Gorilla DNA sequenced


This video is called Evidence of Common Ancestry: Human Chromosome 2.

From New Scientist:

Gorilla DNA unlocks secrets of our species

07 March 2012 by Sara Reardon

THANKS to Kamilah the gorilla, the last of the great apes has had its genome fully sequenced. The results highlight key similarities between us and gorillas – our second closest relatives after chimps.

Richard Durbin of the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK, led the international team that pieced together the western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) genome using several different sequencing techniques. The genome contains more than 3 billion pairs of DNA letters – roughly the same as humans – and includes about 21,000 genes.

Researchers can now compare the gorilla genome with chimpanzee and human genomes to study the origin of our species.

Early analysis suggests that the gorilla lineage splintered off from other great apes about 10 million years ago, some 3 million years before chimps and humans split. It’s no surprise, then, that chimps and humans have more in common: the sequences found in 70 per cent of great ape genetic material are more closely related in chimps and humans than in gorillas and either species.

But despite the ancient split, the remaining 30 per cent of Kamilah’s genome turned out to be more closely related to humans or chimps than those species are to one another, suggesting that genes continued to trickle between the three lineages after they split (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature10842).

Aylwyn Scally of the Sanger Institute says the most likely explanation is that gorilla ancestors interbred with the ancestors of humans and chimps, much like early modern humans and Neanderthals did.

The researchers also roughly sequenced an eastern lowland gorilla‘s genome (Gorilla beringei graueri) to compare it with Kamilah’s. The two subspecies separated 1.75 million years ago and now live 1000 kilometres apart in Africa. Here, too, the genomes hint at occasional interbreeding.

That seems to be quite common, says Scally. “Fifteen million years ago [long before the great apes split] was a good time to be an ape,” he says, as the climate and vegetation facilitated their spread and diversification. But as the climate changed, populations fragmented, evolved separately, and the small splinter groups either died out or found creative ways to carry on, such as breeding with other groups.

In this brave new primate world, gorillas rapidly evolved into a distinct species. Kamilah’s genome shows that after gorillas split off from other apes, some 500 genes changed more rapidly than the rest. Many of these genes are involved in hearing and brain development, and are the same as those that evolved quickly in human ancestors after they split from chimps. Some had speculated that their rapid evolution in humans could explain why we evolved language and chimps did not. Kamilah’s genome has thrown cold water on that idea: the gorilla and human versions of the genes are nearly identical.

See also here.

Why did the bipedal ape lose its fur and cross the globe? The 10 biggest puzzles of human evolution: here.

April 2012. New research reveals that like humans, wild chimpanzees – our closest living relatives – are unable to resist the temptation of succulent fruits such as mango and papaya grown by their human neighbours. These findings are perhaps unsurprising as chimps in zoos are notoriously partial to fruits like bananas, and are considered specialist fruit-feeders in the wild: here.

HUMANS aren’t the only primate to risk the reproductive repercussions of a diet rich in oestrogen-like compounds. Gorillas and colobus monkeys both eat large quantities of plants containing the chemicals, which can disrupt reproduction but have been shown to protect against some cancers: here.

Baby rollers’ vomiting self-defence


News about the Eurasian relatives of this and this roller species which I liked to see so much in the Gambia.

This is a French video on the Eurasian roller.

From AFP news agency:

‘Vomit Bird’ Throws Up a Defense Against Predators

Babies of a bird species called the Eurasian Roller vomit a foul-smelling orange liquid as a defense mechanism.

Wed Mar 7, 2012 12:04 PM ET

THE GIST

The baby Eurasian Roller’s defense involves vomiting a noxious substance onto itself.
When a bird is covered in vomit, it becomes less attractive as a snack, plus the parents smell the liquid and rush back to their nestlings.

Offspring of the bright-blue jackdaw-sized bird — Latin name Coracias garrulus — throw up the repugnant fluid when they are frightened in their nests, according to a paper appearing on Wednesday in the journal Biology Letters.

Covered in vomit, the nestlings not surprisingly become less attractive as a snack, the team says.

But the smell also alerts parents, returning to the nest, that a threatening incident has happened in their absence, they believe.

The scientists tested the “olfactory cue” theory by visiting nests with 10-day-old nestlings inside.

They used a small paintbrush to daub a tiny amount of either lemon juice or vomit on the inside of the nest. Parents returning to a vomit-treated nest reacted with great caution, delaying the time when they would settle in the home.

Previous research has found that birds have a surprisingly wide range of defensive reactions.

For instance, the northern fulmar (Fulmaris glacialis) yawks up stomach oils against intruders that makes them lose their waterproof coating.

And the common eider (Somateria mollissima) and northern shoveler (Anas acuta) have the ability to spray feces on their eggs to deter mammal egg-thieves.

However, the Eurasian roller is the first bird that has been found to use a scent, derived in response to a threat, as a means of communication, says the paper.

In that regard, it joins many other animals, from insects to humans, that use the “smell of fear” to warn fellow members of their species of an attack.

The study is led by Deseada Parejo of Spain’s Estacio Experimental de Zonas Aridas.

Common sandpiper photo from Gambia


8 February 2012 in the Gambia.

Near Njau village.

Common sandpiper, Njau, the Gambia, 8 February 2012

Just before the Egyptian plover landed on the river bank, there was already a common sandpiper there.

This is that common sandpiper.

Common sandpipers nest in Europe and Asia. In winter, they can be found in Africa, some even much further south than the Gambia, like in South Africa. Some winter in southern Asia and Australia.

Waders in Gambia: here.

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Malachite kingfisher photo from Gambia


14 February 2012.

Malachite kingfisher, near Kartong Bird Observatory, the Gambia, 14 February 2012

This photograph was taken near Kartong Bird Observatory in the Gambia.

It depicts a malachite kingfisher.

Of the nine kingfisher species in the Gambia, seven are bigger than the malachite. Only the pygmy kingfisher is still smaller.

The malachite kingfisher is also smaller than the Eurasian kingfisher.

United States women soldiers raped scandal


This video from the USA says about itself:

Former Indiana National Guard Recruiter, Eric Vetesy, 39, pleaded guilty to ten charges of sexual battery, official misconduct and corrupt business influence last week. He admitted to groping and forcing sexual acts on as many as seven high school girls he recruited in Hamilton County. In exchange for the plea, a rape charge was dropped.

From Associated Press:

8 Women File Lawsuit, Accuse Military Of Having ‘High Tolerance For Sexual Predators In Their Ranks’

By Eric Tucker

03/6/12

WASHINGTON — Eight current and former members of the U.S. military allege in a new federal lawsuit that they were raped, assaulted or harassed during their service and suffered retaliation when they reported it to their superiors.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, accuses the military of having a “high tolerance for sexual predators in their ranks” and fostering a hostile environment that discourages victims of sexual assault from coming forward and punishes them when they do. The suit claims the Defense Department has failed to take aggressive steps to confront the problem despite public statements suggesting otherwise.

The eight women include an active-duty enlisted Marine and seven others who served in the Navy and Marine Corps. Seven women allege that a comrade raped or tried to sexually assault them, including in a commanding officer’s office after a pub crawl in Washington and inside a Naval Air Station barracks room in Florida. The eighth says she was harassed and threatened while deployed to Iraq, only to be told by a superior that “this happens all the time.”

“There (are) no circumstances under which women who are brave enough and patriotic enough to stand up and defend this nation should have to be subjected to being called `slut, whore, walking mattress,'” said Susan Burke, a lawyer representing the women. “This is the year 2012. This kind of conduct is not acceptable.”

The women say they’ve suffered depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder because of the assaults. One woman says she tried to commit suicide after being raped inside her home by a senior officer and his civilian friend.

The lawsuit names as defendants past and present military leaders, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his predecessors.

A similar lawsuit was filed last year in federal court in Virginia. But the case was dismissed after the government argued in part that the judiciary had to defer to military decisions on command and discipline. That decision is being appealed.

Klay, a former Marine Corps officer and plaintiff who says she was raped in August 2010, said the military avoids scrutiny for its handling of these accusations by projecting a warrior culture immune to questioning and because the public doesn’t want to believe these crimes and cover-ups are occurring among service members.

“A noble cause is a great vehicle for corruption because nobody wants to look and nobody is going to look,” Klay told the AP.

After serving in Iraq, Klay was recruited to Military Barracks Washington in the nation’s capital, where she says she was falsely accused of adultery, taunted as a “slut” and “whore” and told to “deal with it” by a superior. She said the situation became so uncomfortable that she requested a deployment to Afghanistan, but that request was denied because she was told she was too critical to the command.

Klay alleges she was raped inside her row house near the barracks on the morning of Aug. 28, 2010, by an officer who said he planned to humiliate her and by his civilian friend. She said she reported the rape and left the barracks, but endured retaliation and became so despondent that she attempted suicide.

Haytham Faraj, a lawyer for the officer, denied that any rape occurred and said that his client and Klay were instead involved in a consensual sexual relationship. His client was found not guilty of the sexual assault allegations after a court-martial and was convicted instead of the lesser offenses of adultery and indecent language.

Another plaintiff, Elle Helmer, who says she was told she obtained a public affairs position at the Marine Barracks because she was considered the “prettiest,” reported being sexually assaulted by a commanding officer following a St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl in Washington’s Capitol Hill in 2006. She says she was discouraged from submitting to a rape kit and medical examination and was told she needed to toughen up. The lawsuit says the military initially refused to investigate, and Helmer says she found herself investigated for public intoxication and conduct unbecoming. She says left the military soon after.

“It took approximately 72 hours for the victim to become the accused in this example, and that was really the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition,” Helmer said.

“Are they saying we’re all lying? Are they saying it doesn’t happen? Hiding behind their rhetoric of zero tolerance is entirely cowardly and misleading and they know it,” Helmer said.

See also here.

Betrayal of Trust? Allegations of rape at West Point, Annapolis: here.

US Army Pioneer Says Male Superiors Mistreated Her Because She’s a Woman: here.

Military Has Not Solved Problem of Sexual Assault, Women Say: here.

Ending military rape: The crusade of “The Invisible War”: here.

Britain: Join the call demanding immediate inquiry into Air Force’s shocking sex abuse scandal: here.

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