Dwarf ibis on São Tomé, new research


This video says about itself:

19 June 2014

The island of São Tomé is one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots, home to hundreds of species found nowhere else on the globe. But farmers struggling to make a living here are encroaching into protected areas. They cut down trees for firewood and clear land for crops, putting the survival of these species at risk. By working with these farmers to produce more sustainably, IFAD hopes to save this unique environment before it’s gone.

From BirdLife:

Unravelling mysteries for conservation of birds in São Tomé e Príncipe

By Obaka Torto, Thu, 11/09/2014 – 10:13

Quite a number of knowledge gaps have continued to hinder conservation efforts directed towards the threatened birds of São Tomé e Príncipe. Such has been the case for the critically endangered Dwarf Ibis (Bostrychia bocagei), only found on São Tomé island. Among others, the breeding biology of this bird has remained poorly described thus making it difficult to decide on conservation interventions required duringat this crucial stage in its life cycle.

Thanks to the efforts of the Association of Biologists Sãotomense (ABS) in partnership with BirdLife International, a team of researchers led by Hugulay Maia was able to describe some important aspects of the breeding behaviour of this bird. The results of their study conducted in 2009, have now been published in the most recent issue of the Bulletin of the African Bird Club (Volume 2, issue number 2 published in September 2014). This discovery is significant for the survival of the species.

Deforestation in São Tomé seems to be  the threat to the reproduction of the Ibis, and the main cause of the bird’s extinction on the sister island of Príncipe.

The study was conducted at Monte Carmo, the southern part of the island of São Tomé, which currently has the largest oil palm plantation in the country. Like many discoveries, this finding happened accidentally during a research mission on a day of heavy rain. A healthy nest was discovered around an area undergoing systematic monitoring. The authors reveal that the discovery was made, thanks to the local community in Emolve (also called Ribeira Peixe), for their keen interest in bird  conservation. ABS has been conducting conservation activities with the local community since 2005.

Indeed Jose Correia, the ornithologist who led an expedition to the Gulf of Guinea would be happy to know that he was right when he observed a female in its reproductive phase in November 1928. This fact was confirmed 81 years later, with the discovery by ABS which occurred on 29 November 2009, showing that the breeding period of the ibis is from November to January. ABS has also determined that the bird lays two eggs per nest and that the male and female part ways during the incubation period.

Besides the research trying to unravel the ecology of the threatened endemic birds of SãoTomé e Príncipe, ABS has also been working with the communities of Angolares, Ribeira Peixe, Malanza, Dona Augusta and YoGrande, near the area where the ibis was found, to create their awareness of the need for biodiversity conservation.

In February 2014, an Action Plan for the conservation of threatened endemic birds was approved in an event  attended by members of BirdLife International partnership, the General Directorate of Environment, directors (of the Obo Natural Park in São Tomé and Príncipe), ABS, other NGOs and members of the local community. The plan describes measures that would make a difference in reducing threats to these birds.

In conclusion, in order to protect the threatened birds of São Tomé e Príncipe, it is crucial to solve the problem that jeopardizes their survival: deforestation and uncontrolled hunting. These two, currently constitute the greatest threat. Deforestation is believed to be the main cause of the bird’s extinction on the sister island of Principe, we must not allow it to happen on São Tomé as well.

EuroBirdwatch, 4-5 October 2014


This video is called Eurobirdwatch 2013 – Maramures Romania.

From BirdLife:

Join us for a fascinating birdwatching weekend on 4 – 5 October

By Elodie Cantaloube, Fri, 12/09/2014 – 13:08

EuroBirdwatch – BirdLife’s biggest birdwatching event in Europe and Central Asia – will take place this year on the weekend of 4 – 5 October. Join us to explore the beauty of birds and experience the magic of bird migration!

Created in 1993, EuroBirdwatch aims to give the opportunity to the youngest as well as the oldest, to confirmed nature lovers as well as the simply curious, to observe the unique migration of birds and to promote efforts to save threatened bird species and their habitats.

As they have done every year on the first weekend of October since its inception, BirdLife national Partners will be organising a wide variety of activities and events across Europe and Central Asia. These will include birdwatching excursions, special birdwatching events on organic farms, contests for children to identify birds by their song, bird fairs, trips to watch birds in national parks and many more activities.

In 2013, EuroBirdwatch was celebrating its 20th anniversary. To mark this special occasion, that year 19,000 people, including children and families, took part in many events organised by the BirdLife Partners in Europe and Central Asia. More than two million birds of different species were counted and reported to the BirdLife Research Center.

Participate in EuroBirdwatch 2014!

Book your time for the weekend 4 – 5 October. Find your national EuroBirdwatch coordinator, which will be the BirdLife Partner in your country. Choose your event and enjoy your birdwatching!

If you are a BirdLife Partner and you want to take part in EuroBirdwatch 2014, to find useful information for registration and organisation please contact Birgit Gödert-Jacoby, EuroBirdwatch Advisor.

Rare sea slug discovery in the Netherlands


This is a Cuthona caerulea video.

Translated from the Dutch marine biologists of Stichting ANEMOON:

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Recently, on the North Sea beach of Walcheren, dozens of Cuthona caerulea, a stunningly beautiful sea slug, were discovered. Previously, up to now only a few specimens had been found in the southwestern Oosterschelde estuary. One of the reasons why so many Cuthona caerulea may occur locally here is the presence of the specific food of these slugs: not yet found elsewhere on our coast, the hydro polyp Sertularella elisii.

Spinosaurus bigger than Tyrannosaurus, new research


This video is called Bigger Than T. rex: Spinosaurus.

From the University of Chicago in the USA:

Massive hunter prowled water’s edge

UChicago collaboration rediscovers African dinosaur Spinosaurus, 9 feet longer than T. rex

By Claire Gwatkin Jones

Scientists have unveiled what appears to be the first truly semiaquatic dinosaur, Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. New fossils of the massive Cretaceous-era predator reveal it adapted to life in the water some 95 million years ago, providing the most compelling evidence to date of a dinosaur able to live and hunt in an aquatic environment.

The fossils also indicate that Spinosaurus was the largest known predatory dinosaur to roam the Earth, measuring more than 9 feet longer than the world’s largest Tyrannosaurus rex specimen. These findings, published online Sept. 11 on the Science Express website, also are featured in the October National Geographic magazine cover story.

An international research team—including paleontologists Nizar Ibrahim and Paul Sereno from the University of Chicago; Cristiano Dal Sasso and Simone Maganuco from the Natural History Museum in Milan, Italy; and Samir Zouhri from the Université Hassan II Casablanca in Morocco—found that Spinosaurus developed a variety of previously unknown aquatic adaptations. The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing new fossils uncovered in the Moroccan Sahara and a partial Spinosaurus skull and other remains housed in museum collections around the world. They also used historical records and images from the first reported Spinosaurus discovery in Egypt more than 100 years ago. According to lead author Ibrahim, a 2014 National Geographic Emerging Explorer, “Working on this animal was like studying an alien from outer space; it’s unlike any other dinosaur I have ever seen.”

Aquatic adaptations of Spinosaurus

The aquatic adaptations of Spinosaurus differ significantly from earlier members of the spinosaurid family that lived on land but were known to eat fish. These adaptations include:

Small nostrils located in the middle of the skull. The small size and placement of the nostrils farther back on the skull allowed Spinosaurus to breathe when part of its head was in water.
Neurovascular openings at the end of the snout. Similar openings on crocodile and alligator snouts contain pressure receptors that enable them to sense movement in water. It’s likely these openings served a comparable function in Spinosaurus.
Giant, slanted teeth that interlocked at the front of the snout. The conical shape and location of the teeth were well-suited for catching fish.
A long neck and trunk that shifted the dinosaur’s center of mass forward. This made walking on two legs on land nearly impossible, but facilitated movement in water.
Powerful forelimbs with curved, blade-like claws. These claws were ideal for hooking or slicing slippery prey.
A small pelvis and short hind legs with muscular thighs. As in the earliest whales, these adaptations were for paddling in water and differ markedly from other predatory dinosaurs that used two legs to move on land.
Particularly dense bones lacking the marrow cavities typical to predatory dinosaurs. Similar adaptations, which enable buoyancy control, are seen in modern aquatic animals like king penguins.
Strong, long-boned feet and long, flat claws. Unlike other predators, Spinosaurus had feet similar to some shorebirds that stand on or move across soft surfaces rather than perch. In fact, Spinosaurus may have had webbed feet for walking on soft mud or paddling.
Loosely connected bones in the dinosaur’s tail. These bones enabled its tail to bend in a wave-like fashion, similar to tails that help propel some bony fish.
Enormous dorsal spines covered in skin that created a gigantic “sail” on the dinosaur’s back. The tall, thin, blade-shaped spines were anchored by muscles and composed of dense bone with few blood vessels. This suggests the sail was meant for display and not to trap heat or store fat. The sail would have been visible even when the animal entered the water.

Discovery more than century in making

More than a century ago, German paleontologist Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach first discovered evidence of Spinosaurus in the Egyptian Sahara. Sadly, all of Stromer’s fossils were destroyed during the April 1944 Allied bombing of Munich, Germany. Ibrahim, however, was able to track down Stromer’s surviving notes, sketches and photos in archives and at the Stromer family castle in Bavaria to supplement Stromer’s surviving publications.

The new Spinosaurus fossils were discovered in the Moroccan Sahara along desert cliffs known as the Kem Kem beds. This area was once a large river system, stretching from present-day Morocco to Egypt. At the time, a variety of aquatic life populated the system, including large sharks, coelacanths, lungfish and crocodile-like creatures, along with giant flying reptiles and predatory dinosaurs.

The most important of the new fossils, a partial skeleton uncovered by a local fossil hunter, was spirited out of the country. As a result, critical information about the context of the find was seemingly lost, and locating the local fossil hunter in Morocco was nearly impossible. Remarked Ibrahim, “It was like searching for a needle in a desert.” After an exhaustive search, Ibrahim finally found the man and confirmed the site of his original discovery.

To unlock the mysteries of Spinosaurus, the team created a digital model of the skeleton with funding provided by the National Geographic Society. The researchers CT scanned all of the new fossils, which will be repatriated to Morocco, complementing them with digital recreations of Stromer’s specimens. Missing bones were modeled based on known elements of related dinosaurs. According to Maganuco, “We relied upon cutting-edge technology to examine, analyze and piece together a variety of fossils. For a project of this complexity, traditional methods wouldn’t have been nearly as accurate.”

The researchers then used the digital model to create an anatomically precise, life-size 3-D replica of the Spinosaurus skeleton. After it was mounted, the researchers measured Spinosaurus from head to tail, confirming their calculation that the new skeleton was longer than the largest documented Tyrannosaurus by more than 9 feet. According to Sereno, head of the University of Chicago’s Fossil Lab, “What surprised us even more than the dinosaur’s size were its unusual proportions. We see limb proportions like this in early whales, not predatory dinosaurs.”

Added Dal Sasso, “In the last two decades, several finds demonstrated that certain dinosaurs gave origins to birds. Spinosaurus represents an equally bizarre evolutionary process, revealing that predatory dinosaurs adapted to a semiaquatic life and invaded river systems in Cretaceous North Africa.”

Other authors of the Science paper are David Martill, University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom; Matteo Fabbri, University of Bristol, United Kingdom; Nathan Myhrvold, Intellectual Ventures; and Dawid Iurino, Sapienza Università di Roma in Italy. Important contributors to the making of the digital Spinosaurus include Tyler Keillor, Lauren Conroy and Erin Fitzgerald of the Fossil Lab at the University of Chicago.

Originally published on September 11, 2014.

Ancient mammals discovery in China


This video is called Ancient Mammals. Mammal evolution from the Triassic to now.

From Science News:

Fossils push back origins of modern mammals

Common ancestor evolved over 200 million years ago

by Meghan Rosen

2:39pm, September 10, 2014

Modern mammals’ ancestors may have emerged millions of years earlier than scientists suspected — around the time the first dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

The fossilized remains of six little tree-dwelling animals push the lineage of today’s mammals back to the Late Triassic, more than 200 million years ago, researchers report September 10 in Nature.

“That’s really, really old,” says paleontologist Robert Asher of the University of Cambridge, who was not involved with the work. Scientists had thought that the common ancestor of those animals originated sometime in the Jurassic, he says. “This is very exciting stuff.”

Xianshou songae is the name of the newly discovered dinosaur age mammal.

Purple heron migration, record numbers


This video from Asia is called Beautiful Purple Heron, Pheasant tailed Jacana, Black-headed Ibis, Pond Heron & Great Egret. Towards the end of the video, there is also an intermediate egret.

Before purple herons arrive for winter in southern Asia or Africa, they migrate from their more northern nesting areas.

On Monday 8 September, 427 purple herons flew south over the Dordtse Biesbosch bird counting point. A record number for one day in the Netherlands.

The total number for the whole Netherlands this autumn migration season so far is 1837. Nearly all those came from nests in the Netherlands, as they don’t breed further to the north. Sometimes, grey herons fly along with the migrating purple herons.