Red squirrel’s upside down dinner


This 8 March 2019 video is about a red squirrel‘s upside down dinner.

Martien van Beekveld in the Netherlands made this video.

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Birds in prehistoric rock art


This 2014 video is called Paleolithic Art.

From the University of Barcelona in Spain:

Palaeolithic art featuring birds and humans discovered

An exceptional milestone in European Palaeolithic rock art

March 11, 2019

Summary: A new article tells how researchers found — in the site of Hort de la Bequera (Margalef de Montsant, Priorat) — an artistic piece from 12,500 years ago in which humans and birds try to interact in a pictorial scene with exceptional traits: figures seem to [tell]a narration on hunting and motherhood.

It is not very common to find representations of scenes instead of individual figures in Palaeolithic art, but it is even harder for these figures to be birds instead of mammals such as goats, deer or horses. So far, historians have only found three scenes of Palaeolithic art featuring humans and birds in Europe.

Now, an article published in the journal L’Anthropologie tells how University of Barcelona researchers found -in the site of Hort de la Bequera (Margalef de Montsant, Priorat)-, an artistic piece from 12,500 years ago in which humans and birds try to interact in a pictorial scene with exceptional traits: figures seem to star a narration on hunting and motherhood. Regarding the Catalan context in particular, this is an important finding regarding the few pieces of Palaeolithic art in Catalonia and it places this territory within the stream of artistic production of the upper Palaeolithic in the Mediterranean.

The piece they found is a 30-centimeter long limestone which shows two human figures and two birds, which the researchers identified as cranes. Since they found the piece in 2011, they underwent all cleaning, restoration and 3D copying procedures to study it in detail. Those figures were engraved in the stone board with a flint tool so that they created an organized composition compared to the other pieces of the same period.

“This is one of the few found scenes so far which suggest the birth of a narrative art in Europe, and this theme is unique, since it combines an image of hunting and a motherhood one: a birth with its young one,” says the first signer of the article, ICREA researcher and lecturer at the UB Inés Domingo. “In the represented scene the birds catch the attention, they are copied or chased by two human figures,” continues Domingo. “We do not know the meaning of the scene for prehistoric peoples, but what it says is that not only they were regarded as preys but also as a symbol for European Palaeolithic societies,” she continues.

“We do not doubt this is an exceptional milestone in European Palaeolithic rock art due its singularity, its excellent conservation and the chances to study it within a general context of excavation,” say the authors of the article; members of the Prehistoric Studies and Research Seminar (SERP). Apart from Domingo, other signers are the UB lecturers of Prehistory Pilar García Argüelles, Jordi Nadal, directors of the excavation in Host de la Boquera, Professor Josep Maria Fullola, director of SERP, and José L. Lerma and the researcher Miriam Cabrelles, from Universitat Politècnica de València, who worked on the 3D reproduction of this piece.

Palaeolithic art in Montsant valley

The other sites in Europe researchers had found so far with human and bird figures are rock paintings in the site of Lascauz, a perforated baton in Abri Mege (Teyjat, Dordogne), and the Great Hunter plaque in the site of Gönnersdorf (Germany).

SERP researchers have been excavating in the valley of Montsant since 1979, an exceptional area regarding findings of this period of the late upper Palaeolithic. In particular, excavations have taken place in Host de la Boquera since 1998 and it provided a great amount of flint tools and structure such as rooms for a fireplace.

The director of the excavation, Pilar García Argüelles notes that “the findings of the engraved scene are exceptional, and proves the importance of the site and the area regarding Palaeolithic art in the peninsular north-east area; where we can find nearby the only Palaeolithic cave engraving in Catalonia, the deer in the cave of Taverna (Margalef de Montsant), and about 40 kilometres away there is Molí del Salt (Vimbodí), with an interesting series of stone blocks with engraved animals and a representation of huts.”

The first to identify the engraving was the co-director of the excavation, Jordi Nadal, who remembers that moment with excitement: “Since the first moment I was aware of the importance of this finding, of its uniqueness; these things do not happen very often, this is seeing a figure that has been forgotten and buried for 12,500 years.”

Real Neat Blog Award, congratulations, my nominees!


Real Neat Blog Award

Late in 2014, I made this new award: the Real Neat Blog Award. There are so many bloggers whose blogs deserve more attention. So, I will try to do something about that.

It is the first award that I ever made. I did some computer graphics years ago, before I started blogging; but my computer drawing had become rusty.

The ‘rules’ of the Real Neat Blog Award are: (feel free not to act upon them if you don’t have time; or don’t accept awards; etc.):

1. Put the award logo on your blog.

2. Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.

3. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.

4. Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.

5. Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog etc.)

My seven questions are:

1. Which film did you see, but wish in retrospect you had not bothered to see?

2. Which book haven’t you read yet, but would like to read?

3. If you would be invited to make a space journey, then to which solar system planet would you like to go?

4. To which country where you have not been yet would you like to go?

5. Who is your least favourite politician?

6. If you could go back in history, to which person would you like to talk?

7. If WordPress would stop, would you continue to blog elsewhere?

My nominees are:

1. lifesfinewhine

2. Success Toaster

3. Raegan’s School Essays

4. Time Warner building’s avian issue

5. Deforestation in NYC

6. Just my Thoughts

7. Live Your Dreams 24/7

8. setinthepast

9. Athena Johnson

10. Guaymi’s Weblog

11. Rema Townsend

12. Sticky Mango Rice

13. thevypeffect

14. The Mysterious Blogger

15. Just Gotta Have Movie Reviews

African sideways striking snake discovered


This 2008 video says about itself:

This is footage of a stiletto snake (Atractaspis microlepidota) striking and then eating a fuzzy mouse. These snakes are frequently confused with nonvenomous snakes and have caused bites to herpetologists who accidentally (or intentionally) pick them up.

From ScienceDaily:

New species of stiletto snake capable of sideways strikes discovered in West Africa

March 11, 2019

Summary: During surveys in the Upper Guinea forest zone of Liberia and Guinea, scientists discovered snakes later identified as a new to science species. It belongs to the stiletto snakes, spectacular for their unusual skulls, allowing them to stab sideways with a fang sticking out of the corner of their mouths. The discovery is further evidence supporting the status of the region as unique in its biodiversity.

Following a series of recent surveys in north-western Liberia and south-eastern Guinea, an international team of researchers found three stiletto snakes which were later identified as a species previously unknown to science.

The discovery, published in the open-access journal Zoosystematics and Evolution by the team of Dr Mark-Oliver Roedel from the Natural History Museum, Berlin, provides further evidence for the status of the western part of the Upper Guinea forest zone as a center of rich and endemic biodiversity.

Curiously, stiletto snakes have unusual skulls and venom delivery system, allowing them to attack and stab sideways with a fang sticking out of the corner of their mouths. While most of these burrowing snakes are not venomous enough to kill a human — even though some are able to inflict serious tissue necrosis — this behaviour makes them impossible to handle using the standard approach of holding them with fingers behind the head. In fact, they can even stab with their mouths closed.

The new species, called Atractaspis branchi or Branch’s Stiletto Snake, was named to honor to the recently deceased South African herpetologist Prof. William Roy (Bill) Branch, a world leading expert on African reptiles.

The new species lives in primary rainforest and rainforest edges in the western part of the Upper Guinea forests. Branch’s Stiletto Snake is most likely endemic to this area, a threatened biogeographic region already known for its unique and diverse fauna.

The first specimen of the new species was collected at night from a steep bank of a small rocky creek in a lowland evergreen rainforest in Liberia. Upon picking it up, the snake tried to hide its head under body loops, bending it at an almost right angle, so that its fangs were partly visible on the sides. Then, it repeatedly stroke. It is also reported to have jumped distances almost as long as its entire body. The other two specimens used for the description of the species were collected from banana, manioc and coffee plantations in south-eastern Guinea, about 27 km apart.

“The discovery of a new and presumably endemic species of fossorial snake from the western Upper Guinea forests thus is not very surprising,” conclude the researchers. “However, further surveys are needed to resolve the range of the new snake species, and to gather more information about its ecological needs and biological properties.”

Military lawyer jailed for exposing Afghanistan war crimes?


This 2017 video is called Afghan files expose deadly secrets of Australia‘s special forces.

By Mike Head in Australia:

Lawyer charged for exposing Australian war crimes in Afghanistan

11 March 2019

A former Australian military lawyer, once a captain in Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS), has been charged over the alleged leak of documents to journalists containing evidence of war crimes committed in Afghanistan by Australia’s Special Forces.

David McBride, 55, appeared in the Australian Capital Territory Magistrates Court last Thursday, accused of leaks to Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Fairfax Media reporters during 2014 to 2016.

The charges relate in part to an ABC investigation published in 2017, called “The Afghan Files: Defence leak exposes deadly secrets of Australia’s special forces.” It provided some detail­ about long-suppressed official investigations into alleged war crimes.

Most of the documents, which the ABC did not release, reportedly covered “at least 10” incidents between 2009 and 2013 in which military investigators summarily cleared Special Forces soldiers of killing civilians, including children, or other war crimes.

Among the investigations mentioned were cases relating to the death of a man and his six-year-old child during a raid on his house, and the killing of a detainee who was alone with a soldier.

In 2013, troops commanded by Australian SAS officer Andrew Hastie, now a Liberal Party member of parliament who chairs the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Security and Intelligence, severed the hands of alleged dead Taliban fighters. This followed a training session where soldiers were told such methods could be used for identification purposes.

Some of the atrocities, such as the killing of the captured detainee, were already known. Despite some derisory compensation payments, each incident inflamed popular hostility in Afghanistan to the Australian and other occupying forces. They also underscored the inherently criminal character of the US-led Afghanistan war.

McBride entered no pleas. Instead, speaking to the media outside court, he said he had admitted handing over the documents but would defend his actions on legal grounds.

“I saw something illegally being done by the government and I did something about it,” he said. “I’m seeking to have the case looking purely at whether the government broke the law and whether it was my duty as a lawyer to report that fact.”

McBride suggested a cover-up at the highest levels of the military. He stated: “I have a duty to look after Australia, if that means reporting illegal activity by the top brass of the ADF [Australian Defence Force] I’m going to do it… If I was afraid of going to jail, why would I have been a soldier?”

The ex-ADF lawyer said he first sought an internal inquiry through the defence department and then went to police. When police did not act, he went to the media. He said he gave the documents to the ABC, the Sydney Morning Herald and journalist Chris Masters, but only the ABC published a report.

The lawyer is charged with theft and three counts of breaching the Defence Act, for being a member of the defence force and communicating information. The charges, if prosecuted on indictment, have maximum penalties of an unlimited fine or imprisonment for any term.

McBride faces a further charge under Criminal Code secrecy provisions, which were expanded and subjected to harsher penalties as part of last year’s “foreign interference” legislation. Imprisonment for up to 10 years can be imposed for an “aggravated” offence of leaking official secrets that allegedly prejudice Australia’s military defence or security.

McBride said he had been living in Spain, but was arrested at Sydney airport last September after a brief visit to his daughter. He is next due in court on May 13.

The government and the military are insisting that McBride’s trial must be conducted in secret, in order to suppress the details of the leaked documents. A Legal Aid representative for McBride told the court that his office was having difficulty finding a lawyer with the necessary security clearance to represent McBride.

McBride’s actions point to concerns within the military-intelligence establishment itself that the abuses committed by the Special Forces in Afghanistan have been so egregious that they have publicly discredited the “elite” units, on which Australian and allied governments rely for military interventions.

After studying at Sydney University and Oxford, McBride joined the British army. He spent six years with the Queen’s household cavalry, and also served with the SAS and in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan. In 2002, he stood unsuccessfully as a Liberal Party candidate in a New South Wales (NSW) state election.

The ABC reported that some of the cases were being probed by an inquiry run by NSW Supreme Court judge Paul Brereton, an army reserve major general, which was set up in 2016 by General­ Angus Campbell, who is now Chief of Defence.

The leaked material provided only a partial glimpse of Australia’s war crimes. It was published by the ABC in an effort, accompanied by belated military inquiries, to clean up the reputation of the Special Forces by blaming a minority of “bad apples” supposedly caught up in a “warrior culture”.

In reality, any brutal “culture” in the ADF is an inevitable result of the neo-colonial wars of occupation in the Middle East, which treat the populations as a whole as the enemy and involve the killing of anyone who resists.

Accounts of war crimes committed by Australian Special Forces are not new. Internal investigations, in recent conflicts alone, go back to the Australian military intervention in East Timor in 1999.

The military’s actions have been whitewashed at the highest levels of the ADF, with the full support of successive governments. In May 2013, Stephen Smith, the defence minister in the last Labor government, rejected complaints by Afghan detainees that they were subjected to humiliating public searches of groin and buttocks areas, as well as poor food and cold cells.

Last June, in a damage control operation, the current Liberal-National government belatedly revealed a third closed-door inquiry into alleged war crimes. After a Fairfax Media investigation reported further killings by Australian commandos, the Defence Department announced that earlier last year, military chiefs commissioned David Irvine, a former intelligence chief, to conduct an inquiry.

This “independent assessment” was designed as another official cover-up, seeking to cloak the barbaric character of the US-led occupation of the impoverished country. Such wars necessarily require the recruitment and training of soldiers to become hardened killers.

In addition to Hastie, ex-military commanders are prominent throughout the political and military establishment. Duncan Lewis, the current Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) director-general, is a former SAS officer.

Government Senator Jim Molan headed allied military operations in Iraq during 2004-05. A Labor Party MP and ex-minister, Mike Kelly, was a colonel and Director of Army Legal Services, which would have handled complaints against Special Forces members.

Brutal Special Forces operations are part of expanded preparations for use at home, as well. Alongside deployments to neo-colonial wars, the commandos train to suppress social unrest, in the name of combatting terrorism or “domestic violence”.

The author also recommends:

New evidence of more Australian special forces’ war crimes in Afghanistan
[11 June 2018]

After a decade of cover-up by police chiefs and successive governments, a police informer in the Australian state of Victoria, known previously to the public only as “EF,” “informant 3838” or “Lawyer X,” was this month named as Nicola Gobbo, a member of a prominent legal family. Gobbo’s identity further points to the top-level and systemic use of lawyers and others to supply potentially incriminating information to police, regardless of the principle of lawyer-client privilege and other confidentiality rules: here.

Small dinosaur discovery in Victoria, Australia


This 11 March 2019 video about Australia says about itself:

New wallaby-sized dinosaur identified from fossils found along Victorian coast

Fossilised jawbones found in rocks along Victoria’s Gippsland coast have been identified as belonging to a new species of plant-eating dinosaur the size of a wallaby that would have roamed the land between Australia and Antarctica.

Galleonosaurus dorisae is just the second dinosaur of its type to be identified from the 125-million-year-old rock platforms south-east of Melbourne — and the fifth from along the Victorian coastline.

Millions of years ago, this area was a lushly forested rift valley with a 4,000-km chain of volcanoes to the east, said palaeontologist Matthew Herne of the University of New England.

From the Cambridge University Press in England:

New wallaby-sized dinosaur from the ancient Australian-Antarctic rift valley

March 11, 2019

A new, wallaby-sized herbivorous dinosaur has been identified from five fossilized upper jaws in 125 million year old rocks from the Cretaceous period of Victoria, southeastern Australia.

Reported in the Journal of Paleontology, the new dinosaur is named “Galleonosaurus dorisae,” and is the first dinosaur named from the Gippsland region of Australia in 16 years. According to Dr Matthew Herne, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of New England, NSW, and lead author of the new study, “the jaws of Galleonosaurus dorisae include young to mature individuals — the first time an age range has been identified from the jaws of an Australian dinosaur.”

Galleonosaurus was a small-bodied herbivorous dinosaur within the large family called ornithopods. “These small dinosaurs would have been agile runners on their powerful hind legs,” explained Dr Herne.

The name Galleonosaurus dorisae refers to the shape of the upper jaw, resembling the upturned hull of a sailing ship called a galleon, and also honours the work of Dr Doris Seegets-Villiers, who produced her PhD thesis on the palaeontology of the locality where the fossils were discovered.

Galleonosaurus is the fifth small ornithopod genus named from Victoria, which according to Dr Herne, “confirms that on a global scale, the diversity of these small-bodied dinosaurs had been unusually high in the ancient rift valley that once extended between the spreading continents of Australia and Antarctica.” Small ornithopods appear to have thrived on the vast forested floodplain within the ancient rift valley.

At the time of Galleonosaurus, sediments were shed from a four thousand km long massif of large, actively erupting volcanoes that once existed along the eastern margin of the Australian continent. Some of these sediments were carried westward by large rivers into the Australian-Antarctic rift valley where they formed deep sedimentary basins. However, as these sediments washed down the rivers of the rift valley the bones of dinosaurs, such as Galleonosaurus and other vertebrates, along with the logs of fallen trees, became mixed in. According to Dr Herne, “this land has now vanished, but as ‘time-travellers’ we get snapshots of this remarkable world via the rocks and fossils exposed along the coast of Victoria.”

The new article shows that Galleonosaurus dorisae is a close relative of Diluvicursor pickeringi; another small ornithopod named by Dr Herne and his team in 2018, from excavations along the Otway coast to the west of the Gippsland region. Interestingly, “the jaws of Galleonosaurus and the partial skeleton of Diluvicursor were similarly buried in volcanic sediments on the floor of deep powerful rivers,” explained Dr Herne. “However, Galleonosaurus is about 12 million years older than Diluvicursor, showing that the evolutionary history of dinosaurs in the Australian-Antarctic rift had been lengthy.”

The jaws of Galleonosaurus were discovered by volunteers of the Dinosaur Dreaming project during excavations near the town of Inverloch. The most complete jaw and the key specimen carrying the name Galleonosaurus dorisae was discovered in 2008 by the seasoned fossil hunter Gerrit (‘Gerry’) Kool, from the nearby town of Wonthaggi. Gerry and his wife Lesley have been instrumental in organizing the Dinosaur Dreaming excavations along the Victorian coast for 25 years.

Prior to discovery of Galleonosaurus dorisae, the only other ornithopod known from the Gippsland region was Qantassaurus intrepidus, named in 1999. However, Qantassaurus had a shorter more robust snout than that of Galleonosaurus, explained Dr Herne, who added, “we consider that these two, similarly-sized dinosaurs fed on different plant types, which would have allowed them to coexist.”

The new study reveals that the ornithopods from Victoria are closely related to those from Patagonia in Argentina. “We are steadily building a picture of terrestrial dinosaur interchange between the shifting Gondwanan continents of Australia, South America and Antarctica during the Cretaceous period,” added Dr Herne.

These are exciting times for dinosaur research, explained Dr Herne: “Using advanced techniques, such as 3D micro-CT scanning and printing, new anatomical information is being revealed on dinosaurs such as Galleonosaurus dorisae. These techniques are helping us to delve deeper into the mysterious world of dinosaur ecology — what they ate, how they moved and how they coexisted — and their evolutionary relationships with dinosaurs from other continents.”