Stop killing grouse in Scotland


This July 2016 video from Britain says about itself:

The Real Price of Grouse: An Introduction to Driven Grouse Shooting

Sign the petition to ban driven grouse shooting.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 13 August 2020:

Grouse shooting season must be the last in Scotland

THE driven grouse-shooting season which began yesterday must be the last in Scotland, the Scottish Greens have said.

The Victorian blood sport was the subject of a two-year review, but the recommendations appear to have been “watered down,” the party said.

Scottish Greens rural economy spokesperson John Finnie said: “Up to a fifth of Scotland is given up to this cruel hobby practised by a very small group of people.

“It tears up and burns our land, it kills all kinds of wildlife, yet the Werrity review couldn’t even recommend licensing.

“What’s worse, the Scottish government has dragged its heels since. It hasn’t responded to the review, and it hasn’t prevented the mass killing of mountain hares [for sport] either, despite Parliament and public calling for the species to be protected.”

Scotland’s land needs to be “freed up” for the economic and social benefit of all of its people, Mr Finnie said, and used in ways that contribute to a thriving rural economy and natural environment.

“It’s time for the Scottish government to get off the fence, come into the 21st century and end this cruel practice,” he added.

Long-tailed tits and mathematics, new research


This 15 April 2020 video says about itself:

This footage is recorded in Oxfordshire in England UK, in a bramble thicket. The nests are always about 1.0-1.5m from the ground and in a very prickly place like brambles, blackthorn or gorse.

These birds build a nest that is so intricate and painstaking that it takes much longer to construct than most birds’ nests and so they start very early in Spring, in March. It can take two or three weeks to finish. Several thousand feathers of other birds are used to line the nest.

The nest is made of lichens, moss and spider web threads. This makes it very strong and stretchy so that as the youngsters grow inside so the nest expands too. It needs to – they can have seven youngsters in the nest at once.

From the University of Sheffield in England:

Mathematical patterns developed by Alan Turing help researchers understand bird behavior

August 11, 2020

Scientists from the University of Sheffield have used mathematical modelling to understand why flocks of long-tailed tits segregate themselves into different parts of the landscape.

The team tracked the birds around Sheffield’s Rivelin Valley which eventually produced a pattern across the landscape, using maths helped the team to reveal the behaviours causing these patterns.

The findings, published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, show that flocks of long-tailed tits are less likely to avoid places where they have interacted with relatives and more likely to avoid larger flocks, whilst preferring the centre of woodland.

It was previously unknown why flocks of long-tailed tits live in separate parts of the same area, despite there being plenty of food to sustain multiple flocks and the birds not showing territorial behaviour.

The equations used to understand the birds are similar to those developed by Alan Turing to describe how animals get their spotted and striped patterns. Turing’s famous mathematics indicates if patterns will appear as an animal grows in the womb, here it’s used to find out which behaviours lead to the patterns across the landscape.

Territorial animals often live in segregated areas that they aggressively defend and stay close to their den. Before this study, these mathematical ideas had been used to understand the patterns made by territorial animals such as coyotes, meerkats and even human gangs. However, this study was the first to use the ideas on non-territorial animals with no den pinning them in place.

Natasha Ellison, PhD student at the University of Sheffield who led the study, said: “Mathematical models help us understand nature in an extraordinary amount of ways and our study is a fantastic example of this.”

“Long-tailed tits are too small to be fitted with GPS trackers like larger animals, so researchers follow these tiny birds on foot, listening for bird calls and identifying birds with binoculars. The fieldwork is extremely time consuming and without the help of these mathematical models these behaviours wouldn’t have been discovered.”

Brazilian poultry COVID-19 infected


This 1 June 2020 video says about itself:

Gravediggers in Brazil cannot keep up with Covid-19 deaths as virus spreads in favelas

An escalating death toll and soaring infection rates have made Brazil one of the most virus-affected countries in the world.

Its president Jair Bolsonaro was out and about yesterday without a mask, hugging supporters, despite the rising numbers.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Coronavirus has been found on a sample of chicken wings imported from Brazil, authorities in the Chinese city of Shenzhen report. Residents of the city are advised to exercise caution when purchasing frozen food products.

The virus was found on the meat. It was previously found by China on boxes of Ecuadorian frozen shrimp.

Some dinosaurs became birds, some didn’t


This March 2016 video from the American Museum of Natural History says about itself:

This spellbinding animation from the American Museum of Natural History’s exhibition “Dinosaurs Among Us” traces the evolutionary transition from dinosaurs to birds.

Based on recent scientific research that examines fossils using new technologies, the transformation story unfolds as low-polygonal silhouettes of dinosaurs morph from ground-dwelling animals into flight-capable birds.

The mass extinction that erased most dinosaurs 65 million years ago left a few bird lineages unscathed. Within only 15 million years all of our familiar bird groups were flourishing. These extraordinary living dinosaurs provide a vivid link to the ancient past.

The Museum’s exhibition, “Dinosaurs Among Us,” explored the continuities between living dinosaurs—birds—and their extinct ancestors, showcasing remarkable new evidence for what scientists now call one of the best-documented evolutionary transitions in the history of life.

The Museum gratefully acknowledges the Richard and Karen LeFrak Exhibition and Education Fund.

From The University of Hong Kong:

Most close relatives of birds neared the potential for powered flight but few crossed its thresholds

August 11, 2020

Uncertainties in the evolutionary tree of birds and their closest relatives have impeded deeper understanding of early flight in theropods, the group of dinosaurs that includes birds. To help address this, an international study led by HKU Research Assistant Professor Dr. Michael Pittman (Vertebrate Palaeontology Laboratory, Division of Earth and Planetary Science & Department of Earth Sciences) and co-first-authored by his former Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Rui Pei (now an Associate Professor at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Beijing), produced an updated evolutionary tree of early birds and their closest relatives to reconstruct powered flight potential, showing it evolved at least three times. Many ancestors of the closest bird relatives neared the thresholds of powered flight potential, suggesting broad experimentation with wing-assisted locomotion before flight evolved.

“Our revised evolutionary tree supports the traditional relationship of dromaeosaurid (“raptors“) and troodontid theropods as the closest relatives of birds. It also supports the status of the controversial anchiornithine theropods as the earliest birds,” said Dr. Pei. With this improved evolutionary tree, the team reconstructed the potential of bird-like theropods for power flight, using proxies borrowed from the study flight in living birds. The team found that the potential for powered flight evolved at least three times in theropods: once in birds and twice in dromaeosaurids. “The capability for gliding flight in some dromaeosaurids is well established so us finding at least two origins of powered flight potential among dromaeosaurids is really exciting,” said Dr. Pittman. Crucially, the team found that many ancestors of bird relatives neared the thresholds of powered flight potential. “This suggests that theropod dinosaurs broadly experimented with the use of their feathered wings before flight evolved, overturning the paradigm that this was limited to a much more exclusive club,” added Dr. Pittman.

This study is the latest in the Vertebrate Palaeontology Laboratory’s long-term research into the evolution of early birds and their closest relatives (see Notes). Asked about future plans, Dr. Pittman replied: “We have helped to better constrain the broader functional landscape of theropods just before flight evolved and in its earliest stages. We plan to now focus on the dromaeosaurids and early birds that we have shown to have the potential for powered flight to improve our understanding of what it took to fly and why.”

Conservatives make Britain sick man of Europe


This 13 August 2020 satiric musical video says about itself:

Boris JohnsonSimply the Worst

Boris Johnson‘s musical tribute to himself.

It is a parody of the song Simply the best, by Tina Turner.

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain, 13 August 2020:

The sick man of Europe

Britain falls into the worst recession since 1950s while holding record for most coronavirus related deaths in Europe

BRITAIN is in its worst recession for 65 years due to the Covid-19 crisis, while also holding the record for the most deaths in Europe during the pandemic, it was confirmed today.

Between April and June the economy contracted by a record 20.4 per cent, partly as a result of mis-timed lockdown measures put in place too late to slow the spread of the virus.

The quarterly drop is the worst since records began in 1955, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

It is the first recession in 11 years, after the global financial crisis of 2008-09, and follows a decade of damaging Tory-led austerity.

Britain’s slump is much deeper than those recorded by comparable G7 nations’ economies such as Germany, France, Italy and the United States.

Canada and Japan have yet to publish their second-quarter figures.

Economists have suggested that Britain’s downturn is more severe because Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed lockdown at a later stage in the pandemic than other countries.

By the time Mr Johnson announced the measure on March 23, Britain had a bigger first wave than would otherwise have been expected, and lockdown has had to go on for longer as a result.

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds has criticised the government’s decision to withdraw the Jobs Retention Scheme and business support from October as a “historic mistake” that will exacerbate the current jobs crisis.

Earlier this week it was revealed that 5.5 million people are claiming Universal Credit benefits.

On Tuesday the ONS labour-market overview revealed that the fall in employment between April and June has been the deepest for more than a decade.

There were 730,000 fewer people employed nationwide last month than in March, and a third of companies have indicated that they expect to make redundancies between now and September.

Ms Dodds said: “The Prime Minister will say there’s only so much he could do during a global pandemic, but that doesn’t explain why our economy is tanking so badly compared to other countries.

“It was his government that snatched away wage support for businesses that hadn’t even reopened yet. And his government that failed to get test, trace and isolate working, despite claiming it’s a ‘world-beating’ system.

“A downturn was inevitable after lockdown — but Johnson’s jobs crisis wasn’t. Now he must take responsibility, scrap the one-size-fits-all withdrawal of wage support and bring the health crisis properly under control.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the government “must do everything” to stop mass unemployment, adding that the best way to improve the economy is to keep people in work.

“That means extending the job retention scheme for companies that have a viable future but need support beyond October.

“And it means investing in the decent jobs we need for the future in green industries, social care and across the public sector,” Ms O’Grady said.

Rob Griffiths of the Communist Party of Britain said: “This hopeless government has underestimated the economic threat posed by Covid just as it began the crisis by underestimating the health threat.

“Workers and unions will need to fight for jobs across Britain on a scale not seen for many decades, while also demanding safe working conditions.”

Britain and Northern Ireland combined have the highest official coronavirus death toll in Europe with 46,706 deaths, though the number of excess deaths is even higher.

Big dinosaur age crocodile Deinosuchus


This July 2019 video says about itself:

Deinosuchus Animation Preview

Locomotion and behavioral extrapolations of large crocodilian, genotype Deinosuchus. Highly dangerous aquatic predator.

From ScienceDaily:

New study confirms the power of Deinosuchus and its ‘teeth the size of bananas’

August 10, 2020

A new study, revisiting fossil specimens from the enormous crocodylian, Deinosuchus, has confirmed that the beast had teeth “the size of bananas,” capable to take down even the very largest of dinosaurs.

And, it wasn’t alone!

The research, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, also reveals various kinds of “terror crocodile.” Two species, entitled Deinosuchus hatcheri and Deinosuchus riograndensis lived in the west of America, ranging from Montana to northern Mexico. Another, Deinosuchus schwimmeri, lived along the Atlantic coastal plain from New Jersey to Mississippi. At the time, North America was cut in half by a shallow sea extending from the Arctic Ocean south to the present-day Gulf of Mexico.

Ranging in up to 33 feet in length Deinosuchus, though, has been known to be one of the largest, if not the largest, crocodylian genera ever in existence. It was the largest predator in its ecosystem, outweighing even the largest predatory dinosaurs living alongside them between 75 and 82 million years ago.

From previous studies of cranial remains and bite marks on dinosaur fossil bones, paleontologists have long speculated that the massive beasts preyed on dinosaurs.

Now this new study, led by Dr Adam Cossette sheds new light on the monstrous creature and has further confirmed that it most certainly had the head size and crushing jaw strength to do just that.

“Deinosuchus was a giant that must have terrorized dinosaurs that came to the water’s edge to drink,” says Dr Cossette, from the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University. “Until now, the complete animal was unknown. These new specimens we’ve examined reveal a bizarre, monstrous predator with teeth the size of bananas.”

Co-author Stephanie Drumheller-Horton, a paleontologist at the University of Tennessee, added: “Deinosuchus seems to have been an opportunistic predator, and given that it was so enormous, almost everything in its habitat was on the menu.”

“We actually have multiple examples of bite marks made by D. riograndensis and a species newly described in this study, D. schwimmeri, on turtle shells and dinosaur bones.”

In spite of the genus’s name, which means “terror crocodile,” they were actually more closely related to alligators. Based on its enormous skull, it looked like neither an alligator nor a crocodile. Its snout was long and broad, but inflated at the front around the nose in a way not seen in any other crocodylian, living or extinct. The reason for its enlarged nose is unknown.

“It was a strange animal,” says Brochu. “It shows that crocodylians are not ‘living fossils’ that haven’t changed since the age of dinosaurs. They’ve evolved just as dynamically as any other group.”

Deinosuchus disappeared before the main mass extinction at the end of the age of dinosaurs (Meozoic). The reason for its extinction remains unknown. From here, the authors call for me studies to further understand Deinosuchus.

“It had two large holes are present at the tip of the snout in front of the nose,” Dr Cossette says.

“These holes are unique to Deinosuchus and we do not know what they were for, further research down the line will hopefully help us unpick this mystery and we can learn further about this incredible creature.”

Coronavirus disaster in Trump´s USA, Britain continues


This 12 June 2020 video about COVID’19 in the USA says about itself

Are We About to See Another Dangerous Spike?

NEW YORK’S NURSING HOME COVID-19 DEATH TOLL IS CLOAKED IN SECRECY New York’s coronavirus death toll in nursing homes, already among the highest in the nation, could actually be a significant undercount. Unlike every other state with major outbreaks, New York only counts residents who died on nursing home property and not those who were transported to hospitals and died there. That statistic that could add thousands to the state’s official care home death toll of just over 6,600. But so far the administration of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has refused to divulge the number, leading to speculation the state is manipulating the figures. [AP]

WILL AMERICA LET COVID-19 BECOME THE NEXT HIV? Over the last two months, coronavirus cases have surged in the most marginalized neighborhoods of the poorest states. Latinx people account for 18% of the population but 33% of infections. Black Americans are nearly twice as likely to die and three times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19. Prisoners, farmworkers and meatpackers — all of whom are disproportionately likely to be poor and minorities — have the highest infection rates. For many epidemiologists, this pattern has a tragic precursor: HIV. [HuffPost]

BIG 10 CANCELS FALL FOOTBALL SEASON The Big Ten presidents voted 12-2 to not play this fall, according to longtime sports personality Dan Patrick. Patrick said that the two schools in the league that voted to play football this fall were the University of Nebraska and the University of Iowa. “The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said. [HuffPost]

How the pandemic revealed Britain’s national illness.

How crickets help Japanese orchids


This 2013 video is called Orchid Flower – Tropical Orchidaceae. Taxonomy: Apostasioideae Subfamily.

From Kobe University in Japan:

An ancient association? Crickets disperse seeds of early-diverging orchid Apostasia nipponica

August 10, 2020

Associate Professor SUETSUGU Kenji (Kobe University Graduate School of Science) presents evidence of the apparently unusual seed dispersal system by crickets and camel crickets in Apostasia nipponica (Apostasioideae), acknowledged as an early-diverging lineage of Orchidaceae. These findings were published on August 11 in the online edition of Evolution Letters.

Seed dispersal is a key evolutionary process and a central theme in terrestrial plant ecology. Animal-mediated seed dispersal, most frequently by birds and mammals, benefits seed plants by ensuring efficient and directional transfer of seeds without relying on random abiotic factors such as wind and water. Seed dispersal by animals is generally a coevolved mutualistic relationship in which a plant surrounds its seeds with an edible, nutritious fruit as a good food for animals that consume it. Birds and mammals are the most important seed dispersers, but a wide variety of other animals, including turtles and fish, can transport viable seeds. However, the importance of seed dispersal by invertebrates has received comparatively little attention. Therefore, discoveries of uncommon mechanisms of seed dispersal by invertebrates such as wetas, beetles and slugs usually evoke public curiosity toward animal-plant mutualisms.

Unlike most plants, all of the >25,000 species of orchids are heterotrophic in their early life history stages, obtaining resources from fungi before the production of photosynthetic leaves. Orchid seeds, therefore, contain minimal energy reserves and are numerous and dust-like, which maximizes the chance of a successful encounter with fungi in the substrate. Despite considerable interest in the ways by which orchid flowers are pollinated, little attention has been paid to how their seeds are dispersed, owing to the dogma that wind dispersal is their predominant strategy. Orchid seeds are very small and extremely light, and are produced in large numbers. These seeds do not possess an endosperm but instead usually have large internal air spaces that allow them to float in the air column. In addition, orchid seeds are usually winged or filiform, evolved to be potentially carried by air currents. Furthermore, most orchid seeds have thin papery coats formed by a single layer of non-lignified dead cells. It has been thought that these fragile thin seed coats cannot withstand the digestive fluids of animals, in contrast to the thick seed coats in indehiscent fruits, which are considered an adaptation for endozoochory.

However, it is noteworthy that the subfamily Apostasioideae commonly has indehiscent fruits with hard, crustose black seed coats. Apostasioids are the earliest-diverging subfamily of orchids and consist of only two genera (Apostasia and Neuwiedia), with only ~20 species distributed in southeastern Asia, Japan, and northern Australia. All Apostasia and most Neuwiedia species investigated to date are known to possess berries with hard seed coats. Apostasioids are also well known for several unique traits, such as a non-resupinate flower with an actinomorphic perianth and pollen grains that do not form pollinia. These have been considered ancestral characteristics in orchids, given that they are similar to those found in the members of Hypoxidaceae (which is closely related to Orchidaceae) family. Similarly, the presence of an indehiscent fruit with a thick seed coat, found in most Apostasia and Neuwiedia species can be an ancestral trait in orchids.

Here Suetsugu has studied the Apostasia nipponica (Apostasioideae) seed dispersal system in the forest understory of the warm-temperate forests on Yakushima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. Consequently, Suetsugu presents the evidence for seed dispersal by crickets and camel crickets in A. nipponica. Similar results were obtained in different years, indicating that this interaction is likely stable, at least in the investigated site. It probably constitutes a mutualism, wherein both partners benefit from the association — orthopteran visitors obtain nutrients from the pulp and A. nipponica achieves dispersal of seeds from the parent plants. The seeds of A. nipponica are coated with lignified tissue that likely protects the seeds as they pass through the digestive tract of crickets and camel crickets. Although neither the cricket nor camel cricket can fly, they potentially transport the seeds long distances owing to their remarkable jumping abilities. Despite the traditional view that the minute, dust-like, and wind-dispersed orchid seeds can travel long distances, both genetic and experimental research has indicated that orchids have limited dispersal ability; orchid seeds often fall close to the maternal plant (within a few meters), particularly in understory species. Given that A. nipponica fruits are produced close to the ground in dark understory environments where the wind speed is low, seed dispersal by crickets is probably a successful strategy for this orchid.

Orchid seeds lack a definitive fossil record due to their extremely minute size. Therefore, the interaction described here provides some important clues as to the animals that may have participated in the seed dispersal of the ancestors of orchids. Given that the origin of crickets and camel crickets precedes the evolution of orchids, they are among the candidates for seed dispersers of the ancestors of extant orchids. Owing to many plesiomorphic characteristics and the earliest-diverging phylogenetic position, members of Apostasioideae have been extensively studied to understand their floral structure, taxonomy, biogeography, and genome. However, there is still a lack of information regarding seed dispersal in the subfamily. Therefore, Suetsugu has documented the animal-mediated seed dispersal of Apostasioideae members for the first time. Whether seed dispersal by animals (and particularly by orthopteran fruit feeders) is common in these orchids warrants further investigation. It is possible that this method of dispersal is an ancestral trait in Apostasioideae, given that indehiscent fruits with a hard seed coat are common within the clade. Further research, such as an ancestral character-state reconstruction analysis of more data on the seed dispersal systems of other apostasioids, can provide deeper insights into the early evolution of the seed dispersal system in Orchidaceae.

COVID-19 kills singer Trini Lopez


This music video from the USA is called Trini Lopez – If I Had A Hammer (1963) – HD.

The lyrics are:

If I had a hammer
I’d hammer in the morning
I’d hammer in the evening
All over this land

I’d hammer out danger
I’d hammer out a warning
I’d hammer about the love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

Ooh, ooh ooh
Ooh, ooh ooh
Ooh, ooh

If I had a bell
I’d ring it in the morning
I’d ring it in the evening
All over this land

I’d ring out danger
I’d ring out a warning
I’d ring about the love between my brothers and my sisters
All, all over this land

Ooh, ooh ooh
Ooh, ooh ooh
Ooh, ooh

If I had a song
I’d sing it in the morning
I’d sing it in the evening
All over this land

I’d sing out danger
I’d sing out a warning, yeah
I’d sing out about the love between my brothers and my sisters
All, all over this land

Ooh, ooh ooh
Ooh, ooh

Now, I’ve got a hammer
And I’ve got a bell
And I’ve got a song to sing
All over this land

It’s the hammer of justice
It’s the bell of freedom, yeah
It’s the song about the love between my brothers and my sisters
All, all over this land

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

All over this land
Ooh, all over this land
Hee, all over this land, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

All over this land
Hee, all over this land

The song was written in 1949 by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays to support progressive movements in the USA.

It was sung a lot during 1960s demonstrations for civil rights and against the Vietnam war.

Today, Dutch NOS TV reports (translated):

In a hospital in California, the US American singer and guitarist Trini Lopez (83) has died. Lopez, the son of Mexican migrants, had his greatest successes in the 1960s with If I Had a Hammer, Lemon Tree and La Bamba.

According to his business partner, musician Joe Chavira, Lopez died of Covid-19 in a hospital in Palm Springs, California. Chavira says he had just recorded a song with Lopez intended to raise money for food banks, where people affected by the corona crisis can go to.

Lopez, the son of Mexican migrants, grew up in Dallas, Texas. His family was short on money, so Lopez was unable to finish high school. His life changed when his father gave him a second-hand guitar and taught him to play it.

Pink catfish discovered in Venezuelan cave


This 10 August 2020 video from Venezuela says about itself:

Pink Catfish Discovered In Mountain Cave | The Dark: Nature’s Nighttime World | BBC Earth

This tiny pink catfish is a welcome surprise for the team. It has never seen daylight or an ocean. The crew inspect it closely and document their discovery.