Owls in Sweden, two videos


This video is about young great grey owls in Sweden fed by a parent.

This video shows a northern hawk-owl in January 2011 in Sweden.

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Dwarf planet Haumea has ring


This video says about itself:

The Weirdest Planet Got Weirder – Haumea Has Rings

12 October 2017

Back in January the planet Haumea passed in front of a star, and a Spanish team were observing, using the occultation timings to measure the size and shape of this distant body. And in the process discovered a ring system around this already strange and mysterious body.

By Lisa Grossman, 1:00pm, October 11, 2017:

Oddball dwarf planet Haumea has a ring

It’s the first object past Neptune in the solar system known to have debris circling it

Haumea can do the hula-hoop. The egg-shaped dwarf planet is the first object beyond Neptune to be spotted sporting a ring of particles.

“It now appears that rings can be common in the outer solar system,” says Jose-Luis Ortiz of the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia in Granada, Spain.

On January 21, Ortiz and colleagues used 12 telescopes at 10 observatories to peer into the Kuiper Belt, a region of icy objects beyond the orbit of Neptune, and watch Haumea block the light of a distant star. That tiny eclipse let the team measure the dwarf planet’s size, shape and surrounding environment more accurately than ever before.

Haumea turned out to be larger — its long axis stretches at least 2,322 kilometers, a bit more than half the width of the contiguous United States — and less dense than previously thought, the team reports October 11 in Nature. To their surprise, the researchers also saw the background star flicker before and after its light was blocked by Haumea itself. That flicker is consistent with a 70-kilometer-wide ring about 1,000 kilometers above the dwarf planet’s surface.

The ring is probably made of rock and ice, Ortiz says, but more observations are needed to know for sure. It could be debris kicked up by impacts from small stray space rocks — or even just from the dwarf planet’s spinning. Haumea twirls unusually fast, completing a rotation once every 3.9 hours, which could help fling particles into orbit.

Until recently, the four giant planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — were the only solar system bodies known to have rings. Then in 2014 and 2015, astronomers spotted rings around the tiny planetoids 10199 Chariklo (SN: 5/3/14, p. 10) and 2060 Chiron, suggesting that small bodies could hold on to rings, too.

Both of those small worlds are known as centaurs, objects whose orbits take them between Jupiter and Neptune, although they may be interlopers from the more distant Kuiper Belt. Since recent searches for rings around Pluto came up empty (SN Online: 10/4/17), no object farther away than Neptune seemed to have rings. Some astronomers speculated that something about the Kuiper Belt disrupted rings around small worlds there, or that the centaurs got their rings as part of the process that kicked them into their current orbits. Haumea’s ring suggests that such structures can form and survive at the solar system’s fringes after all.

“This discovery does disrupt that tidy narrative,” says Matthew Tiscareno of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., who studies Saturn’s rings but was not involved in the new study “Reality is more complicated — that is, interesting.”

Cougars, social animals, new study


This video from the USA says about itself:

Bizarre experiment studies pumas reacting to political talk shows

21 June 2017

Scientists from University of California at Santa Cruz researched mountain lions‘ fear of humans by exposing them to clips of political talk shows. Here’s what happened.

From the Panthera organisation:

Pumas found to exhibit behaviors like social animals

Findings could raise questions about all solitary carnivores

October 12, 2017

Pumas, long known as solitary carnivores, are more social than previously thought, according to a new Panthera study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances. The findings provide the first evidence of complex social strategies in any solitary carnivore — and may have implications for multiple species, including other wild cats around the world.

“It’s the complete opposite of what we’ve been saying about pumas and solitary species for over 60 years,” said lead author and Panthera Puma Program Lead Scientist Mark Elbroch, Ph.D. “We were shocked — this research allows us to break down mythologies and question what we thought we knew.”

Usually termed “solitary carnivores,” pumas have been assumed to avoid each other, except during mating, territorial encounters, or when raising young. The population studied interacted every 11-12 days during winter — very infrequently compared to more gregarious species like meerkats, African lions, or wolves, which interact as often as every few minutes. So to document social behavior, Dr. Elbroch and his field research team had to follow pumas over longer time spans.

Using GPS technology and motion-triggered cameras in northwest Wyoming, the team collected thousands of locations from GPS-equipped collars and documented the social interactions of pumas over 1,000 prey carcasses (242 with motion-triggered cameras that filmed interactions). Then, they used cutting-edge analyses of puma networks to reveal that the species exhibits social strategies like more social animals, just over longer timescales. The research is the first to quantify complex, enduring, and “friendly” interactions of these secretive animals, revealing a rich puma society far more tolerant and social than previously thought.

“Our research shows that food sharing among this group of pumas is a social activity, which cannot be explained by ecological and biological factors alone,” said study co-author Mark Lubell, director of the UC Davis Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior.

Here’s a breakdown of the most surprising findings:

1. Every puma participated in a “network” of individuals sharing food with each other. Each puma co-fed with another puma at least once during the study, and many of them fed with other pumas many times.

2. Choosing individuals with whom to share meals was not random or reserved for family members. The pumas seemed to recall who shared food with them in the past — and were 7.7 times more likely to share with those individuals. This is usually only documented with social animals.

3. Males received more free meat than females, and males and females likely benefited differently from social interactions. Males got meat, while females likely received social investments facilitating mating opportunities.

4. Territorial males acted like governors of “fiefdoms,” structuring how all pumas across the landscape interacted with each other. All pumas living inside each male territory typically formed a single network, and were more likely to share their food with each other. Social interactions occurred across these borders, but much less frequently than among cats within the same male territory.

The study emphasizes that puma populations are actually composed of numerous smaller communities ruled by territorial males. The loss of males, whether by natural or human causes, potentially disrupts the entire social network.

Videos and images captured during the study served as “irrefutable” evidence of social behavior, Dr. Elbroch said. “Suddenly, I was able to see what was happening when these animals were coming together. By stepping back, we captured the patterns of behavior that have no doubt been occurring among pumas all along.”

Except for lions and cheetahs (whose males form long-term social groups), all wild cats are typically described as solitary — a strategy characteristic of species living in complex habitats where predators compete for dispersed prey. This study should encourage researchers to study the social behavior of other solitary carnivores.

“This work goes against convention for solitary carnivores, but our evidence is supported by both behavior and genetics,” said co-author Anthony Caragiulo, Assistant Director of Genomic Operations at the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History.

Dr. Elbroch stated, “This opens the door to enormous possibilities. Are pumas everywhere behaving the same, or only in areas with large prey? Are other species like leopards and wolverines and so many others acting the same way? There is so much more to discover about the rich, secret social lives of wild creatures.”

What is fascism?


This 12 October 2017 video is called What is fascism? It asks about fascist history, and about what Donald Trump today has to do with it.

Ancestor of apes, humans weighed five kilograms


Apes, humans family tree, image courtesy of University of Tübingen

From the American Museum of Natural History in the USA:

Last common ancestor of humans and apes weighed about five kilograms

Ape ancestor was about the size of a gibbon

October 12, 2017

New research suggests that the last common ancestor of apes — including great apes and humans — was much smaller than previously thought, about the size of a gibbon. The findings, published today in the journal Nature Communications, are fundamental to understanding the evolution of the human family tree.

“Body size directly affects how an animal relates to its environment, and no trait has a wider range of biological implications,” said lead author Mark Grabowski, a visiting assistant professor at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen in Germany who conducted the work while he was a postdoctoral fellow in the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Anthropology. “However, little is known about the size of the last common ancestor of humans and all living apes. This omission is startling because numerous paleobiological hypotheses depend on body size estimates at and prior to the root of our lineage.”

Among living primates, humans are most closely related to apes, which include the lesser apes (gibbons) and the great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans). These “hominoids” emerged and diversified during the Miocene, between about 23 million to 5 million years ago. Because fossils are so scarce, researchers do not know what the last common ancestors of living apes and humans looked like or where they originated.

To get a better idea of body mass evolution within this part of the primate family tree, Grabowski and coauthor William Jungers from Stony Brook University compared body size data from modern primates, including humans, to recently published estimates for fossil hominins and a wide sample of fossil primates including Miocene apes from Africa, Europe, and Asia. They found that the common ancestor of apes was likely small, probably weighing about 12 pounds, which goes against previous suggestions of a chimpanzee-sized, chimpanzee-like ancestor.

Among other things, the finding has implications for a behavior that’s essential for large, tree-dwelling primates: it implies that “suspensory locomotion,” overhand hanging and swinging, arose for other reasons than the animal simply getting too big to walk on top of branches. The researchers suggest that the ancestor was already somewhat suspensory, and larger body size evolved later, with both adaptations occurring at separate points. The development of suspensory locomotion could have been part of an “arms race” with a growing number of monkey species, the researchers said. Branch swinging allows an animal to get to a prized and otherwise inaccessible food — fruit on the edges of foliage — and larger body would let them engage in direct confrontation with monkeys when required.

The new research also reveals that australopiths, a group of early human relatives, were actually on average smaller than their ancestors, and that this smaller size continued until the arrival of Homo erectus.

“There appears to be a decrease in overall body size within our lineage, rather than size simply staying the same or getting bigger with time, which goes against how we generally think about evolution,” Grabowski said.

Trump’s USA resigns from UNESCO


This video says about itself:

UNESCO Director-General condemns the destruction of Bani Matar Mosque in Yemen

5 September 2016

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has condemned the destruction of a 9th century mosque located in Bani Matar, Sana’a Governorate.

“I am deeply concerned about the continuing destruction of Yemen’s unique cultural heritage. This is a direct attack against the country’s historical sites, and on the people’s history and identity that will affect the society over the very long term. This senseless violence must stop immediately” said Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General.

Several reports from the General Organization of Antiquities and Museums (GOAM) and the General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities (GOPHCY) in Yemen, notably, have confirmed the destruction of the mosque by an air strike on Thursday August 25, 2016.

Contrary to Ms Bokova, United States President Donald Trump loves the bloody war by the Saudi absolute monarchy on Yemen, and helps it wherever he can.

So, it is not surprising that Donald Trump does not like Irina Bokova’s organisation.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

The US will leave the United Nations organisation UNESCO. The United States State Department reports that the country is leaving from the organisation for peace building, poverty alleviation, sustainable development, education, culture and science as of 31 December.