American ratsnakes and climate change


This video from the USA is called 6ft Black Rat Snake.

From ScienceDaily:

Global Warming Beneficial to Ratsnakes

Jan. 8, 2013 — Speculation about how animals will respond to climate change due to global warming led University of Illinois researcher Patrick Weatherhead and his students to conduct a study of ratsnakes at three different latitudesOntario, Illinois, and Texas. His findings suggest that ratsnakes will be able to adapt to the higher temperatures by becoming more active at night.

New African fish species gets biologist’s name


This image shows males in breeding dress of the new species Haplochromis argens (top) and H. goldschmidti (bottom) in the Emin Pasha Gulf. Note the difference in color and size of the egg spots. Credit: Dr. Frans Witte

From Leiden University in the Netherlands:

A new fish species from Lake Victoria named in honor of the author of Darwin’s Dreampond

Two new species of cichlid fish from Lake Victoria are described by biologists from Naturalis Biodiversity Center (Research Department Marine Zoology) and the Institute of Biology Leiden (Section Integrative Zoology), the Netherlands. One of these species is named in honour of Tijs Goldschmidt, author of Darwin’s Dreampond. This book, published in nine languages, describes the dramatic extinction of hundreds of cichlid species in Lake Victoria in the 1980s due to the introduced Nile perch and other human induced environmental changes.

In 1985, Leiden biologists made a survey in the Tanzanian part of the lake, with an old ferry as floating lab, to establish the status of the rapidly declining cichlids. During this expedition Tijs studied the egg spots on the anal fin of cichlids for their possible role in the rapid speciation of these fish. In the Emin Pasha Gulf, among a species nicknamed Haplochromis “argens”, individuals were found with aberrant egg dummies and lacking red in the fins. Just the kind of example Tijs was looking for to test his theory of speciation by sexual selection. The aberrant individuals were provisionally named H. “dusky argens”.

Both “species” play a part in Tijs’ PhD thesis and in other studies. However, a taxonomic description was never made and whether H. “dusky argens” was a separate species or a colour morph remained unclear. In 1987, most cichlid species from the offshore waters of the lake had disappeared, and with them the urge of taxonomic descriptions.

Now, 25 years later, about a quarter of the cichlid species have recovered in the “Nile perch desert”, some of them became even more abundant than in the past, but the former common H. “argens” is still extremely rare. The status of H. “dusky-argens” is unknown as it was only caught in the remote Emin Pasha Gulf, which is not sampled nowadays. Research on successfully resurgent species shows that they were able to adapt morphologically to the new environmental conditions. Their body shape, for instance, changed, so that burst swimming to escape predators improved. Preliminary results suggest that such a response is not found in H. “argens”.

The above observations triggered the present taxonomic study as a baseline for further research. It shows that several taxonomic characters differ more between the co-occurring populations of H. “argens” and H. “dusky argens” in the Emin Pasha Gulf, than between populations from different locations. This suggests that they are indeed two species, which are morphologically driven apart at places where they co-occur. In case of H. “argens” the nickname was upgraded to the formal name, while H. “dusky-argens” is now named H. goldschmidti.

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Original source

de Zeeuw MP, Westbroek I, van Oijen MJP, Witte F (2013) Two new species of zooplanktivorous haplochromine cichlids from Lake Victoria, Tanzania. ZooKeys 256: 1–34. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.256.3871

About ZooKeys

ZooKeys is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal launched to support free exchange of ideas and information in biodiversity science, issued by Pensoft Publishers. All papers published in ZooKeys can be freely copied, downloaded, printed and distributed at no charge for the reader. ZooKeys implemented several cutting-edge innovation in publishing and dissemination of science information and is considered a technological leader in its field.

Additional Information

Goldschmidt T, de Visser J (1990) On the possible role of egg mimics in speciation. Acta Biotheoretica 38: 125-134.

van Rijssel JC, Witte F (2012) Adaptive responses in resurgent Lake Victoria cichlid over the past 30 years. Evolutionary Ecology. doi: 10.1007/s10682-012-9596-9

Giant squid on film, first time


Giant squid in the Pacific, photo: Discovery Channel

From AFP news agency:

Giant Squid Filmed in Pacific Depths

Analysis by Christina Reed

Mon Jan 7, 2013 04:56 AM ET

Scientists and broadcasters have captured footage of an elusive giant squid, up to eight meters (26 feet) long that roams the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

Japan‘s National Science Museum succeeded in filming the deep-sea creature in its natural habitat for the first time, working with Japanese public broadcaster NHK and the US Discovery Channel.

The massive invertebrate is the stuff of legend, with sightings of a huge ocean-dwelling beast reported by sailors for centuries.

The creature is thought to be the genesis of the Nordic legend of Kraken, a sea monster believed to have attacked ships in waters off Scandinavia over the last millennium.

Modern-day scientists on their own Moby Dick-style search used a submersible to get them into the dark and cold depths of the northern Pacific Ocean, where at around 630 meters they managed to film a three-meter specimen.

After around 100 missions, during which they spent 400 hours in the cramped submarine, the three-man crew tracked the creature from a spot some 15 kilometers (nine miles) east of Chichi island in the north Pacific Ocean.

Museum researcher Tsunemi Kubodera said they followed the enormous mollusc to a depth of 900 meters as it swam into the ocean abyss.

NHK showed footage of the silver-colored creature, which had huge black eyes, as it swam against the current, holding a bait squid in its arms.

For Kubodera it was the culmination of a lengthy quest for the beast.

“It was shining and so beautiful,” Kubodera told AFP. “I was so thrilled when I saw it first hand, but I was confident we would because we rigorously researched the areas we might find it, based on past data.”

Kubodera said the creature had its two longest arms missing, and estimated it would have been eight meters long if it had been whole. He gave no explanation for its missing arms.

He said it was the first video footage of a live giant squid in its natural habitat — the depths of the sea where there is little oxygen and the weight of the water above exerts enormous pressure.

Kubodera, a squid specialist, also filmed what he says was the first live video footage of a giant squid in 2006, but only from his boat after it was hooked and brought up to the surface.

“Researchers around the world have tried to film giant squid in their natural habitats, but all attempts were in vain before,” Kubodera said.

“With this footage we hope to discover more about the life of the species,” he said, adding that he planned to publish his findings soon.

Kubodera said the two successful sightings of the squid — in 2012 and 2006 — were both in the same area, some 1,000 kilometres south of Tokyo, suggesting it could be a major habitat for the species.

The giant squid, “Architeuthis” to scientists, is sometimes described as one of the last mysteries of the ocean, being part of a world so hostile to humans that it has been little explored.

Researchers say Architeuthis eats other types of squid and grenadier, a species of fish that lives in the deep ocean. They say it can grow to be longer than 10 meters.

Discovery Channel’s “Monster Squid: The Giant Is Real,” premieres on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 8/7c as the season finale of Curiosity.

Chinese dinosaur age bird discovery


This video is called The Fabulous Chinese Fossils— Chaoyang, Liaoning Province.

Sulcavis geeorum skull, photo credit: Stephanie Abramowicz

By Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online:

First Fossil Bird Discovered With Teeth For A Tough Diet

January 7, 2013

A trip to the Galapagos islands will bring you face to face with 14 closely related species of finch that Charles Darwin discovered on his adventure abroad in the 1830s. The finches he noted, still referenced in essentially every biology textbook, had beak sizes of varying lengths and sizes. This was true of both the ground- and tree-dwelling birds, and Darwin postulated that differing diets might have required the birds’ unique beaks for their specialized feeding tasks.

It was these birds, catalogued in 1835, that first helped Darwin to arrive at his theory of evolution. He was able to realize that each of the finch species had originally arisen from one ancestral form and that each of the successive forms – with their individual ecological niches and diets – were what he considered the most perfect examples of adaptive radiation, the process where one species undergoes several distinct changes to survive and thrive in a wider variety of habitats.

If Darwin had lived some 121-125 million years ago, he might have experienced the same sense of wonder at the site

rather: sight

of a Sulcavis geeorum, a species of early bird that existed in the Liaoning Province of what is now modern-day China. It was here that a new fossil discovery was made showing that these early ancestors of the dinosaurs

This should be “descendants of the dinosaurs”. Dinosaurs were ancestral to birds; not the other way round.

had evolved teeth adapted to their specialized diets.

In a report of the finding published in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, researchers say they believe that S. geeorum existed on a so-called ‘durophagous diet’, one that included lots of prey with hard exoskeletons such as insects or crabs.

S. geeorum was an enantiornithine bird, a primitive group of early birds that were abundant in the Mesozoic era and carried over into the Cretacious.

Cretaceous

With the discovery of S. geeorum, researchers are enjoying their own Darwin-like moment as they see this discovery as representing a huge leap forward in the known diversity of tooth shape in early birds. This diversity of shape also leads them to believe that they may have stumbled upon an as yet unrecognized degree of ecological diversity.

According to the research team, S. geeorum is the first fossilized bird discovery that has ornamented tooth enamel. Looking back to the specific dinosaurs from which birds are believed to have evolved, researchers find that their tooth structure was specialized mainly for a carnivorous diet. The enanitiornithine family of birds have undergone the most minimal tooth reductions from their dinosaur cousins compared to any other extinct or extant groups of birds, and they also displayed a wide diversity of individual dental patterns.

In this newest enantiornithine discovery, researchers say that they have discovered a robust set of teeth that are marked with grooves on the inside surface. It is from these grooves, they hypothesize, that the teeth received their strength that allowed them to ingest harder food items.

“While other birds were losing their teeth, enantiornithines were evolving new morphologies and dental specializations. We still don’t understand why enantiornithines were so successful in the Cretaceous but then died out – maybe differences in diet played a part,” according to Jingmai O’Connor, lead author of the new study. One thing that is known is that until this discovery, no previous known bird species had preserved ridges, striations, serrated edges, or any other form of dental ornamentation.

“This study highlights again how uneven the diversity of birds was during the Cretaceous. There are many more enantiornithines than any other group of early birds, each one with its own anatomical specialization,” said the study’s co-author Luis Chiappe, from Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Beautiful Blogger Award, thanks gamanrad!


Beautiful Blogger Award

Gamanrad of the blog Reality tells us what we need to do was so kind to nominate Dear Kitty. Some blog for the Beautiful Blogger Award.

Thanks so much, gamanrad! All the best in 2013 for you, and your blog!

Here are the rules of the Beautiful Blogger Award:

If I nominate you, and if you choose to participate (no pressure!), then here’s what you do:

Write a post about the award and include the award picture.

Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.

Nominate seven other blogs and include links as well as a quick statement about that blog.

Write a comment on each of the blogs to tell them you nominated them.

Have fun!

My seven nominees are:

1. Dean J. Baker – Poetry, and prose poems. A much clearer, less cryptic title than many other blogs, so go and read!

2. My Vogage Through Time: “history, culture, science, technology and the arts”.

3. Samanta Norbury-Webster, documentary film-maker and photographer.

4. Sirenas World. The blog of Sirena Williams. No, not tennis player Serena Williams; a Bachelor of Science in Evolution, Ecology and Biodiversity.

5. Internationally Unrelated. The blog of Tânia Vargas, “a Portuguese young professional in the field of International Relations (currently finishing my master’s degree)”.

6. MissMangue. From Afro hair to recipes to travel, and much more.

7. red rust blue. “Three sisters, one blog, and a whole lot of craziness: red rust blue.“.