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.

French extreme and ‘center’ Right racism, sexism


This video says about itself:

Is France Becoming Racist? (Part 1) – #F24Debate

8 November 2013

“It’s an attack at the very heart of the French Republic” This is how the country’s Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira, describes a recent spate of racist acts directed at herself. The politician was recently compared to a monkey on a far-right candidate’s Facebook page. Annette Young and her guests discuss the rise of racism in contemporary France.

Our guests on the show: Louis-Georges TIN, President of the French Black Coalition, Madjid MESSAOUDENNE, Councillor, Saint Denis, Paris, Nonna MAYER, Research Director at CNRS, the French Public Research Centre, Philippe MOREAU CHEVROLET, Commentator at Le Nouvel Observateur.

Syrian gunmen, called ‘moderate’ may sell prisoners like Steven Sotloff to the not so moderate gunmen of ISIS.

Some ‘center Right’ French politicians may also not be as ‘moderate’ as they call themselves

From daily The Independent in Britain:

France’s Moroccan-born education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem fights back against slurs

Two new false rumours about Ms Vallaud-Belkacem are being pedalled this week by right-wing websites and on Facebook and Twitter

John Lichfield

Paris, Monday 08 September 2014

France’s new education minister – young, female and Moroccan-born – has become a lightning rod for all that is nasty in French politics.

Since she took over the job two weeks ago, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, 36, has been besieged by racist and sexist comments and malicious rumours on social media. Her appointment has been attacked by magazines of the far right, and the less far right, as a “provocation” and a politically-correct piece of social engineering by President François Hollande.

Two new false rumours about Ms Vallaud-Belkacem are being pedalled this week by right-wing websites and on Facebook and Twitter.

A forged letter carrying the minister’s signature calls for primary school pupils to be given lessons in Arabic each week in the name of good community relations. A fake identity card appears to “prove” that Ms Vallaud-Belkacem adopted an Arab identity to further her political career. The card suggests that her real name is “Claudine Dupont”.

Ms Vallaud-Belkacem has started criminal proceedings, but her advisers say that the volume and tenacity of the lies threatens to overwhelm them. As soon is one is shot down, another springs up.

Although the rumours seem to begin with the far right, they are often passed on by moderate right-wing individuals and websites as if they were true. A parliamentarian of the main centre-right party, Isabelle Balkany, retweeted the “Arab language classes” letter at the weekend before she realised that it was false.

The campaign against Ms Vallaud-Belkacem is reminiscent of a barrage of attacks last year against the French Guiana-born justice minister, Christiane Taubira. The two women are detested on the hard right of French politics not just because of their racial background.

Ms Taubira pushed through the law legalising gay marriage last year. Ms Valaud-Belkacem, as a junior minister for women’s rights, helped to devise an experimental programme in which some primary schools tried to combat gender stereotypes. The programme, though clumsy, was widely misrepresented on the far right and on the radical Catholic right as the spearhead of an attempt to “abolish differences in gender”.

Ms Vallaud-Belkacem’s appointment as France’s first woman education minister in a reshuffle two weeks ago was taken by many right wingers – even relatively moderate ones – as a “provocation”. This was the word used by the far-right magazine, Minute, on its front cover. A supposedly more moderate magazine, Valeurs Actuelles, carried an evil-looking image of the new minister with the front-page headline “L’Ayatollah”.

Ms Vallaud-Belkacem tried to respond with an intellectual joke. She said that buying Minute was better value than buying books by the existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre. “For the price of a newspaper you get both Nausea and Dirty Hands (two Sartre titles).”

The new minister has also been the object of sexist attacks. Franck Keller, a centre-right councillor in Neuilly-sur-Seine, where Nicolas Sarkozy was once mayor, tweeted an alluring picture of Ms Vallaud-Belkacem and the message: “I wonder what attributes persuaded Hollande to give her a big ministry.”

The education minister is a rare symbol of political success in France by someone from a poor background. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem was born in 1977, the second oldest of seven children in the impoverished village of Bni Chiker in Morocco. Her family emigrated to France to join her father, a labourer, when she was five.

After a brilliant school career in Amiens, she graduated from the Paris Institute of Political Studies in 2002.

Turtle doves’ nests in Morocco, new research


This video from Britain is called WILDLIFE FILES TURTLE DOVES.

From Avian Biology Research, Volume 7, Number 2, May 2014, pp. 65-73(9):

Plasticity in nest placement of the Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur): experimental evidence from Moroccan agro-ecosystems

Author: Hanane, Saâd

Abstract:

A total of 364 Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) nests were found in the Tadla irrigated area during the 2006–2009 breeding seasons. Of these, 135 were located in orange orchards, 178 in olive orchards and 51 in olive hedgerows. Gaussian generalised linear modelling was used to model the nest height and the nest–trunk distance according to the characteristics of olive and orange trees in the orchards and hedgerows. Tree height and type of plantings had the strongest effects on both nest height (R 2 = 0.67) and nest–trunk distance (R 2 = 0.48).

Overall, the same pattern of Turtle Dove nest height was recorded in the three types of plantings, whereas different patterns were noted for the nest–trunk distance. The results provide evidence of non-random patterns of nest placement in olive and orange agro-ecosystems. This game species exhibits adaptive behavioural plasticity in nest placement and appears to be well-adapted to the olive and orange grove conditions in this region. This high adaptability is beneficial to maintaining the species in these artificial habitats. Additional quantitative studies are needed to improve our understanding on the mechanisms driving the choice of nest placement by Turtle Doves in this agricultural man-made environment.

Moroccan bird news


This video is about Rüppell’s Vultures (Gyps rueppellii).

From Moroccan Birds blog:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

3 Rüppell’s Vultures at Tétouan (24-05-2014)

Live from the field at Tetouan, northern Morocco

Now: we are surrounded by 3 Rüppell’s Vultures and 32 Griffon Vultures roosting near Tetouan (just 5 Km north of the town). A local Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus) mobbing the vultures.

Details later. Rachid & Mohamed

The importance of Fouwarate marshland (Northwest of Morocco) for wintering and breeding of Ardeidae.

Abstract:

Due to its location within the East-Atlantic flyway, the Site of Biological and Ecological Interest commonly known as SIBE of Marshland of Fouwarate is considered as a key stopover area for migratory waterbirds. An ornithological monitoring carried out during a complete hydrological cycle (2009-2010) showed that the site encompasses eight Ardeidae species of which five are breeding. Four species have an unfavorable status in the territory of European Union and five species have patrimonial value in Morocco. In addition, the wintering numbers of two species exceed the threshold of 1% of the regional population (Ramsar criteria) while six species exceed the threshold of 1% of the national population. This attributes to this site a great national and international importance for the conservation for the conservation of threatened waterbirds, not to mention the role it can play in promoting environmental education and ecotourism in the region. However, the wetland is under high pressures due to different human activities (embankment, agriculture and industry), which requires urgent actions to protect and conserve its ecological values: here.

Study of the migratory waders phenology in the lagoon and salines of Sidi Moussa (Morocco).

Abstract:

Monthly counts of waders were conducted from March 2010 to February 2012 in Sidi Moussa lagoon and adjacent salines. In total 24 species were identified, including three regular breeding species in the site (Glareola pratincola, Charadrius alexandrinus and Himantopus himantopus). The most abundant species are Calidris alpina, Charadrius hiaticula, Charadrius alexandrinus, Pluvialis squatarola, Himantopus himantopus and Tringa totanus. The analysis of migration patterns of the species did not show significant variations between years in contrast to the trends in total numbers of waders that showed marked variations between the different seasons of the annual cycle of the species. The highest numbers are recorded during the autumn passage. Numbers will subsequently decrease and stabilize during the wintering season. Prenuptial movements are not well detected. A slight increase in numbers was noticed in February marking the beginning of the return passage. Some species can leave on the site small flocks of summering individuals. This is the case of Dunlin which shows a strong correlation with the total numbers and the Redshank with an early summering (May). Both breeding species, Black-winged Stilt and the Kentish Plover evolve differently in the site. When no seasonal variation was noted for the first species, migration passages are well marked for the second and numbers stabilize during the wintering and summering. The Grey Plover numbers noted during the summer show significant differences with those recorded during other seasons of the annual cycle, marked by certain stability. For Ringed Plover, numbers recorded in summer showed significant differences only with those of the autumn passage: here.

Spanish police fire at drowning migrants


This video says about itself:

8 Feb 2014

Video, recorded by a witness, contradicts official reports that the Spanish Civil Guard played no part in the drowning deaths of illegal immigrants attempting to cross into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.

Witnesses claim those in the water were intimidated and fired upon for 1/2 an hour with rubber bullets; at least 13 people reportedly drowned. The tragedy occurred as they attempted to reach a seawall that separates the territory from Morocco.

Of the thirteen reported missing, nine bodies have been recovered by the Moroccan authorities — eight men and one woman. Reports suggest that four died in a crush, and another four drowned, “just a few meters from the shore.”

Civil Guard sources said reports of rubber bullets being fired were “false,” although Moroccan and Spanish security forces used riot gear to repel the entry attempt.

So, that was five days ago.

Today, the claim by the Spanish Guardia Civil that they did not fire bullets at the swimming people has been officially admitted to be a lie.

From the Times of Malta:

Thursday, February 13, 2014, 16:52

Spanish police fire rubber bullets at migrants trying to swim to enclave

Spain said today that border police had fired rubber bullets in an attempt to turn back around 200 migrants who tried to cross the frontier between Morocco and Spain’s north African enclave Ceuta on Thursday last week.

At least 11 migrants from the group drowned in the Mediterranean trying to swim around a man-made breakwater that separates Moroccan and Spanish waters, a Spanish official said today.

Every year thousands of Africans try to reach Europe via Spain’s two north African enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, either by swimming along the coast or climbing the triple walls lined with razor wire that mark the border with Morocco.

Migrants who live rough in the mountains on the Moroccan side, waiting for an opportunity to rush the frontier, told Spanish media the police fired rubber bullets at them and sprayed them with tear gas as they tried to swim to land.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez told a parliamentary commission on Thursday that rubber bullets had been fired at a distance of at least 25 metres from the migrants while they were in the water. He did not mention use of tear gas.

Hundreds protested in central Madrid on Wednesday against the treatment of illegal migrants in Spain, bearing placards reading slogans such as: “Ceuta: the shame of Europe” and “South looted, North closed”.

The pressure on Ceuta and Melilla has increased as more migrants try to enter via a land frontier rather than by crossing the sea in rickety vessels, because border control at sea has increased.

Interior Minister Fernandez said the breakwater separating Spanish and Moroccan waters would be lengthened during to deter migrants trying to swim to Spanish territory.

Spanish authorities lie about African migrant drownings: here.

SPAIN said today that it will receive €10 million (£8.14m) from the European Union to prevent immigration in the Spanish north African territories of Ceuta and Melilla: here.

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