Two new flying lemur species discovered

This video is called Flying lemurs mating in the forests of Borneo.

From LiveScience:

Two New ‘Flying Lemur‘ Species Identified

By Jeanna Bryner, Senior Writer

posted: 10 November 2008 12:00 pm ET

They aren’t monkeys and they don’t really fly, but the story of flying lemurs just got twice as interesting. Genetic material has revealed that one species of the acrobatic primate is really three.

Called colugos, flying lemurs aren’t even really lemurs, but they are excellent gliders. A membrane of skin transforms its body into a flat parachute and allows colugos to soar over long distances of up to 450 feet (136 meters) from treetop to treetop. These mammals are the closest living relatives to primates (humans are primates too), having diverged from that group about 86 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous.

Before now, scientists recognized just two colugo species, the Sunda colugo (Galeopterus variegatus) and the Philippine colugo (Cynocephalus volans).

The Sunda colugo lives only in Indochina and Sundaland, an area of Asia that includes the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra and Java, as well many smaller islands.

The researchers analyzed genetic material from Sunda colugos living on the Malay Peninsula (considered the mainland), Borneo and Java. The genetic differences were great enough to suggest the colugos living on each island had evolved into distinct species.

The finding is detailed in the Nov. 11 issue of the journal Current Biology.

The split between the species could have occurred as far back as 4 million to 5 million years ago, the researchers say. During this time, rising sea level may have prevented travel between the mainland and the islands, at least for the colugos.

Even if sea level had dropped to expose land connections, the forested region had likely changed to open, marshy land. And while colugos make savvy tree jumpers, their locomotive skills drop to zilch on the ground. (Colugos can crawl slowly on the ground, but typically just do this as a means to get vertical in a tree.)

“Because there were no large trees established in those low-lying areas, most likely the colugos populations could not connect again, because there wasn’t a forest cover between them,” lead researcher Jan Janecka of Texas A&M University told LiveScience.

He added, “The colugos most likely track the sea-level fluctuations, but also the fluctuation in the forest communities.”

The now-distinct species of colugo also look slightly different. For instance, the colugos on Borneo are smaller than their Javan and mainland counterparts. And the Borneo colugos also have a wider variation than their relatives in fur color, including some with spots and others with really dark coloring.

See also here.


Crown-of-thorns starfish actually four species

This video is called Crown of Thorns Starfish of Sulawesi.

From Practical Fishkeeping:

A study published in the latest issue of the journal Biology Letters has identified the crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci), a species thought to be widely distributed throughout the Indo-Pacific, to consist of a species complex with as many as four species.

Catherine Vogler and coworkers used sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I gene from crown-of-thorns starfish samples covering its entire distribution to demonstrate that the species consists of four deeply diverged clades (from the Red Sea, Pacific Ocean, northern Indian Ocean and southern Indian Ocean respectively).

There are conservation implications to this discovery.

The outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns starfish in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea do not appear to be as massive and widespread as in the Pacific, suggesting that outbreak patterns might vary between the different sibling species.

Researchers have sequenced and decoded for the first time the genome of the crown-of-thorns starfish, paving the way for the biocontrol of this invasive predator responsible for the destruction of coral reefs across Indo-Pacific oceans: here.

New marine biology discoveries

This video is called Philippine Marine Life.

From LiveScience:

Incredible Deep-Sea Discoveries Announced

By LiveScience Staff

posted: 09 November 2008 01:06 pm ET

An astounding batch of new deep-sea discoveries, from strange shark behavior to gigantic bacteria, was announced today by an international group of 2,000 scientists from 82 nations.

The Census of Marine Life is a 10-year project to determine what’s down there. Among the new findings:

A large proportion of deep sea octopus species worldwide evolved from common ancestor species that still exist in the Southern Ocean. Octopuses started migrating to new ocean basins more than 30 million years ago when, as Antarctica cooled and a large icesheet grew, nature created a “thermohaline expressway,” a northbound flow of tasty frigid water with high salt and oxygen content. Isolated in new habitat conditions, many different species evolved; some octopuses, for example, losing their defensive ink sacs — pointless at perpetually dark depths.

The finding will be reported Nov. 11 in the journal Cladistics.

Scientists also discovered what they’re calling a White Shark Café: Satellite tags revealed a previously unknown behavior of white sharks traveling long distances each winter to concentrate in the Pacific for up to six months. During these months, both males and females make frequent, repetitive dives to depths of 300 yards, which researchers theorize may be significant in either feeding or reproduction.

In the eastern South Pacific, researchers found a diverse set of giant, filamentous, multi-cellular marine bacteria. They may be “living fossils” that developed in the earliest ocean when oxygen was either absent or much diminished, living on the toxic gas hydrogen sulfide, the scientists said.

Another survey found frequent examples of gigantism common in Antarctic waters. The researchers collected huge scaly worms, giant crustaceans, starfish and sea spiders as big as dinner plates.

Among the other discoveries that will be revealed at a meeting this week in Spain:

* The first record of abundant and diverse comb jellies under Arctic pack ice .
* Surprising richness of species in many deep-sea locations, including the Celebes Sea in the southern Philippines and several deep canyons.
* At least 85 new species of zooplankton, small drifting and swimming marine animals.

Scientists estimate there are at least 1 million species of marine organisms on Earth. But as of now, only about 230,000 are known.

This is the fourth report from the Census of Marine Life since the project began in 2000. A final report will be issued in 2010.

Researchers say a marine ragworm has brain structures that are directly related to the human brain: here.

Keiko, Nessie, and giant squids: a collection of stories on animals from the deep: here.

Miriam Makeba dies in concert

This is a music video of Miriam Makeba‘s anti apartheid song Ndodemnyama (Beware, Verwoerd!).

More Miriam Makeba videos: here.

From the BBC:

Singer Miriam Makeba dies aged 76

Miriam Makeba was a leading symbol in the struggle against apartheid

South African singing legend Miriam Makeba has died aged 76, after being taken ill in Italy.

She had just taken part in a concert near the southern town of Caserta, the Ansa news agency reported.

The concert was on behalf of Roberto Saviano, the author of an expose of the Camorra mafia whose life has subsequently been threatened.

Ms Makeba appeared on Paul Simon’s Graceland tour in 1987 and in 1992 had a leading role in the film Sarafina!

Ansa said she died of a heart attack.

‘Mama Africa’

Ms Makeba was born in Johannesburg on 4 March 1932 and was a leading symbol in the struggle against apartheid.

Her singing career started in the 1950s as she mixed jazz with traditional South African songs.

She came to international attention in 1959 during a tour of the United States with the South African group the Manhattan Brothers.

She was forced into exile soon after when her passport was revoked after starring in an anti-apartheid documentary and did not return to her native country until Nelson Mandela was released from prison.

Makeba was the first black African woman to win a Grammy Award, which she shared with Harry Belafonte in 1965.

She was African music’s first world star, says the BBC’s Richard Hamilton, blending different styles long before the phrase “world music” was coined.

After her divorce from fellow South African musician Hugh Masekela she married American civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael.

It was while living in exile in the US that she released her most famous songs, Pata Pata and the Click Song.

“You sing about those things that surround you,” she said. “Our surrounding has always been that of suffering from apartheid and the racism that exists in our country. So our music has to be affected by all that.”

It was because of this dedication to her home continent that Miriam Makeba became known as Mama Africa.

See also here.

Mary Lou Williams, US jazz pianist: here.

Anita O’Day, US jazz singer: here.

Martin Russell: Anti-apartheid activist and painter: here.

SOUTH Africa’s communists celebrated on Wednesday after a high court dismissed an application for parole by the killer of former SACP general secretary Chris Hani: here.

African politicians on communism: here.

Harry Belafonte: here. And here.

My Song: A Memoir Of Art, Race And Defiance
by Harry Belafonte with Michael Schnayerson (Canongate, £14.99); review here.