Puerto Rico hurricanes changed animal sounds

This 22 September 2017 video is called Student Saves Birds From Hurricane Maria.

From the American Geophysical Union:

Hurricanes Irma and Maria temporarily altered choruses of land and sea animals

February 15, 2018

Audio recordings of Hurricanes Irma and Maria’s passage over Puerto Rico document how the calls of coastal critters changed in response to the deadly storms. The hurricanes caused a major disruption in the acoustic activity of snapping shrimp, a reduction in insect and bird sounds, and potentially an intensification of fish choruses, according to new research presented at the Ocean Sciences Meeting Friday.

In March 2017, researchers set up acoustic monitoring sites in coastal forests and coral reefs on Puerto Rico’s southwest coast to continuously record the area’s ambient sounds. Their goal was to capture the region’s land and sea soundscapes — especially the cacophony of sounds created by animal vocalizations — and document how and why they change over time.

But the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria over Puerto Rico in September gave the researchers an unexpected look at how coastal soundscapes change in response to natural disasters. Although the hurricanes did not directly hit the study area, audio recordings reveal the storms had noticeable short-term effects on fish choruses, snapping shrimp activity in coral reefs, and bird and insect calls on land.

The recordings show fish increased the intensity of their nightly choruses in the days following Hurricane Irma. The clicking of snapping shrimp, which are among the loudest animal noises in the ocean, plummeted during Hurricane Maria, and the daily snapping rhythm was disrupted for several days.

In nearby dry forests, Maria had longer-lasting effects on the soundscape. There was a marked reduction in insect sounds during the three weeks after the storm. Listen to time-lapse recordings of changes to insect sounds, fish choruses and snapping shrimp activity here.

The results show how scientists can use the soundscape as a measure of biodiversity and environmental change, according to the researchers. Capturing responses from a variety of species at the same time can help scientists better understand how the ecosystem is affected as a whole, according to Ben Gottesman, a PhD candidate at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and lead author of the new research.

“Sometimes you can’t visually assess an impact, but you can certainly capture that through changes in the soundscape,” said Felix Martinez, an ecologist and Program Manager at the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who will present the new findings Friday at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting, co-sponsored by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, The Oceanography Society and the American Geophysical Union. “We really need to understand when those changes are natural versus due to some kind of stressor, whether it’s human or natural.”

Similar to birds and frogs, fish call to find mates and defend spawning territories, producing choruses at specific times of day and specific times of the year. Gottesman suspects one reason the fish may have chorused more after Hurricane Irma — which coincided with the full moon — was because the water became very turbid, making it harder for them to be seen by predators.

While the fish increased their activity following Hurricane Irma, shrimp snaps declined steeply during Maria and rebounded in the first few days after the storm. Snapping shrimp make a loud cracking noise with their claws to stun and catch prey. The snapping shrimp recorded in Puerto Rico displayed a very precise¬ schedule of when they snapped the most, almost like clockwork, Gottesman said. After the storms, peaks of snapping activity at dawn and dusk were less pronounced, and it took several days for them to recover to pre-storm levels.

The researchers suspect the shrimp could have snapped less for several reasons. During the storms, the intense current and turbidity likely dissuaded the shrimps from seeking prey, or else the extreme turbidity muffled the high-frequency shrimp snaps. After the storm, Maria may have disturbed their rocky coral habitats, the shrimp could have been spending time cleaning out their burrows, or they may not have been able to see their prey when the water became turbid.

Post-storm recordings show the land and sea animals’ vocalizations in this part of Puerto Rico, which was not in the eye of the storm, did eventually rebound to pre-storm levels. Maria was a catastrophic disaster, causing an estimated $90 billion worth of damage, but the new findings show how resilient this coastal ecosystem was in response to the storm, according to the researchers.


‘Florida school massacre, white supremacist terrorism’

Nikolas Cruz after his arrest, AFP photo

So, it seems that the perpetrator of the school massacre in Florida, USA did not practice shooting only in his backyard and at a United States Army reserve officers training facility.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

‘Suspect of massacre at school in the USA trained with racist militia

Today, 18:44
Updated at 21:50

The 19-year-old American who was arrested for killing seventeen people at a school in Parkland has ties with a white nationalist group in Florida. The leader of that militia, Republic of Florida, has stated so.

The group wants Florida to become an independent country with only ethnic white inhabitants. The 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz is said to have participated in paramilitary training in Tallahassee city.

See also here. And here.

Trump posts inflammatory tweet appearing to blame Parkland mass shooting on shooter’s classmates: here.

An active duty U.S. Marine was found to have belonged to a white supremacist group that took part in last summer’s deadly Charlottesville, VA riot, ProPublica reported. Vasillios Pistolis, 18, who posted online under the name VasillistheGreek, was very proud of his work in Charlottesville— which killed three people and left dozens injured. Pistolis was a member of Atomwaffen Division, a secretive neo-Nazi organization whose members say they are preparing for a coming race war. The group espouses the overthrow of the U.S. government through acts of political violence: here.

KING PROMOTES WHITE NATIONALIST…. AGAIN For the second time in three months, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has promoted the views of a prominent white nationalist on Twitter. [HuffPost]

Australian fire beetles avoid heat

This 13 february 2018 video is called The impact of infrared radiation in flight control in the Australian “fire beetle” Merimna atrata.

From the University of Bonn in Germany:

Australian fire beetle avoids the heat: Its infrared organs warn the insect of hot surfaces

February 15, 2018

Summary: The Australian jewel beetle Merimna atrata has several heat sensors. Originally it was thought that it uses them to detect forest fires as the insect lays its eggs in the wood of burned eucalyptus trees. Researchers were finally able to refute this hypothesis. Instead, the beetle appears to need its heat sensors for a different purpose: to not burn its feet on landing.

The Australian fire beetle is attracted to freshly burnt wood. Experts also call this pyrophilia (“love of fire”). This behavior is not very common in insects. Merimna atrata however has a good reason for this. The dead wood provides plenty of food for the larvae of the beetle, so it uses the wood for oviposition.

But how does Merimna find a freshly burned area? For some time it has been known that the fire beetle has heat sensors with which it can detect infrared radiation. In a sense, it “sees” hot places in its environment against a cooler background. It was originally believed that the insects use this ability to detect forest fires.

“However, the IR organs in Merimna atrata are relatively insensitive,” Dr. Helmut Schmitz emphasizes. Schmitz is a lecturer at the Institute of Zoology at the University of Bonn; he has investigated thermo and infrared reception in the black insects for nearly two decades. “This actually contradicts the assumption that the IR organs enable the beetle to detect fires from a greater distance.”

Beetles on a pin

Together with his colleagues, Schmitz has now been able to demonstrate for the first time that these doubts are justified. The scientists designed an ingenious experiment for this purpose. Put simply, they stuck the beetles with their backs to the end of a pin and used this to hang them up. This left the experimental animals with the ability to fly continuously, but without moving forward. “More importantly, they were able to navigate in any direction, i.e. turning right or left,” emphasizes Schmitz.

Then the scientists stimulated the flying beetles with weak infrared radiation from the side. The beetles changed their flight direction in response, but always away from the source and never towards it.

“Merimna’s IR organs are located on both sides of its abdomen; incidentally, this is unique in the animal kingdom,” explains Schmitz. “When we occluded the IR receptors with aluminum foil, the animals no longer reacted to the radiation, but always carried on flying straight ahead. As soon as we removed the foil they displayed their original behavior again.” This observation suggests another use of the heat sensors. “Presumably they help the fire beetles avoid hot spots when approaching an oviposition site such as a freshly burnt branch; these hot spots are not visible with the naked eye to humans and animals during the day,” says Schmitz.

How the animals detect forest fires remains unclear. Even visual stimuli seem to play no role in fire detection, despite Merimna atrata having good eyesight. The researchers tested this hypothesis by showing the beetles slides of large clouds of smoke rising above a forest area. But the insects were completely unimpressed and they never changed their flight direction.

Following their nose

“We therefore assume that Merimna atrata gets its information about an ongoing fire from the smell of smoke,” concludes Helmut Schmitz. This is also important for another reason. Odors can tell you exactly what is actually burning. In contrast, this information cannot be inferred from the heat development or the appearance of a smoke plume. Merimna is very picky, it only lays its eggs in burnt eucalyptus wood and avoids other trees. If the insect was to rely on its IR sense, it would risk being lured into the wrong kind of fires.

Something quite different can be seen with a close European relative; the fire beetles of the genus Melanophila. Their larvae develop in a variety of trees. Heat perception would be quite worthwhile for them. In fact, Melanophila also has infrared sensors, but they are completely different. They can presumably detect infrared radiation even from a long distance. According to measurements and theoretical calculations, Melanophila heat sensors are at least 500 times more sensitive than those of Merimna atrata.

French President Macron wants more militarism

This video says about itself:

Macron Leans Further Right as His Popularity Tanks

7 October 2017

As French President Emmanuel Macron continues his push for a stronger EU, it’s becoming ‘very clear that his agenda is a traditionally right-wing, pro-business agenda‘, says author and journalist Laura Raim.

By Alex Lantier in France:

French President Macron calls for the draft and threatens strikes on Syria

15 February 2018

On Tuesday night, at a meeting of the French presidential press association, Emmanuel Macron called for a return of the draft and threatened possible air strikes in Syria, a former French colony. Coming only days after a US bombing killed dozens of Russian military contractors in Syria and Israel struck targets in Syria, this constitutes an unambiguous warning of the danger of world war.

It also exposes the character of the German-French axis that Macron is trying to assemble with a potential “Grand Coalition” government between conservatives and social democrats in Berlin. It aims to convert Europe into an aggressive militarist bloc, sending youth to kill or be killed in imperialist wars involving all the major world powers.

“I want obligatory service, open to women and to men, [that provides] an insight into military matters”, Macron declared, repeating a campaign pledge made last year to return to the draft. He added that the length of service could be “between three to six months, but that is not yet fixed.”

As he did when first calling for the draft during his 2017 presidential campaign, Macron cynically tried to downplay its significance, claiming that the draft could have a “civic” component. That is, conscripted youth might also end up patrolling cities in France, as soldiers did during the recent, two-year state of emergency. However, Macron himself admitted in his 2017 speech on the draft that it is also in preparation for major wars, saying: “We have entered an epoch in international relations where war is again a possible outcome of politics.”

On Tuesday night, Macron said he was ready to launch air strikes on Syria, as the media whipped up a campaign around unsubstantiated US allegations that the Syrian government used chlorine gas. A campaign had erupted in the French press accusing Macron of forgetting the “red line” he set in his UN speech last September, pledging to attack Syria if France or its allies declare that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in the ongoing NATO war in the country.

“If [France] has reliable evidence that banned chemical weapons are being used against civilians, we will strike”, he said. “We will strike the places where these weapons are being used and where their use is organized. The red line will be respected.”

Macron added that he was in close contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to send warnings and threats to the Syrian regime. “I repeated this to President Putin, asking him to be very clear with the Syrian regime, which has reaffirmed that it is not using chemical weapons. … But we are watching it”, Macron said, adding: “As soon as the proof is established, I will do what I said.”

Should Macron launch these strikes, this would be an unprovoked act of war by France against its former colony, abetted by the other NATO powers, threatening to provoke war with Russia. The attempt to justify it based on unverified US allegations of poison gas use stinks of a provocation. Previous such claims, including poison gas attacks in Ghouta in 2013 and Khan Shaykhun in 2017, proved to be provocations, where NATO-backed Islamist militias staged gas attacks that they blamed on the regime in order to provide a pretext for NATO attacks on Syria.

This follows German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen’s trip to Iraq last weekend to announce an escalation of the German military presence there, and the publication last week of the program of a proposed “Grand Coalition” government in Berlin.

A key plank of the program is collaboration with France on trade, military and Middle East policy. Von der Leyen and her French counterpart, Florence Parly, are set to jointly open the Munich Security Conference this weekend, in a show of Franco-German military unity.

Macron’s discussion of an attack on Syria underscores that the Berlin-Paris axis is preparing a vast expansion of European military aggression, with explosive global consequences. Over the 25 years since the Stalinist regime dissolved the USSR, removing the main military counterweight to imperialist war, US imperialism has consistently sought to counterbalance its growing economic weakness by resorting to war and the use of its military advantages.

This culminated in the unveiling last month of a US National Defense Strategy that brands Russia and China, both major nuclear-armed powers, as Washington’s principal enemies.

Over the same period, Paris has pursued an ever more bellicose foreign policy. Besides fighting wars in its former African colonial empire, it repeatedly joined US-led wars–in 1991 against Iraq, in 2001 in Afghanistan, and the 2011 wars in Libya and then Syria–despite clashing with Washington over its 2003 invasion of Iraq. Under Macron, it is stepping up this offensive, while handing over billions of euros in tax cuts to the rich and financing these reactionary policies with deep social cuts aimed at the working class.

What is emerging is an explosive political collapse of the world capitalist system that threatens workers across Europe and the world with catastrophic consequences. It involves not only NATO conflicts with Russia and China, but the eruption of barely concealed differences between the NATO powers, which fought world wars between rival alliances twice in the 20th century.

Macron’s remarks Tuesday night pointed in particular to significant differences emerging between Washington and the Berlin-Paris axis over Russia and the Middle East.

Firstly, despite his bellicose threats against Syria, Macron ruled out an immediate strike and indicated his distrust of US allegations of Syrian poison gas use. “But today we do not have proof, established by our intelligence services, that chemical weapons banned by treaty have been used against civilian populations”, he said.

This begs the question of why Macron reacted to these unverified allegations, which he himself apparently does not trust, by threatening to bomb Syria.

Secondly, according to the business daily Les Echos, Macron called for dealing with the Syrian war by developing closer ties with Russia and opening “a dialog with the three member states of the ‘Astana process,’ that is, Iran, Turkey, and Russia.” This seems to place Macron on a very different course than the US National Defense Strategy and the US bombing of Russian contractors in Syria. It followed Macron’s cordial February 9 phone call with Putin, in which he also called for stepped-up trade and political collaboration with the Kremlin.

According to an Elysée palace communiqué, during this phone call, Macron congratulated Putin on “the dynamic of our bilateral relations since the Versailles meeting on May 29,” and noted that, “Our political exchanges are regular and ongoing.” It also hailed the ongoing development of relations between French and Russian “economic and cultural forces, thinkers and youth.”

Finally, Macron hailed the “permanent dialog” now ongoing between France and Turkey, who Macron said earlier this month had “reassured” him about its invasion of Syria to attack Kurdish forces. By contrast, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived yesterday for crisis talks in Turkey, whose Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu warned that its alliance with Washington could “break completely” over US support for Kurdish forces in Syria

These European-American differences again erupted into the open around yesterday’s NATO defense ministers’ summit in Brussels. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that it would be “absolutely without any meaning if NATO and the EU start to compete.”

US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison warned of a potential break-up of military relations between the United States and Europe over plans led by Berlin and Paris for European military cooperation. She said, “Certainly we do not want this to be a protectionist vehicle for the EU and we’re going to watch carefully because if that becomes the case then it could splinter the strong security alliance that we have. We want the Europeans to have capabilities and strength but not to fence off American products or Norwegian products or potentially UK products.”

As French President Emmanuel Macron called for a return to the draft and air strikes against Syria last week, he was also pushing to expand Europe’s role in the war drive in Asia. Under Trump, Washington has intensified its efforts to build up India as a counterweight to China in the Indian Ocean—Beijing’s lifeline for Persian Gulf oil and the pivotal channel for trade in manufactured products between Europe and Asia. France is also escalating its military relations with India and plotting to expand its role in the Indian Ocean. With Paris working with Berlin to transform the European Union into a military machine, France’s strategic thrust into South Asia and the Indian Ocean region must be taken as a warning regarding the size of the European imperialist powers’ appetites and the scope of the wars they are preparing behind the backs of the population: here.

WHEN Sweden brought back conscription at the start of this year, it was a direct response to rising tension in the Baltic region and the difficulty of recruiting soldiers. Now France, too, is debating the reintroduction of military service, which the country used to require of all young men until it was abolished by the Gaullist President Jacques Chirac in 1997. Unlike in Sweden, however, it is far from clear what the point in France would be: here.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s four-day visit to India last week highlighted the growing military build-up and drive towards war taking place internationally. Even as French officials and media called for war in Syria and backed Britain’s calls for suspending diplomatic relations with Russia after the unclarified poisoning of British spy Sergei Skripal, Macron was drawing France and Europe into the maelstrom in Asia: here.

Beewolf wasps’ health, from dinosaur age till now

This video says about itself:

Lifecycle of the European Beewolf wasp – short story with narration

22 August 2017

A short story on the European Beewolf Wasp (Philanthus triangulum) showing how it preys on others and what it does to improve the success of its offspring.

From the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany:

Beewolves have been successfully using the same antibiotics for 68 million years

The antibiotic cocktail produced by symbiotic bacteria changed very little in the course of evolution and its antipathogenic effect remained unaltered

February 14, 2018

Summary: Scientists have now found that beewolves, unlike humans, do not face the problem of antibiotic resistant pathogens. These insects team up with symbiotic bacteria which produce up to 45 different antibiotic substances to protect their offspring against mold fungi. This antibiotic cocktail has remained surprisingly stable since the symbiosis emerged, about 68 million years ago.

The discovery of penicillin about 90 years ago and the widespread introduction of antibiotics to combat infectious diseases have revolutionized human medicine. However, in recent decades, the increase in multidrug-resistant pathogens has confronted modern medicine with massive problems. Insects have their own antibiotics, which provide natural protection against germs. A team of scientists from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena have now found that beewolves, unlike humans, do not face the problem of antibiotic resistant pathogens. These insects team up with symbiotic bacteria which produce an antibiotic cocktail of up to 45 different substances within a single species to protect their offspring against mold fungi. The researchers not only discovered that the number of antibiotic substances is much higher than previously thought, they also proved that the cocktail has remained surprisingly stable since the symbiosis emerged, about 68 million years ago.

Beewolves are solitary digger wasps that carry paralyzed bees into their underground brood cells; these serve as a food supply for their offspring. After the larvae hatch from the eggs, they feed on the bees and then hibernate in a cocoon in the ground. While hibernating, they are constantly endangered by fast-growing mold fungi whose spores are omnipresent in the soil. To protect their young, beewolves have not only developed their own defense mechanisms, they also rely on the chemical arsenal of microorganisms. Adult females breed bacteria of the genus Streptomyces in their antennae and deposit these bacteria to the walls of the brood cells in which their larvae develop. When a larva spins its cocoon, it weaves the Streptomyces into the cocoon silk. Because the bacteria produce a cocktail of different antibiotic substances, a protective layer is formed which prevents mold fungi from entering the cocoon and infecting the larva.

In the present study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists from Mainz and Jena showed that the protective symbiosis between beewolves and their bacterial partners has not only existed since the Cretaceous (see also our press release, moreover, the antibiotic protection offered by the bacteria against pathogens has changed very little since it evolved about 68 million years ago. All of the studied beewolf species use very similar mixtures of antibiotics — basically, modifications of only two structures: streptochlorine and piericidin. “We had expected that some beewolf symbionts evolved new antibiotics to complement their arsenal over the course of evolution in order to help their hosts combat new or resistant mold fungi”, Tobias Engl from Mainz University, the first author of the study, said. However, the original antibiotic cocktail must have been so effective that it did not need to change. An especially important property from the start was possibly that the mixture was effective against a wide variety of fungi, as no specialized pathogens in beewolves are known to have evolved resistance to these antibiotics.

The broad protection offered by the antibiotic cocktail against a variety of mold fungi is probably related to the large number of substances produced by the bacterial symbionts. Because most of these substances can be traced back to a single gene cluster, the scientists also studied the molecular reasons for the diversity of products. They identified several key biosynthetic steps and discovered that the enzymes of the symbiotic Streptomyces worked less selectively than those of free-living bacteria. This lack of specificity allows the enzymes to bind to different chemical precursors, which is the reason for a larger number of products. In addition, the direct end-product of the piericidin biosynthesis is modified in multiple ways. The result is a multitude of antibiotic substances which are found in varying amounts in the different beewolf species. The geographical pattern of the relative amounts of single substances suggests that the antibiotics allow beewolves to adapt to a certain degree to local mold communities.

Beewolves and their symbiont-produced antibiotics are likely exposed to different selective pressures than humans. Human pathogens gain enormous advantage by becoming resistant to common antibiotics. They can use this advantage effectively, because they are transmitted from person to person and, in our globalized world, even from country to country. They spread easily in hospitals, where many people, often with compromised immune systems, live together in close proximity. “Beewolves, in contrast, are usually found in small populations and frequently relocate, because they rely on open sandy grounds to build their burrows”, Martin Kaltenpoth, who headed a Max Planck Research Group in Jena until he became Professor of Evolutionary Ecology in Mainz in 2015, explained. “Hence resistant pathogens have little opportunity to spread within or between populations.” Perhaps this is the reason why no resistant microorganisms are known to have specialized on beewolves. It seems most important for beewolves to have a defense which is efficient against a broad and constantly changing spectrum of mold fungi. The selective process that favored broad-spectrum activity over adaptation to specialized pathogens likely influenced the development of the antibiotic cocktail and led to it remaining mostly unchanged for millions of years.