Breeding Biology of Squacco Herons (Ardeola ralloides) in Northern Tunisia


Originally posted on North African Birds:

Nefla, A., Tlili, W., Ouni, R., & Nouira, S. (2014). Breeding Biology of Squacco Herons (Ardeola ralloides) in Northern Tunisia. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology126 (2): 393–401.  doi:10.1676/13-130.1

Abstract:

We studied the reproduction patterns of Squacco Herons, Ardeola ralloides, during 2009–2010. This study was carried out in two colonies located at Ichkeul National Park (37.184992 N, 9.633758 E) and Lebna Dam (36.744161 N, 10.916569 E), in northern Tunisia. We determined the reproductive performance of the species, and investigated the relationship between reproductive parameters and nest characteristics (height and diameter). We registered successful nesting, with mean clutch size of 4.51 ± 0.85 for both years combined. Hatching success was 3.67 ± 1.07 eggs hatched/nest and fledging success reached 3.06 ± 1.28 young/nest. All reproductive parameters varied between years. The diameter and the height of nest had no effect on the clutch size, the initial brood size, or the final…

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Tunisian cultural workers protesting


This video is called El Jem, Tunisia – Roman Archaeology.

From the World Socialist Web Site:

Tunisian cultural workers protest

Cultural workers in Tunisia began a three-day strike on July 9, impacting festivals and similar events. One expected to be affected is the International Festival of [Carthage], which is the largest in the country and takes place from [July] 10 to August 16.

The workers had held a three-day strike in June. They are also calling for an investigation into corruption in the National Institute of Heritage for the publication of financial and administrative data relating to the national library service. In addition, they are opposing plans to privatize some Tunisian archaeological sites and museums.

Saudi Arabia jails human rights activist for 15 years


This video says about itself:

6 February 2013

The Olof Palme Prize 2012 is awarded to Radhia Nasraoui and Waleed Sami Abu al-Khair

Radhia Nasraoui, human rights defender and lawyer, is awarded the 2012 Olof Palme Prize, for her untiring work against torture and impunity for more than three decades. As a concerned and patriotic citizen, she has under severe pressure defended human rights in her country [Tunisia] and challenged authorities under the motto “We must use our voices. Not saying anything makes us accomplices of the oppression”.

Waleed Sami Abu al-Khair receives the 2012 Olof Palme Prize for his strong, self-sacrificing and sustained struggle to promote respect for human and civil rights for both men and women in Saudi Arabia. Together with like-minded citizens and colleagues, Waleed Sam Abu AlKhair does so with the noble goal of contributing to a just and modern society in his country and region.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Saudi Arabia jails prominent human rights activist for 15 years

Waleed abu al-Khair was imprisoned on charges that included seeking to undermine the state and insulting the judiciary

Antonia Molloy

Prominent Saudi human rights lawyer Waleed abu al-Khair has been sentenced by a Jeddah court to 15 years in prison for crimes including “inciting public opinion”.

Abu al-Khair, the founder and director of an organization named the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, was jailed on Sunday on charges that included seeking to undermine the state and insulting the judiciary, the state news agency reported.

He had been on trial on sedition charges that included breaking allegiance to King Abdullah, showing disrespect for authorities, creating an unauthorized association and inciting public opinion.

The rights activist was also fined 200,000 Saudi riyals (£31,100), banned from travelling outside the kingdom for another 15 years and had all his websites closed down, the SPA said.

Abu al-Khair was critical of a new anti-terrorism law passed by Saudi Arabia at the start of the year which was widely condemned by rights activists as a tool to stifle dissent.

The anti-terrorism law states that terrorist crimes include any act that “disturbs public order, shakes the security of society, or subjects its national unity to danger, or obstructs the primary system of rule or harms the reputation of the state”.

In the past year Saudi authorities have been criticised by international rights groups for jailing several prominent activists on charges ranging from setting up an illegal organisation to damaging the reputation of the country.

In May a client of Abu al-Khair was sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes after being arrested in June 2012 on charges of cyber-crime and disobeying his father.

Raif Badawi was the editor of the Free Saudi Liberals website, which included articles that were critical of senior religious figures such as Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti and allegedly insulted Islam and religious authorities, according to Human Rights Watch.

Abu al-Khair was unable to represent Badawi in an appeal because he was also in jail at the time, awaiting his trial in the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom.

Songbirds and pollution in Tunisia


This video is called Birds from Tunisia. White-crowned Wheatear and House Bunting.

From North African Birds blog:

Passerine abundance and diversity in a polluted oasis habitat in south-eastern Tunisia

Posted on 27/05/2014

Alaya-Ltifi, L., & Selmi, S. (2014). Passerine abundance and diversity in a polluted oasis habitat in south-eastern Tunisia. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 60: 535–541. doi:10.1007/s10344-014-0817-0

Abstract:

Gabès region, in south-eastern Tunisia, is nowadays considered as one of the most remarkable pollution hotspots in the Mediterranean due to the emissions of the Gabès-Ghannouche factory complex of phosphate treatment. However, because of the lack of detailed studies, the impact of such pollution on the terrestrial wildlife inhabiting this area still remains unknown.

In this work, we checked whether the proximity to Gabès-Ghannouche factory complex was associated with a decreased abundance of passerines breeding in the neighbouring oasis habitat. Overall, passerine abundance was found to decrease in the proximity of the factory complex, but this decrease was more pronounced in insectivorous species than in granivorous ones. The latter species seemed to be more dependent on vegetation structure. Moreover, we found that in the sites close to the factory complex, the studied passerine community was dominated by the Sparrow Passer domesticus × hispaniolensis, which seemed to be the less sensitive species to pollution.

However, in the more distant sites, passerine abundance was more equitably distributed among species due to the increase in the densities of pollution-sensitive ones. Our findings give support to those reported in polluted European forest habitats and stress once again the usefulness of passerines as reliable biomonitors of polluted terrestrial environments.

Distribution and abundance of Greater Flamingos wintering in the central part of the gulf of Gabès, Tunisia: here.

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Storm petrels nesting in Tunisia?


This video says about itself:

10 Sep 2012

Video from the EU Life+ Malta Seabird Project of a Mediterranean Storm Petrel chick being visited on its nest by one of its parents.

From North African Birds blog:

February 16, 2014 by

Ouni, R., Durand, J.-P., Mayol Serra, J., Essetti, I., Thevenet, M., & Renou, S. (2012). Nidification possible de l’Océanite tempête Hydrobates pelagicus à l’île Zembra, Tunisie. Alauda 80(4): 301–304.   PDF

Abstract:

Possible breeding of European Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus at Zembra Island, Tunisia.

After investigations over five years, the first record of 6 individuals in late June 2012 suggests the possibility that this species breeds on Zembra and Zembretta archipelago in Tunisia.
Related papers:

Bourgeois, K., Ouni, R., Pascal, M., Dromzée, S., Fourcy, D., & Abiadh, A. (2013). Dramatic increase in the Zembretta Yelkouan shearwater breeding population following ship rat eradication spurs interest in managing a 1500-year old invasionBiological Invasions 15(3) : 475-482.

Revealing the steep decline of European Storm Petrels at western Scotland’s largest colony: here.

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Tunisian herons nesting, new research


This video says about itself:

Black Crowned Night Herons – Nycticorax nycticorax

REGUA Brazil, September 2011. Juvenile bird followed by adults. A couple of Snowy Egrets as well.

From North African Birds blog:

February 15, 2014 by North African Birds

Ouni, R., Nefla, A., El Hili, A., & Nouira, S. (2011). Les populations d’Ardéidés nicheurs en Tunisie. Alauda, 79 (2): 157–166. PDF

Abstract:

The breeding Ardeidae species of Tunisia.

Nine Ardeidae species breed in Tunisia. About 2,500-3,000 breeding pairs breed each year and more than 12,000 individuals winter. The breeding population includes 8 regular species: Grey Heron Ardea cinerea, Purple Heron Ardea purpurea, Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax, Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides, Little Egret Egretta garzetta, Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus and Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris (for the latter species, breeding is certain but no nest has been found). The Western Reef Egret Egretta gularis is a casual breeder. The Great Egret Casmerodius albus is present all the year round but no nesting has been found.

Thanks to Ridha Ouni for the article.

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Tunisian fossil primate discovery


This video from the USA says about itself:

NOVA scienceNOW: 41 – First Primates.

From ScienceDaily:

Fossil Primate Shakes Up History of Tooth-Combed Primates

Dec. 11, 2013 — Fossils discovered in Tunisia challenge several hypotheses concerning the origin of tooth-combed primates (Malagasy lemurs, Afro-Asian lorises and African galagos). The fossils are of a small primate called Djebelemur, which lived around 50 million years ago. They were discovered by a French-Tunisian team from the Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution in Montpellier (CNRS/Université Montpellier 2/IRD) and the Office National des Mines (ONM) in Tunis.

According to the paleontologists, Djebelemur was probably a transitional form leading to the appearance of tooth-combed primates. However, according to genetic data, these primates appeared at least 15 million years earlier. Djebelemur therefore challenges the hypotheses put forward by molecular biology. The work, which has just been published in PLoS One, makes it possible to reconstruct a chapter in the evolutionary history of this lineage. In addition, it may help to refine genetic models.

Tooth-combed primates, also called strepsirrhines, comprise lemurs and lorisiforms (small primates which include lorises and galagos). In these primates, the anterior teeth of the lower jaw take the form of a comb. This is mainly used for grooming, but also, in some species, for procuring the natural gums that make up part of their diet.

A key question debated by primatologists concerns the time when strepsirrhine primates first appeared. Recent genetic data dates the origin of lemurs and lorises to the onset of the Tertiary period, just after the disappearance of the dinosaurs (approximately 65 million years ago). Some molecular biologists even believe that divergence of the two groups occurred 80 million years ago. However, paleontological data does not corroborate these hypotheses: the oldest known lorisiform fossil dates from a mere 37 million years ago. Could this simply be due to a gap in the fossil record? The fossils discovered by the Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution in Montpellier (CNRS/Université Montpellier 2/IRD) and the ONM in Tunis suggest otherwise: it is the genetic models that may need to be revised.

Discovered in the sediments of a former lake in Djebel Chambi National Park, Tunisia, the approximately 50 million-year-old fossils belong to a small primate called Djebelemur (lemur of the Djebel). This was a tiny animal weighing scarcely 70 g. It was most certainly nocturnal, a predator of insects and a tree-dweller. Some of its morphological characteristics suggest that it was a distant relative of lemurs, galagos and lorises. However, although it did not yet have such a specialized toothcomb, it exhibited a tooth structure that had already been transformed, an early stage of the anterior dentition of today’s strepsirrhines.

Djebelemur thus appears to be a transitional form, pre-dating the lorisiform-lemuriform divergence. Therefore, tooth-combed primates probably did not originate as early as molecular biologists have claimed. This is likely to have occurred less than 50 million years ago, the age of the Djebelemur fossil.

This is not the first time that genetic data disagrees with paleontological data. For many groups of mammals, geneticists tend to put forward earlier dates of origin than those provided by direct observation of the fossil record. Molecular biology increasingly seeks to refine its models by constraining them with fossil data. In the case of the origin of tooth-combed primates, Djebelemur could prove to be a significant milestone making it possible to reset the molecular clock and improve estimates of divergence dates derived from molecular phylogenies.