African electric fish, new research

This video shows Gnathonemus petersii fish.

From ScienceDaily:

A fish that subtracts its own electric signals to better ‘see’ through its murky habitat

July 11, 2018

The elephant-nose fish Gnathonemus petersii relies on electricity to find food and navigate through the obstacles riddling its native murky African rivers. On July 11 in the journal Neuron, Columbia University researchers present evidence that the fish’s ability to accurately “see” an “electrical image” of its surroundings requires it to filter out its own electrical interference.

“We needed to determine whether being able to predict its own electrical signals would help the fish better detect environmental cues”, says Nathaniel Sawtell, a neuroscientist at Columbia’s Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. “So using both neural recordings and behavioral experiments, we showed that these predictions known as negative images actually do help the fish sense external signals related to hunting prey.”

As an electric fish, the elephant-nose fish has two specialized systems that help it sense its surroundings — a passive system attuned to the minute electric signatures of everything living in its environment, including prey, and an active system that voluntarily emits brief pulses of electricity. The fish uses these electrical pulses to both communicate with other electric fish and sense its environment by painting an “electric image” of it to aid in navigation.

“The fish’s own electrical pulses cause large neural responses that interfere with the passive system,” says Sawtell. “Our work shows how changes in neural connections produce negative images to cancel out this interference.”

While earlier studies speculated that the elephant-nose fish might generate these negative images, no evidence had existed to directly demonstrate their functional importance. But the authors showed that delivering a drug that interfered with the formation of negative images essentially blinded the fish to external electrical signals.

“An important part of this work has been the integration of experimental and theoretical approaches to understanding neural circuits”, says Sawtell. “From here, we’re trying to take the lessons we’ve learned from the electric fish and apply them to related systems, including the mammalian cerebellum and auditory system.”


Donald Trump in Britain, Beatles parody song

This 12 July 2018 parody music video from Britain, a parody of the Beatles song Lucy in the sky with diamonds, says about itself:

Donald in the Sky with Diaper (Trump Baby blimp song by The Tweetles)

A song for the Trump Baby balloon by The Donald’s Beatles tribute band The Tweetles.


Picture yourself as a blimp over London
With tangerine skin and marmalade…also skin
Somebody jeers you, you answer quite bigly

Beautiful POTUS with normal-sized hands
Flying right over your head
Look for the blimp with the brilliant hair
And a phone

Donald in the sky with diaper
Donald in the sky with diaper
Donald in the sky with diaper

Follow it down to a bridge by a river
Where sad British people eat jellied eel pies
Everyone smiles as you drift over Southbank
Eclipsing the London Eye

Failing newspapers appear underneath
Waiting to write their fake news
Drift overhead with your hair in the clouds
And a phone

Donald in the sky with diaper
Donald in the sky with diaper
Donald in the sky with diaper

Picture yourself on a plane leaving London
With a Flame-Grilled Whopper and McDonald’s fries
Suddenly something is floating beside you
The blimp with the stable genius eyes

Donald in the sky with diaper
Donald in the sky with diaper
Donald in the sky with diaper

Endemic Baltic Sea fish species discovered

This September 2017 video says about itself:

Flatfish With Parasites – Flounder Cleaning Station

Snorkeling in icy cold water in Gotland, Sweden, May 2017. I found one frozen flounder and removed some leech-like parasites from its skin. Crazy clear visibility like never before in the Baltic Sea.

From the University of Helsinki in Finland:

The first endemic Baltic Sea fish species received its name

July 11, 2018

The “Baltic flounder” Platichthys solemdali is the first fish species shown to be native only to the Baltic Sea, i.e. the first endemic fish described from the area and one of the only two known endemic species when considering any organism. The fact that a new vertebrate species is found and described from European waters, and especially from the species-poor Baltic Sea still after more than a century of biological research in the area, makes this finding significant.

“The reason why this species has not been recognized before is that it appears to be near to identical to the other flounder species, the European flounder, Platichthys flesus, also occurring in the Baltic Sea”, says professor Juha Merila, one of the authors behind the article, from the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences.

Currently the two species can be distinguished only with genetic methods, or by studying their eggs and sperm. The species also differ in their interaction with the environment: the newly described Baltic flounder lays sinking eggs on the sea floor in coastal areas while the European flounder spawns buoyant eggs in deep areas out in the open sea. The new species is more abundant in the Gulf of Finland while the distribution of the European flounder is centered to the central and southern Baltic Sea.

Previous research by the same research group uncovered the ecological speciation process that drove the evolution of these flounders, which is rarely witnessed in the marine environment and had occurred at record speed in evolutionary time scales. However, the two flounders can officially be considered separate species only now after the new species has been formally described.

“Because the definition of a species and the binomial scientific name in connection to that are central concepts and entities of biology in general and in biological taxonomy in particular, the formal description and naming of a species still constitute an important part in the understanding of biological order,” states Merilä.

The official separation of the flounders into two distinct species through a formal description and naming procedure is essential for conducting more accurate stock assessments and highly relevant to the management and conservation of the species that in many areas constitute mixed stocks.

The commercial fishing of flounders in the Baltic Sea has been partially based on the wrong assumption that stocks consist of a single species, while the two flounder species may co-occur in several locations. As fisheries might currently be targeting both flounders species, this poses the danger of unknowingly over-exploiting the species that constitute the weaker component of a mixed-stock.

Saudi-Trump war on Yemen and Michigan, USA

Yemen's capital Sana'a after Saudi airstrikes, October 2015

By Niles Niemuth in the USA:

The impact of the US-backed war in Yemen on Michigan’s 12th district

Niles Niemuth is the Socialist Equality Party’s candidate for House of Representatives in Michigan’s 12th congressional district. Niles is running on a socialist, anti-war and anti-capitalist program in the interests of the working class in Michigan and around the world. …

As I have traveled around Michigan’s 12th district these past weeks working with supporters to collect the thousands of signatures needed for ballot access, we have had the opportunity to engage in many important and memorable conversations with workers and young people.

Michigan’s 12th district is remarkably diverse, containing three major auto factories, a number of large and small college campuses, as well as the city of Dearborn, which is home to some 40,000 Arab Americans—more than any other American city—including a large number of Yemeni families.

Recently, while petitioning at a farmer’s market in the city of Ypsilanti, I met a young woman who was shopping with her husband and their two small daughters. I explained to her that one of the planks of my campaign platform is the call for open borders. Workers should have the right to live and work in any country they choose, I said, and all refugees from war should be welcomed with full rights.

Niles Niemuth speaking to a Yemeni-American family in Ypsilanti

She told me that she and her husband are from Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East and the site of an ongoing war.

Since Saudi Arabia launched the war to reinstall the US-Saudi-puppet regime in Yemen in March 2015, some 600,000 civilians have lost their lives or been injured as a result of the conflict. The destruction of industry and a naval blockade enforced by the US led to death by starvation of over 50,000 children in 2017 alone. A brutal cholera epidemic infected over one million people. The poorest country in the Arab world prior to the Saudi-led assault has been artificially pushed to the brink of famine.

“I can’t even imagine what it would be like for our girls to live through what they are living through in Yemen”, the young woman said, “not knowing each night whether the bombs will fall on them. It is extremely traumatizing for the children.”

She and her husband explained that they had many family members in Yemen who are suffering the consequences of the war. When her sister recently sent photos, they could see that her lips had turned blue from malnutrition. It is not safe for them to visit their family in Yemen while the war continues. Even if they were somehow able to return to Yemen, they would run the risk of being barred reentry to the US now that the Supreme Court has upheld Trump’s travel ban, which bars Yemenis and people from six other countries from entering the United States.

I know that the difficult story of this family is the story of thousands of other Yemenis, and millions of refugees all over the world. As a writer for the WSWS, the war crimes being committed in Yemen has been one of my particular areas of concern since the war began over three years ago under the Obama administration.

Despite the immense suffering of millions of people at the hands of the US government and its allies in the Middle East, the mainstream media has virtually blacked out coverage of Yemen in order to provide a political cover for the crimes of American imperialism.

The Yemeni couple I spoke with in Ypsilanti agreed that it is the US government which is primarily responsible for the seemingly endless death and destruction in the region. I raised with them, and many others I have spoken with, the issue of the role of the Democratic Party specifically, which bears no less responsibility for the catastrophe in Yemen than the Republicans.

Under the Obama administration the US government provided Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners with bombs, military intelligence and other logistical support in its vicious air attacks. American refueling planes flew daily missions to ensure that coalition warplanes could keep pounding targets throughout the country around the clock. Yemen was just one of seven countries which were being actively bombed by Obama, who earned the distinction of being the first president to spend every day of his administration at war.

The stockpiles of weapons used to rain down terror on men, women and children in Yemen were refilled many times over by the Obama administration, which struck a 20-year, $60 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia in 2010, a figure which increased to $115 billion by the end of the administration. This was the largest transfer of weaponry in US history, including fighter jets and attack helicopters, until the Trump administration inked a $350 billion arms deal with the Saudi monarchs last year.

Even now the Democrats support the Trump administration’s backing of the ongoing brutal siege on the critical port city of Hodeida, which supplies 70 percent of the country’s population with food, fuel and medicine. The UN estimates that 121,000 people have already fled the besieged port city, turning them into refugees. For the more than half a million people remaining in the city, conditions are rapidly deteriorating, with food in short supply, prices for staple goods skyrocketing, and blackouts occurring weekly if not daily.

My opponent in the race to represent the 12th district, Democrat Debbie Dingell, is implicated in these crimes against humanity as an enthusiastic supporter of American militarism. Dingell recently joined Senate and House Democrats in voting overwhelmingly to approve the Trump administration’s latest military budget, which includes $719 billion for the Department of Defense, and an expansion of the US nuclear arsenal.

Workers and youth who are looking for a political strategy to put an end to war and defend the rights of immigrants and refugees will find no way forward in the Democratic Party–the same party which bears a heavy responsibility for the creation of the current crisis in Yemen and across the Middle East.

I believe that in order to put an end to the assault on Yemen a new international movement against war, uniting the great mass of working people and youth in opposition to capitalism and imperialism, must be built on an anti-capitalist and socialist basis.

By an overwhelming bipartisan vote Thursday, the US House of Representatives approved the largest military authorization bill in American history. The National Defense Authorization Act approves $716 billion to fund US military aggression around the world, and gives President Trump the power to order cyberwarfare attacks on Russia, China, Iran and North Korea without further congressional action: here.

Spyware against Amnesty International activist against Saudi human rights violations: here.

Long-necked dinosaurs, why so big?

This video says about itself:

Argentinian researchers discover the oldest giant dinosaur species that inhabited the Earth

9 July 2018

Scientists presented Ingentia prima, the first giant dinosaur that inhabited the planet more than 200 million years ago. It exceeds three times the size of the largest Triassic dinosaurs known to date. The discovery was made at the Balde de Leyes deposit, southeast of the province of San Juan.

By Carolyn Gramling, 11:49am, July 10, 2018:

Long-necked dinosaurs grew to be giants in more ways than one

Fossils suggest some early sauropod relatives grew massive using a previously unknown method

For sauropods — the largest animals known to have walked on Earth — there may have been more than one way to get gigantic.

Most early relatives of the herbivorous dinosaurs have a suite of features once thought to be the essential blueprint for gigantism, such as sturdy pillarlike legs, elongated necks and forelimbs, and bones that grew continuously rather than in seasonal spurts. But an analysis of fossils of sauropodomorphs — a group that includes sauropods and some ancestors and similarly shaped relatives— suggests that some of the dinos may have had a different strategy for becoming behemoths, researchers report online July 9 in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Paleontologist Cecilia Apaldetti of the Universidad Nacional de San Juan in Argentina and colleagues examined four sauropodomorphs, including one newly identified species that the team dubbed Ingentia prima and three already known specimens of a sauropodomorph called Lessemsaurus sauropoides. Dating to the Late Triassic, between 237 million and 201 million years ago, these “Lessemsauridae” were far from puny: The animals weighed in at an estimated 7 to 10 metric tons, larger than an African elephant.

All four specimens showed a combination of features that was distinct from sauropods as well as from other sauropodomorphs. Instead of upright, pillarlike legs, the dinos had crouched hind limbs and flexed front limbs, with elbows splayed slightly outward. Patterns of bone growth in the fossils also suggest that the animals grew in cyclical spurts rather than continuously. However, their bone growth was extremely rapid, a feature unique to this group, Apaldetti says. “They grew in a cyclical but extremely accelerated growth, at a speed even higher than that of the giants that grew continuously.”

Like later sauropods, I. prima and L. sauropoides also appear to have had a birdlike respiratory system, the researchers found. Air sacs within the animals’ vertebrae provided large reserves of oxygenated air, helped keep their bodies cool despite their large size, and lightened the weight of their vertebrae.

Martin Sander, a vertebrate paleontologist at Universität-Bonn in Germany, says that I. prima presents the best proof yet that these sauropodomorphs had this birdlike respiratory system, a fact that wasn’t previously determined. However, he says he is not convinced that the Lessemsauridae were on a separate track toward gigantism. “For me, it’s more of an intermediate stage”, Sander says.

That sentiment is echoed by Jeffrey Wilson, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Lessemsauridae bone growth was cyclical, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the cycles were seasonal; there may have been long time lags in between growth spurts, part of a transition to more sauropod-like growth patterns, Wilson says. “One of the things I think future work will do is help resolve the ambiguity over whether the Lessemsauridae were taking their own adventure into gigantism.”

The Lessemsauridae may have developed their growth strategy some 30 million years earlier than Jurassic sauropods, such as Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus, Apaldetti notes. But ultimately, the Jurassic giants “were more successful”, she says — they outweighed the sauropodomorphs by as much as 60 tons, and outlasted them by tens of millions of years.

Whales in Roman empire days

This 2017 video is called Gray Whale swimming through kelp forest – Recored from a drone in 4k.

From the University of York in England:

Ancient bones reveal 2 whale species lost from the Mediterranean Sea

Ancient bones from Roman archaeological sites reveal 2 whale species lost from the Mediterranean Sea

July 11, 2018

Two thousand years ago the Mediterranean Sea was a haven for two species of whale which have since virtually disappeared from the North Atlantic, a new study analysing ancient bones suggests.

The discovery of the whale bones in the ruins of a Roman fish processing factory located at the strait of Gibraltar also hints at the possibility that the Romans may have hunted the whales.

Prior to the study, by an international team of ecologists, archaeologists and geneticists, it was assumed that the Mediterranean Sea was outside of the historical range of the right and gray whale.

Academics from the Archaeology Department at the University of York used ancient DNA analysis and collagen fingerprinting to identify the bones as belonging to the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) and the Atlantic gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus).

After centuries of whaling, the right whale currently occurs as a very threatened population off eastern North America and the gray whale has completely disappeared from the North Atlantic and is now restricted to the North Pacific.

Co-author of the study Dr Camilla Speller, from the University of York, said: “These new molecular methods are opening whole new windows into past ecosystems. Whales are often neglected in archaeological studies, because their bones are frequently too fragmented to be identifiable by their shape.

“Our study shows that these two species were once part of the Mediterranean marine ecosystem and probably used the sheltered basin as a calving ground.

“The findings contribute to the debate on whether, alongside catching large fish such as tuna, the Romans had a form of whaling industry or if perhaps the bones are evidence of opportunistic scavenging from beached whales along the coast line.”

Both species of whale are migratory, and their presence east of Gibraltar is a strong indication that they previously entered the Mediterranean Sea to give birth.

The Gibraltar region was at the centre of a massive fish-processing industry during Roman times, with products exported across the entire Roman Empire. The ruins of hundreds of factories with large salting tanks can still be seen today in the region.

Lead author of the study Dr Ana Rodrigues, from the French National Centre for Scientific Research, said: “Romans did not have the necessary technology to capture the types of large whales currently found in the Mediterranean, which are high-seas species. But right and gray whales and their calves would have come very close to shore, making them tempting targets for local fishermen.”

It is possible that both species could have been captured using small rowing boats and hand harpoons, methods used by medieval Basque whalers centuries later.

The knowledge that coastal whales were once present in the Mediterranean also sheds new light on ancient historical sources.

Anne Charpentier, lecturer at the University of Montpellier and co-author in the study, said: “We can finally understand a 1st-Century description by the famous Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, of killer whales attacking whales and their new-born calves in the Cadiz bay.

“It doesn’t match anything that can be seen there today, but it fits perfectly with the ecology if right and gray whales used to be present.”

The study authors are now calling for historians and archaeologists to re-examine their material in the light of the knowledge that coastal whales where once part of the Mediterranean marine ecosystem.

Dr Rodriguez added: “It seems incredible that we could have lost and then forgotten two large whale species in a region as well-studied as the Mediterranean. It makes you wonder what else we have forgotten.”

Forgotten Mediterranean calving grounds of gray and North Atlantic right whales: evidence from Roman archaeological records is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B.

The study was an international collaboration between scientists at the universities of York, Montpellier (France), Cadiz (Spain), Oviedo (Spain) and the Centre for Fishery Studies in Asturias, Spain.