Marine life off Somerset, England, new research


This video is called British Sea Life.

From Wildlife Extra:

Deep sea survey reveals thriving marine life off Somerset coast

An underwater sea survey off the Somerset coast has revealed populations of sea hares, sun starfish and the rare stalked jellyfish.

Commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts the survey is the first in more than 30 years that explores the waters off Porlock Weir.

The dive is part of Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas initiative to raise awareness of Somerset’s marine environment through public surveys and events.

Discoveries by the four professional divers and marine ecologists included two different and very diverse sea bed habitats; a boulder reef north of Gore Point and a sand and shell plain in the centre of Porlock Bay in the Bristol Channel.

They recorded rare stalked jellyfish, bunches of cuttlefish and squid eggs, squat lobsters hiding in crevices, many crab and fish species, brittle and sunstar starfish plus many sea hares, which are large and exotic looking marine molluscs.

The stalked jellyfish is a UKBAP Priority Species; a species of principal importance for the purpose of conservation of biodiversity under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.

Dominic Flint, marine scientist and leader of the dive team, said: “This survey complements the extensive intertidal, seashore, marine mammal and birdlife records collected by the Somerset Wildlife Trust members, volunteers and staff. This now provides a more complete picture of the fantastically diverse marine environment of the Somerset coast, which has been somewhat underappreciated in the past.

“The wealth of evidence provided by exploratory dive surveys like this, in areas where there is little or no habitat or seabed data, will ensure we have the evidence to secure their conservation and can be included in future discussions over marine protection and conservation measures.”

Nigel Phillips, Somerset Wildlife Trust’s marine ambassador, said: “Our beach survey work has shown that this coast is far richer in wildlife than many would expect despite murky water and fast-moving tidal currents, which made this a very frustrating place to survey.”

Barnacles found on Texel island


This video from South Africa is called Learn about Barnacles and Crabs with marine biologist Judy Mann.

Ecomare museum on Texel island in the Netherlands reports about barnacles.

After storm from the south-west on 17 and 18 August 2014, many barnacles beached on Texel.

Not only Lepas anatifera, smooth gooseneck barnacle, a common species, but also two less common species: Lepas pectinata and buoy barnacle.

Rare butterflies wintering in the Netherlands


This is a scarce tortoiseshell video from Finland.

In July 2014, there was an invasion in the Netherlands of scarce tortoiseshell butterflies; a species, new for the Netherlands.

Soon, people did not see these rare, usually east European, butterflies any more. Did they fly on to England, or to Belgium? A few scarce tortoiseshells were seen there indeed; but how about all the others?

On 2 August 2014, warden Luc Knijnsberg was in Dutch nature reserve Bergen Zuid. Then, a thunderstorm started. Luc entered an old World War II bunker, now used by bats for wintering. In that bunker, he found thirteen wintering peacock butterflies (yes, August is a summer month, but for some butterflies, winter then starts already). Luc found not only peacocks, a common species, but to his surprise also two scarce tortoiseshells. So, this solved the riddle why so many of them arrived in the Netherlands; and so few in Belgium or England.

So, people counting wintering bats should look out for scarce tortoiseshells as well.

Welsh Jurassic mammals feeding, new study


This video says about itself:

There Are No Transitional Fossils?

19 April 2011

Long-sought fossil mammal with transitional middle ear found in China.

Palaeontologists have announced the discovery of Liaoconodon hui, a complete fossil mammal from the Mesozoic found in China that includes the long-sought transitional middle ear.

The specimen was found by palaeontologists from the American Museum of Natural History and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

It shows the bones associated with hearing in mammals, the malleus, incus, and ectotympanic, decoupled from the lower jaw, as had been predicted, but were held in place by an ossified cartilage that rested in a groove on the lower jaw.

People have been looking for this specimen for over 150 years since noticing a puzzling groove on the lower jaw of some early mammals,” Jin Meng, curator in the Division of Palaeontology at the Museum and first author of the paper, said.

“Now we have cartilage with ear bones attached, the first clear paleontological evidence showing relationships between the lower jaw and middle ear,” Meng revealed

The transition from reptiles to mammals has long been an open question, although studies of developing embryos have linked reptilian bones of the lower jaw joint to mammalian middle ear bones.

The new fossil, Liaoconodon hui, fills the gap in knowledge between the basal, early mammaliaforms like Morganucodon, where the middle ear bones are part of the mandible and the definitive middle ear of living and fossil mammals.

Liaoconodon hui is a medium-sized mammal for the Mesozioc (35.7 cm long from nose to tip of tail, or about 14 inches) and dates from 125 to 122 million years.

It is named in part for the bountiful fossil beds in Liaoning, China, where it was found.

The species name, hui, honours palaeontologist Yaoming Hu who graduated from the American Museum of Natural History-supported doctoral program and recently passed away.

The fossil is particularly complete, and its skull was prepared from both dorsal and ventral sides, allowing Meng and colleagues to see that the incus and malleus have detached from the lower jaw to form part of the middle ear.

These bones remain linked to the jaw by the ossified Meckels cartilage that rests in the groove on the lower jaw. The team hypothesizes that in this early mammal, the eardrum was stabilized with the ossified cartilage as a supporting structure.

“Before we did not know the detailed morphology of how the bones of the middle ear detached, or the purpose of the ossified cartilage,” Meng said.

“Liaoconodon hui changes previous interpretations because we now know the detailed morphology of the transitional mammal and can propose that the ossified cartilage is a stabilizer.

“I”ve always dreamed of a fossil with a good ear ossicle. Now, we have had this once in a lifetime discovery,” Meng added.

From the University of Southampton in England:

Jurassic mammals were picky eaters, new study finds

August 20, 2014

Summary:

New analyses of tiny fossil mammals from Glamorgan, South Wales are shedding light on the function and diets of our earliest ancestors, a team reports. Mammals and their immediate ancestors from the Jurassic period (201-145 million years ago) developed new characteristics – such as better hearing and teeth capable of precise chewing.

New analyses of tiny fossil mammals from Glamorgan, South Wales are shedding light on the function and diets of our earliest ancestors, a team including researchers from the University of Southampton report today in the journal Nature. Mammals and their immediate ancestors from the Jurassic period (201-145 million years ago) developed new characteristics — such as better hearing and teeth capable of precise chewing.

By analysing jaw mechanics and fossil teeth, the team were able to determine that two of the earliest shrew-sized mammals, Morganucodon and Kuehneotherium, were not generalised insectivores but had already evolved specialised diets, feeding on distinct types of insects.

Lead author, Dr Pamela Gill of the University of Bristol, said: “None of the fossils of the earliest mammals have the sort of exceptional preservation that includes stomach contents to infer diet, so instead we used a range of new techniques which we applied to our fossil finds of broken jaws and isolated teeth. Our results confirm that the diversification of mammalian species at the time was linked with differences in diet and ecology.”

The team used synchrotron X-rays and CT scanning to reveal in unprecedented detail the internal anatomy of these tiny jaws, which are only 2cm in length. As the jaws are in many pieces, the scans were ‘stitched together’ to make a complete digital reconstruction. Finite element modelling, the same technique used to design hip joints and bridges, was used to perform a computational analysis of the strength of the jaws. This showed that Kuehneotherium and Morganucodon had very different abilities for catching and chewing prey.

Study co-author, Dr Neil Gostling from the University of Southampton, said: “The improvement in CT scanning, both in the instrumentation, at Light Source at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland where we scanned or even the µ-VIS Centre at Southampton, along with access for research of this kind, allows us to make inroads into understanding the biology and the ecology of animals long dead. The questions asked of the technology do not produce ‘speculation’, rather the results show a clearly defined answer based on direct comparison to living mammals. This would not be possible without the computational techniques we have used here.”

Using an analysis previously carried out on the teeth of present-day, insect-eating bats, the researchers found that the teeth of Morganucodon and Kuehneotherium had very different patterns of microscopic pits and scratches, known as ‘microwear’. This indicated they were eating different things with Morganucodon favouring harder, crunchier food items such as beetles while Kuehneotherium selected softer foods such as scorpion flies which were common at the time.

Team leader, Professor Emily Rayfield from the University of Bristol, added: “This study is important as it shows for the first time that the features that make us unique as mammals, such as having only one set of replacement teeth and a specialised jaw joint and hearing apparatus, were associated with the very earliest mammals beginning to specialise their teeth and jaws to eat different things.”

Kirtland’s warbler defends its nestling, video


This video from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in the USA says about itself:

20 August 2014

Adult male Kirtland’s Warbler defending nestling during the banding process. Note when he pretends to have broken wing when he lands on the scale.

Fortunately, after the banding the nestling went back into the nest, and the parent could relax.

Dutch politician advocates killing protected gulls


This video is called Common gulls (Larus canus) in a breeding colony.

A year ago, Johan Houwers, Rightist MP for the VVD, the biggest Dutch government party, was in the news because he advocated the killing of wolves in the Netherlands following the discovery of a dead wolf at Luttelgeest.

Since then, Mr Houwers resigned from parliament, as he was suspected of crimes.

Now, there is another politician from the same VVD party, Heerema, who advocates killing protected animals: gulls. He says the law should no longer protect gulls. So they may be shot, or gassed.

BirdLife in the Netherlands has reacted strongly against Heerema’s proposal.

They say shooting gulls won’t help against problems of gulls messing up garbage. Humans not having garbage all over the place, and making safe nesting places outside cities, enabling gulls to leave cities, will help.

From 1999 to 2012, the number of black-headed gull couples in the Netherlands declined from 135,000 to less than 100,000. Herring gulls declined then from 65,000 couples to less than 50,000. Common gulls declined from 6,000 couples to less than 3,000.

Save Irish Rathlin island golden hares, petition


This video says about itself:

Rathlin’s Golden Hare, Ireland

22 June 2008

Join Wyllie O Hagan in an evening encounter with Ireland’s Award Winning Wildlife Photographer Tom Mc Donnell.

See Rathlin Island from a photographer’s viewpoint. You will have seen Rathlin Island‘s seals, puffins and bird sanctuary before. Here we share with Youtubers the first video recorded sighting of the Island’s famous “Golden Hare”. Wyllie O Hagan filmed this footage of the hare on Rathlin Island in May 2008.

It was an extraordinary event, and this is the inspiration for O Hagan’s next relief print which will accompany “The Wild Swans at Coole“.

See the artist make the print here.

From the 38 Degrees site, this petition:

Save Rathlin Island Hares

To: Minister Mark Durkan, DOE

Make Rathlin Island into a hare reserve and reintroduce special protection for hares in Northern Ireland.

Why is this important?

This is important because the hare is being hunted out of existence on Rathlin, with a shooter being brought in by local farmers – apparently hares eat too much grass and are considered a pest. This beautiful animal is an integral part of our wildlife and heritage. Rathlin used to be one of its strongholds in Northern Ireland and people still come from all over the world to see these animals, including the rare genetic variant – the Golden Hare. Surely these amazing animals have a right to survival on their island home, where we can enjoy them for years to come. Once they are gone, like in so many other places in Northern Ireland, they are gone. Please help us protect them before it’s too late.

Bird report from Dorset, Britain


This video is called Winter birds at Long Rock, Swalecliffe – Kent, UK.

Debby Saunders from Weymouth, Dorset in England reports in a Twitter message today:

2 Yel[low] Wag[tails], 3 Com[mon] Sand[pipers], 5 C[ur]‘lew, 3 S[an]d[er]‘ling, R[ed]‘shank, Bar[-tailed god]wit, 2 L[ittle] R[inged] P[lover], 18 T[urn]‘stone, 7 Swift, S[and]d Martin, 2 Sp[arrow]‘hawk→S[outh], lots Swallow.

Grey whale calves born near Russia


This video about western gray whales is called The Last 130.

From the International Fund for Animal Welfare:

Gray Whale Research Team marks eight new calves so far

By: Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova

Posted: Wed, 08/20/2014

This update on the western gray whale (WGW) expedition was filed on behalf of the team by IFAW Russia staff member Anna Filippova. –MV

The total number of new calves for 2014 is now up to eight.

Even though the first half of August has not yielded many good observation days over the past several years, we have already enjoyed many working days at sea this month.

On August 1, we photographed our sixth mother-calf pair of this season. The mother was known from previous years and has been seen with calves off Piltun before.

On August 3, we went far north of our camp and sighted three mother-calf pairs (two of whom we had already seen a few times in July).

The third pair, number seven for the season, was pleasant news for us when we recognized the mother: a female born in 2004 and observed in previous years but never with calves.

Giving her age, it is assumed to be her first calf.

After seven hours at sea, a very thick fog came in very fast; we could hear whales breathing around our boat but were unable to see them.

August 6 was especially productive: We identified 31 gray whales with seven different mother-calf pairs among them. One of the pairs was new for this season, bringing our total to eight.

–The WGW Expedition Team

The western gray whale (WGW) expedition is a team of scientists from Russia and the USA that have been returning every summer since 1995 to Sakhalin Island (in the Sea of Okhotsk near Piltun Bay) to monitor and research western gray whales. Annually since 2000 IFAW has supported this research program that collects population data through photo-identification and genetic analysis of skin tissue biopsy samples. Information about population condition is very important to understanding the impact and influence of oil industry on the WGW population, and is key to IFAW’s WGW campaign.

New Philippine tarsier discovery


This video from the Philippines is called Pure Nature Specials – Tarsier Primate – The Littlest Alien.

From Science News:

New subspecies of Philippine tarsier discovered

Tiny, nocturnal primate lives in area threatened by mining

by Nsikan Akpan

5:41pm, August 19, 2014

Genetic tests have spotted a new subspecies of Philippine tarsier, one of the world’s smallest — and arguably cutest — primates. Previously, taxonomists had used physical features, such as body proportion and hair color and length, to determine that there are anywhere between three and seven subspecies of this rare nocturnal mammal. To clarify that confusion, Rafe Brownof the University of Kansas in Lawrence and other researchers recently examined DNA samples collected from tarsiers from across the southeastern Philippines.

The comparison divvied the tarsiers into five lineages, including an unexpected variety on Dinagat Island and the Caraga region of nearby Mindanao Island. Wildlife sanctuaries partially encompass the habitats of the four other lineages, but the realm of the Dinagat-Caraga tarsier has historically lacked protection and is threatened by recent expansion of mining activities, the scientists report August 19 in PLOS ONE.