Whooping cranes news from the USA


This video from the USA is called Flight to Survive: Saving Whooping Cranes.

From The Badger and the Whooping Crane blog in Wisconsin, USA:

October 25, 2014 by wisreader

Migration Update & Good News about Single Dad Whooping Crane & Chick

The news thus far this whooping crane migration season, has been decidedly mixed, with an early start in some instances, slow progress in others, and what has seemed like no progress at all for the young whooping crane chicks that follow the ultralights. After such a hopeful start to the ultralight migration two weeks ago, the weather in Wisconsin has kept the ultralight airplanes, the seven young whooping cranes that follow them, and their ultralight pilot-guides and ground crews on the ground day after day in Marquette County. Those of us who live in Wisconsin are well aware how little we’ve seen of the sun since September began! It’s no surprise here that this has translated into a long string of “no fly” days. But bad weather can’t last forever – that’s the silver lining for the ultralight chicks.

And in other migration news, the official beginning of migration for the rest of the Eastern Migratory Population (the EMP) was announced at the International Crane Foundation’s Facebook page on Thursday. ICF’s Eva Szyszkoski had tracked seven of Wisconsin’s cranes to Greene County, Indiana.

Embedded in Eva’s report was the exceptionally good news that the EMP’s one surviving wild chick, and the chick’s male parent were among those cranes. There’s been little news about this special pair of cranes – the single surviving wild chick of 2014 (#w3-14) and her father (#12-02) – since late August when the sad news about the disappearance (and presumed death) or the mother crane, #19-04, was announced. (The Badger & the Whooping Crane offered some history of the crane family in the post, “A Single Parent Whooping Crane.”)

In its September Update the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership noted that on September 8, crane w3-14 had been captured for banding (and released). Now comes this new sighting of the crane chick and the father on migration, and it’s a real cause for celebration.

British government spied on historians Hobsbawm and Hill


This video from Britain says about itself:

2 October 2012

Historian Prof Eric Hobsbawm is interviewed by Simon Schama about his work and his extraordinary life. With archive clips from Eric’s previous TV and radio appearances.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

MI5 spied on Hobsbawm

Saturday 25th October 2014

MI5 spent years keeping Marxist historians Eric Hobsbawm and Christopher Hill under surveillance, according to newly released government documents.

Files released by the National Archives at Kew in west London yesterday reveal that MI5 closely monitored both academics for years, opening their mail, tapping their phones and scrutinising their contacts.

The files on Hobsbawm show how he fell foul of the authorities during his time as a sergeant in the Army Education Corps during the second world war, when his tendency to leave left-wing literature lying around saw him marked out as a “bad influence.

“We know that Hobsbawm has been continually in touch with prominent communists and with party headquarters and there is no doubt that he is a keen and very active party member,” one report from 1942 noted.

Florida green anoles adapt to invasive species


This video from the USA says about itself:

The largest Green Anole ever!

The Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis) is an arboreal lizard found primarily in the southeastern United States and some Caribbean islands. Other common names include the green anole, American anole and red-throated anole. It is also sometimes referred to as the American chameleon due to its ability to change color from several brown hues to bright green. While many kinds of lizards are capable of changing color, anoles are closely related to iguanas and are not true chameleons. The Carolina is a small lizard; male adults are usually 15 cm (5.9 in) long in adulthood, about half of which is its tail, and it can weigh from 3–7 g (0.11–0.25 oz). Exceptionally, these anoles will grow up to 20 cm (7.9 in) in length.

From Breaking News:

A lizard species in Florida has evolved very quickly to deal with invaders

24/10/2014 – 12:16:32

In as little as 15 years, lizards native to Florida – known as Carolina anoles or green anoles – have adapted to deal with the threat of an invading species of lizard, Cuban or brown anoles.

This video is called Egg-laying brown anole (Anolis sagrei), Aruba. This female brown anole was filmed during digging a hole in the sand in which she layed an egg.

After having contact with the invasive species, said to have first gone to America from Cuba in the 1950s, the native lizards starting perching higher up in trees. Over the course of 15 years and 20 generations, their feet evolved to become better at gripping the thinner, smoother branches found higher up.

The change was rapid. After a few months the native lizards started moving higher up the branches and over 15 years, their toe pads had become larger with stickier scales on their feet.

“We did predict that we’d see a change, but the degree and quickness with which they evolved was surprising,” said Yoel Stuart, a post-doctoral researcher in the College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin and lead author of the study.

“To put this shift in perspective, if human height were evolving as fast as these lizards’ toes, the height of an average American man would increase from about 5 foot 9 inches today to about 6 foot 4 inches within 20 generations — an increase that would make the average U.S. male the height of an NBA shooting guard,” said Stuart. “Although humans live longer than lizards, this rate of change would still be rapid in evolutionary terms.”

This latest study is one of only a few well-documented examples of what evolutionary biologists call “character displacement,” where similar species competing with each other evolve differences to take advantage of different ecological niches.

A classic example comes from the finches studied by Charles Darwin. Two species of finch in the Galapagos Islands diverged in beak shape as they adapted to different food sources.

The researchers speculate that the competition between brown and green anoles for the same food and space may be driving the adaptations of the green anoles. Stuart also noted that the adults of both species are known to eat the hatchlings of the other species.

“So it may be that if you’re a hatchling, you need to move up into the trees quickly or you’ll get eaten,” said Stuart. “Maybe if you have bigger toe pads, you’ll do that better than if you don’t.”

The research was published in the journal Science.

See also here. And here. And here.

Ancient settlements discovery in Peruvian Andes


Stone tools found at Cuncaicha and Pucuncho sites in Peru. Image credit: Kurt Rademaker et al.

From Sci-News:

Archaeologists Discover Two 12,000-Year-Old High-Altitude Settlements in Peru

Oct 24, 2014

Archaeologists from the United States, Canada, Germany, and Peru, have discovered two ancient settlements in the Pucuncho Basin in the southern Peruvian Andes – named Cuncaicha and Pucuncho – which they say are the highest-altitude Pleistocene archaeological sites yet identified in the world.

One scientific theory about high altitude colonization suggests that people cannot live in high altitudes until genetic adaptation occurs, like the sort we find in Andean people today.

Andeans have genetically adapted to their high altitude environment.

Key differences in the Andean people include a higher metabolic rate, larger lung capacity and higher hemoglobin concentrations then the average person, all of which allow them to overcome a lack of oxygen.

“Was this adaptation present 12,000 years ago? We don’t know for certain,” said Dr Sonia Zarrillo of the University of Calgary, who is a co-author of the paper published in the journal Science.

The first site Dr Zarrillo and her colleagues discovered, Cuncaicha, is a rock shelter at 4.5 km above sea level, with a stone-tool workshop below it.

According to the archaeologists, it was occupied about 12,400-11,500 years ago.

The second site, Pucuncho, is an ancient workshop where stone tools were made at 4.4 km above sea level. It dates to around 12,800-11,500 years ago.

“We don’t know if people were living there year round, but we strongly suspect they were not just going there to hunt for a few days, then leaving. There were possibly even families living at these sites, because we’ve found evidence of a whole range of activities,” Dr Zarrillo said.

“Climatic conditions in both sites are harsh, with factors including low-oxygen, extreme cold and high levels of solar radiation making life in the region a challenge for any humans.”

She added: “our team hiked up to three or four hours to get to these sites. That was a climb, carrying all of our gear, camp equipment and food. And it freezes every night. Sometimes it snows. These are incredibly hard sites to access.”

Archaeological evidence found at the sites includes signs of habitation such as human skull fragments, animal remains and stone tools.

The Pucuncho site yielded 260 stone tools, such as projectile points, bifaces and unifacial scrapers. The Cuncaicha rock shelter contains a “robust, well-preserved and well-dated occupation sequence.”

“Most of the stone tools at Cuncaicha were made from locally available obsidian, andesite and jasper, and are indicative of hunting and butchering consistent with limited subsistence options on the plateau. In addition to plant remains, bones at the site indicate hunting of vicuña and guanaco camelids and the taruca deer,” the scientists said.

“At Cuncaicha we found remains representing whole animals. The types of stone tools we’ve found are not only hunting tools but also scraping tools used for processing hides to make things like clothing, bags or blankets,” Dr Zarrillo said.

Good brent geese news


This video from Scotland is called Brent Geese – Branta bernicla.

Translated from the Dutch SOVON ornithologists:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Brent geese seem to return with quite a lot of youngsters this fall. This indicates a good breeding season on the tundra of northern Siberia. In wintering areas annually people look how many young geese will come with their parents. The geese benefited from the lemming peak at the Taymir peninsula.

Sample counts by geese counters provisionally provide an image that the brent geese had an excellent breeding success. The counters see youngster rates between 25 and 35 percent: pretty high for the brent goose. For example, there are families with five young ones, so, large families. In October, a lot of brent geese arrive in the coastal areas of Western Europe, such as the Wadden Sea. They come from the tundras of Taymir and elsewhere along the Siberian coast.

Old and new natural history books


Alexander Reeuwijk, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

This photo shows author Alexander Reeuwijk behind a table with old natural history books in Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands. Like the other photos of this blog post, this is a cellphone photograph, of 19 October 2014.

On that day, as this blog already noted, Remco Daalder, Amsterdam city ecologist, was awarded the Jan Wolkers Prize. This prize is named after famous Dutch artist and author Jan Wolkers. Natural history was one of his subjects. The Jan Wolkers Prize is for the best natural history book of the year in the Netherlands. Remco Daalder’s book is about swifts.

Remco Daalder’s book had been nominated for the prize shortlist along with four other books. One of them was Alexander Reeuwijk’s book about nineteenth century British naturalist and evolution theorist Alfred Russel Wallace and his travels in Indonesia.

The three other nominations were for Mathijs Deen, for a book on the Wadden Sea region; Bibi Dumon Tak for her children’s book on common animals; and various authors for a book on Planken Wambuis nature reserve.

Back to Alexander Reeuwijk. He presented his ten favourite natural history books from the Naturalis collections. These books were from the sixteenth till the twentieth centuries.

Pierre Belon's book, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The oldest of Alexander’s ten books was from 1553. It was by Pierre Belon from France, about fish. Belon is often seen as the first ichthyologist. In Belon‘s time, fishes were not differentiated from aquatic mammals, aquatic invertebrates, etc. The book discussed over a 100 species for the first time ever.

The copy in Leiden is of De aquatilibus; the Latin translation of the French original.

Pierre Belon's book on sharks, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The book contains many woodcut pictures, including of hammerheads and other sharks.

Alexander Reeuwijk’s next book was from five years later, from 1558. It was by Conrad Gessner from Switzerland.

Lobster, in Gessner's book, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

Gessner’s Historiae animalium was the first attempt to describe all the animals known. Including the lobster pictured here on a woodcut in the book.

Lobster, watercolour, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The original watercolour depiction of the lobster, used for the woodcut, is also present in Naturalis.

Mark Catesby, parrots, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The next book was based on two books, originally in English. Mark Catesby died in 1749. He wrote Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, published 1729-1747. George Edwards wrote A Natural History of Uncommon Birds, published 1743-1764. Catesby’s and Edwards’ books contain many pictures of birds considered as ‘exotic’ by eighteenth century Europeans, like parrots in North America and the Caribbean.

Mark Catesby's and Edwards' Dutch translation, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

Catesby’s and Edwards’ books were translated into Dutch by M. Houttuyn, and published as Verzameling uitlandsche en zeldzaame vogelen in 1772-1781.

Spotted sandpiper, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

This picture in the Dutch translation depicts, below, a spotted sandpiper from the Americas.

Alexander’s fourth book was Nederlandsche Vogelen, about Dutch birds, by Nozeman and Sepp, published in various volumes 1770-1829.

Book number five was Histoire Naturelle des plus Rares Curiosoitez de la Mer des Indes. By Louis Renard, about marine life in Indonesia. The Leiden copy was published in 1782, after the author’s death.

Next, a book about plants in the Netherlands: the Flora Batava. Jan Kops wrote the first volume, published in 1800.

Then, Histoire naturelle générale des pigeons et des gallinacés (1808). Written by Coenraad Temminck; about pigeons. With pictures by Pauline de Courcelles Knip.

Mauritius blue pigeon

One of Ms de Courcelles Knip’s pictures for the book shows a Mauritius blue pigeon; now extinct.

The next book was about kingfishers. It was A monograph of the Alcedinidae: or, family of kingfishers, 1868-1871, by Richard Bowdler Sharpe. John Keulemans made the pictures.

Then, a book from the USA, by Sherman Foote Denton. It was As Nature Shows Them : Moths and Butterflies of the United States, East of the Rocky Mountains; from 1898.

Finally, another book on birds in the Netherlands: Ornithologia Neerlandica, de vogels van Nederland, 1922-1935. Eduard Daniel van Oort wrote it. Marinus Koekkoek painted the pictures.

Chimpanzees adapting to humans, new study


This BBC video is called How to Speak Chimpanzee.

From Wildlife Extra:

Chimps found to be adapting to human neighbours

Wild chimpanzees could be learning to coexist with their human neighbours a new study suggests. Expanding land use for agriculture and other activities are increasingly encroaching on wild chimpanzee habitat and there are signs the chimps are adjusting to these habitat changes.

Researchers from Muséum national d’histoire naturelle have used camera-traps to observe chimpanzee behaviour during incursions out of the forest into maize fields in Kibale National Park, Uganda. During the 20 days of the study, a total of 14 crop-raiding events were recorded by the activation of the video-trap.

The researchers observed large parties of eight chimpanzees which also included vulnerable individuals such as females with clinging infants. This is the first record of frequent and repeated activities at night, in the darkness. Habitat destruction may have prompted the chimpanzees to adjust their normal behaviour to include innovative behaviours exploiting open croplands at night.

The study concluded: ”Even though the chimpanzees’ home range has been seriously damaged and disturbed by both logging activities and significant human demographic pressure, chimpanzees have shown great behavioural flexibility including unexpected nocturnal behaviour, in order to take advantage of the proximity of domestic nutritive food.

“The new findings of chimpanzee nocturnal raids can aid to formulate recommendations to local farmers and Park authorities in addition to those already listed as “best practice guidelines” from IUCN in terms of human-wildlife conflicts.”