Wild red deer help conservation


This 2013 video says about itself:

Red Deer Rut/Mating Season. Sir David Attenborough‘s opinion

This is a clip from “RHYTHMS OF NATURE IN THE BARYCZ VALLEY” movie. This film tells the story about nature in the Barycz River valley and enormous Milicz ponds. This area is located in the south-western part of Poland (in the middle of Europe).

I and my wife made it for 2 years. Sir David Attenborough, a world-famous BBC nature documentary film maker, after watching the film “Rhythms of Nature in the Barycz Valley” wrote: “I have viewed Rhythms of Nature with great pleasure. A lovely place, beautifully filmed”.

From the University of Göttingen in Germany:

Wild red deer contribute to the preservation of open landscapes

May 9, 2019

Similar to farm animals such as cattle or sheep, wild red deer grazing in open landscapes can also contribute to the conservation of protected habitats. This was demonstrated by a research team from the University of Göttingen and the Institute for Wildlife Biology of Göttingen and Dresden. The results were published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

The interdisciplinary research team, which involved the Divisions of Grassland Science and Wildlife Sciences of the University of Göttingen, conducted research over a period of three years at the Grafenwöhr Training Area, an army training base, in Bavaria. “This area is home not only to numerous protected habitats and rare species, but also to a large population of free-ranging red deer,” says Friederike Riesch, PhD student in the Division of Grassland Science at the University of Göttingen and first author of the study. Since the animals are only hunted on a few days a year in the non-forested areas of the training area, they can use the grassland and heathland areas all day for foraging. The scientists recorded above-ground plant growth, forage quality and forage removal by red deer in protected grassland and heath habitats. The result: the proportion of plant growth eaten by wild red deer is comparable to that of extensive grazing by farm livestock.

While the forage removal of the red deer was highest in spring in grassland, the heaths were grazed most intensively in winter. These different seasonal patterns fit well with the different grazing requirements of vegetation communities in grassland and heath and contribute to both habitat types benefiting from red deer. “Our results could give an impetus to adapt wildlife management — especially in large nature reserves — to enable red deer to use open landscapes all day for foraging,” says Riesch. “In this way, a contribution can be made to the conservation of semi-natural open land habitats and at the same time the risk of damage from red deer in commercial forests can be reduced,” adds co-author Dr Bettina Tonn, also from the Division of Grassland Science at the University of Göttingen.

The project was funded by the Landwirtschaftliche Rentenbank and supported by Bundesforst.

Advertisements

Nuclear bomb tests damage deep-sea animals


This video from the USA says about itself:

Color footage of atomic bomb tests with active duty military personnel at Camp Desert Rock, Nevada Test Site, Nevada.

Shows soldiers in foxholes as nuclear detonation occurs nearby; light and shockwaves; blowing dust; soldiers climbing out of foxholes and running towards mushroom cloud.

Some of this footage is familiar by virtue of having been seen in the film Atomic Cafe. Many soldiers who were present were exposed to high levels of radiation.

From the American Geophysical Union in the USA:

Radioactive carbon from nuclear bomb tests found in deep ocean trenches

May 8, 2019

Radioactive carbon released into the atmosphere from 20th-century nuclear bomb tests has reached the deepest parts of the ocean, new research finds.

A new study in AGU’s journal Geophysical Research Letters finds the first evidence of radioactive carbon from nuclear bomb tests in muscle tissues of crustaceans that inhabit Earth’s ocean trenches, including the Mariana Trench, home to the deepest spot in the ocean.

Organisms at the ocean surface have incorporated this “bomb carbon” into the molecules that make up their bodies since the late 1950s. The new study finds crustaceans in deep ocean trenches are feeding on organic matter from these organisms when it falls to the ocean floor. The results show human pollution can quickly enter the food web and make its way to the deep ocean, according to the study’s authors.

“Although the oceanic circulation takes hundreds of years to bring water containing bomb [carbon] to the deepest trench, the food chain achieves this much faster,” said Ning Wang, a geochemist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou, China, and lead author of the new study.

“There’s a very strong interaction between the surface and the bottom, in terms of biologic systems, and human activities can affect the biosystems even down to 11,000 meters, so we need to be careful about our future behaviors,” said Weidong Sun, a geochemist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Qingdao, China, and co-author of the new study. “It’s not expected, but it’s understandable, because it’s controlled by the food chain.”

The results also help scientists better understand how creatures have adapted to living in the nutrient-poor environment of the deep ocean, according to the authors. The crustaceans they studied live for an unexpectedly long time by having extremely slow metabolisms, which the authors suspect may be an adaptation to living in this impoverished and harsh environment.

Creating radioactive particles

Carbon-14 is radioactive carbon that is created naturally when cosmic rays interact with nitrogen in the atmosphere. Carbon-14 is much less abundant than non-radioactive carbon, but scientists can detect it in nearly all living organisms and use it to determine the ages of archeological and geological samples.

Thermonuclear weapons tests conducted during the 1950s and 1960s doubled the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere when neutrons released from the bombs reacted with nitrogen in the air. Levels of this “bomb carbon” peaked in the mid-1960s and then dropped when atmospheric nuclear tests stopped. By the 1990s, carbon-14 levels in the atmosphere had dropped to about 20 percent above their pre-test levels.

This bomb carbon quickly fell out of the atmosphere and mixed into the ocean surface. Marine organisms that have lived in the decades since this time have used bomb carbon to build molecules within their cells, and scientists have seen elevated levels of carbon-14 in marine organisms since shortly after the bomb tests began.

Life at the bottom of the sea

The deepest parts of the ocean are the hadal trenches, those areas where the ocean floor is more than 6 kilometers (4 miles) below the surface. These areas form when one tectonic plate subducts beneath another. Creatures that inhabit these trenches have had to adapt to the intense pressures, extreme cold, and lack of light and nutrients.

In the new study, researchers wanted to use bomb carbon as a tracer for organic material in hadal trenches to better understand the organisms that live there. Wang and her colleagues analyzed amphipods collected in 2017 from the Mariana, Mussau, and New Britain Trenches in the tropical West Pacific Ocean, as far down as 11 kilometers (7 miles) below the surface. Amphipods are a type of small crustacean that live in the ocean and get food from scavenging dead organisms or consuming marine detritus.

Surprisingly, the researchers found carbon-14 levels in the amphipods’ muscle tissues were much greater than levels of carbon-14 in organic matter found in deep ocean water. They then analyzed the amphipods’ gut contents and found those levels matched estimated carbon-14 levels from samples of organic material taken from the surface of the Pacific Ocean. This suggests the amphipods are selectively feeding on detritus from the ocean surface that falls to the ocean floor.

Adapting to the deep ocean environment

The new findings allow researchers to better understand the longevity of organisms that inhabit hadal trenches and how they have adapted to this unique environment.

Interestingly, the researchers found the amphipods living in these trenches grow larger and live longer than their counterparts in shallower waters. Amphipods that live in shallow water typically live for less than two years and grow to an average length of 20 millimeters (0.8 inches). But the researchers found amphipods in the deep trenches that were more than 10 years old and had grown to 91 millimeters (3.6 inches) long.

The study authors suspect the amphipods’ large size and long life are likely the byproducts of their evolution to living in the environment of low temperatures, high pressure and a limited food supply. They suspect the animals have slow metabolisms and low cell turnover, which allows them to store energy for long periods of time. The long life time also suggests pollutants can bioaccumulate in these unusual organisms.

“Besides the fact that material mostly comes from the surface, the age-related bioaccumulation also increases these pollutant concentrations, bringing more threat to these most remote ecosystems,” Wang said.

The new study shows deep ocean trenches are not isolated from human activities, Rose Cory, an associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the new research, said in an email. The research shows that by using “bomb” carbon, scientists can detect the fingerprint of human activity in the most remote, deepest depths of the ocean, she added.

The authors also use “bomb” carbon to show that the main source of food for these organisms is carbon produced in the surface ocean, rather than more local sources of carbon deposited from nearby sediments, Cory said. The new study also suggests that the amphipods in the deep trenches have adapted to the harsh conditions in deep trenches, she added.

“What is really novel here is not just that carbon from the surface ocean can reach the deep ocean on relatively short timescales, but that the ‘young’ carbon produced in the surface ocean is fueling, or sustaining, life in the deepest trenches,” Cory said.

Paper wasps’ logical reasoning? New research


This 2012 video is called Polistes metricus life cycle – from beginning to end.

From the University of Michigan in the USA:

Paper wasps capable of behavior that resembles logical reasoning

May 8, 2019

A new University of Michigan study provides the first evidence of transitive inference, the ability to use known relationships to infer unknown relationships, in a nonvertebrate animal: the lowly paper wasp.

For millennia, transitive inference was considered a hallmark of human deductive powers, a form of logical reasoning used to make inferences: If A is greater than B, and B is greater than C, then A is greater than C.

But in recent decades, vertebrate animals including monkeys, birds and fish have demonstrated the ability to use transitive inference.

The only published study that assessed TI in invertebrates found that honeybees weren’t up to the task. One possible explanation for that result is that the small nervous system of honeybees imposes cognitive constraints that prevent those insects from conducting transitive inference.

Paper wasps have a nervous system roughly the same size — about one million neurons — as honeybees, but they exhibit a type complex social behavior not seen in honeybee colonies. University of Michigan evolutionary biologist Elizabeth Tibbetts wondered if paper wasps’ social skills could enable them to succeed where honeybees had failed.

To find out, Tibbetts and her colleagues tested whether two common species of paper wasp, Polistes dominula and Polistes metricus, could solve a transitive inference problem. The team’s findings are scheduled for online publication May 8 in the journal Biology Letters.

“This study adds to a growing body of evidence that the miniature nervous systems of insects do not limit sophisticated behaviors,” said Tibbetts, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

“We’re not saying that wasps used logical deduction to solve this problem, but they seem to use known relationships to make inferences about unknown relationships,” Tibbetts said. “Our findings suggest that the capacity for complex behavior may be shaped by the social environment in which behaviors are beneficial, rather than being strictly limited by brain size.”

To test for TI, Tibbetts and her colleagues first collected paper wasp queens from several locations around Ann Arbor, Michigan.

In the laboratory, individual wasps were trained to discriminate between pairs of colors called premise pairs. One color in each pair was associated with a mild electric shock, and the other was not.

“I was really surprised how quickly and accurately wasps learned the premise pairs,” said Tibbetts, who has studied the behavior of paper wasps for 20 years.

Later, the wasps were presented with paired colors that were unfamiliar to them, and they had to choose between the colors. The wasps were able to organize information into an implicit hierarchy and used transitive inference to choose between novel pairs, Tibbetts said.

“I thought wasps might get confused, just like bees,” she said. “But they had no trouble figuring out that a particular color was safe in some situations and not safe in other situations.”

So, why do wasps and honeybees — which both possess brains smaller than a grain of rice — perform so differently on transitive inference tests? One possibility is that different types of cognitive abilities are favored in bees and wasps because they display different social behaviors.

A honeybee colony has a single queen and multiple equally ranked female workers. In contrast, paper wasp colonies have several reproductive females known as foundresses. The foundresses compete with their rivals and form linear dominance hierarchies.

A wasp’s rank in the hierarchy determines shares of reproduction, work and food. Transitive inference could allow wasps to rapidly make deductions about novel social relationships.

That same skill set may enable female paper wasps to spontaneously organize information during transitive inference tests, the researchers hypothesize.

For millennia, transitive inference was regarded as a hallmark of human cognition and was thought to be based on logical deduction. More recently, some researchers have questioned whether TI requires higher-order reasoning or can be solved with simpler rules.

The study by Tibbetts and her colleagues illustrates that paper wasps can build and manipulate an implicit hierarchy. But it makes no claims about the precise mechanisms that underlie this ability.

In previous studies, Tibbetts and her colleagues showed that paper wasps recognize individuals of their species by variations in their facial markings and that they behave more aggressively toward wasps with unfamiliar faces.

The researchers have also demonstrated that paper wasps have surprisingly long memories and base their behavior on what they remember of previous social interactions with other wasps.

The other authors of the new Biology Letters paper — Jorge Agudelo, Sohini Pandit and Jessica Riojas — are undergraduates.

The work was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at the University of Michigan, funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. All experiments complied with the laws of the United States and international ethical standards.

Australian nazi terrorist Tarrant no ‘lone wolf’


This Associated Press video says about itself:

Witnesses inside the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch describe the horrific scene when a gunman opened fire during Friday afternoon prayers. One said there was 10 to 15 minutes of continuous shooting, “He just shot all the people.” (March 15 2019)

By Tom Peters in New Zealand:

Australian fascist group tried to recruit Christchurch terrorist

8 May 2019

The Sydney Morning Herald revealed on May 2 that in 2017 the Australian fascist and white supremacist Lads Society tried to recruit Brenton Tarrant, who carried out the March 15 terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The death toll from New Zealand’s worst-ever mass shooting increased to 51 on May 2 after Turkish citizen Zekeriya Tuyan succumbed to injuries in hospital. Dozens more were injured in the atrocity, which the gunman had spent at least two years preparing.

The latest revelation further discredits the claims by Australian and New Zealand governments and police, along with much of the media, that Tarrant was a lone gunman whose attack could not have been prevented. NZ police commissioner Mike Bush repeated to TVNZ on Monday that the shooter was “not ever on anyone’s radar.” In fact, Tarrant had long-standing links with Australian far-right groups, made repeated threats of violence, and donated large sums to the racist Identitarian movements in Austria and France.

The Lads Society is one of several neo-Nazi groups which, despite their small membership, have received extensive publicity in the corporate media in recent years, and are closely monitored by police and intelligence agencies. Like the Christchurch shooter, the group was emboldened by the election victory of US President Donald Trump and the shift to the right by the entire political establishment in Australia and internationally.

In a May 3 blog post, Lads Society leader Thomas Sewell said the group’s members were “the sons of Nietzsche, of [Italian fascist] Evola, of Hitler, of [British fascist Oswald] Mosley, of [Enoch] Powell.” The society describes non-white immigration as the “genocide” of the white race and seeks to establish an ethnically cleansed state.

According to the Herald, Sewell claimed he never personally met Tarrant, but people in the fascist scene “had known of Tarrant online for at least three years.” Tarrant supported the United Patriots Front, the predecessor of the Lads Society, in numerous Facebook comments. He hailed UPF leader and Lads Society co-founder Blair Cottrell as an “Emperor.”

In 2016, Tarrant sent a Facebook message threatening to kill a man who had denounced an anti-immigrant rally held by the UPF. The threat was shown to Melbourne police, who dismissed it and took no action. In New Zealand, police similarly ignored a report in 2017 from a member of the public about violent and anti-Muslim language at the Bruce Rifle Club, where Tarrant was a member.

Sewell told the Herald he had corresponded with Tarrant and invited him to join the Lads Society but Tarrant declined because he “didn’t believe there was a peaceful solution to European people being genocided.” Sewell said “we believe, certainly at this stage, that there is a peaceful solution for us to create the society we want to live in.” [emphasis added]

In other words, the difference with Tarrant was a matter of timing and tactics, and did not concern their shared fascist politics and willingness to use violent methods.

Sewell added that the group was prepared to resort to violence “if the state continues its persecution of our people for wanting to preserve their culture and heritage” or if his members were arrested. “I’m not going to give you any explicit threat but it’s pretty f—king obvious what’s going to happen,” Sewell said.

In fact, far from being persecuted, fascists feel able to make such public threats because they are confident of being protected by the state apparatus. On March 20, the Lads Society revealed that it had a friendly visit from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and state police “to ask for our insight into the motivations of Brenton Tarrant and how they can assist us in ensuring our lawful community organisation can succeed and grow in order to prevent further isolation, radicalisation and potentially any future politically motivated violence.”

Following the Christchurch shooting, ASIO’s director-general Duncan Lewis told a Senate committee there was “nothing wrong with” right-wing extremism “except when it ventures into violence.” He declared there was no need to refocus intelligence gathering on far-right groups, which were already being monitored. ASIO and the police did not explain why they took no action in response to Tarrant’s repeated threats on social media to attack immigrants, “Marxists and globalists.”

In Europe and the US, there are extensive neo-Nazi networks and fascist sympathisers within the military, border security and intelligence agencies. Tarrant, who travelled throughout Europe in the years before his attack, estimated that hundreds of thousands of European far-right nationalists were employed in the armed forces.

Members of the “alt-right” are being welcomed into established bourgeois parties, which have largely adopted their xenophobic and anti-Muslim rhetoric in order to divide the working class and deflect blame for social inequality and poverty onto immigrants. Labor and the Liberal-National coalition have for decades demonised and imprisoned refugees, and joined US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In late 2017 and 2018 a group of 22 fascists, including members of the Lads Society and Antipodean Resistance, were admitted into the youth wing New South Wales branch of the National Party, which is part of the Liberal-National coalition government. A leading member of the group, Clifford Jennings, was voted onto the executive of the NSW National Party youth. The group, which included open racists and admirers of Adolf Hitler, was only expelled following an investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in October 2018.

In the lead-up to the May 18 federal election, the same elements are campaigning for the Conservative National Party, founded by independent senator Fraser Anning, a former member of the racist One Nation party. Anning issued a press release following the Christchurch shootings blaming the victims for the attack and declaring that Muslim immigration was the “real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand’s streets today.” Anning is openly campaigning for a white “ethno-state” and to “ban all Muslim and Black immigration.”

In New Zealand, the right-wing nationalist NZ First Party is a partner in Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Labour-led coalition government. NZ First has repeatedly demonised Muslims and Chinese immigrants, using language similar to Tarrant’s. Ardern adopted the right-wing party’s anti-immigrant policies and made NZ First leader Winston Peters deputy prime minister and foreign minister.

Notwithstanding their hypocritical professions of sympathy for the Christchurch victims and the Muslim community, the ruling class in Australia and New Zealand continue to promote the fascist forces that led to the atrocity and will be used against the working class as it seeks to organise in opposition to austerity and imperialist war.

Lions against porcupines, new study


This 2018 video is called Lion, Leopard Fail Hunting Porcupine.

From the Field Museum in the USA:

Lions vs. porcupines

Historical records show what leads lions to hunt porcupines and what happens when they do

May 8, 2019

Summary: Lions can bring down wildebeests and giraffes, but when they try to hunt porcupines, the spiky rodents often come out on top. When lions attack porcupines (it’s usually young male lions that make that mistake), the porcupine’s spines can seriously injure the lion. These injuries can make it impossible for the lions to hunt normally, leading them to hunt livestock or even humans. This study is a deep dive into lion-porcupine interactions over the centuries.

Not much can mess with a lion. They’re four-hundred-pound top predators, bringing down large prey like wildebeests, zebras, and even giraffes. But they’re not invincible — a new study delves into the interactions between lions and porcupines, and shows how these spiky, cocker spaniel-sized critters can come out on top.

“By examining records of lions that have been injured by porcupines, we were able to develop a better picture of the conditions that lead lions to try to hunt porcupines and what happens to the lions who get stuck,” says Julian Kerbis Peterhans, a researcher at the Field Museum, professor at Roosevelt University, and lead author of the new study in the Journal of East African Natural History.

“It’s David and Goliath on the African savanna. The powerful king of the savanna tries to eat a juicy, fat porcupine, but he gets hurt by the quills,” says co-author Gastone Celesia, a volunteer at the Field and professor emeritus of neurology at Loyola University Chicago. “Even though lions are at the top of the food chain, they get injured if they don’t watch what they’re doing.”

African porcupines are large rodents, weighing about about forty pounds, and predators (including humans) seek them out for their tasty meat. But their backs are covered in sharp quills made of keratin, the same material as hair and fingernails. These quills, which can be a foot long or more, can detach and get stuck in the flesh of predators careless or desperate enough to attack the porcupines.

There are stories and records of lions getting injured by porcupines going back hundreds of years — in June, July, and August of 1656,an official from the Dutch East Company in Cape Town wrote in his diary about three different lions that had been stuck with porcupine quills. In many of these cases, the lions’ injuries made it harder for them to hunt or eat. They sometimes turned to easier prey, like cattle or even humans. However, prior to this study, no one had carefully compiled all the records of lions injured by porcupines to better understand the two species’ relationship. The team scoured scientific literature, stories in the popular press, and even YouTube videos looking for evidence of lion-porcupine interactions.

“I think that digging deeply into the historic literature, especially very early sources, has largely fallen out of fashion in the modern era,” says Tom Gnoske, a co-author of the paper and an assistant collections manager at the Field Museum. “There are treasures still to be found, but going back in the written record four centuries, well, that takes some patience and time.”

The team found evidence of about fifty lions that had been injured or killed by porcupines. Several trends appeared to emerge from the data. Lions that lived on harsher, drier terrain seemed to rely more on porcupines for food, at least periodically, perhaps because other prey weren’t available. Young lions were more likely to try to hunt porcupines than older lions. And most of the lions injured by porcupines were male.

“There was a tendency for males to be more often wounded or killed by porcupines — sort of a ‘young foolish male syndrome,'” says Kerbis Peterhans. To compound matters, young males aren’t just taking part in risky behavior, but when they so alone, without other lions to help them if they do get hurt, they are more vulnerable. “In social contexts, a lion can remove porcupine quills with the help of a friend, but this is not possible if they are solitary,” he explains.

In addition to piecing together clues about what drives lions to hunt porcupines despite the risk the rodents pose, the researchers were able to use CT scans to more closely examine the effects that porcupine quills have had on lion specimens. The team scanned the skulls of two man-eating lions from 1965. One had been stuck through the nose with a nine-inch quill, and the other had an inch-long segment of a quill embedded in the nerve pulp of its broken canine tooth.

“We were like detectives,” says Celesia of the forensic work the team did to better understand the injuries that the lions sustained and figure out what the effects on the lions’ hunting abilities would be. “CT scans let us reconstruct what happened in the past.”

The scans showed evidence of bone infections that would have impaired both of these lions’ ability to eat (or, in the case of the lion with a quill through its nose, to smell its prey) — factors that could have contributed to man-eating. Generally speaking, lions attack humans if something’s wrong, like if they’re not physically able to take down their usual prey or if they don’t have enough space or resources to hunt normally.

Kerbis Peterhans notes the importance of the study in better understanding a condition that leads lions to harm people. “Porcupine injuries are an anticipator of attacks on humans, there’s a potential impact on human beings,” he says. And the study has broader ecological significance, too. “We know from forty-plus years of continuous behavioral research on lions since the 1960s that lions prefer large hooved animals as prey, including antelope, zebra, and buffalo,” says Gnoske. “And our data suggest that by the time the lions are relegated to eating porcupines, there’s already a problem with the local food supply. Historic records tell us that when environmental conditions deteriorate, particularly in areas where lions and their preferred prey are already living on the edge, they find themselves in serious trouble with nearby humans or their livestock.”

“One moral of the story is that there no free lunch,” says Celesia. “Even the king of beasts doesn’t eat what he wants without paying a price.”