.

Dung beetles have a crucial role in nature as they consume waste such as dung and decaying flesh (carrion). They bury the waste in the ground and so contribute to soil fertility and structure.

Since they feed on mammal dung, bird droppings and their carcasses, and are relatively specialised in the range of food that they consume, dung beetle diversity can be an indicator of the density and diversity of mammals and birds in the area.

Endangered Birds of Costa Rica: here.

Rare six spot ground beetle born in World Museum Bug House in John, Paul, George and Ringo’s home city of Liverpool: here.

In New Zealand, there’s a running joke that the sheep outnumber the people. What’s not funny is the consequence of all those woolly creatures: poop. Piles and piles of it. To reduce this overflowing cornucopia of crap, the government is calling in reinforcements in the form of 11 Australian dung beetle species: here.

New ghostshark species discovered in California


Eastern Pacific black ghostshark

From ScienceDaily:

Ancient And Bizarre Fish Discovered: New Species Of Ghostshark From California And Baja California

(Sep. 23, 2009) — New species are not just discovered in exotic locales—even places as urban as California still yield discoveries of new plants and animals. Academy scientists recently named a new species of chimaera, an ancient and bizarre group of fishes distantly related to sharks, from the coast of Southern California and Baja California, Mexico.

The new species, the Eastern Pacific black ghostshark (Hydrolagus melanophasma), was described in the September issue of the international journal Zootaxa by a research team including Academy Research Associates David Ebert and Douglas J. Long. Additional co-authors included Kelsey James, a graduate student at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and Dominique Didier from Millersville University in Pennsylvania. This is the first new species of cartilaginous fish to be described from California waters since 1947.

Chimaeras, also called ratfish, rabbitfish, and ghostsharks, are perhaps the oldest and most enigmatic groups of fishes alive today. Their closest living relatives are sharks, but their evolutionary lineage branched off from sharks nearly 400 million years ago, and they have remained an isolated group ever since. Like sharks, chimaeras have skeletons composed of cartilage and the males have claspers for internal fertilization of females.

Unlike sharks, male chimaeras also have retractable sexual appendages on the forehead and in front of the pelvic fins and a single pair of gills. Most species also have a mildly venomous spine in front of the dorsal fin. Chimaeras were once a very diverse and abundant group, as illustrated by their global presence in the fossil record. They survived through the age of dinosaurs mostly unchanged, but today these fishes are relatively scarce and are usually confined to deep ocean waters, where they have largely avoided the reach of explorers and remained poorly known to science.

This new species belongs to the genus Hydrolagus, Latin for ‘water rabbit’ because of its grinding tooth plates reminiscent of a rabbit’s incisor teeth. This new species was originally collected as early as the mid 1960s, but went unnamed until this year because its taxonomic relationships were unclear. A large blackish-purple form, Hydrolagus melanophasma (melanophasma is Latin for ‘black ghost’), is found in deep water from the coast of Southern California, along the western coast of Baja California, and into the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California). This species is known from a total of nine preserved museum specimens, and from video footage taken of it alive by a deep-water submersible in the Sea of Cortez.

Renewed exploration of the world’s deep oceans and more extensive taxonomic analysis of chimaera specimens in museum collections have led to a boom in the number of new chimaera species discovered worldwide in the last decade, including two species from the Galápagos Islands named by Didier, Ebert, and Long in 2006 that were originally collected by Academy scientist John McCosker. With further advances in research and discovery, perhaps more will be known about these living fossils and their diversity in the world’s oceans.

See also here. And here. And here.

Palau creates world’s first shark sanctuary: here.