Jurassic crocodile discovery in Germany

This 4 April 2019 video is called Primitive crocodile that roamed prehistoric seas 150 million years ago unearthed.

From the University of Edinburgh in Scotland:

Jurassic crocodile discovery sheds light on reptiles’ family tree

April 4, 2019

Summary: A 150 million-year-old fossil has been identified as a previously unseen species of ancient crocodile that developed a tail fin and paddle-like limbs for life in the sea.

A newly identified species of 150 million-year-old marine crocodile has given insights into how a group of ancient animals evolved.

The ancestor of today’s crocodiles belonged to a group of animals that developed a tail fin and paddle-like limbs for life in the sea, resembling dolphins more than crocodiles.

These slender animals, which fed on fast-moving prey such as squid and small fish, lived during the Jurassic era in shallow seas and lagoons in what is now Germany. Related species have previously been found in Mexico and Argentina.

An international team of scientists, including researchers from Germany and the University of Edinburgh, identified the new species from a remarkably well-preserved skeleton.

The fossil was discovered in 2014 in a quarry near the town of Bamberg in Bavaria, Germany by a team from the Naturkunde-Museum Bamberg, where it is now housed. The species, Cricosaurus bambergensis, takes its name from the town.

Researchers compared the fossil with those from other museum collections, and confirmed that it was a previously unseen species.

The skeleton has several distinguishing features in its jaws, the roof of its mouth and tail, some of which have not been seen in any other species.

Experts created digital images of the fossil in high resolution, to enable further research. They expect the fossil will aid greater understanding of a wider family of ancient animals, known as metriorhynchid, to which this species belonged.

The research, carried out with Naturkunde-Museum Bielefeld, Eberhard-Karls Universität Tübingen and commercial partners Palaeo3D, is published in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

Dr Mark Young, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who took part in the study, said: “The rock formations of southern Germany continue to give us fresh insights into the age of dinosaurs. These rock layers were deposited at a time when Europe was covered by a shallow sea, with countries such as Germany and the UK being a collection of islands.”

Sven Sachs, from the Naturkunde-Museum Bielefeld, who led the project, said: “The study reveals peculiar features at the palate that have not been described in any fossil crocodile so far. There are two depressions which are separated by a pronounced bar. It is not clear what these depressions were good for.”

British soldiers’ anti-Labour death threat, why?

This 4 April 2019 video says about itself:

U.K. Troops Used A Poster Of Corbyn For Target Practice

A video filmed on Snapchat shows four soldiers with handguns in Afghan capital Kabul firing at a large poster of the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

By Lucy Wood in Britain:

Friday, April 5, 2019

Happy with that? Who has fed our young soldiers a diet of hatred for the Labour leader?

A VIDEO circulates via social media of four soldiers firing guns at a shooting range with a banner stating “happy with that.” The camera then pans across to their target, a picture of Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition.

This has caused shock and outrage from many political commentators but it is no wonder that animosity has grown towards Corbyn since he became leader of the Labour Party.

The press he has received has gone from him being a bumbling “nice” man to terrorist sympathiser and traitor, among other accusations such as Czech spy, Russian stooge and anti-semite.

It has been an insidious attempt to undermine the leader of the opposition and becomes more absurd and heightened as he steps closer to government.

However, to see our own armed forces filming themselves shooting a target with Jeremy Corbyn’s face on it is chilling. An action like this legitimises violent action against politicians and perhaps even those that support them. Our military are meant to protect us, but this is the second time in only a few months that they have shown that young members of the armed forces are being drawn into the fascist right-wing propaganda spreading across our country.

Comments left by people watching this video showed the contempt in which they have for the Labour leader but also repeat the lies that they have been told by the mainstream media. …

[The Labour party manifesto says:] “Under the Conservatives, our armed forces have been hit by rent rises, pay restraint and changes to tax and benefits, putting real pressure on service personnel and their families. We will ensure they get the pay and living conditions that their service merits.”

It is obvious that these soldiers are not aware of the benefits that a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party offers them and their families and why would they be?

Mainstream media perpetually push any other narrative apart from an honest one regarding the leader of the opposition and the narrative that the Conservative Party supports. Theresa May herself shouted it last week at PMQs: “The biggest threat to our standing in the world, to our defence, to our economy is sitting on the Labour front bench.”

Jeremy Corbyn has already been attacked and yet even that assault has been trivialised by the mainstream media, making light of it by perpetuating the narrative that only an egg was thrown at him. To the point that some outlets are questioning the arrest and conviction of a man that physically attacked a 69-year-old man, unprovoked.

After the tragic murder of Labour MP Jo Cox and the story that came to light yesterday of a 22-year-old man plotting to murder his local Labour MP Rosie Cooper, this behaviour is beyond irresponsible.

The threat of murderous intent by people that have been inspired by a far-right narrative is growing and not enough is being done to challenge it. Last week Tommy Robinson was given a platform outside Parliament despite him being banned by Facebook and Twitter for encouraging hate speech.

Someone that has been continually proven to be lying about refugees and minority groups to incite hatred had a platform to speak outside the Houses of Parliament.

Although we may not always agree with our politicians, presenting them as a target for violent attack in any form is unacceptable, especially by our armed forces.

An army spokesperson says: “We are aware of a video circulating on social media, this behaviour is totally unacceptable and falls well below the high standards the army expects, a full investigation has been launched.”

Many will berate these soldiers for their actions and they would do so rightly. However, the investigation shouldn’t stop at these young men but also their direct superiors. Questions should be asked, what has influenced these soldiers to behave like this? Is itmainstream media or have they been influenced by hierarchy within the military?

Instances like this just make the case stronger for Leveson II. We must hold our media to account for the lies and stories they are promoting. The media should be a tool that holds democracy to account and it should be trusted by the people who consume it.

However, the fear of a leadership that would encourage a fairer tax system and rules that would ensure the media publish accurate information is enough for them to present continuous smears against the opposition leader.

Ancient four-legged whale discovery in Peru

This 4 April 2019 video says about itself:

Four-legged whale ancestors reached South America in an otter-like swimming style

A four-legged whale from Peru indicates that early whales crossed the South Atlantic before 42.6 million years ago and may have propelled like otters: with a robust tail and webbed fingers on their long feet.

Production: Stéphane Van Israël, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

From ScienceDaily:

Ancient, four-legged whale with otter-like features found along the coast of Peru

April 4, 2019

Cetaceans, the group including whales and dolphins, originated in south Asia more than 50 million years ago from a small, four-legged, hoofed ancestor. Now, researchers reporting the discovery of an ancient four-legged whale — found in 42.6-million-year-old marine sediments along the coast of Peru — have new insight into whales’ evolution and their dispersal to other parts of the world. The findings are reported in the journal Current Biology on April 4.

The presence of small hooves at the tip of the whale’s fingers and toes and its hip and limbs morphology all suggest that this whale could walk on land, according to the researchers. On the other hand, they say, anatomical features of the tail and feet, including long, likely webbed appendages, similar to an otter, indicate that it was a good swimmer too.

“This is the first indisputable record of a quadrupedal whale skeleton for the whole Pacific Ocean, probably the oldest for the Americas, and the most complete outside India and Pakistan”, says Olivier Lambert of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

Some years ago, study co-author Mario Urbina of Museo de Historia Natural-UNMSM, Peru, discovered a promising area for digging fossils in the coastal desert of southern Peru, named Playa Media Luna. In 2011, an international team, including members from Peru, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Belgium, organized a field expedition, during which they excavated the remains of an ancient whale they’ve since named Peregocetus pacificus. It means “the traveling whale that reached the Pacific.”

“When digging around the outcropping bones, we quickly realized that this was the skeleton of a quadrupedal whale, with both forelimbs and hind limbs,” Lambert says.

With the help of microfossils, the sediment layers where the skeleton was positioned were precisely dated to the middle Eocene, 42.6 million years ago. Anatomical details of the skeleton allowed them to infer that the animal was capable of maneuvering its large body (up to 4 meters long, tail included), both on land and in the water. For instance, features of the caudal vertebrae (in the tail) are reminiscent of those of beavers and otters, suggesting a significant contribution of the tail during swimming.

The geological age of the new four-limbed whale and its presence along the western coast of South America strongly support the hypothesis that early cetaceans reached the New World across the South Atlantic, from the western coast of Africa to South America, the researchers report. The whales would have been assisted in their travel by westward surface currents and by the fact that, at the time, the distance between the two continents was half what it is today. The researchers suggest that, only after having reached South America, the amphibious whales migrated northward, finally reaching North America.

The international team continues to study the remains of other whales and dolphins from Peru. “We will keep searching in localities with layers as ancient, and even more ancient, than the ones of Playa Media Luna, so older amphibious cetaceans may be discovered in the future,” Lambert says.

Lizards, egg-laying and live-bearing

This 11 March 2019 video says about itself:

The Three Toed Skink (Saiphos equalis) is a beautiful burrowing lizard from the east coast of Australia! This species has some special adaptations I highlight in this video along with showing some awesome natural colour variation! Its calm nature, beautiful appearance and rarity in the reptile hobby makes it a perfect lizard to showcase here in the first episode of Species Special!

Special thanks to the Macquarie University Lizard Lab.

From the University of Sydney in Australia:

Biologists observe a three-toed skink lay eggs and give birth to a live baby

April 2, 2019

In a world first, researchers at the University of Sydney have observed a normally live-bearing Australian lizard lay three eggs and then weeks later, give birth to a live baby from the same pregnancy. This is the first time such an event has been documented in a single litter of vertebrate babies.

The three-toed skink (Saiphos equalis) is one of only a handful of rare “bimodally reproductive” species, in which some individuals lay eggs and others give birth to live babies. But up until now, no vertebrate has ever been observed to do both in one litter.

“It is a very unusual discovery”, said Dr Camilla Whittington, from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Sydney School of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney.

The three-toed skink is native to the east coast of Australia. In the northern highlands of New South Wales the animals normally give birth to live young, but those living in and around Sydney lay eggs.

“We were studying the genetics of these skinks when we noticed one of the live-bearing females lay three eggs,” Dr Whittington said. “Several weeks later she gave birth to another baby. Seeing that baby was a very exciting moment!”

The observation will be published in Biology Letters this week, along with advanced microscopy of the egg-coverings.

There are at least 150 evolutionary transitions from egg-laying to live-bearing in vertebrates said Dr Whittington, who led the study alongside Dr Melanie Laird, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Otago, and Emeritus Professor Mike Thompson.

“The earliest vertebrates were egg-layers, but over thousands of years, developing embryos in some species were held inside the body for longer, until some animals began to give live birth. People mostly think about humans and other mammals giving birth. But there are many species of reptile that give birth, too.”

Dr Whittington said that the unusual observation of both egg laying and live birth in a single litter shows that the three-toed skink is an ideal model for understanding pregnancy. “It makes Australia one of the best places in the world to study the evolution of live birth, because we can watch evolution in action,” she said.

“Put in the context of evolutionary biology, being able to switch between laying eggs and giving live birth could allow animals to hedge their bets according to environmental conditions,” Dr Whittington said.

This observation helps make the three-toed skink, which looks like a baby snake with tiny legs, one of the “weirdest lizards in the world”, she said.

Further research into this small lizard, which seems to occupy a grey area between live birth and egg-laying, will help determine how and why species make major reproductive leaps.

Fascism, why does it still exist?

This 4 April 2019 video about the USA says about itself:

“In order to fight fascism, we must understand where it comes from” – Christoph Vandreier

Berkeley • April 8
San Diego • April 9
Detroit • April 11
Ann Arbor • April 15
Cambridge • April 17
New York • April 18

Read more here.

Migratory bats’ sunset orientation

This 2014 video from the USA says about itself:

Spring Migration of the Indiana Bat

Short documentary following biologists as they track migrating Indiana bats.

From the Forschungsverbund Berlin in Germany:

Compass orientation of a migratory bat species depends on sunset direction

April 4, 2019

Scientists combined a mirror experiment simulating a different direction of the setting sun and a new test procedure to measure orientation behavior in bats to understand the role of the sun’s position in the animals’ navigation system. The results demonstrate for the first time that a migratory mammal species uses the sunset direction to calibrate their compass system.

Whether it is bats, wildebeest or whales, millions of mammals move over thousands of kilometres each year. How they navigate during migration remains remarkably understudied compared to birds or sea turtles, however. A team of scientists led by the Leibniz-IZW in Berlin now combined a mirror experiment simulating a different direction of the setting sun and a new test procedure to measure orientation behaviour in bats to understand the role of the sun’s position in the animals’ navigation system. The results demonstrate for the first time that a migratory mammal species uses the sunset direction to calibrate their compass system. Furthermore the experiment, which is published in Current Biology, indicates that this capacity is not inherited and first-time migrating young bats need to learn the importance of the solar disc at dusk for nightly orientation.

The experiment that scientists Oliver Lindecke and Christian Voigt from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) designed and conducted together with colleagues from Latvia and the United Kingdom was based on two steps: First, several Soprano pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) were randomly assigned into two groups. At nightfall during their migration period, one group could watch the natural sunset at the Latvian Baltic Sea shore. The other group however watched the sun going down via a large mirror which was reversing the direction of the natural sunset exactly 180°. For the latter animals, the real sunset was blocked from vision by the taped sidewall of their holding cages. Later at night, animals of both groups were transported inland, away from the beach of the Baltic Sea, for the second step of the experiment: On a forest meadow, one bat after the other got released remotely from a specially designed circular release box. By the help of this box, the very direction an animal took when it left it, could be recorded. Prior studies showed that take-off orientations could be used as a proxy for departure flight orientation in these bats.

“The new orientation assay, the circular release box for bats, ruled out any visual influence at takeoff and allowed us to compare the directions bats of both groups where taking,” explains Lindecke. “The results show two fundamental aspects in bat navigation: Firstly, the setting sun’s direction plays a crucial role because there is a significant difference in the bats’ orientation with the group which experienced the mirrored sunset departing in opposite direction compared to the control group. And secondly, only adult bats showed directional preferences,” Lindecke summarizes the results. “Subadults displayed random orientation in both groups, which suggests to us that young bats need to learn long-distance navigation during migration from older conspecifics,” concludes Christian Voigt, senior author and head of the Department of Evolutionary Ecology at the Leibniz-IZW. How this learning process works and which social factors and practices contribute to it remains unknown and needs further investigation.

Mammals remain remarkably understudied with regard to navigation during migration. One of the reasons I a lack of experimental assays that measure a correlate of migratory orientation such as those that exist in birds and sea turtles. The larger migratory mammals, for example wildebeest or whales, are challenging to handle for any experimental work. Bats could fill this void as they have emerged as an important study model in movement ecology. They combine high ecophysiological diversity with a variety of movement behaviours. Bat eyes evolved to sense a wide range of light and a broad spectrum of wavelengths. Presumably, insectivorous bats rely heavily on vision like fruitbats when orienting over long distances since echolocation and path integration are ineffective and error-prone at distances larger than a few dozen meters. The results of this study are the first empirical evidence for the specific cues and mechanisms a migratory mammal uses for navigation.

Scientists have discovered that two major forces have shaped bat skulls over their evolutionary history: echolocation and diet. Their findings help explain the wide diversity of skull shapes among bats and reveal the intricate details of how evolutionary pressures can shape animal bodies: here.

On moonless nights in a tropical forest, bats slice through the inky darkness, snatching up insects resting silently on leaves — a seemingly impossible feat. New experiments at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) show that by changing their approach angle, the echolocating leaf-nosed bats can use this sixth sense to find acoustically camouflaged prey. These new findings, published in Current Biology, have exciting implications for the evolution of predator-prey interactions: here.