‘Bear bile on the way out in China’


This video is called Asiatic Black Bears.

From Wildlife Extra:

Bear bile products soon to be a thing of the past?

News from Animals Asia appears to indicate that demand for bear bile products is on the decline in China. Their initiative, Healing Without Harm, has gained the support of over 1,900 Chinese pharmacies who have now joined the programme, pledging not to sell products that contain bear bile.

We reported in July earlier this year that China’s largest pharmaceutical company KaiBao Pharmaceutical had begun to research synthetic alternatives to bear bile, and this latest announcement marks another step toward reduced market demand for bear bile products.

Animals Asia founder and CEO Jill Robinson commented on the news: “We’re delighted that people are pushing to be a part of this campaign now. Healing Without Harm is a key part of our efforts to end bear bile farming and this initiative has seen an unprecedented rise in traditional medicine doctors and pharmacies supporting alternatives to the use and prescription of bile. It’s fundamentally important to reduce the market and the availability if more bears are going to be helped, and this is just what we are seeing here.”

In the past year alone the programme has increased the number of bear bile free shops and pharmacies from around 260 in August 2013, to an impressive 1,945 today.

Key new chain pharmacies signed up to Healing Without Harm, including; Hunan Yang Tan He Pharmacy Group, consisting of 870 stores; Hunan Qian Jin Pharmacy, consisting of 372 stores; and pharmaceutical manufacturers Hunan Fang Sheng Pharmaceuticals and Changsha Qing Er Kang Biological Technology. Changsha Maria Hospital also joined campaign.

“We thank all those people who are joining the campaign,” said Jill Robinson. “What was a trickle has become a flood. So many people in China recognise that bear bile farming has had its day.”

Although the news is positive, there is still clearly a lot of work to do before bear bile farms are a thing of the past. The charity report that there are still more than 10,000 bears kept on bile farm in small cages in China, suffering painful and invasive bile extractions which can cause infection for the bears. Although there are a large number of effective and affordable herbal and synthetic alternatives to bile, there is still a substantial demand in Asia for bear bile products.

So far Animals Asia has rescued over 500 bears, which are currently being cared for in sanctuaries in China and Vietnam.

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.

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.”

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.

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….

Four-winged Chinese dinosaur discovery


This video says about itself:

Reptiles of the Skies – Walking with Dinosaurs in HQ – BBC

9 November 2012

The Cretaceous period saw the breaking up of the northern and southern landmasses. Flying dinosaurs like Tapejara would master the air and the new coast lines of prehistoric Earth. The largest flying dinosaur Ornithocheirus prepares for a long flight to breeding grounds.

However, this video is about pterosaurs: flying non-dinosaurs, living at the same time as dinosaurs.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Four-winged flying dinosaur unearthed in China

Newly discovered Changyuraptor yangi lived 125m years ago and was like ‘a big turkey with a really long tail’

Nishad Karim

Tuesday 15 July 2014 17.18 BST

A new species of prehistoric, four-winged dinosaur discovered in China may be the largest flying reptile of its kind.

The well-preserved, complete skeleton of the dinosaur Changyuraptor yangi features a long tail with feathers 30cm in length – the longest ever seen on a dinosaur fossil. The feathers may have played a major role in flight control, say scientists in the latest issue of Nature Communications, in particular allowing the animal to reduce its speed to land safely.

The 125m-year-old fossil, believed to be an adult, is completely covered in feathers, including long feathers attached to its legs that give the appearance of a second set of wings or “hind wings”. It is the largest four-winged dinosaur ever found, 60% larger than the previous record holder, Microraptor zhaoianus, in the family of dinosaurs known as microraptors.

These beasts were smaller versions of their closely related, larger cousins, the velociraptors made famous in the Jurassic Park movies. They belong to an even wider group including the king of all dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex. At 1.3 metres long and weighing 4kg, the meat-eating C. yangi is one of the largest members of the microraptor family, which tended to weigh 1kg or less.

Microraptors, which are close relatives of modern birds, had many anatomical features that are now only seen in birds, such as hollow bones, nesting behavior, feathers and possibly flight. They were dinosaurs rather than pterosaurs, the more well known flying prehistoric reptiles.

C. yangi was [like] a big turkey with a really long tail,” said Dr Alan Turner from Stony Brook University, one of the authors of the paper. “We don’t know for sure if C. yangi was flying or gliding, but we can sort of piece together this bigger model by looking at what its tail could do. Whether or not this animal could fly is part of a bigger puzzle and we’re adding a piece to that puzzle.”

The fossil was discovered in Liaoning province, northeastern China, an area noted for the large number of feathered dinosaurs found over the past decade, including the first widely acknowledged feathered dinosaur, Sinosauropteryx prima, in 1996.

Before this study, it was thought that the small size of microraptors was a key adaptation needed for flight, but the discovery of C. yangi suggests that aerial ability was not restricted to smaller animals in this group.

See also here.

‘Birds descended not from dinosaurs, but from more ancient reptiles’


This video is called Wing evolution 1 of 4.

And these three videos are the sequels.

From Wildlife Extra:

Forensic examination reveals that birds did not descend from dinosaurs

The re-examination of a sparrow-sized fossil from China challenges the commonly held belief that birds evolved from ground-dwelling theropod dinosaurs that gained the ability to fly.

The birdlike fossil is not actually a dinosaur, as previously thought, but rather the remains of a tiny tree-climbing animal that could glide, say American researchers Stephen Czerkas of the Dinosaur Museum in Blanding, Utah, and Alan Feduccia of the University of North Carolina.

The study appears in Springer’s Journal of Ornithology.

Their findings validate predictions first made in the early 1900s that the ancestors of birds were small, tree-dwelling archosaurs which enhanced their incipient ability to fly with feathers that enabled them to at least glide.

This “trees down” view is in contrast with the “ground up” view embraced by many palaeontologists in recent decades that birds derived from terrestrial theropod dinosaurs.

The fossil of the Scansoriopteryx (which means “climbing wing”) was found in Inner Mongolia, and is part of an ongoing cooperative study with the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences.

It was previously classified as a coelurosaurian theropod dinosaur, from which many experts believe flying dinosaurs and later birds evolved.

The research duo used advanced 3D microscopy, high resolution photography and low angle lighting to reveal structures not clearly visible before.

These techniques made it possible to interpret the natural contours of the bones.

Many ambiguous aspects of the fossil’s pelvis, forelimbs, hind limbs, and tail were confirmed, while it was discovered that it had elongated tendons along its tail vertebrae similar to Velociraptor.

Czerkas and Feduccia say that Scansoriopteryx unequivocally lacks the fundamental structural skeletal features to classify it as a dinosaur.

They also believe that dinosaurs are not the primitive ancestors of birds.

The Scansoriopteryx should rather be seen as an early bird whose ancestors are to be found among tree-climbing archosaurs that lived in a time well before dinosaurs.

Through their investigations, the researchers found a combination of plesiomorphic or ancestral non-dinosaurian traits along with highly derived features.

It has numerous unambiguous birdlike features such as elongated forelimbs, wing and hind limb feathers, wing membranes in front of its elbow, half-moon shaped wrist-like bones, bird-like perching feet, a tail with short anterior vertebrae, and claws that make tree climbing possible.

The researchers specifically note the primitive elongated feathers on the forelimbs and hind limbs.

This suggests that Scansoriopteryx is a basal or ancestral form of early birds that had mastered the basic aerodynamic maneouvers of parachuting or gliding from trees.

“The identification of Scansoriopteryx as a non-dinosaurian bird enables a re-evaluation in the understanding of the relationship between dinosaurs and birds,” explained Czerkas.

“Scientists finally have the key to unlock the doors that separate dinosaurs from birds.”

Feduccia added: “Instead of regarding birds as deriving from dinosaurs, Scansoriopteryx reinstates the validity of regarding them as a separate class uniquely avian and non-dinosaurian.”

Criticism of this: here.

Dinosaurs shrank for 50 million years to become birds: here.