From microscopic life to big animals, prehistoric evolution

This video from Canada says about itself:

The Ediacaran Period: Glimpses of the Earth’s Earliest Animals

Royal Tyrrell Museum Speaker Series 2016

Calla Carbone – Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology “The Ediacaran Period: Glimpses of the Earth’s Earliest Animals”.

Originally published February 22, 2016.

From the University of Cambridge in England:

Why life on Earth first got big

June 25, 2018

Some of the earliest complex organisms on Earth — possibly some of the earliest animals to exist — got big not to compete for food, but to spread their offspring as far as possible.

The research, led by the University of Cambridge, found that the most successful organisms living in the oceans more than half a billion years ago were the ones that were able to ‘throw’ their offspring the farthest, thereby colonising their surroundings. The results are reported in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Prior to the Ediacaran period, between 635 and 541 million years ago, life forms were microscopic in size, but during the Ediacaran, large, complex organisms first appeared, some of which — such as a type of organism known as rangeomorphs — grew as tall as two metres. These organisms were some of the first complex organisms on Earth, and although they look like ferns, they may have been some of the first animals to exist — although it’s difficult for scientists to be entirely sure. Ediacaran organisms do not appear to have mouths, organs or means of moving, so they are thought to have absorbed nutrients from the water around them.

As Ediacaran organisms got taller, their body shapes diversified, and some developed stem-like structures to support their height.

In modern environments, such as forests, there is intense competition between organisms for resources such as light, so taller trees and plants have an obvious advantage over their shorter neighbours. “We wanted to know whether there were similar drivers for organisms during the Ediacaran period”, said Dr Emily Mitchell of Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences, the paper’s lead author. “Did life on Earth get big as a result of competition?”

Mitchell and her co-author Dr Charlotte Kenchington from Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada examined fossils from Mistaken Point in south-eastern Newfoundland, one of the richest sites of Ediacaran fossils in the world.

Earlier research hypothesised that increased size was driven by the competition for nutrients at different water depths. However, the current work shows that the Ediacaran oceans were more like an all-you-can-eat buffet.

“The oceans at the time were very rich in nutrients, so there wasn’t much competition for resources, and predators did not yet exist”, said Mitchell, who is a Henslow Research Fellow at Murray Edwards College. “So there must have been another reason why life forms got so big during this period.”

Since Ediacaran organisms were not mobile and were preserved where they lived, it’s possible to analyse whole populations from the fossil record. Using spatial analysis techniques, Mitchell and Kenchington found that there was no correlation between height and competition for food. Different types of organisms did not occupy different parts of the water column to avoid competing for resources — a process known as tiering.

“If they were competing for food, then we would expect to find that the organisms with stems were highly tiered”, said Kenchington. “But we found the opposite: the organisms without stems were actually more tiered than those with stems, so the stems probably served another function.”

According to the researchers, one likely function of stems would be to enable the greater dispersion of offspring, which rangeomorphs produced by expelling small propagules. The tallest organisms were surrounded by the largest clusters of offspring, suggesting that the benefit of height was not more food, but a greater chance of colonising an area.

“While taller organisms would have been in faster-flowing water, the lack of tiering within these communities shows that their height didn’t give them any distinct advantages in terms of nutrient uptake”, said Mitchell. “Instead, reproduction appears to have been the main reason that life on Earth got big when it did.”

Despite their success, rangeomorphs and other Ediacaran organisms disappeared at the beginning of the Cambrian period about 540 million years ago, a period of rapid evolutionary development when most major animal groups first appear in the fossil record.

What caused the mass extinction of Earth’s first animals? Unravelling mystery of the Ediacaran-Cambrian transition. June 27, 2018, by Arizona State University. Fossil records tell us that the first macroscopic animals appeared on Earth about 575 million years ago. Twenty-four million years later, the diversity of animals began to mysteriously decline, leading to Earth’s first know mass extinction event. A research team is helping to unravel this mystery and understand why this extinction event happened, what it can tell us about our origins, and how the world as we know it came to be: here.

Scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) and overseas have discovered the oldest colours in the geological record, 1.1 billion-year-old bright pink pigments extracted from rocks deep beneath the Sahara desert in Africa. Dr Nur Gueneli from ANU said the pigments taken from marine black shales of the Taoudeni Basin in Mauritania, West Africa, were more than half a billion years older than previous pigment discoveries. Dr Gueneli discovered the molecules as part of her PhD studies. “The bright pink pigments are the molecular fossils of chlorophyll that were produced by ancient photosynthetic organisms inhabiting an ancient ocean that has long since vanished,” said Dr Gueneli from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences: here.

Ediacara biota were forming complex communities tens of millions of years before the Cambrian explosion: here.

Israeli airline gives in to sexism

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 25 June 2018:

ISRAEL: State airline El Al faces new discrimination allegations after moving two female passengers from their seats after ultra-Orthodox men refused to sit next to them.

El Al said yesterday that discrimination against passengers was “forbidden” and it did its utmost to serve a “wide array of populations and travellers.”

The Israel Religious Action Centre, which led a similar lawsuit in 2016, accused the airline of breaking its commitments.

From Tel Aviv to El Al, Israel Is Backsliding on Gender Segregation. Thousands attended a segregated Chabad event on Rabin Square after a judge ordered the mayor to allow the partition. ‘What they’re saying is that we need to be tolerant of intolerance’, a legal expert tells Haaretz.

Monarch butterfly American migration, new research

This 2017 video is called Monarch Butterfly Migration: A Mystery Of The Natural World – HD Documentary.

From Washington State University in the USA:

Monarchs ride West Coast winds: Proof of butterfly migration gathered

June 25, 2018

After five years and nearly 15,000 tagged butterflies, scientists now have proof that Monarch butterflies migrate from the Pacific Northwest to California in late summer and fall, a journey averaging nearly 500 miles.

Most of the tagging was done by citizen scientists and inmates from the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. The prisoners are carefully trained in raising, tagging, and releasing Monarchs.

The findings were recently published in the Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society. WSU entomology professor David James spearheaded the project, which took a massive amount of time and coordination to put together, ultimately involving hundreds of volunteers. The research was unfunded, making the volunteers indispensable.

Long distance travelers

“On average, these butterflies averaged almost 40 miles of travel each day”, James said. “That’s pretty remarkable for such a small creature.”

Though scientists don’t know exactly how the butterflies travel that far, they suspect the Monarchs may ride warm air currents called thermals a few thousand feet up in the air, then use the strong upper-air currents to navigate, James said.

The paper covered the initial five years of the project, from 2012 to 2016. Participants tagged and released 13,778 Monarchs that were raised in captivity and tagged 875 wild Monarchs. More than one-third of the raised Monarchs were reared by inmates at Walla Walla, James said.

Butterflies were released from around Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia.

A total of 60 tagged Monarchs were recovered more than six miles from their release point, a return rate that James said was expected based on similar work done in the eastern United States. None of the recovered tags were from the wild Monarchs.

The longest recorded journey was from a butterfly released by James himself in Yakima that was recovered at Tecolote Canyon, near Goleta, California, a straight-line distance of 845 miles.

On average, the 60 recovered butterflies travelled just shy of 500 miles.

Flowers for fuel

The results from this project will be used to show migratory corridors where areas can be stocked with flowers, James said. Migration is a very vulnerable time for Monarchs.

“They need fuel, which is nectar from flowers”, James said. “If we have large areas without flowers, then they won’t make it.”

Most scientists think the butterflies descend from their flight in the evening to feed, then eat again in the morning before finding thermals to ride back up, James said.

Monarchs have seen a huge population decline over the last two decades, James said. It’s estimated populations have declined approximately 90 percent over that timeframe. Ensuring nectar resources along migration routes will help them survive their journeys.

Critical help from citizen scientists

James said he’s never worked on a project with so many citizen scientists before, and is incredibly grateful for all of their help.

“The results we got would have been impossible without their help, whether that’s the prisoners or just people that care about butterflies who have contacted us,” James said.

The project is still ongoing, with nearly 5,000 people on the group’s Facebook page.

James thinks that eventually, technology will eliminate the need to tag so many thousands of butterflies.

“Right now, microchips are too heavy for Monarchs,” James said. “But the technology is improving so quickly that we’re hoping to get something that will track an individual throughout his or her journey. Then we can just chip 100 or 200 butterflies and not tag 15,000.”

Fewer monarch butterflies are reaching their overwintering destination. New research on monarch butterfly migration in North America leads to questions about where they overwinter: here.

Scientists studying monarch butterflies have traditionally focused on two sources for their decline — winter habitat loss in Mexico and fewer milkweed plants in the Midwest. New research conducted by Michigan State University and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, however, shows that a critical piece of the butterfly’s annual cycle was missing — the fall migration. By focusing on this southerly trek, as well as changing the scale at which winter populations are examined, scientists reveal a wider, more-accurate spectrum of threats that have contributed to the monarch population’s downward trend: here.

Monarch butterflies purchased from a commercial breeder did not fly in a southward direction, even in offspring raised outdoors, in a new study conducted by scientists at the University of Chicago. Wild-caught monarchs bred indoors under simulated outdoor conditions also did not orient south, suggesting that captive breeding disrupts the monarch’s famous annual migratory behavior: here.

Saudi women driving, death penalty for activists who made it possible?

Saudi women driving, Argus cartoon

The caption of this cartoon, by ‘Argus’ in the Netherlands, says, translated: ‘Women allowed to drive cars in ‘modern’ Saudi Arabia’. The text balloon says, translated: ‘At last, I will not have to go by bus if I want to watch a homo being stoned to death‘.

All the time until today, there was never any law in Saudi Arabia banning women from driving cars. Nevertheless, the regime flogged and jailed women who did drive.

Now, Saudi women can drive. With no thanks to the absolute monarchy, but thanks to the courageous Saudi women fighting for their rights. However, the dictatorship of the king and his warmongering son, the crown prince, does not want the women activists to get the credit for this concession forced upon the regime; and arrested these activists and threatens them with the death penalty.

The cartoon points out that, while there has been progress on this one driving point, there are still very many ‘not so modern’ things in Saudi Arabia. It points out the death penalty by stoning LGBTQ people. Also, there is the death penalty by crucifying for teenagers demonstrating for democracy. And killing immigrant workers for demonstrating. And public beheadings of women proclaiming their innocence. And flogging for blogging. And the bloody occupation of Bahrain by Saudi troops. And waging genocidal war on the people of Yemen.

Donald Trump’s anti-human rights nightmare update

This video from the USA says about itself:

Inside Trump’s Child Prison Camps

23 June 2018

Some people are having trouble with the word “cage”. Others have trouble with the cages. Jimmy Dore, Stef Zamorano, and Malcolm Fleschner, hosts of Aggressive Progressives, discuss.

“On May 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Thomas Homan announced that the Trump administration would adopt a “zero tolerance” policy for anyone caught illegally crossing into the United States. Those apprehended would be referred to the Department of Justice and prosecuted for the misdemeanor of illegal entry.

In the weeks since, thousands of families have been separated as a result of the policy. Parents have been sent to jail while their children have been labeled “unaccompanied minors” and taken into government custody. (In some cases, this means cages.)

There have been calls for Department of Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen to step down. … Republicans have begun speaking out against President Donald Trump, voicing increasing anxiety that this issue will hurt them in the midterms.

Amid mounting public pressure, President Trump on June 20 signed an executive order directing his administration to end family separations.

Read more here.

By Eric London in the USA:

Concentration camps in America

25 June 2018

A Navy memo released Friday reveals that the government is planning to build a network of “austere” concentration camps to house 120,000 people across the United States. The proposal is yet another milestone in the breakdown of democracy and drive toward dictatorship.

The Navy plan includes the establishment of two massive camps in California, each holding 47,000 people, one outside the San Francisco Bay Area and another between Los Angeles and San Diego—areas with large working-class immigrant populations. The camps will be sufficiently close to these major urban areas to facilitate mass deportations and military interference in the state government.

The Navy memo has been largely ignored by the corporate media. On the Sunday morning talk shows, none of the talking heads or political guests, Democratic or Republican, made mention of the military plans, limiting their comments to hypocritical appeals for a “more humane” removal of undocumented immigrants.

In another display of contempt for constitutional principles and legal due process, President Donald Trump continued spouting his fascist filth yesterday, tweeting: “We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order.”

There are still 2,053 locked-up children who have been separated from their parents. Social workers say the immigrant children have become “eerily silent”, are “hearing voices”, and in their desperation physically cling to any adult.

The administration also announced that immigrant parents will not be reunited with their children until the conclusion of deportation proceedings—a process that can take months or even years. If parents wish to see their children sooner, they will have to abandon asylum claims and agree to voluntarily return to the persecution, violence and war that they risked their lives to flee. Many parents have already been deported and do not know how to reach their children.

The Democratic Party’s response is a combination of fecklessness and rank hypocrisy. Democratic representatives have issued statements calling the family separation policy “cruel” and “inhumane” in an effort to posture as pro-immigrant for the 2018 midterm elections. The New York Times attempted to whitewash the Democrats’ own responsibility for the attack on immigrants in an editorial yesterday titled, “How the GOP Built Donald Trump’s Cages.”

The Times states that while Republicans “play to their base’s darker impulses”, the Democratic Party under Barack Obama “took a run at reform” and “enraged conservatives” by “expanding deportation deferments.” It is the Republicans, the Times claims, who have “done so much to pave the way for Mr. Trump and his immigration policies.”

In reality, Barack Obama deported 2.7 million people, more than any other president, and his administration expanded the border wall and built many of the for-profit prisons currently housing immigrant children, literally paving the way for Trump’s present policy.

Opposition to Trump’s attack on immigrants continues to grow, with demonstrations in dozens of cities nationwide scheduled for the coming days and weeks. This opposition requires … a clear political focus and policy.

The attack on immigrants both in the US and internationally must be recognized as a vast exercise in scapegoating the most oppressed in order to divert attention from the real cause of poverty and inequality: the capitalist system. The claim that immigrants are to blame for declining living conditions is a lie.

The Democratic Party must be recognized as no less responsible than the Republicans for the attack on immigrants and the growing threat posed by the military to democratic rights. Democrats voted overwhelmingly last week for an appropriations bill that increases the military budget by $82 billion and grants Trump the power to stage a military parade in Washington, DC.

For the first two years of the Trump administration, the Democrats have sought to divert and dissipate opposition to Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and channel it behind their warmongering anti-Russia campaign, attacking anyone who criticizes the military-intelligence agencies leading the investigation.

The social force that can and must halt the drive toward dictatorship is the working class, the central target of the assault on democratic rights. Through the Trump administration, the military is asserting an ever-greater role in domestic politics. Trump’s attack on immigrants provides the military with a cover to prepare the infrastructure for cracking down on strikes and opposition to war and inequality.

The mobilization of the working class … requires the establishment of neighborhood and workplace committees to organize the resistance of family, neighbors, friends and co-workers when any immigrant is under threat of deportation.

The Socialist Equality Party demands:

• The immediate release of all children detained in the United States, as well as all immigrants detained in camps and detention centers around the world.

• The abolition of the American Gestapo—Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

• Active noncooperation with the deportation machine.

• Immediate amnesty for all immigrants without papers in the United States and guarantees of the right to travel and work.

• The provision of trillions of dollars in public services and job training programs to all workers, immigrant and non-immigrant alike. There is enough wealth and room for all.

Socialists reject the assertion that there is a “rational” way to block the tens of millions of people escaping imperialist war and poverty from seeking safe refuge. It is a fundamental contradiction of the capitalist system that workers and the poor are beaten, jailed or killed for the “crime” of crossing a border while the world’s currency speculators, stock traders and corporate executives carry out their swindles at the click of a button and on a global scale.

Socialism and nationalism are mutually exclusive. The revolutionary task of expropriating the wealth of the rich and placing the world’s productive forces at the disposal of the working class can be completed only by abolishing borders and bringing the world’s political map into harmony with the international character of the process of production.

Under socialism, the working class will have both the material resources and the legal right to travel anywhere in the world free from harassment, detention or deportation. It is necessary to unite workers of all races and nationalities in a common international struggle for socialist revolution.

Trump and immigration

Last Thursday, Amazon employees issued an open letter to Jeff Bezos, the billionaire CEO of Amazon, opposing the company’s provision of facial recognition technology to police forces, and its contracts with companies tied to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The letter is an expression of popular outrage over police repression and the Trump administration’s persecution of immigrants. It is another sign of growing opposition among technology workers to the integration of the technology giants with the police-state apparatus. On Tuesday, the New York Times published a letter by more than 100 Microsoft employees demanding that the company cease its $19.4 million annual contract with ICE: here.

‘THERE ARE GOING TO BE DETAINEE DEATHS’ Some 1,000 immigration detainees have been been sent to a California prison that staffers consider unsafe due to disease outbreaks and a lack of medical personnel. [HuffPost]

‘WITH NO JUDGES OR COURT CASES’ Trump was slammed Sunday for calling for deportations without judicial process, tweeting, “We cannot allow these people to invade our County.” Amid the furor, a 15-year-old boy has reportedly gone missing from a migrant shelter in Texas, walking out of the converted former Walmart that’s become an epicenter of controversy for Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy. [HuffPost]

‘NO SYMPATHY FOR PEOPLE IN THE ADMINISTRATION’ Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has warned members of Trump’s Cabinet to prepare themselves for more heckling and public shaming over the administration’s immigration policy after press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant last week. Meanwhile, Sanders’ tweet complaining of the incident was a violation of the law, according to the former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. [HuffPost]

In the wake of a raid by agents of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local police at a meatpacking plant in Salem, Ohio, members of the local immigrant community remained traumatized. ICE agents seized some 146 workers in the raid, 48 women and 98 men at the Fresh Mark plant on June 19. The male detainees were taken to the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center where immigrants arrested in a previous raid on a garden center in Sandusky, Ohio, are also being held. The women were taken to the Geauga County Jail. Most of the workers were from Guatemala: here.

Thousands of people gathered at the Civic Center in downtown San Diego on Saturday to protest the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. The rally, held under the banner “Families Belong Together”, was initially organized to protest the inhumane policy of separating children from their migrant parents upon arrest at the border. Despite the Trump administration’s cynical mid-week executive order permitting families to be detained together, the rally became a general protest against the vicious brutality of the administration’s immigration policy: here.