Hurricane Sandy in America, a ‘Frankenstorm’?


This video from the USA is called Hurricane Sandy Hits Jamaica on Path Toward Cuba, Florida.

The eastern US is bracing for Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to make landfall next week. The storm looks set to be a record-breaker, and could cause severe damage. New Scientist breaks down what we know about the storm, and what it is likely to do.

Hurricane Sandy’s Five-Fold Flood Threat, with Local Maps: here.

Hurricane Sandy and birds: here.

Sandy and Haiti: here.

Homophobic archbishop’s drunken driving


This video from the USA is called San Francisco Archbishop-elect in DUI Arrest.

From Reuters news agency today:

San Francisco archbishop-elect apologizes for drunken driving

By Ronnie Cohen

4 hrs ago

SAN FRANCISCO – The Roman Catholic bishop newly chosen by the Vatican to lead the archdiocese of San Francisco and two other Bay Area counties publicly apologized on Monday after he was arrested and held behind bars over the weekend on suspicion of drunken driving.

Salvatore Cordileone,

Cordileone? Sounds similar to Don Vito Corleone, the mafia boss in the Godfather film. Drunken driving may kill people; like the mafia kills people.

56, appointed in July by Pope Benedict XVI to preside over more than 500,000 Catholics as metropolitan archbishop of San Francisco, was taken into custody on Saturday near San Diego State University, according to the San Diego Police Department.

He was jailed on suspicion of driving under the influence after he was stopped at a police checkpoint and failed a field sobriety test, police spokesman Detective Gary Hassen said. The bishop was released on $2,500 bail, about 11 hours after his arrest, he said.

An arraignment in the case has been scheduled for October 9.

Cordileone is due to be installed at a special mass on October 4 as head of an archdiocese encompassing 91 parishes in San Francisco and the neighboring counties of San Mateo and Marin.

He is replacing Archbishop George Niederauer, who is retiring.

Cordileone has been particularly outspoken in church opposition to same-sex matrimony as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, a role that has put him at odds with many Catholics in the largely gay-friendly Bay area.

He also led church support for the 2008 voter-approved California state constitutional amendment, Proposition 8, that banned gay marriage.

LGBTQ people having equal rights to marry does not kill people, contrary to drunken driving.

If Archbishop-elect Cordileone really wants to occupy himself with sexuality, then let him do something against the child abuse by his fellow clergymen.

Gay rights campaign group Stonewall crowned the leader of the Catholic church in Scotland Cardinal Keith O’Brien today as “bigot of the year”: here.

Two Jamaican university security guards have been relieved from duty after YouTube footage emerged of a student being badly beaten in front of a baying mob, reportedly because he was gay: here.

Caribbean crustacean named after Bob Marley


This video is about the crustacean, recently called after Bob Marley.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Better than nothing? Bloodsucking parasite named after Bob Marley.

Gnathia marleyi, a tiny crustacean that feeds off the blood of reef-dwelling Caribbean fish, has been named in honor – for lack of a better term – of the Jamaican musician Bob Marley.

By Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Managing Editor / July 10, 2012

The late Jamaican musician Bob Marley has joined the “I have a species named after me” club, as a parasitic crustacean has been donned Gnathia marleyi, researchers announced today (July 10).

This blood feeder infests certain fish that live among the coral reefs of the shallow eastern Caribbean Sea.

“I named this species, which is truly a natural wonder, after Marley because of my respect and admiration for Marley’s music,” Paul Sikkel, an assistant professor of marine ecology at Arkansas State University, said in a statement. “Plus, this species is as uniquely Caribbean as was Marley.”

Marley now belongs to a club that includes President Barack Obama, whose name inspired Caloplaca obamae, the moniker for a lichen growing on Santa Rosa island in California. Late-night comedian Stephen Colbert has two insects named for him, while Mick Jagger‘s name was given to an extinct trilobite, Aegrotocatellus jaggeri. Even singer Beyoncé is a card-carrying member, with a species of horse fly with a golden rear now named Scaptia (Plinthina) beyonceae. [StarStruck: Species Named After Celebrities]

Juvenile gnathid isopods hide within coral rubble or algae so they can launch surprise attacks on fish, and then infest them. As adults, the parasites don’t eat. “We believe that adults subsist for two to three weeks on the last feedings they had as juveniles and then die, hopefully after they have reproduced,” Sikkel said in a statement.

With reports suggesting coral reef communities in the Caribbean are declining due to diseases, Sikkel’s team is examining whether there’s a link between reef health and gnathid populations. G. marleyi, like other gnathids, is similar to blood-sucking ticks or mosquitoes.

And like the land-lubbing ticks, gnathids are responsible for many diseases, in thise case those afflicting coral-reef fish, the researchers said. “We suspect that coral degradation leads to more available habitat for external parasites to ‘launch attacks’ on host fishes,” he said. “And as the number of potential host fish decreases, each remaining host will become more heavily parasitized.”

Sikkel first discovered the newly identified gnathid about 10 years ago in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where it was so common he assumed it had been described. Not so, according to Nico J. Smit of North-West University in South Africa, who later examined a specimen of the species. Next, the research team raised the organism from its juvenile stage through adulthood.

Sikkel and his team describe all of G. marleyi’s life stages in the June 6 issue of the journal Zootaxa.

See also here.

The Bob Marley parasite and 6 other species named after famous people: here.

The Life, Music and Legacy of Bob Marley: here.

Lady Gaga Inspires Names of New Fern Species: here.

With sea ice in the Arctic melting to record lows in summer months, marine animals living there face dramatic changes to their environment. Yet some crustaceans, previously thought to spend their entire lives on the underside of sea ice, were recently discovered to migrate deep underwater and follow ocean currents back to colder areas when ice disappears: here.

Jamaica extinct ibis discoveries


This is video of a white ibis flying.

By Jennifer Viegas:

Extinct Bird Swung Wings Like a Club

Before humans wiped them out, these fighting birds would clobber each other over territory.

Tue Dec 28, 2010 07:01 PM ET

THE GIST

* A flightless Jamaican ibis bird evolved wings that functioned like a club or flail.
* The birds swung their club-like “weapons” during fights over territory, researchers suggest.
* Humans probably caused the the bird, Xenicibis xympithecus, to go extinct around 10,000 years ago.

Some dinosaurs had club-like tails that they smacked into foes, and now researchers have discovered that the wings of an extinct Jamaican bird evolved into similar structures that the bird would use to clobber rivals during fights.

The bird, Xenicibis xympithecus, is the first known animal that had limbs modified to serve as a club/flail, according to the authors of the study. The paper is published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Before the flightless bird went extinct around 10,000 years ago, it must have engaged in some fierce fighting at its island nation home. Unearthed fossilized remains retain signs of traumatic injuries sustained from delivering or receiving blows.

“I would guess that they would try to grab each other using the beak and then just proceed to pound each other using the wings,” lead author Nicholas Longrich told Discovery News.

Longrich, a post doctoral associate in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Yale University, and colleague Storrs Olson made the determination after analyzing the remains of the bird, which was a relatively large long-billed, long-legged wading ibis. They immediately noticed the bird’s “bizarre” wings.

“The arm is long and spindly, and the hand bones are enlarged, curved and expanded so that the hand looks like a banana,” Longrich said, adding that both females and males had these unusually modified wings.

He and Olson believe the wings functioned like handled clubs and flails, with the arms being the “handles” of the weapons, increasing the angular velocity of the weighted “club” at the end. The bird could then swing its wings, delivering sharp blows whenever the enlarged hand bones struck an opponent.

Since ibises are monogamous and there probably weren’t a lot of animal predators going after the bird, the researchers suspect most fights had to do with staking out home turf.

“There were a lot of birds fighting over the same territories,” Longrich explained. “The best fighters — the ones with the best weapons — were able to secure a good territory and reproduce.”

A number of birds use their wings as weapons. The scientists note that some birds, including screamers, certain jacanas, the spur-winged goose, the torrent duck and nine species of lapwing, employ sharp spurs. Other birds, such as steamer ducks, sheathbills, stone curlews and swans, bear a bony knob on their wings. Two jacanas, Actophilornis and Irediparra, even have triangular blades on their wings.

But no bird — and no other vertebrate living or extinct — possessed limbs modified to serve as a jointed club or flail that could be swung, according to the scientists.

The unique method of defense was likely no match for humans, however, since the extinction of Xenicibis likely happened after people colonized Jamaica.

“Humans wiped out flightless birds like the dodo and the moa wherever they went, so my guess is that Xenicibis shared their fate,” Longrich said.

Richard Prum, chair of Yale’s Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, told Discovery News that Longrich and Olson make “a good argument for a novel combat function for the flightless forelimbs of this weaponized ibis. Clearly there is much more to learn about avian diversity.”

Helen James, curator of birds at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, believes “the authors are correct that the wing had evolved to serve as a specialized weapon.”

“I can just imagine the rapid-fire blows that these ibises could deliver with their flail-like wings,” she added.

Flying High: Birds and Coffee in Jamaica: here.

What colors were the first birds? Our avian friends appeared about 150 million years ago, and some prehistoric bird fossils have been found with their feathers nearly intact. But the colors faded away long ago, leaving paleontologists in the dark about the original hues. Now a research team employing state-of-the-art chemical imaging has found traces of the plumes’ ancient pigments. The new techniques might eventually tell scientists not only what colors prehistoric birds sported but also why they evolved highly pigmented plumage in the first place: here.