New Moroccan dinosaur gets Tolkien name

The skull fragment of Sauroniops, showing where it would have fit on a carcharodontosaur skull (human skull for scale). Image courtesy Andrea Cau

From Discovery News:

Dino Named After Lord of the RingsSauron

This new species has been dubbed with a fantastically evil name, but is it one dino to rule them all?

Tue Nov 6, 2012 11:34 AM ET

Content provided by George Dvorsky, io9

Earlier this year a team of palaeontologists came into the possession of what appeared to be a 95 million-year-old skull cap from a previously unknown dinosaur. Further analysis showed that the bone likely belonged to a carcharodontosaurid — an offshoot of the familiar Allosaurus. Given its unique domed skull, the researchers concluded that it was in fact a newly discovered species, one they’ve decided to name after the demonic Sauron from the Lord of the Rings series.

It’s full name is Sauroniops pachytholus, a massive bipedal carcharodontosaur that lived during the Cretaceous period. The paleontologists, Andrea Cau, Fabio Dalla Vecchia, and Matteo Fabbri, felt that the single fragment provided enough evidence to warrant the classification of an entirely new species, and their work describing the new dinosaur has since been published in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

Interestingly, the discovery now adds credence to the hypothesis that a fourth large theropod existed in the Cenomanian of Morocco together with Carcharodontosaurus, Deltadromeus, and Spinosaurus (yes, all four of them at the same time — must have been a nice place to visit).

Unfortunately, however, the limited bone fragment reveals achingly little about Sauron. That said, the researchers speculate that it was more than 30 feet in length, and that it was probably just as large as the Carcharodontosaurus. The palaeontologists are obviously hoping to find more fossils to be absolutely sure.

There’s also the prominent bump on its head. Brian Switek from Smithsonian offers some theories as to its function:

Why did such a large theropod have a prominent bump on its head? In other theropod lineages, such as the abelisaurids, bumps, knobs and horns are common forms of ornamentation. Perhaps the same was true for Sauroniops — thanks to Acrocanthosaurus and the sail-backed Concavenator, we know that carcharodontosaurs showed off with visual signals. Then again, Cau and coauthors speculate that the dome might have been a sexual signal or might have even been used in head-butting behavior. I think the last hypothesis is unlikely, especially since we don’t know what the microstructure of the dome looks like and there’s no evidence of pathology, but it’s still a distant possibility.

For now we can only speculate — and hope that more fossils will eventually be discovered.

Check out the studies here and here.

ScienceDaily (Nov. 7, 2012) — Paleontology, with its rocks and fossils, seems far removed from the world of developmental genetics, with its petri dishes and embryos. Whereas paleontology strives to determine “What happened in evolution?,” developmental genetics uses gene control in embryos to try to answer “How did it happen?” Combined, the two approaches can lead to remarkable insights that benefit both fields: here.

Snow bunting video

This video is about two snow buntings near the sea in Katwijk, The Netherlands. Luuk Punt made it on 7 November 2012.

Another snow bunting photo is here.

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Scottish seabird decline

This video is called Scottish Seabird Centre 2011.

From Wildlife Extra:

Scotland’s seabirds have declined 53% in 25 years

New report confirms Scotland’s seabird decline

November 2012. A new report by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has confirmed results from previous years that showed that Scotland’s seabird numbers have continued to decline, although there are some species that have fared better than others.

53% drop in breeding seabirds in 25 years

The report uses data collected by volunteers and professionals from a sample of breeding colonies around Scotland. It shows that, from 1986 to 2011, the numbers of seabirds breeding in Scotland has dropped by around 53%.

11 species reviewed

Of the 11 species reviewed over the 25-year period, the numbers of nine decreased. The largest declines were for the Arctic skua (74%), Arctic tern (72%) and black-legged kittiwake (66%). Two seabirds have remained stable (black guillemot and northern fulmar).

Food shortages, weather conditions and predation by non-native species

The continuing decreases have been linked to a range of factors such as food shortages, weather conditions and predation by non-native species such as brown rats and mink. The number of small shoaling fish, which are an important food source for many seabirds, may have fallen. These fish are probably being affected by rising sea temperatures because of climate change, as well as other factors.

Efforts to halt the decline

A range of measures has been put in place to help combat pressures on the seabirds. Voluntary reductions in sandeel fisheries means that very little if any sandeel fishing now takes place within the foraging range of kittiwakes, a species which has seen a particularly sharp drop in numbers in recent years. The control of non-native predators, such as the brown rat and the American mink, has also been carried out on various parts of the Scottish coastline and islands and is now starting to show some benefits, with terns re-colonising some areas. The Scottish Government’s Marine Bill also includes measures to improve marine nature conservation to safeguard and protect Scotland’s unique habitats.

Susan Davies, SNH’s Director of Policy & Advice, said: “These results aren’t surprising, as they echo results from recent years. Thanks to the huge effort from volunteers and professionals, we’re now able to monitor seabird numbers much more effectively than in the past. The results give even more impetus to continue the actions already in place to improve the situation for seabirds. It’s vital that we continue to monitor the state of Scotland’s seabirds and the marine environment and to use this information to guide future actions.”

Scotland’s seabirds are internationally important with around four million breeding seabirds of 24 species. The recent drop in numbers follows two decades of occasional years of poor breeding – but poor years have happened more often and with more severity since 2000.

This SNH report was prepared using data from the Seabird Monitoring Programme. The Seabird Monitoring Programme is a partnership project, led and co-ordinated by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and involving a range of conservation partners.

RSPB comments

In response to this report by Scottish Natural Heritage. Rory Crawford, seabird policy officer with RSPB Scotland, said: “This report from SNH is timely. These declines are in line with what we’ve seen on our own reserves and this should act as a call to action. Better management of the sandeel fishery and efforts to control non-native species are both really welcome and RSPB Scotland support these steps strongly. However, although the nature conservation measures in the Marine (Scotland) Act are a brilliant step forward for many marine habitats and species, seabirds have been largely ignored in the process of identifying protected areas. Seabirds must be better protected at sea and RSPB Scotland strongly encourages the Scottish Government to ensure that steps are taken to protect seabirds through Marine Protected Areas before they are consulted on next summer.”

October 2013. A new report produced by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) confirms the results from previous years showing that Scotland’s seabird numbers are continuing to decline, although there are two species that have fared better than others: here.

Sandeel fishing linked to Scottish seabird decline: here.

Wonderful Team Member Readership Award, thanks Rhubblog Administrator!

Wonderful Team Member Readership Award

Thank you for your nomination of this blog for the Wonderful Team Member Readership Award, Rhubblog Administrator!

The Nominee of the Wonderful Team member Readership Award shall display the logo on his/her post/page and/or sidebar.

Over a period of 7 days (1 week), the Nominee shall nominate a number of blogs that he or she appreciates – this can be done at any rate during the week. It can be all on one day or a few on one day and a few on another day, as most convenient to the Nominee [or even later if there is little time; I would say].

The Nominee shall name his or her Wonderful Team Member Readership Award nominees on a post or on posts during the 7 day (1 week) period [and link to the nominees; and notify them at their blogs].

The questions:

1) Why do you blog?

See here.

2) If you were trapped on a desert island, what book, DVD, food, cartoon character, and childhood game would you bring?

Book: Irvin D. Yalom, The Spinoza Problem.
DVD: David Attenborough‘s Life in Cold Blood. But would there be electricity on a desert island :) ?
Food: spaghetti and tomato sauce.
Cartoon character, and childhood game: Roadrunner and Scrabble.

3) Share a funny joke or one-liner.

Man in a restaurant: “Waiter! There is a fly in my soup!”

Waiter: “Don’t worry, sir. There is a spider on the bread.”

4) What is your favourite thing about yourself?

Being interested in many subjects.

5) What one word best describes you?


6) If you could have a lifetime supply of any candy/candy bar, what would it be?

I try not too eat too much sugary food :)

7) What fictional character do you relate to most?

Hans Christian Andersen‘s Little Mermaid. Like with many similar questions, I would probably give a different reply to this, if asked on another day than today.

8) If you were to write the story of your life, what would you call it?

So far. Continue now.

My seven nominees are:

1 Artistic Milestone

2 NonviolentConflict

3 Antonio De Simone

4 Fictional Machines

5 Sharmishtha Basu’s poetries

6 The eternal solitude of the restless Mind

7 toemail

Kuwait anti-dictatorship movement continues

This video is called Police fire teargas and rubber bullets at opposition protesters in Kuwait.

From Reuters:

Kuwait opposition to unite in protest rally on Sunday-politician

Wed, 7 Nov 2012 08:27 GMT

KUWAIT – Kuwaiti opposition groups plan to unite in protest against new voting rules at a rally on Sunday, a politician said, a week after authorities broke up an unauthorised demonstration.

Kuwait tolerates more dissent than some other Gulf states but in recent weeks police have used tear gas and smoke bombs to disperse thousands of Kuwaitis protesting ahead of a Dec. 1 election.

Opposition leaders say the amendments passed by decree last month are an attempt to give pro-government candidates an advantage in the poll, which they say they will boycott.

The frequent rallies usually take place peacefully in Erada Square, a designated protest area opposite parliament, but some have spread to the streets beyond and resulted in clashes. The government says demonstrations outside designated areas or without permits are illegal.

Opposition groups plan “a large rally” in the square on Nov. 11 to mark the 50th anniversary of the constitution, former opposition lawmaker Waleed al-Tabtabie wrote on Twitter.

Opposition lawmakers include Islamists, tribal MPs and liberals who have joined together with youth groups in protests.

Kuwait’s ruler, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, said on Tuesday there would be no leniency towards threats to “the security of the homeland”. …

Rallies have focused on local issues such as the voting rules and reforms, such as allowing an elected government, more political accountability or for the creation of political parties, which are banned.

See also here.