Reptilian and amphibian communal nests

This video from Canada is called Long Point Basin Land Trust – Help Reptiles – Build a Nesting Box.

From ScienceDaily:

Why Solitary Reptiles Lay Eggs In Communal Nests

(Sep. 2, 2009) — Reptiles are not known to be the most social of creatures. But when it comes to laying eggs, female reptiles can be remarkably communal, often laying their eggs in the nests of other females. New research in the September issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology suggests that this curiously out-of-character behavior is far more common in reptiles than was previously thought.

Dr. J. Sean Doody (The Australian National University) and colleagues, Drs. Steve Freedberg and J. Scott Keogh, performed an exhaustive review of literature on reptile egg-laying. They found that communal nesting has been reported in 255 lizard species as well as many species of snakes and alligators. The behavior was also documented in 136 amphibian species.

Common lizards in the Netherlands: here.


US troops accused of Afghan hospital rampage

This video from ITN in Britain is called Afghan officials accuse NATO of killing civilians in strike; see also here.

From British daily The Morning Star:

US troops accused of hospital rampage

Monday 07 September 2009

A Swedish charity accused US troops on Monday of going on the rampage in a central Afghanistan hospital last week.

During their operations, patients were forced from their beds, staff tied up and doors smashed down in a search for resistance fighters.

Relatives visiting patients were also maltreated.

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) charged that the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division violated the neutrality of medical facilities when it entered the charity’s hospital in Wardak province without permission.

SCA director Anders Fange said that the US troops arrived at the hospital in the middle of the night last Wednesday.

As they left two hours later, the troops ordered hospital staff to inform occupation forces if any wounded militants were admitted.

The military would decide if they could be treated, Mr Fange alleged.

Describing the US actions as “unacceptable,” he said that staff had refused to comply because carrying out the order would have “put our staff at risk and made the hospital a target.”

The SCA claimed the troops’ actions were not only a violation of humanitarian principles but also went against an agreement between NATO forces and charities working in the area.

It demanded guarantees that the assaults would not be repeated and that this would be made clear to commanders in the field.

The Pentagon said that it was investigating the incident.

See also this video. See also here.

See also video here.

Bumblebees back to Britain from New Zealand

From New Scientist:

‘Extinct’ British subject repatriated after 100 years

* 10:00 07 September 2009 by Sanjida O’Connell

A British subject transported to New Zealand a century ago will shortly be repatriated. The short-haired bumblebee was sent to the antipodes to pollinate red clover – it was originally transported with a cargo of lamb in 1875 in one of the first refrigerated ships. However, the bee subsequently died out in its native country: last seen in 1988, it was declared extinct in the UK in 2000.

Efforts to reintroduce the bee have been thwarted by failures in captive breeding and by “bee jet lag” – the inability of long-haul bees to adapt to the sudden hemisphere shift.

The situation has recently become urgent. The short-haired bumblebee thrives on another non-native species, viper’s bugloss, but the New Zealand government is about to embark on a programme to eradicate this plant.

Fortunately, Czech bumblebee enthusiast Jaromír Čížek has at last succeeded in getting the bees to breed in captivity.

Fussy eaters

His breakthrough was to feed captive queens exclusively with bumblebee instead of honeybee pollen, as had previously been attempted. His method has been verified by Vladimir Ptáček, a biologist at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic.

“Pollen from bumblebees is much higher quality and the bees are fussy,” says Ben Darvill of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust at the University of Stirling, UK. The Trust is presenting its work on the reintroduction at the British Ecological Society meeting at the University of Hertfordshire, on Monday.

Jet lag can be avoided by keeping the queens cold to induce hibernation during the journey.

The Zoological Society of London is carrying out a risk assessment of the reintroduction, however, as the bees may carry diseases – perhaps even a British disease that they took with them and has since mutated. …

The planned release site is Dungeness, on the south coast of England, the last recorded site for the bees. Local farmers and landowners have been recreating a flower-rich habitat suitable for the bumblebee.

By Dr David Sheppard, Natural England Invertebrate Ecologist, 21st May 2009:

The first recorded attempt to establish bumblebees in New Zealand was in 1875. Charles Darwin had discovered that only the long-tongued bumblebees were capable of pollinating red clover.

I myself have seen bumblebees on red clover near Christchurch, New Zealand.

Bumblebees to be re-introduced at RSPB Dungeness: here.

Update April 2012: here.

Update June 2013: here.

Britain: The government must commission research into the impact of certain pesticides on bees, which have seen numbers declining in recent years, the Co-operative has urged: here.

USA: Killer bees may increase food supplies for native bees: here.

Male Dawson’s bees, one of the world’s largest bee species, are so aggressive that they kill each other en mass in a bid to mate with females: here.

From the BBC:

A species of bumblebee has been spotted in Scotland for the first time in 50 years.

The Southern Cuckoo bumblebee was found near the border with England at St Abbs in Berwickshire.

Inbreeding is seriously bad news for Britain’s bumblebees: here.

October 2010. The five most threatened bumblebees in England have made an unprecedented comeback this year thanks to environmental work by farmers: here.

Franklin’s Bumble Bee, Bombus franklini, is classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. Known only from southern Oregon and northern California, between the Coast and Sierra-Cascade Ranges in the USA, Franklin’s Bumble Bee has the most restricted range of any bumble bee in the world: here.

The populations of four species of North American bumblebee have declined, a new study has confirmed. The study also found that fungal infections are more likely to plague these bees than other, more stable bumblebee species: here.

Iggy and the Stooges reunion

From British daily The Guardian:

Iggy and the Stooges to perform Raw Power in London

The proto-punk trailblazers have announced two shows in which they will play their landmark 1973 album in its entirely

* Sean Michaels
*Monday 7 September 2009

Iggy Pop has reunited with guitarist James Williamson, re-forming the Stooges’ early-70s lineup to play their legendary album Raw Power at two shows next year.

Williamson remembers Iggy calling him earlier this year, while he was in his dentist’s parking lot. The pair had not spoken in two decades. “[Iggy] asked me if I wanted to play guitar again,” Williamson told Rolling Stone. “I was about to take early retirement from my job in Silicon Valley, so I figured ‘What the hell, let’s do it.'”

This weekend, Williamson played his first concert since the Stooges broke up in 1974. It was with San Jose band Careless Hearts, with whom he has been jamming since Iggy made that call. Williamson also practised with the Stooges – minus Iggy – in Los Angeles in August. Those rehearsals will resume on 20 September, this time with Iggy at the microphone. Mike Watt, formerly of the Minutemen, has replaced the late Ron Asheton on bass. “We’re rehearsing songs from Raw Power, The Stooges, Fun House and Kill City,” Williamson said. “It kind of naturally came back to me.”

This is no small miracle. Iggy and Williamson had a “blowout” during sessions for Iggy’s 1980 album, Soldier. Williamson quit music, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, and got into computers.

Public Image Ltd set to reform: here.

40 new species discovered in Papua New Guinea

From British daily The Guardian:

Lost world of fanged frogs and giant rats discovered in Papua New Guinea

* Robert Booth

*Monday 7 September 2009

A lost world populated by fanged frogs, grunting fish and tiny bear-like creatures has been discovered in a remote volcanic crater on the Pacific island of Papua New Guinea.

A team of scientists from Britain, America, Hawaii and Papua New Guinea found more than 40 previously unidentified species when they climbed into the kilometre-deep crater of Mount Bosavi and explored a pristine jungle habitat teeming with life that has evolved in isolation since the volcano last erupted 200,000 years ago. In a remarkably rich haul from just five weeks of exploration, the biologists discovered 16 frogs which have never before been recorded by science, at least three new fish, a new bat and a giant rat, which may turn out to be the biggest in the world.

The discoveries are being seen as fresh evidence of the richness of the world’s rainforests and the explorers hope their finds will add weight to calls for international action to prevent the demise of similar ecosystems. They said Papua New Guinea’s rainforest is currently being destroyed at the rate of 3.5% a year.

“It was mind-blowing to be there and it is clearly time we pulled our finger out and decided these habitats are worth us saving,” said Dr George McGavin who headed the expedition.

The team of biologists included experts from Oxford University, the London Zoo and the Smithsonian Institution and are believed to be the first scientists to enter the mountainous Bosavi crater. They were joined by members of the BBC Natural History Unit which filmed the expedition for a three-part documentary which starts tomorrow night.

They found the three-kilometre wide crater populated by spectacular birds of paradise and in the absence of big cats and monkeys, which are found in the remote jungles of the Amazon and Sumatra, the main predators are giant monitor lizards while kangaroos have evolved to live in trees. New species include a camouflaged gecko, a fanged frog and a fish called the Henamo grunter, named because it makes grunting noises from its swim bladder.

“These discoveries are really significant,” said Steve Backshall, a climber and naturalist who became so friendly with the never-before seen Bosavi silky cuscus, a marsupial that lives up trees and feeds on fruits and leaves, that it sat on his shoulder.

“The world is getting an awful lot smaller and it is getting very hard to find places that are so far off the beaten track.”

Photos are here.

See also here. And here. And here.

Giant rat satire: here.

A pristine New Guinea wilderness nicknamed “The Lost World” has just yielded multiple new animal species that seem more cartoon fantasy than flesh and blood reality: here.

Victoria crowned pigeon photo: here.

Many tropical mountain birds are shifting their ranges upslope to escape warming temperatures that disrupt their way of life, according to research by a husband-and-wife team from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that retraced scientist Jared Diamond’s landmark New Guinea expedition in the 1960s. The study was published February 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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