Bee on cornflower


This 18 July 2017 video shows a bee on a cornflower, in the Heemtuin garden in Hengelo in Overijssel province in the Netherlands.

Monique Loman made this video.

New sunfish species discovered


This video says about itself:

20 July 2017

A completely new species of Bali sunfish population in Indonesia.

But when I started my PhD doing population studies on Bali sunfish in Indonesia, I did not expect to discover a completely new species. What started as a side project turned into a four-year treasure hunt, flying thousands of miles to track the evidence with the help of dozens of people. As part of my PhD research, I analyzed more than 150 DNA samples of sunfish. Genetic sequencing revealed four distinct species: Masturus lanceolatus, Mola mola, Mola ramsayi and a fourth that did not fit any known species.

A new species had been hiding in sight for centuries, so we ended up calling it Mola tecta: the deceptive hatter. But back then, in 2013, we did not even know what they were like. All we had were skin samples containing the mysterious DNA. The next step was to try to figure out what these fish might look like. Superficially, all sunfish look the same ie slightly odd. Their bodies are flat and rigid except for their fins. They have no tail; And as they grow larger they usually develop odd punches on the head, chin and nose.

So I started looking for sunfish photos, especially on social networks, looking for something different. I also spent a lot of time establishing a network of people across Australia and New Zealand that could alert me every time a sunfish was found. I finally got a break in 2014. Observers from the fisheries in New Zealand and Australia sent me pictures of sunfish they found in the sea, usually just a fin in the water. But on one occasion they took a small fish on board to free it from a fishing line, and got a brilliant picture of it all along with a genetic sample. This fish had a small structure in its back fin which I had never seen in a sunfish before. Just when I wondered if this was a characteristic of the species, I hit the jackpot when four fish were stranded at one time on the same beach in New Zealand.

See also here.

From the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society:

Hiding in broad daylight: molecular and morphological data reveal a new ocean sunfish species (Tetraodontiformes: Molidae) that has eluded recognition

19 July 2017

Abstract

The taxonomy of the ocean sunfishes (Molidae) has a complicated history. Currently, three genera and four species are recognized, including two in the genus Mola (M. mola and M. ramsayi).

In 2009, a genetic study revealed a potential third species, Mola species C, in Southeast Australian waters. Concentrating on this region, we obtained samples and morphological data from 27 Mola sp. C specimens, genetically confirmed the existence of this species (mtDNA D-loop and cytochrome c oxidase 1), and established its morphology across a size spectrum of 50–242 cm total length. Mola sp. C is diagnosed by clavus meristics [15–17 fin rays (13–15 principal, 2 minor), 5–7 ossicles, paraxial ossicles separate], clavus morphology (prominent smooth band back-fold, rounded clavus edge with an indent), and body scale morphology (raised conical midpoints, non-branching).

This species does not develop a protruding snout, or swollen dorso- or ventrolateral ridges. Body proportions remain similar with growth. A review of the historic literature revealed that Mola sp. C is a new, hitherto undescribed species, M. tecta, which we describe and diagnose, and that it is the first proposed addition to the genus Mola in 125 years. Its core distribution is likely in the temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere.

Justice for London Grenfell Tower demanded


Some of the protesting Grenfell Tower survivors outside Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall in London, England

By Paul Mitchell in London, England:

Council condemned for “disgusting” treatment of Grenfell fire survivors

21 July 2017

Hundreds of protesters demanding justice for those killed in the Grenfell fire, including survivors, protested outside Kensington Town Hall Wednesday evening as representatives of the Kensington and Chelsea Council sat in full session for the first time since the June 14 inferno.

Protesters brought homemade banners with slogans including, “Justice for Grenfell—We Demand the Truth.” A large banner read, in reference to the Conservative-run council, “The Royal Murderers of Kensington and Chelsea” (the area is a royal borough).

A heavy police and security guard presence was mobilised outside and inside the council hall, part of moves by council officials to try to ensure that as few as possible would be able to enter and observe proceedings.

Last month, then Conservative council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown attempted to ban survivors, local residents and the media from attending the first meeting of the council to be held since the fire. Paget-Brown insisted that to allow the public entry would “likely result in disorder” and closed the meeting down within minutes.

The latest attempt to silence growing hostility to the council and police—who continued to drip-feed information about their “criminal investigation”—was opposed by protesters who demanded that more survivors be allowed in.

The public gallery of the council chamber was packed with about 70 survivors and an additional room was set aside for another 150 people from the local community. They spoke of the “disgusting” treatment being meted out to the “forgotten” survivors of the fire.

The meeting saw Elizabeth Campbell formally elected as council leader, following the resignation of Paget-Brown last month. Shouts of “Murderers,” “Shame on you” and “Resign” echoed from the public gallery as councillors raised their hands in support of her appointment. One survivor, Mahad Egal, described the inhumane treatment of survivors by the council since the fire and told Campbell, “You’ve let the dead down. Now you’re going to come for the living … step down and resign.”

Campbell could hardly be heard and had to stop several times as she declared, “We meet at a time of unimaginable grief and sorrow. The Grenfell fire is the biggest civilian disaster in this country for a generation. … I am truly sorry that we did not do more to help you when you needed it the most.”

These are crocodile tears. During her time as Cabinet Member for Family and Children’s Services (May 2013 to May 2017), Campbell oversaw a one-third cut in the department’s budget, which included the axing of after-school and holiday care for the most vulnerable children.

She employed similar insincere, scripted words following the disastrous cost-cutting exercise involving the outsourcing of school transport in 2014, declaring, “It is upsetting that so many have had cause for complaint. We are driving very hard to bring things up to the expected standard and nothing short of that will be acceptable.” She added, “I want to apologise to those service users who have been affected and hope they will recognise that our intentions are honourable.”

Due to the anger and outrage of residents at the council, Labour Party opposition leader Robert Atkinson put on a left face—repeating the call for commissioners to take over the running of the council, which the Labour Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad branded “not fit for purpose.”

Several motions proposed by councillors were due to be discussed, including a petition by more than 1,500 people for the entire leadership of Kensington and Chelsea Council to resign.

…..

Behind Campbell’s handwringing, the council’s contempt for the survivors of Grenfell and local residents is revealed in the fact that only a fifth of the survivors have been temporarily rehoused. Despite Campbell acknowledging that the council, located in the wealthiest area of London, has a spending reserve of £274 million, she said that just 400 social houses will be acquired or built in the borough in the next five years, the equivalent of 80 a year.

Campbell and the other Tory councillors refused to stand down and, under conditions of a local and national crisis, began an extended summer’s vacation with the full council not scheduled to meet again until October 25.

A number of survivors and other local residents were allowed to address the meeting.

An Iranian woman held up the key to her 10th floor Grenfell Tower flat as she declared, “I’m here to represent those who died innocently and they are powder now—the bodies’ powder. And those survivors who are burning inside themselves … nobody hears them and nobody listens to them.

“They say they understand us but the truth of the matter is they don’t. Every time I look at this key I ask, what is the difference between us human beings? Why do you judge people because of what they’ve got—their wealth? Why don’t you care about human beings right here?”

A woman who said her young niece had died in the fire explained that members of her family were unable to speak in public because “their pain is too huge” and that councillors should be “embarrassed” by their “totally inadequate” response.

She was backed up by several Grenfell residents who recounted the terrible treatment they have received since the fire. One said he had been consigned to a hotel room with just one double bed for him, his wife and three children. “I was forgotten about” by the authorities, he explained. “You know who’s done something for us? The residents of north Kensington. Our community. Our neighbours.”

Another said the way the fire victims’ families had been treated was “disgusting,” declaring, “We’ve been swept under the carpet.”

One man said the families of the deceased “are being treated like cattle.”

The ongoing trauma suffered by the local population was evident as the meeting ended abruptly due to a resident, who had just finished speaking, collapsing to the ground. According the Evening Standard, “A female companion said that she had collapsed multiple times since the fire.”

Anthony, North Kensington resident

From the World Socialist Web Site in London, England:

Protesters at Kensington and Chelsea council meeting: “This has been a massive crime and they all seem to be getting away with it”

By our reporters

21 July 2017

World Socialist Web Site reporters spoke to a number of those protesting outside the meeting.

Anthony, a local resident who knew several of those who perished in the fire, said that firefighters faced major obstacles that prevented a prompt response and which contributed to the fire getting out of control. He said, “The fire service got there in six minutes. It sounds good, six minutes, but when did they first deploy their hoses? When they got there, also, how many got there?

“What stage was the fire at? When they thought they had put the fire out, they couldn’t get to see the other side of the building was on fire. Why?

“The reason is because of the so-called Academy [school] that was built on the car park. That was the car park for Grenfell Tower. Also, it was the assembly point for the people of Grenfell Tower in case there ever was a fire. Basically they got a call about a fire and got there and realised a school is in the way. There’s all these delays that put them towards their deaths. There was only space for two fire engines in one small corner near the tower. Every second counts in a fire. Then there was also no [tall] ladder.

“When they got to the building did they go upstairs to reassure people that it’s safe and say, ‘We’re going to put the fire out?’ Or did they go on a mission to say ‘Let’s evacuate, let’s evacuate,’ knowing that there are no sprinklers, no adequate fire safety system, no evacuation procedure?”

Asked who he thought should be held responsible, Anthony said, “The TMO [Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation—who ran Grenfell Tower on behalf of management] is responsible and no one have been brought to book. Nobody has been arrested at all. This has been a massive crime and they all seem to be getting away with it. We have to make sure they don’t and we will make sure they don’t.”

A resident who managed to escape from Grenfell Tower said, “When we went into the council chambers they locked the door behind us to stop other people coming in. We’ve been in this tower block and a lot of people couldn’t escape and we are suffering trauma from this. And now they are locking us in this room!”

Alan, who lived on the 15th floor of Grenfell Tower, said, “We won’t give up. They need to admit what they have done and give up. We are going to continue doing this until we find the truth. We are going to beat them. We won’t stop. We are one voice and we need justice for people who lost their life.

“We didn’t have any voice in the council meeting. We are speaking here but nothing is happening. I don’t care about accommodation. What I care about is justice for people who lost their lives. I care about people who are going to die tomorrow in another town because of them. What is happening is so wrong.”

Alan said that he had tried to contact Labour Party mayor Sadiq Khan about the campaign for justice for the victims of the Grenfell fire but had received no response. He said “I sent email to Sadiq Khan three weeks ago and called him twice. I was cut off.”

Fire risk in most New Zealand high-rise buildings: here.

Dragonfly Week in Britain


This video from Britain says about itself:

Dragonfly Week 2017

2 July 2017

A look back at Dragonfly Week 2016 at WWT London Wetlands. This year it will be 15th-23rd July and the British Dragonfly Society will be there to offer expert info and advice. Take the Dragonfly Challenge while you’re there!

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Dragons in the sky, near you

Friday 21st July 2017

As it is national Dragonfly Week PETER FROST investigates these complex, intriguing and, at the same time, beautiful insects bequeathed to us by most distant prehistory

“I saw, once, an endless procession, just over an area of water-lilies, of small sapphire dragonflies, a continuous play of blue gauze over the snowy flowers above the sun-glassy water. It was all confined, in true dragonfly fashion, to one small space. It was a continuous turning and returning, an endless darting, poising, striking and hovering, so swift that it was often lost in sunlight.”

That was Northamptonshire born novelist HE Bates writing in 1937 — in his series of nature essays Down the River — in what have been described as endless summers as dark war clouds gathered over Europe.

Bates would become much better known for his wartime books such as Fair Stood the Wind for France and after the war for his Darling Buds of May novella and sequels that became the hugely popular TV series.

While ambling beside your favourite canal towpath, riverside walk or village pond there’s nothing like the colourful, iridescent flash of a dragonfly to tell you that summer is here.

This is national Dragonfly Week and this Sunday July 23 there is a special dragonfly event at the National Trust’s Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire. You can join experts to learn more about some of our most spectacular wildlife.

There are 57 recorded species of Odonata in Britain, made up of 21 damselflies and 36 dragonflies.

Damselflies are smaller and weaker flying relatives of dragonflies.

So what is the main difference between a dragon and a damsel? The most noticeable is that most dragonflies rest with their wings open while damselflies rest with their wings folded together over their body. Damselflies are also weak fliers and tend to stay close to water.

The loss of garden ponds, concreting over the countryside and intensive farming has already lost us at least three species in the last 45 years and more are under threat.

The insects are also extremely sensitive to the weather and find it difficult to adapt to climate change.

The National Trust is so concerned about the issue that in 2009 it opened the UK’s first Dragonfly Centre at Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire in order to create wetland habitats where rare species can be protected and studied.

Chris Packham — the often outspoken BBC Springwatch presenter — told us more species could be lost without action: “The loss of wetland habitat throughout the UK is having a massive impact on the long-term survival prospects for many dragonfly species.”

Adult dragonflies are amazing creatures with huge multifaceted compound eyes each made up of nearly 24,000 individual ommatidia or simple eyes.

They have two pairs of strong, transparent wings, sometimes with coloured patches, and an elongated often amazingly colourful and iridescent body. They are remarkably agile fliers.

Some of our native dragonflies are really large. In Britain some such as the Emperor and Brown Hawker reach a length of about 85mm (3.5in) and a wingspan of over 120 mm (5in).

Fossil evidence shows there were once dragonflies with wingspans up to about 750mm (30in). They first appeared between 250 and 300 million years ago and they have changed very little since then.

They are are fierce predators both in their aquatic larval stage — when they are known as nymphs or naiads — and as adults. Several years of their lives are spent as nymphs living in fresh water. The adults may be on the wing for just a few days or weeks.

They have a uniquely complex sex life involving indirect insemination, delayed fertilisation and sperm competition.

During mating, the male grasps the female at the back of the head or on the prothorax and the female curls her abdomen under her body to pick up sperm from the male’s secondary genitalia at the front of his abdomen.

Romantically the two curved bodies can form a heart shape while the actual coupling takes place.

Dragonflies are some of the swiftest flying insects, with hawker dragonflies recorded at a top speed of over 20 miles an hour. They also display high manoeuvrability with some species capable of hovering and even flying backwards.

With their giant complex eyes dragonflies live in a world highly influenced by sight. The shape of those eyes allows them to see ahead, behind and to the side all at once. They also have great colour vision, which enables them to spot each other.

As well as the main two large eyes, they have three more located on the top of their heads in a triangle formation. These are simpler and detect very little detail and are specifically attuned to light intensity.

This ability allows the three eyes to detect information to assist flight, such as altitude and orientation while completing complex flight patterns.

Rather than being designed for walking dragonfly’s legs are positioned to catch prey in mid-air. Once a meal is trapped, the dragonfly’s forward facing legs are capable of holding up the prey item to its mandibles.

They eat small flying insects such as flies and mosquitoes — as well as butterflies and even smaller fellow dragonflies.

Their aquatic larvae are voracious, hunting various invertebrates, as well as tadpoles and even small fish. They alter their colouration between moults to blend in with their surrounding environment which helps them to stay hidden away from predators and prey too.

Want to help our British dragonflies? Or just find out more about them? The British Dragonfly Society is the place to start.