Snakes, scorpions may prevent hospital patients dying


This video is called National Geographic Wild – Deadly Snakes.

Translated from Leiden university in the Netherlands, 14 August 2014:

Poison of snakes and scorpions for new antibiotics

Hospital bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics are a growing problem. The Leiden antibiotic expert Gilles van Wezel will, along with colleague Michael Richardson and experts in the Leiden university hospital and Naturalis museum, look for new antibiotics, made from the poison of snakes and scorpions. To do that, he will get a cash injection from the Scientific Research Organisation.

Rare ferns in Dutch Drenthe province


Scaly male fern

Warden Roelof Blaauw reports that many ferns grow in the forests around Veenhuizen village in Drenthe province in the Netherlands.

They include rare species, like scaly male fern; and long beech fern.

Long beech fern

White beetles reflecting light, new study


This video is called Super White Beetle Holds Secret To Whiter Paper And Computer Screens?

From New Scientist:

Beetles so bright, you gotta wear shades

16:33 15 August 2014 by Philippa Skett

What is whiter than white? These beetles, apparently – because their scales make them whiter than paper. No human technology can match their brilliance using such thin material.

The scales of the Cyphochilus and Lepidiota stigma beetles, which are native to South-East Asia, contain tight, complex networks of chitin filaments. Chitin is a substance with a similar molecular structure to cellulose, and it builds the cell walls of fungi and the shells of crustaceans as well as insect exoskeletons.

On their own, the chitin filaments reflect light poorly. But researchers at the University of Cambridge and the European Laboratory for Non-linear Spectroscopy in Florence, Italy, have found that the geometry of a filament network makes the whole thing reflect light extremely efficiently. It reflects light of all colours anisotropically, meaning that it bounces the light in one direction only. That makes the beetles’ scales appear bright white.

“These scales have a structure that is truly complex, since it gives rise to something that is more than the sum of its parts,” said team member Matteo Burresi of the Italian National Institute of Optics in Florence. “A randomly packed collection of its constituent elements by itself is not sufficient to achieve the degree of brightness that we observe.”

What sets the brilliant beetles apart from artificial reflectors, though, is that the scales are ultra-thin. Their individual chitin filaments are just a few thousandths of a millimetre thick, minimising weight and so reducing the energy the beetles need to fly. It may not be too long before these beetles are inspiring a host of new materials that will be whiter than white too.

Journal reference: Scientific Reports, DOI: 10.1038/srep06075.

Migrating birds need Chinese wetland


This video is about bar-tailed godwits in Sweden.

From Bird Conservation International:

14 August 2014

The importance of Yalu Jiang coastal wetland in the north Yellow Sea to Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica and Great Knots Calidris tenuirostris during northward migration

Summary

Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica and Great Knots Calidris tenuirostris are long-distance migratory shorebirds with declining numbers in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. One of the most important staging sites for these two species during northward migration is Yalu Jiang coastal wetland in the north Yellow Sea. Historical counts have been limited to once a year and conducted at different periods; these yield inadequate data for population monitoring. We estimated the numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits and Great Knots and described their migration phenology during northward migration from 2010 to 2012 at the Yalu Jiang coastal wetland, using a combination of periodic area-wide counts over the migration period and a modelling approach that estimates passage times and total numbers of birds transiting.

The mean arrival date for L. l. baueri godwits was 29 March and mean departure date was 8 May. Corresponding dates were 11 April and 15 May for L. l. menzbieri godwits and 7 April and 14 May for Great Knots. We estimated that an annual average of over 68,000 Bar-tailed Godwits and 44,000 Great Knots used the area on northward migration from 2010–2012. Our results indicate that the Yalu Jiang coastal wetland supports on average at least 42% of the flyway’s northward-migrating L. l. baueri godwits, 19% of L. l. menzbieri godwits, and 22% of the Great Knots. Comparisons with historical counts conducted during peak migration periods indicate a 13% decline in Bar-tailed Godwits since 2004 and an 18% decline in Great Knots since 1999.

Our results confirm that the study area remains the most important northward migration staging site for Bar-tailed Godwits and indicate that it has become the most important northward migration staging site for Great Knots along the flyway.

Amazonian turtles ‘talk’ to their hatchlings, new research


This video about giant South American river turtles from Venezuela is called THE BIGGEST fresh water TURTLE in the world; LA TORTUGA MAS GRANDE DEL MUNDO de agua dulce.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Amazonian turtle mothers heard ‘talking’ to hatchlings to get them into the water

The study constitutes the first known example of parental care among turtles

James Vincent

Monday 18 August 2014

Scientists have observed Giant South American river turtles ‘talking’ to their newly-hatched young, using high-pitched vocalisations that carry better through air and shallow water to guide the nestlings into the water.

The findings, published in a recent edition of the journal Herpetologica, constitutes the first known examples of parental care among turtles – an order of reptiles that have been roaming the Earth for more than 220 million years.

Researchers watched the Amazonian turtles between 2009 and 2011, capturing more than 270 individual sounds during their nesting season using underwater microphones. More than six distinct types of vocalisation were identified, with the scientists speculating that each of these is used to facilitate specific social behaviours.

For example, when the turtles migrated through the river they tended to use low frequency noises that travelled better over long distances, while females about to nest showed the highest diversity of sounds, thought to help the mothers decide on specific nesting sites.

“These distinctive sounds made by turtles give us unique insights into their behaviour, although we don’t know what the sounds mean,” said Dr. Camila Ferrara, Aquatic Turtle Specialist for the WCS Brazil Program, in a press release. “The social behaviours of these reptiles are much more complex than previously thought.”

The Giant South American turtle is the largest member of the side-neck turtle family (so-called because they withdraw their heads sideways into their shell rather than vertically) and grow up to three feet in length. The species is found only in the Amazonian river basin and is currently under threat by humans hunting for meat and eggs.

Two new moth species discovered in the Netherlands


This is an Aedia leucomelas video from Italy.

The Dutch Butterfly Foundation reports today discoveries of two moth species, new for the Netherlands.

One of these is Aedia leucomelas. An individual of this species was found in 1987 near Urmond village, and landed in a butterfly and moth collection. Only now researcher Rob de Vos discovered that moth was this south European and Asian species, which had never been recorded in the Netherlands before.

On 20 July this year, in Friesland province, there was nightly moth research. Over 110 macro moth species were counted. Among them was an Eucarta virgo. This east European and Asian species was new for the Netherlands as well.

Good Chinese crested tern news update


This video says about itself:

China-Fujian-Minjiankou-Chinese Crested Tern-201105-mating

16 May 2011

This bird disappeared for a long time, then was refound in 2000 at Taiwan, Matsu island. It’s a great honor to get this mating shot to witness the power of birds surviving.

From BirdLife:

A big comeback for Chinese Crested Terns in the Jiushan Islands, China

By Martin Fowlie, Wed, 13/08/2014 – 10:27

Chinese Crested Terns on the Jiushan Islands have had a second and even more successful year: at least 43 Chinese Crested Terns arrived and stayed on the island of Tiedun Dao this breeding season (from mid-May to early August 2014), and at least 20 breeding pairs were formed. In early August, no less than 13 young Chinese Crested Terns fledged. For a species with a previously known global population of no more than 30 birds, this is a remarkable success.

Chinese Crested Terns were presumed extinct in the late 20th century. This species was rediscovered at the Mazu Islands along the coast of Fujian Province in 2000, and one new colony was discovered at the Jiushan Islands, Xiangshan County of Zhejiang Province, in 2004. However, because of illegal egg collection the terns ceased to breed on the Jiushans after 2007 and the colony apparently moved to the Wuzhishan Islands in the same province. Since 2011, BirdLife International and the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (BirdLife in Hong Kong) have been working with Zhejiang Museum of Natural History, the Zhejiang Wild Bird Society, the Ocean and Fishery Bureau of Xiangshan County and a team of tern experts from Oregon State University in the United States on a restoration project for Chinese Crested Terns in the Jiushan Islands, using decoys and playback of tern calls developed by Prof Steve Kress, Vice President for Bird Conservation at Audubon (BirdLife in the USA).

The restoration work started during the breeding season in 2013. The first year was successful, but the new colony got a late start compared to the normal tern breeding season. This year, a simple monitoring station was built on Tiedun Dao, the 2-hectare island chosen for breeding colony restoration. Simba Chan, BirdLife’s Senior Conservation Officer for Asia stayed on the island from May until early August to monitor the tern breeding colony. An attempt to poach eggs from the colony was prevented and a poacher was arrested. Three typhoons passed through or near the Jiushan Islands during the season, but luckily did not cause damage to the breeding birds and their young. By the end of the breeding season, a large quantity of useful data regarding the breeding biology of Chinese Crested Terns had been collected and these data will likely prove very useful for future management and design of additional restoration projects for this Critically Endangered species.

This is an excellent result from the first two years of this restoration project. What is needed now, is to encourage terns to breed on the Wuzhishan Islands and the Mazu Islands next year. So stay tuned….

Bermuda coral reefs research, video


This video says about itself:

11 August 2014

2014 Bermuda Deep Reef Expedition

California Academy of Sciences
Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences
Ocean Support Foundation

Initial Characterization of Bermudian
Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems:
Visual Census of Mesophotic Biodiversity
Impact Assessment and Culling of Invasive Lionfish

Hudson Pinheiro
Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley
Elliott Jessup
Alex Chequer

Equipment Support:
Hollis Gear

Video:
Elliott Jessup

Dolphins, whales squealing with pleasure?


This video is called Science Bulletins: Whales Give Dolphins a Lift.

From Science News:

Dolphins and whales may squeal with pleasure too

by Science News Staff

8:00am, August 15, 2014

Guest post by Chris Riotta

When dolphins and whales squeal, they may not be sending food signals to their friends. They could just be shrieking with pleasure.

After measuring the time delay between a dolphin or whale receiving a reward and the animal’s squeal, one researcher noticed the lags were about as long as the time it takes for the chemical dopamine to be released in the brain. Dopamine helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.

Because the time it takes for the animals to squeal is about the same as for a release of dopamine, the dolphins and whales may be making these sounds of out sheer delight, scientists argue August 15 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Hallucigenia, strange Cambrian fossil animal, new study


This video from the USA is called Hallucigenia at the Chicago Field Museum.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Hallucigenia revealed: The most surreal creature from strangest period in history of life on Earth

Scientists solve mystery of a creature from the Cambrian lagoons

Steve Connor, science editor

Saturday 16 August 2014

If Salvadore Dali were God, he would surely have designed an animal that looked like Hallucigenia. It has been described as the most surreal creature that lived in the strangest period in the history of life on Earth, more than 500 million years ago.

After more than four decades of studying fossilised imprints, scientists believe they have finally nailed Hallucigenia’s position in the tree of life, and in the process discovered its only living descendants.

Hallucigenia, named because of its dream-like, trip-inducing appearance, is one of the many marine animals that rather abruptly appear in the fossil record during a period in pre-history known as the Cambrian explosion, a biological bang that detonated the evolution of complex life-forms about 542 million years ago.

Until the Cambrian explosion, life had been bumbling along for about three billion years, with evolution producing nothing much more animate than a bath sponge. After the explosion, creatures with complex body plans evolved that walked, crawled, swam and burrowed – and Hallucigenia was one of them.

Scientists were so thrown by Hallucigenia when its small fossils were first analysed 40 years ago that they thought its front end was its back end, and its top was its bottom. They even thought it was an evolutionary one-off that had left no descendants alive today.

However, scientists now believe they have finally been able to locate Hallucigenia’s position in evolutionary history by showing that it is the ancestor of a small group of worm-like creatures with short, stubby legs that can be found today, living unobtrusively in the undergrowth of tropical forests.

Martin Smith and Javier Ortega-Hernandez of Cambridge University have detected key physical similarities between Hallucigenia and the so-called velvet worms, known more formally as the onychophorans – the first time zoologists have been able to rule conclusively on the creature’s true role in history.

Their study, to be published in the journal Nature, is based on a detailed analysis of high-magnification images of the fossils of Hallucigenia, which grew no bigger than about 3.5cm long, showing five key characteristics that link the species to the velvet worms.

Among the most important features is the way the claws at the end of its limbs are arranged. Under an electron microscope, each claw has two or three successive layers of cuticle nestled one within the other, like the layered skins of an onion.

Dr Smith said: “We think this enabled them to grow a new set of claws before they shed their skins, which they had to do to grow. A very similar feature is found in the claws and jaws of the velvet worms, and no other animal shares this particular characteristic.

“It means that the animals do not have to wait for a new claw to form after shedding their skin to grow – they already have one ready formed,” he explained.

Zoologists have also not always been completely sure which end of Hallucigenia is the front and which is the back, although Dr Smith said his research clears this up – the front has two or three pairs of appendages and the back has a rounded end where its body-length gut probably terminates.

It is now clear that the fearsome spikes on Hallucigenia’s back, which were once confused for stilt-like legs, are almost certainly a defensive mechanism against the increasing number of predators that emerged during the Cambrian explosion.

Fossils: Burgess Shale

The Cambrian explosion is named after the geological period that began about 541 million years ago, when a remarkable variety of marine animals first appear in the fossil record.

Most fossils are formed from the hard parts of living organism, such as bones or shells. However, details of the soft body parts of Cambrian creatures can be seen in a rock formation known as the Burgess Shale in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Hallucigenia was just one of many bizarre animals to live at this time. Other creatures included a fearsome predator called Anomalocaris, armed with two vicious-looking jaws and large eyes, and Wiwaxia, which looked like a Viking helmet with spikes.

For evolutionists, this period is one of the most interesting in the 3.5-billion-year history of life on earth because this was when many of the complex body plans seen in today’s animals are first detectable, even though they must have evolved from something earlier in history.

“It’s often thought that modern animal groups arose fully formed during the Cambrian explosion. But evolution is a gradual process,” said Martin Smith of Cambridge.

“Today’s complex anatomies emerged step by step, one feature at a time. By deciphering ‘in-between’ fossils like Hallucigenia, we can determine how different animal groups built up their modern body plans,” he said.

Burgess Shale Fossil Specimens: here.