Young sharks, old sharks, who’s toughest?


This 2016 video says about itself:

A Port Jackson Shark egg washed up on Semaphore beach, South Australia with baby shark inside. Baby released back into the water and swims away.

From Florida Atlantic University in the USA:

Who’s tougher? Baby sharks or daddy sharks?

Study examines mechanical behavior of sharks‘ vertebrae under biological conditions

January 3, 2019

Summary: One would assume that since humans and many animals tend to get stiffer and perhaps tougher as they reach adulthood, the same would be true for sharks. A new study finds the opposite in these swift-swimming marine predators. The youngest sharks were stiffer and tougher than older sharks. Another key finding is that while scientists have historically looked at alternating patterns of mineralization on sharks‘ vertebrae to determine their age, these patterns are not related to time.

It’s not just their teeth and jaws that people find intriguing. It’s also their funky shapes and unique skeletal makeup that capture attention. Unlike humans and most land animals, sharks have mineralized cartilage skeletons instead of bones. This allows them to move at unbelievable speeds through the water. Since cartilage weighs less than bone and is less dense, sharks can bend, swim, and maneuver in the ocean much differently than their bony fish counterparts.

Because sharks vary in size and shape, there is great diversity in their morphology, physiology and how they swim. For example, the common thresher shark relies on its tail to stun prey when feeding, and the size of its vertebrae and their mechanics may explain why it depends on a strong and long tail that operates like a whip. To move this way requires low stiffness and toughness, or a lower resistance to deformation and ability to absorb energy, respectively.

A shark’s vertebral column is governed by dynamic and complex interactions among tissue composition and morphology, and there are many differences in growth, mineralization and mechanical properties.

Scientists from Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and the National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), predicted that the solid central part of the vertebrae in mature, older sharks would be stiffer and tougher. So they decided to put their theory to a test.

They examined cartilage mechanics from six species of sharks under biologically relevant conditions along the length of their bodies and over a range of ages. They looked at small, infant (young of year) sharks, immature sharks and mature sharks from each of six different species: the dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurusp); the porbeagle (Lamna nasus); and charismatic sharks like the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias); the shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) and the common thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus).

For the study, the researchers divided the sharks’ bodies into two regions: anterior (pectoral fin insertion and first dorsal fin origin) and posterior (second dorsal fin origin and pre-caudal pit). They conducted mechanical testing, used an imaging technique called X-radiography, and evaluated the relationship between stiffness and toughness using a simple linear regression.

One would assume that since humans and many animals tend to get stiffer and perhaps tougher as they reach adulthood, that the same would be true for sharks. Much to their surprise and contrary to their hypothesis, the researchers discovered the opposite in these swift-swimming marine predators.

Results of the study, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, show that the youngest sharks were stiffer (able to resist compression) and tougher (able to absorb more energy) than older sharks. The researchers speculate that cartilage from younger sharks has fewer “interruptions” in the mineral matrix within the cartilage. They also discovered that the cartilage was stiffer and tougher in the posteriorly-located vertebrae (toward the back of the body), suggesting that this body region is better equipped to handle the mechanical loading that occurs during swimming.

In addition, although scientists have historically looked at alternating patterns of mineralization on sharks’ vertebrae to determine their age, a key finding from this study reveals that these patterns are not related to time.

“Our results suggest that toughness and stiffness, which are positively correlated, may be operating in concert to support lateral body undulations, which is how a shark moves its body and tail from side-to-side to propel itself forward, while providing efficient energy transmission and return in these swift-swimming apex predators,” said Marianne E. Porter, Ph.D., co-author of the study, an assistant professor in FAU’s Department of Biological Sciences, and director of the Biomechanics Laboratory in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.

Porter worked with graduate student and first author of the study Danielle I. Ingle; and Lisa J. Natanson, Ph.D., co-author, Apex Predators Program, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA.

“These comparative data from our study really highlight the importance of better understanding cartilaginous skeleton mechanics under a wide variety of loading conditions that are representative of the swimming behaviors that we see in the wild,” said Ingle.

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Naples helping refugees, defying right-wing Italian government


This 3 January 2019 video says about itself:

Naples is ready to defy Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and let in a charity-run ship carrying 32 migrants that is blocked in the stormy Mediterranean, the city mayor said today.

His offer adds to a growing challenge from opposition politicians to Salvini’s far-right League [party], which has vowed to bar migrants and make life difficult for those already here.

Both Italy and Malta are refusing to let the Sea-Watch 3, a ship operated by a German non-governmental organisation (NGO), dock and set down the migrants who were rescued off Libya on Dec. 22. …

Naples’ centre-left mayor Luigi de Magistris said Salvini was playing politics with peoples’ lives. “To leave people and children in the middle of cold and stormy seas is a crime — not simply indecent, immoral and appalling”, de Magistris told Radio Crc. “I hope that this boat approaches the port of Naples because, unlike what the government says, we will launch a rescue operation and we will let it enter the port,” he said.

“I will be the first to lead the rescue.” …

Malta overnight allowed the boat into its waters to sail closer to land where the seas are less choppy, but is refusing to let it dock.

Several local politicians from opposition parties have defied Salvini’s anti-migrant policies. On Wednesday, the mayor of the Sicilian capital Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, said he would join other cities in ignoring a new security law because it abolishes asylum protection for many migrants. Salvini on Thursday threatened mayors with legal action. “Anyone who helps clandestine migrants hates Italians. … ” Salvini tweeted. …

On taking office last year, Salvini barred NGO boats and moved to help Libya

Which of the warring governments and paramilitaries in Libya?

prevent people leaving its shores.

Translated from Dutch daily De Volkskrant today:

Naples wants to allow migrant ship Sea-Watch 3 in, ‘whatever the government says’

The Italian city of Naples is prepared to admit the ship Sea-Watch 3 to its port and to accommodate the 32 migrants on board. Mayor Luigi de Magistris said on Thursday. He thus expressly opposes the line of the Italian government, which believes that there can be no question of admitting them. …

The ship Sea-Watch 3, sailing under the Dutch flag, has been floating around the Mediterranean for almost two weeks. On 22 December, 22 migrants from countries such as Sudan, Congo and Mali were picked up from the sea off the coast of Libya by the German NGO Sea-Watch, which manages the ship. They have been wandering since then. None of the countries around it wants to let the migrants in. Italy, Spain and Malta keep their ports closed. …

According to the center-left mayor De Magistris, this is an inhumane attitude. “To leave people, including children, in the middle of the cold and stormy sea is not only indecent, immoral and terrible, it’s a crime”, he said in front of the radio. “I hope the ship will come to Naples because, whatever the government says, we will start a rescue operation and allow it in the harbour.” …

Among the crew of the Sea-Watch 3 are seven children: four teenagers without their parents and three small children, including a baby.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Naples wants to allow the ship the Sea-Watch 3 with 32 migrants on board to land. The left-wing mayor of Naples said that. With this he defies the right-wing Italian Interior Minister Salvini, who does not want any migrants at all.

In Italy there is increasing opposition to the harsh anti-immigration policy of Salvini and his right-wing Lega party. Mayors from several large Italian cities have announced that they will not comply with Salvini’s law on security and immigration. …

The Netherlands is said to be willing to allow a maximum of six people in. They would then enter the ordinary asylum procedure, so it would not be certain that they can stay. …

Malta has allowed the Sea-Watch, under pressure from the Netherlands, to shelter close to the coast for a storm that has been going on for days. Many people on board have become seasick. But the ship is not allowed to moor in Malta. …

The Sea-Watch saved the migrants before Christmas in the vicinity of Libya and since then has been trying unsuccessfully to find a port where they are welcome. According to a Sea-Watch spokesperson, they are traumatized and weakened.

New treefrog species discovery in Ecuadorian Andes


Variation in life of Hyloscirtus hillisi sp. n. from Reserva Biológica El Quimi. A QCAZ 68649 (adult female, holotype, SVL = 65.78 mm) B QCAZ 68646 (subadult female, SVL = 48.55 mm) C not collected

From ScienceDaily:

Extraordinary treefrog discovered in the Andes of Ecuador

January 3, 2019

Summary: A dazzling new species of treefrog was discovered at a remote tabletop mountain in the Ecuadorian Andes. The new species has an extraordinary characteristic, the presence of claw-like appendages at the base of the thumbs.

A new treefrog species was discovered during a two-week expedition to a remote tabletop mountain at Cordillera del Cóndor, a largely unexplored range in the eastern Andes.

“To reach the tabletop, we walked two days along a steep terrain. Then, between sweat and exhaustion, we arrived to the tabletop where we found a dwarf forest. The rivers had blackwater and the frogs were sitting along them, on branches of brown shrubs similar in color to the frogs’ own. The frogs were difficult to find, because they blended with their background,” Alex Achig, one of the field biologists who discovered the new species comments on the hardships of the expedition.

Curiously, the frog has an extraordinary, enlarged claw-like structure located at the base of the thumb. Its function is unknown, but it could be that it is used either as a defence against predators or as a weapon in fights between competing males.

Having conducted analyses of genetic and morphologic data, scientists Santiago R. Ron, Marcel Caminer, Andrea Varela, and Diego Almeida from the Catholic University of Ecuador concluded that the frog represented a previously unknown species. It was recently described in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

The species name, Hyloscirtus hillisi, honors Dr. David Hillis, a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, who discovered three closely related frog species in the same genus in the 1980s, while conducting a series of field trips to the Andes of southern Ecuador. Throughout his career, Dr. Hillis has made significant contributions to the knowledge of Andean amphibians and reptiles.

Despite being newly described, Hyloscirtus hillisi is already at risk of extinction. It has a small distribution range near a large-scale mining operation carried out by a Chinese company. Habitat destruction in the region has been recently documented by the NGO Amazon Conservation.

German army plans foreign cannon fodder recruitment


This video says about itself:

The 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the ϟϟ Charlemagne (1st French) and Charlemagne Regiment are collective names used for units of French volunteers in the Wehrmacht and later Waffen-SS during World War II.

From estimates of 7,400 to 11,000 at its peak in 1944, the strength of the division fell to just sixty men in May 1945. They were arguably the last German unit to see action in a pitched battle during World War II, where they held central Berlin and the Führerbunker against the onslaught of Soviet infantry.

Knowing that they would not survive should Germany be defeated, they were among the last to surrender in the brutal house-to-house and street-to-street fighting, during the final days of the battle in Berlin.

Its crest is a representation of the dual empire of Charlemagne, which united the Franks in what would become France and Germany. The Imperial eagle on the left side represents Germany and the fleurs-de-lys on the right side represents France.

The French Charlemagne SS were the last defenders of Hitler‘s Führerbunker, remaining there until 2 May to prevent the Soviets from capturing it on May Day.

Hitler’s Waffen-SS was the ‘elite’ force for fighting the nazi regime’s bloody wars. Only so called ‘racially pure Aryans’ could join.

Then, the nazi regime found out that with only German soldiers they would certainly lose World War II.

Even though German nationalists had depicted France for decades as ‘the archenemy’, the French fascists of the 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the ϟϟ Charlemagne were welcome.

So were recruits from other ‘Germanic’ countries, like the Netherlands, Denmark or Norway. So, their ally, Spanish dictator Franco, was welcome to send the ‘Blue Division’.

Even though nazi ideology considered the so-called ‘Slavic race’ to the subhumans, fascists from Croatia, Slovakia and Ukraine were welcome to fight and die for Adolf Hitler in the Waffen-SS. Even Bosnian Muslims were so.

History never repeats itself exactly. But, sometimes, a bit similarly.

By Johannes Stern in Germany:

German army plans recruitment of EU foreigners

3 January 2019

The German Ministry of Defence plans to recruit tens of thousands of foreigners from the EU into the Bundeswehr. The plans for this are “more concrete than have been known so far”, Der Spiegel reported last week on Thursday. According to a confidential ministry study submitted to the news magazine, Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) wants to recruit mainly young Poles, Italians and Romanians for the German army. According to the paper, there is “quantitative potential” for the Bundeswehr among young men coming from these countries.

According to Der Spiegel, the ministry has already “calculated this potential more precisely.” According to the study, about 255,000 Poles, 185,000 Italians and 155,000 Romanians between the ages of 18 and 40 live in Germany. Together, this group represents about half of all EU foreigners in Germany. If at least 10 percent of this targeted population showed interest in the German army, the Bundeswehr would come up with “more than 50,000 possible new applicants for the force.”

The inspector general of the Bundeswehr, the highest ranking German military figure, also confirmed the plans. The recruitment of EU citizens for special activities is “an option” that is being examined, Eberhard Zorn told the newspapers of the Funke Media Group. People talk about “doctors or IT specialists, for example,” he said. In times of a shortage of skilled workers, the Bundeswehr had to “look in all directions and strive to find the right young talent.”

The plans of the Ministry of Defence and the official debate about them show how aggressively German imperialism and militarism are re-emerging despite Germany’s historical crimes in two world wars. Having caused a social catastrophe in Southern and Eastern Europe in particular with its austerity measures, Berlin is now using the lack of prospects and sheer desperation of young people to recruit cannon fodder for the German war policy.

Since leading government representatives officially announced the return of German militarism at the Munich Security Conference in 2014, the government and the Ministry of Defence have been working to increase the Bundeswehr’s troop strength, however, with rather moderate success so far. Since Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) announced the expansion of the army on May 10, 2016, the Bundeswehr has hardly been able to record any significant growth despite aggressive advertising campaigns. In November, the Bundeswehr officially comprised 180,997 active soldiers, just under 1,000 more than in 2015 (179,633).

The plans of the Ministry of Defence have been worked out behind the backs of the population for a long time. The 2016 White Paper on German security policy and the future of the Bundeswehr stated: “Last but not least, opening up the Bundeswehr to citizens of the EU would not only offer potential for wide-ranging integration and regeneration and thus strengthen the personnel base of the Bundeswehr, it would also send out a strong signal for a European approach.” According to Der Spiegel the state secretary responsible for Bundeswehr personnel, Gerd Hoofe, signed off on the concept in August.

The German initiative is aggravating tensions within the European Union. Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz is “surprised by the advance,” writes Der Spiegel. For his government, he urged “rapid clarification in Brussels.” The opening of the Bundeswehr for foreigners without consultations in the EU, “would not be appropriate behaviour,” Der Spiegel quotes Czaputowicz. “If Germany were to introduce such a law without consulting Poland beforehand, that would not be good. Of course, Germany has more to offer to workers and probably also to soldiers.”

There are similar concerns in Bulgaria, Italy, Romania and Greece. In talks with German military attachés, for example, the Bulgarian government had made it clear that 20 percent of the positions in the Eastern European country’s armed forces could not be filled today due to staff shortages. If Germany now opened its army with significantly higher salaries, this would have “catastrophic consequences.”

Berlin’s efforts to increase its own armed forces with foreign mercenaries go hand in hand with the German government’s plans to create a “ real European army “ (chancellor Angela Merkel). With both projects German imperialism is pursuing the goal of expanding its dominance in Europe and asserting its geostrategic and economic interests in competition with the other great powers worldwide. In this process the ruling class is increasingly openly returning to the German-European power politics of the German Kaiser and of Hitler.

“Germany’s destiny: Leading Europe in order to lead the world” was the title of an essay published by an official website of the German Foreign Ministry four years ago. Since US President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would withdraw US troops from Syria and that “the United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world,” leading German foreign policymakers have been stepping up their calls for more German leadership in Europe and internationally.

“We must now put our own house in order and be more prepared ourselves—in our own interests and for our own sake,” Norbert Röttgen (CDU), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, stated in an interview. It was now necessary to “consolidate the progress we have made in this area, i.e., to increase the military budget every year so that the Bundeswehr becomes fully operational again and is able to make its contribution.” Germany is “being required” because “without Germany nothing works either, that is also part of our responsibility, at least in Europe.”

Social Democratic Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made similar comments in an interview with the news agency dpa. “Our responsibility is growing. The expectations of us are higher than ever before,” he explained. Germany is already “assuming massive responsibility … but the more old partners withdraw from international cooperation, the more the eyes are on us.”

Maas indicated that the ruling class was preparing a massive escalation of its war and great power offensive in the coming year. With its membership of the Security Council beginning on January1, Germany is “moving politically even closer to crises and conflicts. Our vote will gain even more weight in the Security Council. We will not be able to duck away from difficult decisions,” the foreign minister stated.

He was particularly concerned about “the situation in the Middle East—with the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and the struggle for a Middle East peace settlement.” Germany would have to “be even more committed there than before,” and would also have to “assume military responsibility.”

If there is criticism of the defence ministry’s advance, it comes from the right. The recruitment of EU foreigners is “no solution for our personnel problem,” CDU defence official Henning Otte told the Westfälische Rundschau. “If we have difficulties in winning Germans for service in our own troops, then the attractiveness of the Bundeswehr must be increased.”

Rüdiger Lucassen, the spokesman for defence policy of the AfD parliamentary group in the Bundestag, stated that “German citizenship” was the “basic prerequisite for service as a soldier” along with “identification with our German culture, values and norms.” He regretted that von der Leyen, despite various advertising programmes, “had not been able to fill the armed forces with the necessary personnel.”