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.

Tunisian women’s forced prostitution in Syria


This video says about itself:

28 March 2013

The Tunisian Minister of Religious Affairs has rejected a so-called ‘sexual fatwa’ that calls on young Muslim girls to show their support for Syrian Islamist fighters by providing them with sexual services.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Saturday 17 Aug 2013, 10:10

Hundreds of women, particularly from North Africa and the Middle East, are in the “sex jihad” in Syria. They are often lured under false pretenses to the country to provide sexual services to the fighters.

Correspondent Frank Renout spoke with a Tunisian lawyer, much of whose work is about jihadists. During his work he found out about Tunisian women who went to Syria. According to the lawyer, they were mainly recruited in mosques where the women were told that supposedly a bright future awaited them.

“For example, people tell them they will find a bridegroom in Syria. And that, for some Muslim women, is a ‘ticket to heaven'” says Renout. “If they marry a Muslim warrior who dies during the jihad, then not just he is supposed to go to heaven, but they also get a license to go to heaven.”

Enforced sex

Upon arrival in Syria, it often turns out it is just about sex. In some cases it is enforced sex. Women who returned to Tunisia were sometimes pregnant and told about rape, the lawyer said.

Also families knocked at the lawyer’s door who had lost their daughters. Who proved often to also have been recruited and who are in Syria now.

Dutch 15-year-old girl stopped from going to Syria: here.

Syria: Chechen Fighter In Aleppo – “North Caucasus Women Shouldn’t Come Here To Marry Jihadis”: here.

Syria chemical warfare claims aim to provoke Western intervention: here.

Anti-bird killing conference in Tunisia


This video is called Bird crime on Malta: Spring hunting season 2013, Montagu’s harrier shot down, CABS Bird Guards.

From BirdLife:

European experts on illegal killing of birds draft action plan in Tunis

At the end of May bird conservation experts met in Tunis at the Week on Conservation of Birds to identify ways forward to tackle illegal killing of birds. During the event, BirdLife Europe Partners shared best practices on key issues, such as bird poisoning, law enforcement measures and awareness strategies. The focus of the conference, organised by CMS and the Council of Europe, was to identify specific actions and priorities to work on, with the goal of ensuring the recovery of especially migratory birds protected by the CMS and Bern Convention.

Attendants reinforced their position on minimizing migratory bird poisoning, considered as “the one cause that probably has the highest conservation impact”, as Willem Van den Bossche, Nature Conservation Officer at BirdLife Europe stated at the meeting.

On the same subject, SEO (BirdLife in Spain) presented the outcomes of the LIFE+ project VENENO, which is bringing governmental authorities, environmental police and NGOs together. The project aims to fight against poisoned baits, identified as one of the main reasons behind migratory bird deaths, together with rodenticides, lead, veterinary drugs and insecticides.

The participants at the Week on Conservation of Birds prepared a draft action plan to reduce the illegal killing of birds. “When approved and linked to the EU roadmap towards eliminating illegal killing, trapping and trade of wild birds this will be a good tool to measure progress and results of the actions and to strengthen cooperation between stakeholders within the whole flyway of migratory birds”, says Willem Van den Bossche. In that sense, the Bern Convention, a treaty which recognises that European wildlife and habitats need to be preserved and handed on to future generations, is seen as “an opportunity for North African countries which are parties to the Convention to cooperate and protect important bird areas for migrating birds by including them in the Emerald Network, a network similar to Natura 2000 but outside the EU for protecting nature sites”, stresses Claudia Feltrup-Azafzaf, Executive Director at Association “Les Amis des Oiseaux” (AAO) – BirdLife in Tunisia.

At the conference BirdLife Cyprus explained its experience on taking cases into courts to prove that mistnets and limesticks are threatening many migrant birds travelling through the island, and insisted on promoting institutional collaboration and pushing law enforcement to address the issue. Another example was provided by BirdLife Malta. In Malta the law enforcement of illegal trapping and killing of protected birds still needs to be enhanced.

Effects of windfarms and powerlines on migratory birds were also analysed during the meeting. The research info and guidelines that will be produced in the follow-up of this conference will be extremely useful to ensure the zero tolerance approach to illegal killing all parties agree on.

‘Tunisian murder suspects escaped to Libya’


This video from Tunisia is about the many people at the funeral of murdered Leftist politician Chokri Belaid.

From Tunis Afrique Presse (Tunis):

Libya: ‘Two Suspects in Chokri Belaid’s Assassination Escaped to Libya’ – PPDU S-G

17 April 2013

Tunis — “Two suspects involved in the assassination of Chokri Belaid are now in Beni Walid (Libya)”, Secretary-General of the Unified Patriotic Democratic Party (PPDU) Zied Lakhdhar told TAP.

During the sit-in staged each Wednesday outside the Ministry of the Interior to claim truth about the assassination of Chokri Belaid, the Secretary-General of PPDU said “former Minister of the Interior Ali Larayedh and Tunisia’s Ambassador to Libya would be involved in the escape of the two suspects”.

Tunisian dinosaur age mammal tracks discovery


This video from the USA says about itself:

During Demise Of Dinosaurs, Early Mammals Had Reason To Smile

Although humans never walked with dinosaurs, some of our earliest ancestors seem to have done so. Dr. Gregory P. Wilson, an Adjunct Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology and Assistant Professor of Biology at the Burke Museum of the University of Washington, is the lead author of a study that was published in Nature, titled Adaptive Radiation of Multituberculate Mammals Before the Extinction of Dinosaurs. Wilson’s findings challenge a long-held notion that the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) extinction event was the launchpad for mammalian evolution into a diverse and proliferative group.

From Cretaceous Research:

First report of mammal-like tracks from the Cretaceous of North Africa (Tunisia)

Michela Contessi

Abstract

This paper describes Cretaceous mammal-like tracks from southern Tunisia. The tracks, referred to the Cenomanian Kerker Member of the Zebbag Formation, are the first mammal-like footprints reported from the Cretaceous of North Africa. The good preservation of the two tracks and their distinctive morphology support their attribution to a mammalian trackmaker, although the limited available data prevents attribution to a specific ichnotaxon. Morphologically, the Tunisian tracks resemble those of modern Mustelidae, however, based on mammalian faunas in the Cretaceous of Africa, they probably have affinity with members of Multituberculate family. Theropod dinosaur and bird tracks occur on the same track-bearing layer. The sediments are interpreted as an arid tidal flat environment, suggesting that African mammals might have shared their environment with a diverse fauna of larger animals.

Highlights

► Two mammal-like tracks from the Cenomanian of North Africa are described here. ► Footprints described here represent the oldest evidence of mammals in Tunisia. ► Available data suggest affinities of the trackmaker with a multituberculate mammal.