Iguanodont dinosaurs, new research


This music video is called Tribute to Iguanodon.

From PLoS ONE:

Phylogeny of Basal Iguanodonts (Dinosauria: Ornithischia): An Update

Andrew T. McDonald*

Department of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

Abstract

The precise phylogenetic relationships of many non-hadrosaurid members of Iguanodontia, i.e., basal iguanodonts, have been unclear. Therefore, to investigate the global phylogeny of basal iguanodonts a comprehensive data matrix was assembled, including nearly every valid taxon of basal iguanodont. The matrix was analyzed in the program TNT, and the maximum agreement subtree of the resulting most parsimonious trees was then calculated in PAUP.

Ordering certain multistate characters and omitting taxa through safe taxonomic reduction did not markedly improve resolution. The results provide some new information on the phylogeny of basal iguanodonts, pertaining especially to obscure or recently described taxa, and support some recent taxonomic revisions, such as the splitting of traditional “Camptosaurus” and “Iguanodon”.

The maximum agreement subtree also shows a close relationship between the Asian Probactrosaurus gobiensis and the North American Eolambia, supporting the previous hypothesis of faunal interchange between Asia and North America in the early Late Cretaceous.

Nevertheless, the phylogenetic relationships of many basal iguanodonts remain ambiguous due to the high number of taxa removed from the maximum agreement subtree and poor resolution of consensus trees.

Australian birds and climate change


This video is called Australian birds, mostly parrots.

From Emu journal in Australia:

Feeling the heat: Australian landbirds and climate change

Introduction

Earth’s climate is warming at an unprecedented rate, with the current trend ascribed primarily to anthropogenic alteration of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (IPCC 2007). Recent evidence suggests that warming is occurring even more rapidly than predicted by most models used in the 2007 assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (Rahmstorf et al. 2007; van Oldenborgh et al. 2009). These observations, combined with the current lack of concerted political will to significantly reduce global carbon emissions (typified by the ineffectual outcome of the recent COP 17 climate talks in Durban), suggest that climate scenarios that are presently viewed as worst-case may in fact be the most likely future outcomes.

Climate change is currently recognised as the single greatest threat to global biodiversity because its effects are felt in virtually every habitat on the planet. Although most scenarios are built around models of what the world’s climate might look like several decades from now, the reality is that significant biological effects of climate change are already being manifested as extinctions (Pounds et al. 1999; Thomas et al. 2006) and rapid shifts in the distributions of species inhabiting latitudes ranging from polar to equatorial (Chen et al. 2011).

Extreme heatwaves also have dire consequences for humans – a recent report noted that, over the last 200 years, fatalities during heatwaves have outnumbered those caused by any other natural hazard in Australia, and the death-toll is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades (PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia 2011).

Australia, as a predominantly hot and arid continent with terrestrial avifauna largely confined to the region (Dingle 2004), is expected to see significant effects on avian diversity and abundance. Indeed, Australia is already something of a ‘poster-continent’ for the effects of climate change on landbirds because historical records provide unparalleled insights into just how devastating heatwaves and droughts can be for avian communities.

Recent mortality events associated with heatwaves (discussed below) highlight the effects of more frequent periods of very hot weather for common and nomadic birds, but also for species considered threatened.

In this editorial, we focus on the direct effects of extreme weather to draw attention to the likely severity of the effects of climate change on Australian landbirds.

We also outline a conceptual framework for predicting the effects of climate change on birds in hot, arid terrestrial ecosystems, and ome of the ways in which this information may be used to inform onservation decisions. One key advantage of the mechanistic, process-driven approach we describe here is that it can be used to identify potential mitigation measures, for instance via the artificial manipulation of thermal landscapes.

Our message is that Australian ornithologists should be urgently seeking ways to predict how climate change will affect arid-zone bird communities, particularly with regard to already threatened avifauna, and identify appropriate mitigation strategies.

Avian mortality during heatwaves

Deaths of birds during extremely hot weather are not a new occurrence in Australia; as early as 1791 the Reverend Richard Johnson, a chaplain at Port Jackson (Sydney), New South Wales (NSW), referred in a letter to temperatures so high that ‘Birds, unable to bear the heat, have great Numbers, dropped from the trees & expired’ (available at http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/_transcript/2010/D01866/a1769.pdf, accessed 20 December 2011). By far the most catastrophic event recorded took place in January 1932, when a severe heatwave struck a large portion of southern central Australia (Fig. 1). The April 1932 issue of the South Australian Ornithologist contained several accounts of widespread mortality, which collectively portray the deaths of many millions of birds. Finlayson (1932), for instance, provided a vivid account of thousands of dead and dying Budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus), Zebra Finches (Taenopygia guttata) and other birds in and around Rumbalara Siding on a day when the air temperature reached ~49C. He noted that ‘The condition of the birds was undoubtedly a true temperature effect, and not due to thirst, as the railway people had put out several pans of water, and only a small proportion were attempting to drink’. Another observer documented the deaths of tens of thousands of birds (mainly parrots) in water troughs near Tarcoola, South Australia (SA) (McGilp 1932).

Who Is Behind the Conspiracy Against Climate Change Science? Richard Schiffman, Truthout: “Over 70 percent of Americans believe that climate change is either happening now or will be soon – many remain divided about how serious the problem is; 42 percent of those polled by Gallup in March believed that the impacts were being exaggerated. This confusion seems to have been the intention of the denialists all along – not to disprove climate change … but to cast just enough paralyzing doubt to muddy the waters and prevent the United States from getting serious about restricting greenhouse gas emissions”: here.

Koch-funded climate scientist: I was wrong, humans are to blame for global warming: here.

University of Western Australia Staff, The Universtiy of Western Australia: “The results showed that those who subscribed to one or more conspiracy theories or who strongly supported a free market economy were more likely to reject the findings from climate science as well as other sciences. The researchers, led by UWA School of Psychology Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, found that free-market ideology was an overwhelmingly strong determinant of the rejection of climate science. It also predicted the rejection of the link between tobacco and lung cancer and between HIV and AIDS”: here.

Avian species-assemblage structure and indicator bird species of mangroves in the Australian monsoon tropics: here.

Religious politicians refuse to shake women’s hands


Laurette Onkelinx

Translated from daily De Standaard in Belgium:

Israeli minister refuses to shake hands with Onkelinx

Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 7:38 p.m.

[Belgian] Health Minister Laurette Onkelinx dislikes the fact that an Israeli minister this Tuesday refused to shake her hand at a conference in Geneva. She expressed her displeasure on the social networking site Facebook. …

“I have clean hands! For the second time in my life a minister has refused to shake my hand because I am a woman. The first time it was an Iranian minister; and yesterday it was the Israeli Minister of Health in Geneva. This fundamentalist attitude, linked to a certain conception of religion and women bothers me really much,” one may read on the Facebook profile of Onkelinx.

This Israeli minister is Ya’acov Litzman, of the United Torah Judaism party, a coalition party in the present Rightist Israeli government.

One may ask: as these fanatically religious misogynist politicians in both Iran and Israel have apparently so much in common: why don’t they propose to merge the states of Iran and Israel; instead of threatening each other with war as happens now? [sarcasm off]

One may hope that the nuclear agreement, discussed in the media today, will put an end to the perspective of a horrible war, costing the lives of many civilians in Israel, Iran, and probably elsewhere.

Talks on Iranian nuclear industry: here. And here. And here. And here.

Britain: Labour MP Paul Flynn issued a grim warning about the lurch towards a bloody and costly war with Iran on Thursday, writes Roger Bagley: here.

As Obama preaches patience, [General] Mattis prepares for war with Iran: here.

Tortured refugees in British jails


This video says about itself:

Iraqi Refugee Describes Ongoing Torture of Husband, Imprisonment of Husband Who Returned to Iraq to Free Jailed Son

Rabiha al Qassab, a British Iraqi woman who lives in London, describes the harrowing story of her husband, Ramze Shihab Ahmed. Having fled in 1998 after being accused of trying to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Ramze returned to Iraq last year to get his son out of prison. He, too, was arrested and was tortured. Like 30,000 other Iraqis, he and his son are being held without charge.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Detention sites ‘break torture victim rules’

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Victims of torture are routinely being held in British immigration detention centres in breach of the government’s own rules, a new investigation has revealed.

The study by Medical Justice highlights the cases of 50 individuals who were detained despite medical evidence they had been tortured.

Under Rule 35 of the Detention Centre Rules 2001 medical practitioners in immigration removal centres must report any individual they are concerned may have been a victim of torture.

The UK Borders Agency (UKBA) must then review the appropriateness of detention.

Policy guidance and legislation make clear that people who have independent evidence of torture should be released except in very exceptional circumstances.

All but two of the 50 cases highlighted by Medical Justice have since been released, and 14 have been granted leave to remain in Britain.

Two of the 50 were forcibly returned to their countries of origin and endured torture for a second time, Medical Justice said.

Both managed to flee again, claimed asylum for a second time and were again detained in Britain.

The investigation details a catalogue of errors including mismanagement of detainees’ healthcare, poor record-keeping and report writing by unqualified people.

It accused UKBA of “an inability to interpret medical evidence, a culture of denial and a misunderstanding about the legal standard of proof.”

Report author Natasha Tsangarides said: “UKBA and their contractors must be brought to account.

“That they can treat some of the most vulnerable individuals in this way and behind closed doors is a disgrace.

“All we ask for is that the government implements its own policy.”

Labour MP John McDonnell said: “It’s scandalous that victims of torture who have fled to this country for safety are experiencing further suffering and hardship at the hands of our system.

“The special rules introduced to protect victims of torture are clearly not working and we need urgent government action to address this issue.”

See also here.

Sexist kicked off airplane


This video says about itself:

411’s profile with Air Canada‘s first female pilot Judy Cameron. In 2011 only 4% of commercial airline pilots in Canada are women.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Female pilot boots sexist off plane

BRAZIL: A female pilot tossed a passenger off a flight because he was making sexist comments about women flying planes.

Trip Airlines said in a statement on Tuesday that the pilot ejected the man before takeoff after he made loud sexist comments upon learning the pilot was a woman.

The passenger involved in Friday’s incident has not been identified. He was met by police at the plane and escorted out of the airport.

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Rare cream-coloured courser in England


This video says about itself:

First-winter Cream-coloured Courser (Cursorious cursor), Golf Course, St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, October 2004. Footage by Ashley Fisher.

From Wildlife Extra:

Very unusual bird spotted on Welsh border

Cream-coloured Courser on Kington golf course

May 2012. A very unusual bird has been spotted on a golf course on the Welsh border. First reports of the bird raised a few eyebrows, but the bird did prove to be a Cream-coloured Courser. The bird has been seen on Kington Golf Course over the last few days (The highest golf course in England).

Although not a rare bird across its range, this is only the fourth sighting in Britain in 70 years. Cream-coloured Coursers are usually found in India, Arabia and around the Sahara, where they live in open country, preferring semi arid stony deserts – Should feel very at home in The Welsh Marches then.