Liberian greenbul, a non-existent bird?

The Liberian Greenbul was sighted in the 1980s and only one specimen exists. Credit: University of Aberdeen

From the University of Aberdeen in Scotland:

Rare songbird may never have existed

October 5, 2017

One of the world’s most elusive species of songbird may be so hard to spot because it never existed in the first place, according to new research from the University of Aberdeen.

The Liberian Greenbul (Phyllastrephus leucolepis) has eluded experts for decades after it was spotted in a forest in the West African country in the early 1980s.

The only specimen that exists differs from the commonly found Icterine Greenbul by the distinctive white spots on its feathers.

The Liberian Greenbul has long been one of the world’s most poorly known bird and was listed as Critically Endangered up until 2016.

Now DNA analysis by experts at the University of Aberdeen has concluded that the Liberian Greenbul is most likely an unusual plumage variant of the Icterine Greenbul, possibly caused by nutritional deficiency while the feathers were growing.

The study, published in the Journal of Ornithology compared DNA from the Liberian Greenbul specimen with DNA from the Icterine Greenbul and others and found there was no significant genetic difference between Icterine and Liberian Greenbuls.

Comparatively, studies of other species of greenbul revealed large genetic differences between different species, suggesting the lack of difference between the Icterine and the Liberian indicates they are the same bird.

“The Liberian Greenbul has gained almost ‘mythical’ status since it was sighted in the ’80s, says Professor Martin Collinson, a geneticist from the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Medical Sciences.

“We can’t say definitively that the Liberian Greenbul is the same bird as the Iceterine Greenbul but we have presented enough evidence that makes any other explanation seem highly unlikely. The genetic work was performed independently by scientists here in Aberdeen and in Dresden to make sure there could be no error – we both came to the same conclusion.”

The Liberian Greenbul was seen on nine occasions between 1981 and 1984 in the Cavalla Forest in Eastern Liberia. The only known specimen was collected in January 1984 and described as species ‘new to science’.

The devastating civil wars that subsequently engulfed the country prevented any serious attempt by ornithologists to find any more individuals for another 25 years. Targeted searches of the two known sites in 2010 and 2013 failed to find any sign of the bird, meaning the Liberian Greenbul had never been seen since the only known bird was shot.

The Cavalla Forest is of global conservation significance and was recognised as an important bird and biodiversity area by BirdLife International, not only for the Liberian Greenbul but also for the presence of other globally threatened , including the Vulnerable White-breasted Guineafowl and Brown-cheeked Hornbill and mammals such as Chimpanzee, Western Red Colobus Monkeys and Pygmy Hippopotamus.


Lord Howe Island stick insects survive near-extinction

This July 2015 video says about itself:

Rarest bug in the world! Until recently the Lord Howe Island stick insect was thought to be extinct. Ben will take you on a journey to see the renewal of the rarest bug in the world and how they saved this insect. These bugs are very special!

From ScienceDaily:

Once declared extinct, Lord Howe Island stick insects really do live

October 5, 2017

Summary: Lord Howe Island stick insects were once numerous on the tiny crescent-shaped island off the coast of Australia for which they are named. Now, biologists who have analyzed the DNA of living and dead Lord Howe Island stick insects have some good news: those rediscovered on Ball’s Pyramid, which are now being bred at the Melbourne Zoo and elsewhere, really are Lord Howe Island stick insects.

Lord Howe Island stick insects were once numerous on the tiny crescent-shaped island off the coast of Australia for which they are named. The insects, which can measure up to 6 inches in length, don’t resemble sticks so much as tree lobsters, as they are also known. After ships accidentally introduced rats to the island about a century ago, the Lord Howe Island stick insects quickly disappeared. They were later declared extinct, only to be found again decades later living on Ball’s Pyramid, a sheer volcanic stack about 12 miles away. But those newfound insects didn’t look quite the same as older museum specimens, raising doubts about the nature of their true identity.

Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on October 5 who have analyzed the DNA of living and dead Lord Howe Island stick insects have some good news: those rediscovered on Ball’s Pyramid, which are now being bred at the Melbourne Zoo and elsewhere, really are Lord Howe Island stick insects. The findings greatly increase the likelihood that the insect’s re-introduction on Lord Howe Island could be done successfully, the researchers say.

“We found what everyone hoped to find — that despite some significant morphological differences, these are indeed the same species”, says Alexander Mikheyev at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Japan.

Using DNA sequence data from the Ball’s Pyramid population, the researchers assembled a draft genome of the captive bred insects along with their complete mitochondrial genome. The effort revealed a massive genome, which appears to have been duplicated more than once to contain six copies of each chromosome.

The researchers also re-sequenced mitochondrial genomes from historic museum specimens collected on Lord Howe Island before the extinction event. Comparisons between living and dead insects found a divergence of less than one percent — well within the range of differences expected within a species. The findings suggest that the rediscovered populations are indeed Lord Howe Island stick insects. Dryococelus australis really has evaded extinction so far.

The work highlights the importance of museum collections for taxonomic validation in the context of ongoing conservation efforts, the researchers say. The findings come just as the Lord Howe Island community has backed a plan to drop poisoned grain on the island in hopes of eradicating the rats. If successful, the next chapter of the Lord Howe Island stick insect’s story will take place on its ancestral island.

“The Lord Howe Island stick insect has become emblematic of the fragility of island ecosystems,” Mikheyev says. “Unlike most stories involving extinction, this one gives us a unique second chance.”

A species of New Zealand stick insect that was thought to produce only females has hatched a rogue male in the UK countryside – and scientists say the rare event could mean the animal is ready to start having sex: here.

Comes naturally? Using stick insects, scientists explore natural selection, predictability. Though evolution appears random, multiple mechanisms at play suggest natural selection: here.

African American playwright Lorraine Hansberry, new film

This 8 September 2017 video from the USA is called Sighted Eye/Feeling Heart – Official Trailer.

By Joanne Laurier in the USA:

African American playwright Lorraine Hansberry

4 October 2017

Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart

Tracy Heather Strain’s new documentary Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart chronicles the life of African-American writer Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965), famed author of A Raisin in the Sun, a play about black working class life in Chicago in the 1950s. Strain’s movie takes its title from Hansberry’s contention that “one cannot live with sighted eyes and feeling heart and not know or react to the miseries which afflict this world.”

Filmmaker Strain was the coordinating producer for the 2016 documentary, The Mine Wars/American Experience, about the West Virginia coal miners’ uprisings in the early 20th century.

Lorraine Hansberry was politically and artistically influenced by and personally knew historian W.E.B. Dubois, singer Paul Robeson and poet Langston Hughes among other significant African American intellectuals. The title of A Raisin in the Sun comes from Hughes’ poem “A Dream Deferred,” in which he asks, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun, Or does it explode?”

Strain’s documentary combines fascinating archival material and interview footage of Hansberry, as well as Anika Noni Rose’s reading of Hansberry’s words. It presents a straightforward and enlightening picture of a woman who was smart, sensitive and rebellious, tragically dying of pancreatic cancer at the age of 34.

Hansberry was born in Chicago during the Great Depression. When her family moved to a “hellishly hostile white neighborhood”, her father became involved in a battle to end restrictive housing covenants that prohibited the sale of houses to African Americans, Jews and others.

At the University of Wisconsin in the late 1940s, Lorraine Hansberry joined the Communist Party, through the medium of the Henry Wallace campaign. Moving to New York City, Hansberry then worked for Paul Robeson’s magazine, Freedom. In 1953, she met songwriter and activist Robert Nemiroff on a picket line in New York, and they soon married. (Nemiroff co-wrote the song “Cindy, Oh Cindy,” famously recorded by Eddie Fisher in the 1950s). The couple divorced in 1962, and Hansberry later became an activist for gay rights.

Debuting on Broadway in 1959, A Raisin in the Sun made Hansberry, at age 29, the youngest American and the first black playwright to win the Best Play of the Year Award from the New York Drama Critics. A film version of the play was released in 1961, featuring its original Broadway cast of Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil and Louis Gossett, Jr., among others.

Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart does not shy away from the fact that Hansberry, like other black artists, such as Robeson, novelist Richard Wright, singer-actor Harry Belafonte, Dee and Hughes, turned to the Communist Party, seeing the fight against racism as part of the fight against capitalism.

That A Raisin in the Sun was not an exclusivist work, that it was intended to illuminate the lives of working people of all races and ethnicities, helped account for its wide popular appeal.

“Mama: Oh—So now it’s life. Money is life. Once upon a time freedom used to be life—now it’s money. I guess the world really do change. . .

Walter: No—it was always money, Mama. We just didn’t know about it.” (A Raisin in the Sun)

According to director Strain, Hansberry was influenced, among other works, by Irish dramatist Seán O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock (1924), a play about the Dublin slums during the Irish civil war in 1922. Hansberry’s play is humane and sincere. If it does not rise to the dramatic heights of O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock or The Plough and the Stars (1926), the stagnant, conformist atmosphere in the US has a great deal to do with it.

Interestingly, Hansberry’s friend, singer Nina Simone, quipped that when she and the writer got together, “It was always about Marx, Lenin and revolution—typical girl talk.” In his memoirs, another friend, Belafonte, states that in his early years, he moved in circles of “socialists and communists [who] embraced the working class as the bedrock of a new political order.” Notably, on June 18, 1953, on the eve of their marriage, Hansberry and Nemiroff were picketing the Chicago Federal Building against the execution scheduled for the following day of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Communist Party members who were convicted of spying for the Soviet Union.

Hansberry once wrote: “A status not freely chosen or entered into by an individual or a group is necessarily one of oppression and the oppressed are by their nature (i.e., oppressed) forever in ferment and agitation against their condition and what they understand to be their oppressors. If not by overt rebellion or revolution, then in the thousand and one ways they will devise with and without consciousness to alter their condition.”

It is not clear when Hansberry left the Communist Party. In an interview with Harold Isaacs, she apparently told him that she “had quietly left in the late 1950s.” FBI spies concluded that Hansberry had quit the party before its 1957 convention. …

Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart includes a video clip of the 1963 meeting between Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Hansberry, Belafonte, James Baldwin and other civil rights activists, which ended with Hansberry’s walkout. The documentary does not mention that after the meeting Kennedy ordered FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to increase the surveillance on Baldwin and several others. One of the results was an FBI report labeling the gay Baldwin a “pervert” and “communist.”

A few citations from A Raisin in the Sun may help shed light on Hansberry’s political thinking and her general view of life. The universality of her concerns is expressed in lines such as these: “I’m just tired of hearing about God all the time. What has He got to do with anything?… I’m not going to be immoral or commit crimes because I don’t believe. I don’t even think about that. I just get so tired of Him getting the credit for things the human race achieves through its own effort. Now, there simply is no God. There’s only man. And it’s he who makes miracles.”

Or this passage that speaks to the question of class: “Life is. Sure enough. Between the takers and the ‘tooken.’ I’ve figured it out finally. Yeah. Some of us always getting ‘tooken.’”

… Tracy Heather Strain’s Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart provides a valuable examination of a remarkable, courageous woman who fought against the existing social order on the grounds that “an oppressive society oppresses everyone.”

In a 1988 introduction to A Raisin in the Sun, Nemiroff wrote that the play “will remain no less pertinent. For at the deepest level it is not a specific situation but the human condition, human aspiration, and human relationships—the persistence of dreams, of the bonds and conflicts between men and women, parents and children, old ways and new, and the endless struggle against human oppression, whatever the forms it may take, and for individual fulfillment, recognition, and liberation—that are at the heart of such plays. It is not surprising therefore that in each generation we recognize ourselves in them anew.”

Brazilian coup government threatens wildlife

This 2014 video in Portuguese from Brazil is about the Lagoa do Peixe National Park.

From BirdLife:

4 Oct 2017

The scandal threatening the future of Brazil’s National Parks

A scandal of shocking proportions is brewing in broad daylight as a number of protected areas in Brazil risk being degazetted in the name of economic growth

By Irene Lorenzo

Ocean, rivers and lakes have shaped the landscape in Lagoa do Peixe National Park, Southern Brazil. Over 36,000 hectares showcase a patchwork of unique landscapes; from freshwater and salt lagoons to grasslands, floodplains, marshes and sand dunes. The breeze of the Atlantic Ocean welcomes tens of thousands of migratory birds every year during their travels between North America and Patagonia.

All through spring it becomes a natural shrimp nursery, fished in summer by a restricted number of nearby villagers, following quotas agreed with the National Park authorities. The ocean currents in winter inundate the land with saltwater, creating unique ecosystems also cherished by shorebirds such as Red Knot Calidris canutus and Buff-breasted Sandpiper Calidris subruficollis (both Near Threatened). The latter travel all the way from the tip of Siberia and Alaska to the fields surrounding Lagoa do Peixe, their favourite wintering area along with a couple others in Uruguay and Argentina. Researchers found they spend 150-200 days in the Park every year and over 60% return and stay there in following years.

Their return depends on the height of the grasslands, maintained by cattle grazing. For this reason, SAVE Brasil (BirdLife in Brazil) and collaborators have been working to protect the grasslands, surveying Buff-breasted Sandpiper populations and carrying out on-the-ground conservation actions.

Given its importance for migratory birds in the Atlantic, it comes as no surprise that this Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA), Ramsar Site, UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Site of International Importance was declared a National Park in 1986. However, despite all the credits, why is the government now having second thoughts about whether it deserves to retain its National Park status?

Private landowners, who own 40% of the park, are suddenly pushing to turn it into a multiple-use area, which would essentially mean downgrading its protection status to virtually none. A suspicious move, given previous attempts at development projects in the area.

“Lagoa do Peixe is one of the top two most important sites for shorebirds in Brazil, and among the most important on the Atlantic coast of southern South America. It has all the pre-requisites for a National Park, according to Brazilian legislation. It is outrageous to think of lessening its protection category”, said Pedro Develey, SAVE Brasil CEO.

In the early 2000s, a plan for the implementation of a mining site south of the park was announced. Prosecutors blocked the development but the project was recently revived, and even managed to acquire the first of three environmental licenses. Simultaneously, a 19,000 ha wind power farm is also being planned, and currently undergoing the Environmental Impact Assessment process.

While for now legislation seems to be keeping those projects blocked, environmentalists fear it won’t be for long. To counteract these developments, SAVE Brasil and the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network are working on an emergency action plan to gather international support to back the Federal Environmental Institutions that have vowed to defend the area’s National Park status. A race against the clock, as industrial and economic pressure is driving political decisions in Brazil.

In the midst of an unprecedented political and economic turmoil, the Brazilian government is taking daunting steps towards weakening environmental legislation – and Lagoa do Peixe is only one of the many parks affected.

As Brazil is among the most biodiverse-rich countries in the world, there’s been a wide national outcry by national civil society organizations and indigenous peoples, against what has been interpreted as one of the largest setbacks in environment policies in the country, if not globally.

Just last month, the Brazilian government scrapped the huge National Reserve of Copper and Associates in the Amazon, a protected area larger than the size of Denmark. The motive: to allow the mining of manganese, iron, gold and other minerals by foreign companies. While the government ensures that the indigenous and environmental protections won’t be stripped away, researchers agree the ripple effect of these mining projects could be catastrophic.

And it wouldn’t be the only park threatened by mining operations, as President Michel Temer plans to water down the well-established system of protected areas and make changes in regulations to alter the financial compensation from mining activities. Bills have already passed to congress with instructions to dismantle, reduce or lessen the status of several protected areas in 5 states, affecting about 10% of the total protected area in the country – in most cases connected to illegal deforestation, mining or land invasion.

Furthermore, changes to the Environmental Impact Assessment law are also being discussed, a potential disaster at national scale since it’s this process that currently slows down or stops most environmentally harmful developments.

“A steamroller is threatening to take us back to the time where it was believed that natural resources were endless”, said Attorney General Leandro Mitidieri, following the new bill announcement.

Jamanxim National Forest – another IBA – was another one to make it to the news recently. Located in the so-called “arch of deforestation” that threatens the Amazon Forest, 57% of park’s protected area was stripped of its protected status. Bordering with nearby Jamanxim National Park, a municipality illegally authorised cassiterite (tin mineral) mining inside Altamira National Forest. Luckily, they ended up being fined by the National Environmental Agency, as it turned out they hadn’t carried out an Environmental Impact Assessment at all.

Following the downgrade of Jamanxim National Forest, the future of Lagoa do Peixe could become the next turning point, as environmentalists and scientists worry that if they manage to downgrade a National Park of such importance, it will give confidence to the federal government to go ahead with the rest of their environmental deregulation plans. SAVE Brasil and BirdLife will continue fighting to support the Federal Environmental Institutions so that Lagoa de Peixe and all the other reserves can continue protected for years to come.

‘Stop deporting Afghan refugees to death’

This video from Germany says about itself:

31 May 2017

Clashes between police and students broke out at vocational school at Berliner Platz in Nuremberg, Wednesday after students blocked one of their fellow pupils, a 20-year-old Afghan asylum seeker, from being deported.

The school students surrounded the police car containing the student due for deportation to block his departure. The demonstration turned violent with police using tear gas and batons against the students, some were arrested.

A deportation of Afghan asylum seekers from Germany was planned on the same day, spurring protests around the country, but was cancelled following the detonation of a car bomb in Kabul killing some 80 people and injuring hundreds.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

‘Unclear why the Netherlands thinks Afghans can go back safely

Today, 15:58

“Ever since I’m back in Kabul, I’m homeless. I lived for a while under bridges, in old cars and garages. I traveled throughout Afghanistan to find relatives, but I did not find them. There are days and nights that I do not eat or drink. My life is very hard. Every day there are fights, explosions and killings.”

18-year-old Hamid told this to Amnesty International. Hamid – not his real name – fled to the Netherlands when he was 15, but was expelled when he was 18. Now he is living in the Afghan capital Kabul in need.

It is one of the stories that Amnesty noted of Afghans refouled by European countries. The human rights organization says that Norway, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands have jeopardized thousands of Afghans by sending them back to their country of origin.

In Europe, many tens of thousands of Afghan refugees reside. Their return was often refused by the Afghan government until last year. That is why the European Union and Afghanistan concluded a deal: until 2020, the country will receive 1.3 billion euros annually if Afghanistan will take back asylum seekers and economic migrants.

That while not all EU countries think it is safe in Afghanistan. The Netherlands is one of the few member states thinking that asylum seekers can be returned.

A view that is not entirely consistent with reality, says NOS correspondent Joeri Boom. In 2016 more than 11,000 civilians were injured or killed …

Boom: “Abductions, attacks, firefights, torture. It goes on day after day, even in the Afghan capital Kabul, which is considered safe by the Netherlands. In addition, many people are bombed by the Afghan Air Force, which is badly trained.”

And by the air forces of the USA and other NATO countries which are supposedly better trained.

Boom does not understand how the Netherlands has come to the conclusion that Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan are safe. “At least, no Dutch researchers have come to the country because it’s too dangerous, and the embassy staff do not move freely through Kabul, while that city should be safe according to the Netherlands. That’s a bit strange, I’d think.” …

The European countries mentioned in the Amnesty report, including the Netherlands, are members of NATO. The alliance started a war against the Taliban in 2001 and promised to build a democratic and safe state in Afghanistan.

Because of that promise, many Afghan youths got jobs with Western organizations while they knew they were in danger. But now there is still war in Afghanistan, and we can conclude that the Western project has failed, says Boom.

Thus, the question arises whether European countries are responsible for these Afghan youths who are at risk of being killed or detained by Taliban fighters. That’s an important issue, says Boom. “Actually, it’s a moral question.” ..

They wonder why the European countries are deporting them now. “These Afghans do not understand … “We have not started this war”, they say, “we want to build our lives: accept us.””

In September, the participation of Dutch soldiers in the NATO mission in Afghanistan was extended until 2018. There are about 100 Dutch soldiers in the country. Next year, the Netherlands will also send a surgical team at the request of the NATO alliance.

Amnesty International urges governments to adjust their policies immediately. According to the organization, it is widely reported in the media that it is too dangerous in Afghanistan. The returning of expelled asylum seekers to an unsafe country is an infringement of international law, Amnesty states.

The Dutch immigration authority IND was not accessible for comment.

The Pentagon has suddenly ordered the withholding of key information on the state of Afghanistan’s security forces that have been published in quarterly reports for nearly a decade. The censoring of the data comes as the Trump administration has given the military brass free rein to escalate US imperialism’s longest war, now in its 17th year, sending thousands more troops to the South Asian country, while substantially increasing military spending: here.

Madagascar whirligig beetles, from the Triassic till now

This video says about itself:

This video shows the Malagasy striped whirligig beetle (Heterogyrus milloti) in its habitat in Ranomafana National Park, Fianarantsoa, Madagascar, during the 2014 expedition.

From the University of Kansas in the USA:

Meet Madagascar‘s oldest animal lineage, a whirligig beetle with 206-million-year-old origins

October 4, 2017

Summary: A new study suggests the Malagasy striped whirligig beetle Heterogyrus milloti boasts a genetic pedigree stretching back to the late Triassic period.

There are precious few species today in the biodiversity hotspot of Madagascar that scientists can trace directly back to when all of Earth’s continents were joined together as part of the primeval supercontinent Pangea.

But a new study in the journal Scientific Reports suggests the Malagasy striped whirligig beetle Heterogyrus milloti is an ultra-rare survivor among contemporary species on Madagascar, boasting a genetic pedigree stretching back at least 206 million years to the late Triassic period.

“This is unheard of for anything in Madagascar“, said lead author Grey Gustafson, a postdoctoral research fellow in ecology & evolutionary biology and affiliate of the Biodiversity Institute at the University of Kansas. “It’s the oldest lineage of any animal or plant known from Madagascar.”

Gustafson and his co-authors’ research compared the living striped whirligig found in Madagascar with extinct whirligig beetles from the fossil record. They then used a method called “tip dating” to reconstruct and date the family tree of whirligig beetles.

“You examine and code the morphology of extinct species the same as you would living species, and where that fossil occurs in time is where that tip of the tree ends,” he said. “That’s how you time their evolutionary relationships. We really wanted the fossils’ placement in the tree to be backed by analysis, so we could say these are the relatives of the striped whirligig as supported by analysis, not just that they looked similar.”

Gustafson noted one major hurdle for the team was the “painful” incompleteness of the fossil record for establishing all the places where relatives of the striped whirligig beetle once lived.

“All of the fossils come from what is today Europe and Asia — we don’t have any deposits from Madagascar or Africa for this group of insects,” he said. “But they likely were very widespread.”

Today, whirligig beetles are a family of carnivorous aquatic beetles with about 1,000 known species dominated by members of a subfamily called the Gyrininae. But the Gyrininae are young upstarts compared with the striped whirligig beetle, the last remaining species of a group dominant during the time of the dinosaurs. This group according to Gustafson was decimated by the same asteroid impact that cut down the dinosaurs and caused the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event.

“The remoteness of Madagascar is what may have saved this beetle,” Gustafson said. “It’s the only place that still has the striped whirligig beetle because it was already isolated at the time of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event — so the lineage was able to persist, and now it’s surviving in a marginal environment.”

Even today, the ageless striped whirligig beetle keeps its own company, preferring to skitter atop the surface of out-of-the-way forest streams in southeastern Madagascar — not mixing with latecomers of the subfamily Gyrininae who have become the dominant whirligig beetles on Madagascar and abroad.

Indeed, Gustafson is one of the few researchers to locate them during a 2014 fieldwork excursion in Madagascar’s Ranomafana National Park.

“This one is pretty hard to find,” he said. “They like these really strange habitats that other whirligigs aren’t found in. We have video of them in a gulch in a mountain range clogged with branches and debris — there are striped whirligigs all over it.”

Unfortunately, the KU researcher said the remote habitats of the striped whirligig beetle in Malagasy national parks were threatened today by human activity on Madagascar.

“It’s a socioeconomic issue,” Gustafson said. “In the national park where first specimens of the striped whirligig beetle were discovered, there are local people who use the forest as a refuge for zebu cattle because they’re concerned about zebu being robbed. Their defecation can disturb the nutrient lode in aquatic ecosystems. Part of the problem is finding a way for local people to be able to make their livelihood while preserving natural ecosystems. But it’s a hard balance to strike. A lot of original forest cover also has been slashed and burned for rice-field patties to feed people.”

Gustafson hopes the primal origins of the striped whirligig beetle can draw attention to the need for protecting aquatic habitats while conceding that conservation efforts usually are aimed at bigger and more cuddly species, like Madagascar’s famous lemurs, tenrecs and other unique carnivorans.

“One of the things that invertebrate species suffer from is a lack of specific conservation efforts,” he said. “It’s usually trickle-down conservation where you find a charismatic vertebrate species to get protected areas started. But certain invertebrates will have different requirements, and right now invertebrate-specific conservation efforts are lacking. We propose the striped whirligig beetle would make for an excellent flagship species for conservation.”