Snowshoe hares’ camouflage, new study


This 2015 video is called Epic Hunting Chase of the Canadian Lynx and Snowshoe Hare in HD.

From The University of Montana in the USA:

How snowshoe hares evolved to stay seasonally camouflaged

June 21, 2018

Many animals have evolved fur or feather colors to blend in with the environment and hide from predators. But how do animals stay camouflaged when their environment changes with each new season? Researchers at the University of Montana recently discovered that hybridization played an important role in snowshoe hares’ ability to match their environment.

An international scientific team led by UM Associate Professor Jeffrey Good and graduate student Matthew Jones set out to discover how snowshoe hares have evolved to molt to a white coat in areas with prolonged winter snow cover while populations from mild coastal environments of the Pacific Northwest retain brown fur year-round.

“Like other seasonal traits, the autumn molt in snowshoe hares is triggered by changes in day length”m Good said. “But the color of their winter coat is determined by genetic variation that has been shaped by evolution to match the local presence or absence of snow.”

In a new article published in the journal Science, Good’s team discovered that the development of brown or white winter coats in snowshoe hares is controlled by genetic variation at a single pigmentation gene that is activated during the autumn molt.

“This result is exciting because it shows that critical adaptive shifts in seasonal camouflage can evolve through changes in the regulation of a single gene,” Jones said.

The genetic discovery came with a surprising twist.

“When we looked at the same gene in other closely related species”, Jones said, “we found that the brown version of the gene in snowshoe hares was recently acquired from interbreeding with black-tail jackrabbits, another North American species that remains brown in the winter.”

Hybridization between species has played a key role in the development of many domestic plants and animals, and recent research suggests that it is also surprisingly common in nature. In snowshoe hares, hybridization with black-tailed jackrabbits provided critical coat color variation needed to adapt to coastal areas where winter snow is ephemeral or absent. But what does this mean for snowshoe hares going forward?

“Brown winter coats are currently rare across the range of snowshoe hares”, Good said. “If snow cover continues to decrease due to climate change, brown winter coats may become more common in the future and play a critical role in the resilience of this species. These discoveries are helping us understand how organisms adapt to rapidly changing environments.”

UM Professor Scott Mills is a co-author on the paper. For this research, UM partnered with the Universidade do Porto and CIBIO-InBIO in Portugal, North Carolina State University, Arizona State University, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland and University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

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Trump attacks children, British poem


This video about the USA says about itself:

Does Trump‘s Executive Order Fix Anything?

22 June 2018

The executive order includes no provision to reunite the 2,300 separated families and illegally proposes to detain children indefinitely.

By Kevin Higgins in Britain:

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Truth Behind the Wire

Kindly disregard the attention seeking cries of the few.
They are child actors being given scripts by liberals.
Most of the young people there are delighted with
what we’re doing. There is no policy
of separation from parents. It’s just
if you’re going to process the mamas
and papas, you’ve gotta take
the bambinos away.
The wire we put around them,
for their own safety, isn’t even barbed.
In there, we help kids go to school,
even give them haircuts
with our giant — and deadly
accurate — Immigration
and Customs Enforcement scissors.

This is the exact opposite of cages.
Despite the headlines,
no one has been gassed.
There are, and never have been,
any concentration camps.
These children are in temporary custody
playing video games
and soccer, getting two snacks
a day and lots of sleep
under their resplendent thermal blankets.
The chain-link fencing
we’ve used to divide into bedrooms
the building we’re warehousing them in
is entirely incidental.

Almost none of the adolescents in our possession
have, as of yet, been turned
into bespoke hat-stands
and raffled off to the dissatisfied wives
of Texan cattle-hands.

And we have, as of today, no plans
to use the hindquarters of the small ones
to fashion a new face for
Rupert Murdoch.

US separates 2,000 children from their families as they cross the border: here.

Stop British Conservative fox hunting plans


British anti-fox hunting demonstrators

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Friday, June 22, 2018

Unelectable and unspeakable but still chasing the inedible

We all know that Prime Minister Theresa May has always been in favour of fox-hunting because she has often told us so.

In return, no less than 84 per cent of the British public have told her and other hunting fans in Westminster that they do not agree with those outdated opinions.

Overwhelmingly the general public wants Labour’s 2004 ban of hunting with dogs to stay firmly in place.

Yet despite hunting being illegal for nearly 14 years, wild animals are still being hunted and killed in the British countryside and those responsible are getting away with it.

Hunts are still killing wildlife. They have found many ways to circumvent the law and get away with slaughtering many wild animals. They do it in many ways — through so-called trail hunting, abusing exemptions in the law and exploiting legal loopholes that mean thousands of animals are meeting cruel and bloody deaths in the countryside every year.

Landowners are still giving hunts and packs of hounds access to land in order to carry out activities barely disguised as a cover for illegal hunting.

Legislation is simply not strong enough to allow the ever-reducing number of rural police to come down hard on illegal hunting.

Fox-hunting has always involved posh country folk dressing up and setting their pack of dogs on a fox and then chasing it on horseback for miles across the landscape. What hunters call a sport most people see as vicious and outdated cruelty.

The public wants nothing to do with May’s idea of repealing the legal ban put in place by a Labour government in 2004.

One of the worst ways the hunts get around this 14-year-old legal ban is called “trail hunting.” Most registered fox and hare hunts claim now to be trail hunting — an activity that was not in existence or even thought off when the Hunting Act 2004 was drafted.

Trail hunting is an entirely new invention which uses an artificial animal scent trail — often fox urine.

It is is not the same as drag hunting, which is a legitimate long established country sport which existed before the Act and, although it also uses packs of foxhounds, is not intended to catch and kill animals.

Trail hunting, on the other hand, deliberately kills many foxes and hares despite the claim from the hunts that these deaths are all accidents. It was simply dreamed up as a false cover for illegal hunting.

Too often the police or the Crown Prosecution Service consider that a case involving trail hunting may be too difficult to prosecute as proving intent is very difficult with the current Hunting Act if the trail-hunting deceit is used. That is why the law needs to be strengthened.

It isn’t just foxes that are illegally hunted and killed. Police are investigating allegations of illegal deer hunting in south-west England, following claims that here too a traditional hunt has been chasing stags with packs of hounds.

The League against Cruel Sports has given evidence to police that the Quantock Staghounds have broken the law.

Although the Hunting Act 2004 banned the hunting of foxes and wild mammals using dogs, hunting deer without hounds remains legal.

Three traditional hunts continue to chase deer on horseback in Somerset and Devon. The law allows hunters to use up to just two dogs to locate wounded deer or to flush out prey.

Darryl Cunnington, a retired police officer and now a League volunteer has given Avon and Somerset police wildlife officers a file of evidence from an incident in January on the southern edge of the Quantock hills, near Bridgwater in Somerset.

His evidence revealed there were seven or eight hounds chasing deer across the moor and the hounds were not called off and may have been actively encouraged. There was no evidence of trail-laying, proving this was deliberate illegal hunting.

A separate incident in September 2016 — filmed by a League volunteer — shows six hounds chasing a deer in Willoughby Cleeve. The man who took the footage, Andy Kendall, was also a retired police officer.

In 2007, local huntsmen Richard Down and Adrian Pillivant were each fined £500 for hunting deer with dogs. The League estimates that around 200 deer are chased and killed every year. Its Animal Crimewatch hotline, received 66 reports of illegal deer hunting in 2017.

So why did May raise the question of hunting just before her misjudged and hastily called general election.

In the campaign she ditched plans that had promised the Tory faithful a free vote to allow the end of the ban on fox-hunting.

It was of course a crude attempt to repair the Conservatives’ reputation on animal rights. May had voted against the original ban when it was introduced by Labour. She told Andrew Marr that she had always supported fox-hunting but had never herself hunted.

Her rival for the job of prime minister, Andrea Leadsom, is an enthusiastic hunter. May made Leadsom environment secretary briefly after the election but soon replaced her with Michael Gove who didn’t take long to spot that a poll just before the election showed 67 per cent of voters believed fox-hunting should remain illegal.

Gove started a concerted Tory campaign to counter social media posts denouncing the party’s record on animal rights.

Labour canvassers discovered Jeremy Corbyn’s long-held views opposing fox-hunting were helping them enormously on the doorstep, while May’s U-turn seems to have unleashed a backlash among Tory supporters both inside and outside the Conservative party.

In previous elections, the Tories have been helped in rural areas by Vote-OK, a pro-hunting organisation mobilising its supporters to back the local Tory campaign. Now Vote-OK is livid at what it sees as May’s betrayal.

Countryside Alliance’s top man Tim Bonner has warned that ditching the hunting pledge would have serious consequences for May’s long-term future.

May’s long-term future? That will certainly take some hunting for.

Zebrafish see well, new study


This 2017 video is called Eyes of Zebra fish may help unveil cure for human blindness, say scientists.

From the University of Sussex in England:

Zebrafish‘s near 360 degree UV-vision knocks stripes off Google Street View

June 21, 2018

Summary: A zebrafish view of the world has been forensically analyzed by researchers to reveal that how they see their surroundings changes hugely depending on what direction they are looking.

Tiny freshwater fish have a view of the world that blows Google Street View out of the water — using different parts of their eyes to deliver optimum uses of colour, black-and-white and ultraviolet.

A zebrafish view of the world has been forensically analysed by researchers at the University of Sussex to reveal that how they see their surroundings changes hugely depending on what direction they are looking.

The study of the colour vision system of zebrafish larvae, published today in Current Biology, reveals they use their near 360 degree view of their world to detect threatening silhouettes above them in black-and-white but can seek out the almost transparent single-cell organisms they feed on by detecting the scattering of light in UV.

Dr Tom Baden, a senior lecturer in neuroscience at the University of Sussex who led the research, said: “By measuring the activity of thousands of neurons in the live animal while presenting visual stimuli, we established that different parts of their retinas, looking at different parts of the visual world, do different things. This multi-faceted view makes perfect sense for zebrafish as that’s how colour is distributed in their natural habitat. In their natural visual world, most colour information is on the ground and the horizon but above them the objects of most interest are dark silhouettes, so colour vision here is rather pointless.”

The study is the first in-depth physiological description of any vertebrate’s retinal setup for colour vision that uses “4 input colours” which includes a large proportion of non-mammal species such as most birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. By comparison humans only use three and mice, dogs and horses only two.

The researchers say little is understood on how colour vision based on four or more spectral inputs works at a neuronal level but their paper, should help pave the way for further discoveries in this field. The team custom-built a hyperspectral scanner that allowed them to capture the full spectrum of light in the zebrafish natural world at each pixel including for UV vision.

The study found that zebrafish, who during larval and juvenile life stages live mostly in shallow, low current pockets on the sides of streams and rice paddies, only seem to use their colour vision repertoire for looking down and along the horizon, use colour-blind circuits for looking straight up and extremely sensitive ultraviolet vision for looking forward and upwards.

The zebrafish has made a supreme evolutionary effort to develop this superior vision, with about half of all its neurons inside the eyes making up nearly a quarter of their total body volume and requiring substantial metabolic investment. Similar ratios on a human being would mean eyes around the size of a large grapefruit which would require an optic nerve the width of an arm.

Dr Baden said: “Clearly, animals like zebrafish use specialised strategies to better navigate their natural environment by adjusting their eyes to look out for different things in different parts of their visual field. In contrast, technology has not really caught up with these types of ideas. For example, most standard camera systems still “blindly” use the same type of light detection and compression across an entire image even if half the image shows bright blue sky and the other half the overgrown and shadowed ground.”

Why zebrafish (almost) always have stripes. Mathematical model helps explain key role of one pigment cell: here.

Researchers used zebrafish to study the effects of knocking out three clock genes, Cry1a, Cry2a, and Per2. They compared wild-type zebrafish with those with single, double, or triple knockout of these genes under conditions of complete darkness, three hours of light, and finally 12 hours of light reflecting typical daylight. The team revealed reduced locomotion and more resting associated with gene knockout, linking this to impaired metabolism: here.

UAE occupiers’ sexual torture of Yemenis


This video from the USA says about itself:

Yemenis Accuse UAE Officers of Sexual Torture Inside Secret Prisons

21 June 2018

A new investigation has uncovered rampant sexual violence against Yemeni prisoners held in prisons run by the United Arab Emirates in Yemen.

The Associated Press reports that in March, 15 officers lined up the prisoners in the southern city of Aden and ordered them to undress before searching their anal cavities, claiming they were looking for contraband cell phones. The prisoners screamed and cried and those who resisted were beaten and threatened by dogs.

Hundreds of prisoners reportedly suffered similar abuse. A Pentagon spokesman quoted in the piece said the allegations were not substantiated. The UAE is a key ally of the United States and has partnered with Saudi Arabia in its military assault on Yemen.

New Sri Lankan spiders get Enid Blyton names


This video says about itself:

Science Bulletins: Seeking Spiders—Biodiversity on a Different Scale

4 October 2012

Recognizing the tiny species of any ecosystem is hugely important for defining its overall diversity. But miniscule forms of life are often invisible to conservation efforts because they have yet to be described in detail. Dr. Norman Platnick of the American Museum of Natural History is leading an important initiative to discover biodiversity on a smaller scale. Having devoted decades to the study of spiders, Dr. Platnick now leads a team of 45 investigators from 10 countries in the largest-ever research project on spiders, identifying members of the goblin spider family. This group of spiders is widely distributed but largely unknown, primarily due to their small size—at 1.2-3mm, they measure one-half to one-third the length of the average spider. This video follows Dr. Platnick’s team into the Ecuadorian jungle as they collect and identify scores of unrecognized goblin spiders, showing how little we know about the full breadth of global biodiversity.

From ScienceDaily:

Six new species of goblin spiders named after famous goblins and brownies

June 21, 2018

Summary: A remarkably high diversity of goblin spiders is reported from the Sri Lankan forests. Nine new species are described in a recent paper, where six are named after goblins and brownies from Enid Blyton‘s children’s books. There are now 45 goblin spider species belonging to 13 genera known to inhabit the island country.

Fictional characters originally ‘described’ by famous English children’s writer Enid Blyton have given their names to six new species of minute goblin spiders discovered in the diminishing forests of Sri Lanka.

The goblins Bom, Snooky and Tumpy and the brownies Chippy, Snippy and Tiggy made their way from the pages of: “The Goblins Looking-Glass” (1947), “Billy’s Little Boats” (1971) and “The Firework Goblins” (1971) to the scientific literature in a quest to shed light on the remarkable biodiversity of the island country of Sri Lanka, Indian Ocean.

As a result of their own adventure, which included sifting through the leaf litter of the local forests, scientists Prof. Suresh P. Benjamin and Ms. Sasanka Ranasinghe of the National Institute of Fundamental Studies, Sri Lanka, described a total of nine goblin spider species in six genera as new to science. Two of these genera are reported for the very first time from outside Australia.

Their paper is published in the open access journal Evolutionary Systematics.

With a total of 45 species in 13 genera, the goblin spider fauna in Sri Lanka — a country taking up merely 65,610 km2 — is already remarkably abundant. Moreover, apart from their diversity, these spiders amaze with their extreme endemism. While some of the six-eyed goblins can only be found at a few sites, other species can be seen nowhere outside a single forest patch.

“Being short-range endemics with very restricted distributions, these species may prove to be very important when it comes to monitoring the effects of climate change and other threats for the forest habitats in Sri Lanka”, explain the researchers.

In European folklore, goblins and brownies are known as closely related small and often mischievous fairy-like creatures, which live in human homes and even do chores while the family is asleep, since they avoid being seen. In exchange, they expect from their ‘hosts’ to leave food for them.

Similarly, at size of a few millimetres, goblin spiders are extremely tough to notice on the forest floors they call home. Further, taking into consideration the anthropogenic factors affecting their habitat, the arachnids also turn out to be heavily dependent on humans.

Trump against immigrant children, causing protests


This 21 June 2018 video from the USA is called Trump Administration to Indefinitely Detain Migrant Families Together; No Plan to Reunite Separated Children.

From Pramila Jayapal in the USA today:

The Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies need to stop. Join us on Saturday, June 30 for a nationwide protest, anchored by MoveOn and the National Domestic Workers Alliance, to demand justice for immigrant families.

Find your nearest rally

Yesterday, in response to public outcry, Trump signed an executive order trading one cruelty for another. The order ends family separation at the border but maintains so-called “zero tolerance.” And it opens the door to the INDEFINITE DETENTION of children and parents in camps. It’s not just immoral, it’s illegal.

This is the time to fight back harder.

Trump created the crisis of family separation and now, in response to the American people speaking out and mobilizing, he’s making a show out of signing an executive order to end it. He didn’t need an executive order to end his cruel policy — he could have simply told Jeff Sessions and the Department of Homeland Security to stop the abuse.

This 21 June 2018 video from the USA is called GEO Group & Private Prisons Stand to Profit as Trump Pushes Indefinite Family Detention.

No clear plan yet on how to reunite parents with children (AP News)

The executive order Trump claims will end family separation, explained (Vox)

Pentagon Asked to Prepare Housing for Up to 20,000 Migrant Children Video (New York Times)

“These Kids are Traumatized: For Migrant Children Caught at the Border, Detention is just the beginning (Vanity Fair)

We All Need to Fight to End the Separation of Immigrant Families (The Nation)

MILITARY TO HOUSE MIGRANTS Some 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children are reportedly to be sheltered on U.S. military bases, according to a Pentagon official, following a request from the Department of Health and Human Services. Meanwhile, experts say the process to reunite detained children with their families is in “total chaos.” [HuffPost]

LOCKED UP INDEFINITELY The Trump administration has filed an emergency motion in court so it can lock up migrant children indefinitely — along with their parents.  Earlier, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Christian Broadcasting Network that it’s “painful” to hear religious leaders condemn the policy of child separation he oversaw. [HuffPost]

This 21 June 2018 video from the USA is called Report from McAllen, Texas: No One Knows What Will Happen Now to Separated Migrant Children.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Friday, June 22, 2018

New York Mayor joins Mexican border protests against Trump

NEW YORK Mayor Bill de Blasio joined other mayors on the Texas-Mexico border today to visit a childcare centre and denounce the Trump administration’s migration policy.

He had earlier expressed shock that at least 239 children had been sent to his city after being separated from their parents on the border.

Mr Blasio pointed out that President Donald Trump’s executive order putting an end to the policy of separating families at the border involved no mechanism to reunify those already separated.

He said he had gone to a reception centre for migrant children in Harlem and emerged to reveal that he was “shocked to learn” how many children separated from their parents had been sent to New York, explaining that this single Harlem centre had received 239 children without the knowledge of city authorities.

“How is it possible that none of us knew that there were 239 kids right here in our city?” he asked.

“How is the federal government holding back that information from the people of this city and holding back the help that these kids could need?”

“The mental health issues alone, they made clear to us, are very real, very painful”, the mayor stressed.

President Trump was forced by a public outcry at home and abroad against his punitive split families policy to issue his executive order last night.

His explanation was that he “did not like the sight of families being separated.”

The president stressed, however, his administration’s commitment to its “zero tolerance policy” of criminally prosecuting anyone who crosses the border illegally.

He added that it was now up to Congress to resolve the issue, in combination with tougher immigration regulations.

Two Bills, both involving finance to build a border wall with Mexico but differing over whether to offer citizenship to so-called “dreamers” — migrants brought to the US as children — have been tabled.

Neither Bill is popular with Democrats and many Republicans are wavering or openly opposed.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who has defended the split families policy, was confronted by angry chanting protesters during her meal in Washington on yesterday evening at a Mexican restaurant.

This 21 June 2018 video from the USA is called Lawsuit Claims Detained Migrant Children Have Been Forcibly Injected With Powerful Psychiatric Drugs.

Trump aide Stephen Miller’s great-grandfather flunked his naturalization test.

HOUSE OF PAIN The House Thursday rejected a conservative immigration bill, with a second, less hard-line bill also expected to fail in the coming days. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was quick to blame Democrats for the defeat, claiming they care more about open borders than migrant children. [HuffPost]