Egg-sucking sea slug discovery in Florida, USA

This 2012 video is about Sacoglossa, mostly vegetarian relatives of the recently discovered species.

From the Florida Museum of Natural History in the USA:

Egg-sucking sea slug from Florida’s Cedar Key named after Muppets creator Jim Henson

June 18, 2019

Feet from the raw bars and sherbet-colored condominiums of Florida’s Cedar Key, researchers discovered a new species of egg-sucking sea slug, a rare outlier in a group famous for being ultra-vegetarians.

Named Olea hensoni in honor of Muppets creator Jim Henson, the slug belongs to the sacoglossans, a group of more than 300 species that are such enthusiastic eaters of plants that many of them turn green and some resemble leaves. A few species, nicknamed “solar-powered slugs“, have even developed the ability to keep algae alive inside their bodies to photosynthesize their food for them, becoming a fusion of plant and animal.

But O. hensoni has gone rogue, joining two other sacoglossan species — Olea hansineensis from the northeast Pacific and Calliopaea bellula in the Mediterranean — that abandoned a diet of seaweed to prey on the eggs of their fellow slugs and snails.

“In the middle of this group of super-herbivores, there are a couple of species that have rebelled in ‘The Hills Have Eyes‘ kind of way and have gone almost full-blown cannibal,” said Patrick Krug, professor of biological sciences at California State University. “These are like the Venus fly traps of the slug world. They’ve switched from being harmless, friendly creatures to predators.”

In 2017, Cedar Key’s waterfront still bore wreckage from Hurricane Hermine when Gustav Paulay, Florida Museum curator of invertebrate zoology, slipped on divers boots and walked onto a sand flat exposed by the low tide. He was scouting for nudibranchs, worms, sea snails and crabs to show his students. Picking up a Jell-O-like egg mass, he spotted a sea slug about the size of a grain of rice inside.

“I assumed it was a well-known species,” he said. “I know its relative from the northeast Pacific quite well, so I figured, ‘Okay, good, we got an Olea’ and put it in the bag.”

It wasn’t until he contacted Krug, a sacoglossan expert, that he realized how unique the slug was.

“I sent it to Pat, and he was like, ‘Oh my God! You got something weird that’s not known from the western Atlantic,'” Paulay said. “What I found interesting was that this was the third example in the world of this feeding mode in this lineage of animals. I thought there were a lot more of them. I was tickled that we got one in Florida.”

Krug said finding an egg-sucking slug in the Gulf of Mexico was “crazy.”

“It was really surprising that a member of this group would show up in the waters around Florida because the other two species are from cold, northern waters”, he said.

Even odder, O. hensoni is far more closely related to the Pacific egg-sucking slug than the Mediterranean one.

“That makes no sense at all,” Krug said. “But that’s what the DNA and the anatomy tell us. It’s just a relic of a very old lineage that presumably got trapped in the Caribbean a long time ago and became isolated from its Pacific relatives.”

Paulay said O. hensoni is a prime example of how much marine life remains to be discovered, even in the aquatic equivalent of a backyard.

“Cedar Key is a well-studied area, and it’s still yielding new species,” he said. “You don’t need a scuba tank to find them. You just need to walk out in your flip-flops and look under your feet.”

Although O. hensoni is only the third documented species of egg-eating slug, Paulay recalled seeing other slugs preying on egg masses during his fieldwork in the Indo-Pacific.

“They’re probably in quite a few places, but nobody has ever looked,” he said. “One of the things I’m pretty bummed about is I’ve seen sucking slugs elsewhere, but I’ve never bothered to go after them.”

The researchers are not sure when the slugs made the plant-to-egg dietary switch or why, but speculate that egg capsules offer a nutritious and largely untapped food resource. Slugs and snails protect their eggs by encasing them by the thousands inside a mucous ball, an effective barrier against many would-be predators. But egg-sucking slugs have successfully developed a way to bulldoze their way inside, Krug said.

“Unlike the switchblade-like tooth of its plant-eating relatives, Olea has a tooth nubbin, which it can punch into jelly-like egg masses to suck out the eggs or embryos like someone sucking up boba from bubble tea,” he said.

Like other sea slugs, O. hensoni is hermaphroditic, having both male and female reproductive parts. Because genitalia can be useful for identifying slug species, the researchers coated the slug’s penis with gold and imaged it with a scanning electron microscope. Krug and Paulay did not observe O. hensoni reproducing in the lab, but the needle-like shape of its male genitalia may indicate that it engages in the “penis fencing” reproductive behavior seen in some sacoglossans and flatworms.

“It’s pretty extreme as penial stylets go, so it looks like it’s used for hypodermic insemination or for anchoring inside a sperm receptacle organ,” Krug said. “It’s a lot bigger than a lot of stylets I see in species that engage in some pretty dramatic fencing behaviors.”

Naming the slug after Jim Henson was an idea that came to Krug as he was thinking about O. hensoni’s creamy brown to yellow coloring — a standout in a group that is iconically green.

“It made me think of Kermit the Frog’s song ‘It’s not Easy Being Green'”, he said. “That made me laugh because I remember being a kid, eating eggs for breakfast and watching ‘Sesame Street.'”

As far as Krug knows, this is the first animal named after Henson.

“Jim Henson was one of those people who created things that were educational, positive and impactful and made the world a better place. That’s something that should be honored.”

Hilton de Castro Galvão Filho, who began the research in Krug’s lab and is now at the University of São Paulo, is the study’s lead author.

The sea slug Elysia rufescens fights predators by wielding toxic chemicals that it acquires from eating algae. A team has discovered that these chemicals are made by bacteria living inside the algae, highlighting a surprising three-way dependence among sea slugs, algae and bacteria: here.

United States Democratic presidential candidates, poll

This 16 June 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

NBC [broadcasting corporation] and the DNC [Democratic National Committee] have announced the lineups for the first 2020 Democratic Debates. The debates are set for June 26th and 27th. Each night will feature 10 candidates, vying for a chance to deliver their message to the American people, and Democratic voters.

Wednesday night [June 26th 2019] will include Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Julian Cast[r]o, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Jay Inslee, and Tim Ryan.

Thursday night [June 27th 2019] will feature Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Andrew Yang, Kirsten Gillibrand, Marianne Williamson, John Hickenlooper, Eric Swalwell, and Michael Bennet.

Unfortunately, the Democratic party establishment has not included candidate and ex-senator Mike Gravel in the debates. Gravel is a critic of the permanent Pentagon wars. He helped to disclose the Pentagon Papers which proved why the Vietnam war was wrong.

This 18 June 2019 video from the USA is called Mike Gravel Smashes War Machine With Facts.

This 18 June 2019 Tulsi Gabbard video says about itself:

Stop Trump from waging illegal Iran War

Here we go again! The US sending more troops to Middle East for what will be disastrous war with Iran. To prevent Trump and future presidents from waging war illegally (without Congress approval) we must sign my No More Presidential Wars Act.

An article from the Israeli website Maariv Online, republished in the Jerusalem Post, reported that the Trump administration is actively preparing a “tactical assault” on Iran. The report, based on diplomatic sources at the UN in New York, stated that “since Friday, the White House has been holding incessant discussions involving senior military commanders, Pentagon representatives and advisers to President Donald Trump”: here.

One should hope that in the 26 June debate, candidate Tulsi Gabbard will get the chance to criticize these bloody trillion dollar wars.

And that in the 27 June debate, candidate Bernie Sanders will get that chance.

And that in both debates, these two candidates will get the chance to demonstrate that their policies against climate change are a lot better than those of ‘centrist’ Democrats with links to the fossil fuel corporations. Even though the Democratic party establishment bans a special debate on global warming.

This 18 June 2019 Bernie Sanders video says about itself:

Our Future Is Not Fossil Fuel

Blackrock‘s role in destroying our planet is unacceptable. Our future is not in fossil fuel investments. Our future is shifting to sustainable energy, creating millions of jobs, leading the world in new technology and leaving our children a clean environment.

Climate change threatens commercial fishers from Maine to North Carolina: here.

And one should hope that in these debates, Sanders and Gabbard will be able to strongly criticize economic inequality.

Sanders vs. Trump

And that the debates will not be marred by softball questions to ‘centrist‘ (really right-wing) candidates while progressive candidates get trap questions.

I have a poll you, my readers, in this blog post. Let us assume that you are a United States citizen and have the right to vote in a Democratic party primary election.

Which one of these 22 options would you then choose?

DEM DROPOUTS BEGIN: GILLIBRAND PULLS PLUG Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) quit the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination after failing to qualify for the September debate. She said in her announcement video: “I believe I can best serve by helping to unite us to beat Donald Trump in 2020.” [HuffPost]

Bees needed for growing blueberries

This 11 April 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

The Southeastern Blueberry Bee is a super efficient pollinator.

From the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service:

Bees required to create an excellent blueberry crop

Southern blueberry bees are the best

June 17, 2019

Getting an excellent rabbiteye blueberry harvest requires helpful pollinators — particularly native southeastern blueberry bees — although growers can bring in managed honey bees to do the job, according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists.

This is especially true for commercial rabbiteye blueberry producers in Mississippi and Louisiana. With sufficient pollinators, they have been able to increase the percentage of flowers setting fruit from 10-30 percent to 70 percent or more. A mature rabbiteye blueberry bush can produce as much as 15 pounds of berries.

Fully pollinated berries also are bigger and mature earlier than fruit from inadequately pollinated flowers. So, bee-pollinated flowers produce fruit that bring a premium in the marketplace.

“We looked at multiple species of bees to see which did the best job of pollinating rabbiteye blueberries. We tested managed honey bees, native bumble bee species, southeastern blueberry bees and carpenter bees,” explained research entomologist Robert Danka with the ARS Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research Laboratory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who co-led the study.

Of these bees, only the southeastern blueberry bee and the honey bee significantly increased fruit set, according to Danka “And the native southeastern blueberry bee did the best job”, he said.

But the only way for commercial growers to have enough southeastern blueberry bees to provide a superior level of pollination is to provide habitat on the edges of their fields that encourages their population to grow.

“What commercial growers can do is provide woodlands near the edges of their fields because that’s where southeastern blueberry bees prefer to nest. They are ground-dwelling bees that like shade and leaf litter but don’t like wet or soil heavy with organic material”, explained research entomologist Blair Sampson with the ARS Thad Cochran Southern Horticultural Laboratory in Poplarville, Mississippi.

A small grower with 1-3 acres of blueberries can probably get by solely with the pollination of native bees, especially if they have encouraged them with attractive habitat. But a grower with fields of 25 acres and more should probably consider supplementing by bringing in honey bee colonies, Sampson pointed out.

Complicating the matter is that some southeastern blueberry bees’ population vary greatly from year to year, depending on rain and other weather conditions while other populations were reliably present every year in the study.

“A farmer who sees that during the first few days of bloom they are not getting prolific visits from the native bees should probably arrange to bring in some honey bee colonies. But even that may not guarantee ample pollination, because there is no way to be sure honey bees will stay on blueberries if there is something else in bloom that is more attractive to them,” Sampson added.

“After all, rabbiteye blueberries are native North American bushes and honey bees are not natives so there was no co-evolved adaptation between these species.”

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $20 of economic impact.

Platini arrested in Sarkozy-Qatar football corruption scandal

This 29 March 2018 video says about itself:

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been ordered to stand trial for corruption and abuse of power.

He has faced multiple corruption investigations since leaving office six years ago and just last week, he was handed preliminary charges for taking millions of euros in illegal campaign financing from ex-Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

A court on Thursday sent Sarkozy to trial for a separate case, in which he is accused of colluding with a judge, while serving as president, to find out how far magistrates had got into another fraud investigation against him. Sarkozy and his lawyer allegedly promised the judge a lucrative position in Monaco in return for the information. The judge and the lawyer have also been ordered to stand trial.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Platini arrested in investigation of 2022 World Cup football allocation

The French football legend Michel Platini, former president of the European football association UEFA, has been arrested in connection with an investigation into corruption around the allocation of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

A spokesperson for the French National Prosecutor’s Office has confirmed the news to the NOS. The public prosecutor does not want to provide additional comments.

Interrogation in suburb of Paris

The 63-year-old Platini is currently being questioned at the office of the Anti-Corruption Unit of the Justice Department in Nanterre, a suburb of Paris.

“Not only he, by the way, but also a former top employee of former President Nicolas Sarkozy“, says correspondent Frank Renout.

“It is about the 2010 decision to allocate the World Cup to Qatar. Fraud is said to have been committed in that”, Renout continues.

“The authorities in France, the USA and Switzerland have been investigating this for years. The French specifically want to know what role Paris has played in it.”

Vote as a commodity?

Platini was previously accused of having used his vote as a commodity. France Football published about a lunch at the Elysée [presidential palace], about two weeks before the assignment. According to the magazine, this included at least Crown Prince Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani of Qatar (the current Emir), French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Platini.

Platini did not later deny to the NOS that the meeting had taken place, but he did deny that it had been arranged in advance. …

Qatari investment

After the World Cup was allocated, the Qatari government invested hundreds of millions in France. Paris Saint-Germain, Sarkozy‘s favorite club, was acquired for 76 million euros.

Platini had promised his vote for the 2022 World Cup to the North American Major League Soccer. In the end, however, he opted for Qatar, with which he played an important role in the assignment. …

Doubtful payment from Blatter

Platini was president of UEFA from 2007 to 2015 and vice-president of FIFA at the time of the World Cup allocation to Qatar. In 2015, he was suspended for eight years due to a payment of 1.8 million euros by FIFA chairman Sepp Blatter. That penalty was later reduced to four years.

Arctic Ice Age hyenas discovery

This 17 January 2019 video says about itself:

Chasmaporthetes, also known as hunting or running hyena, is an extinct genus of hyenas distributed in Eurasia, North America, and Africa. It lived during the Pliocene-Pleistocene epochs, from 4.9 million to 780,000 years ago, existing for about 4.12 million years.

The genus probably arose from Eurasian Miocene hyenas such as Thalassictis or Lycyaena, with C. borissiaki being the oldest known representative. It was a fast runner and an important carnivore on 4 continents during the Pliocene.

At least nine species are currently recognised. The genus type species is Chasmaporthetes ossifragus. It was assigned to Hyaenidae by Hay (1921), Geraads (1997), and Flynn (1998).

The species C. ossifragus was the only hyena to cross the Bering land bridge into the Americas. C. ossifragus ranged over what is now Arizona and Mexico during Blancan and early Irvingtonian Land Mammal ages, between 5.0 and 1.5 million years ago.

Chasmaporthetes was one of the so-called “dog-like” hyenas (of which the aardwolf is the only survivor), a hyaenid group which, in contrast to the now more common “bone-crushing” hyenas, evolved into slender-limbed, cursorial hunters like modern canids.

The genus has entered the popular culture lexicon as a result of cryptozoologic claims, having been proposed as the likely origin of the American Shunka Warakin and the Cuitlamiztli.

Chasmaporthetes was named by Hay (1921), who noted the name to be a reference to the possibility that the beginning of the Grand Canyon was witnessed by the North American species, C. ossifragus.

The limb bones of Chasmaporthetes were long and slender like those of cheetahs, and its cheek teeth were slender and sharp-edged like those of a cat. Chasmaporthetes likely inhabited open ground and was a daytime hunter.

In Europe, the species C. lunensis competed with the giant cheetah Acinonyx pardinensis, and may have preyed on the small bourbon gazelle (Gazella borbonica) and the chamois antelope (Procamptoceras brivatense).

The North American C. ossifragus was similar in build to C. lunensis, but had slightly more robust jaws and teeth. It may have preyed on the giant marmot Paenemarmota, and competed with the far more numerous Borophagus diversidens.

A study on the genus’ premolar intercuspid notches indicated Chasmaporthetes was likely hypercarnivorous rather than durophagous as its modern cousins (excluding the aardwolf) are.

Like most of the animals of the time, reasons for its extinction are not known.

By Nicoletta Lanese, 6:00am, June 18, 2019:

Hyenas roamed the Arctic during the last ice age

Newly identified fossils confirm how the carnivores migrated to North America, researchers say

Modern hyenas stalk the savannas of Asia and Africa, but the animals’ ancient relatives may have had snowier stomping grounds: the Arctic. Two fossilized teeth, collected in Canada in the 1970s, confirm a long-held hunch that ancient hyenas ventured into North America via the Bering land bridge, scientists say.

The teeth belonged to members of the extinct genus Chasmaporthetes, also known as the “running hyena” for their unusually long legs, researchers report June 18 in Open Quaternary. Like wolves, the creatures could sprint over long distances. That ability that may have enabled the hyenas to make the long trek to America from Asia. Running hyena remains crop up across the southern United States and central Mexico. But before the Arctic discovery, a more than 10,000-kilometer gap lay between them and their closest relatives in Mongolia.

“This new Arctic find puts a dot right in the middle of that”, says paleontologist Jack Tseng of the University at Buffalo in New York. “It actually confirms previous hypotheses about how hyenas got to the New World.”

The teeth date to between 850,000 and 1.4 million years ago, Tseng says, placing the hyenas in the Arctic during the Pleistocene Ice Age, which began roughly 2.6 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago. The large carnivores may have hunted ancient caribou, horses, camels and the occasional juvenile mammoth (SN: 4/6/13, p. 9).

Paleontologists originally dug up the teeth in the Old Crow Basin in the Yukon at a site nicknamed the “supermarket of fossils”. There, rushing water dislodges fossils from their soil beds and drops them along bends in the river. The spoils can be reached only by boat or helicopter, but it’s worth the effort — over 50,000 known mammal fossils have been collected in the basin to date.

For decades, the hyena teeth lay buried among fossil specimens in the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. Few field notes referenced the finds, and an unpublished manuscript by archaeologist Brenda Beebe provided the only photographs. Tseng and his colleagues finally tracked the fossils down; they were a mere six-hour drive from his home base in Buffalo.

“Hyena are one of the groups with a really patchy fossil record in North America. This finding adds to our knowledge of how the species came over,” says paleontologist Julie Meachen of Des Moines University in Iowa, who was not involved in the study. The finding opens the door for further research on the migration of carnivores across the Bering land bridge (SN: 1/31/09, p. 5), Meachen says, and may help clarify which species competed for the same kills during the Pleistocene.

See also here.

Galápagos wildlife threatened by Donald Trump militarism

This 30 June 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Pentagon Wants To Use Galapagos Islands As Base For Spy Planes

The US Department of Defense has repeatedly shown that they don’t care about the environment at all. They are one of the largest polluters on the planet and one of the largest consumers of fossil fuels. But their latest idea that is gaining traction is to pave parts of the protected Galapagos Islands to create a homebase for spy planes. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins explains what’s happening and how this could destroy one of the most ecologically diverse areas of the planet.

Read more here.

Another, 17 June 2019, video used to say about itself:

Galápagos Islands: outcry after Ecuador allows US military to use airstrip

The Galápagos Islands are at the centre of political row in Ecuador after the government agreed to allow US anti-narcotics planes to use [and expand] an airstrip on the archipelago which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Dozens of people demonstrated outside the main government office in Quito on Monday to protest against a plan they described as a threat to the world heritage site’s unique environment – and an attack on Ecuador’s sovereignty.

The Galápagos Islands, 563 miles west of the South American continent, are renowned for their unique plants and wildlife. Unesco describes the archipelago – visited by a quarter of a million tourists every year – as a “living museum and a showcase for evolution”.

Ecuador’s defense minister, Oswaldo Jarrín, provoked patriotic and environmental outrage last week when he said last week that US aircraft would be able to use the airbase on San Cristóbal Island, and described the islands as a “natural aircraft carrier”.

Former [leftist] Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa [who had strengthened pro-environment measures on the Galápagos Islands] tweeted: “Galápagos is NOT an ‘aircraft carrier’ for gringo use. It is an Ecuadorean province, world heritage site, homeland.”

Correa – once a close ally but now a bitter enemy of his successor, Lenín Moreno –

Moreno during his election campaign had promised to continue the leftist policies of Correa. But now he prefers to be a poodle of Donald Trump.

accused the government of capitulating to US pressure. Correa closed a US military base in Manta in 2008, changing the constitution to ban foreign military bases on Ecuadorean soil and in 2014 ordered all US defence department staff to leave the country.

But Ecuador’s foreign minister, José Valencia, tweeted that Jarrín’s remarks had been intentionally distorted. “There is not nor will there be a foreign military base”, Norman Wray, president of the Galápagos government council, said in a statement last week. But the islands’ governor did admit to a deal with the US to improve [expand] the runway at the San Cristóbal airport while allowing the “refueling of two planes monitoring illegal activities in the extensive marine reserve”. …

Last week, lawmakers in Quito voted to summon Jarrín and the environment minister, Marcelo Mata, to explain the scope of the cooperation with the US on the islands, which are considered one of the last near pristine wildernesses on the planet. Opposition MP Brenda Flor said the archipelago should be considered a “living and unique laboratory which we must protect”.

This 2017 video is called Wildlife of the Galápagos Islands.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Ecuadorian government gives Pentagon a base in the Galapagos

18 June 2019

The Ecuadorian government of President Lenin Moreno has reached an agreement with the Pentagon to allow the US military to use the Galapagos island of San Cristobal as a military base.

Made public last week, the agreement has provoked popular outrage in Ecuador, where it is rightly reviled as a grotesque violation of the country’s national sovereignty and constitution, as well as a threat to one of the most treasured and sensitive environmental sites on the planet.

San Cristobal, where the US military is to be based, is the island where Charles Darwin first went ashore from the HMS Beagle in 1835. Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the site of continuing seismic and volcanic activity and extremely isolated—620 miles off Ecuador’s coast—the island gave rise to unique forms of animal life. These include the land iguana, the giant tortoise and the many types of finch, which
provided the inspiration for Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and a biosphere reserve, the island will now become a launching pad for the predatory and lethal operations of US militarism throughout Latin America. The base will pose a direct threat to the lives and freedom of the people of the region, as well the environmental integrity of one of the most priceless areas of biodiversity on the planet.

Nothing could express more nakedly the slavish subservience to imperialism and the outright criminality of Latin America’s capitalist ruling classes.

Touting the deal with the Pentagon, Ecuador’s defense minister, the retired general Oswaldo Jarrín, declared: “Galapagos is for Ecuador our aircraft carrier, it is our natural carrier, because it assures us permanence, replenishment, interception facilities and it is 1,000 kilometers from our coasts.”

Since 2008, Ecuador’s constitution has proclaimed the country “a territory of peace” and that the “establishment of foreign military bases or foreign facilities for military purposes shall not be allowed.” A year later, the country expelled US military personnel from their air base in Manta on the Pacific coast, from which it had conducted surveillance flights on the pretext of fighting drug trafficking.

Ecuador’s defense minister extolled the Pentagon’s prowess, declaring, “what the base [Manta] did in its time, can be done now by just one airplane, because of the advanced technology that you have only with the capacity of a power like the United States.”

The plane he is referring to is a Boeing 707, Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), with a range of over 4,500 nautical miles. Flying at 30,000 feet, it is capable of monitoring an area covering 120,000 square miles. From its base in the Galapagos, this powerful aircraft will be capable of helping to prepare an invasion of Venezuela, spying on the people of Ecuador itself or even tracking the northward flow of Central America migrants. It will be accompanied by a Lockheed Orion P3, an aircraft developed during the Cold War to track Soviet nuclear submarines.

The US base has immense geo-strategic significance. Washington had sought to establish bases there since 1911, three years before the completion of the Panama Canal. During World War II, the US military established a base on Baltra, a small island in the Galapagos archipelago, where it stationed 2,500 troops as well as warplanes and naval assets for the purpose of guarding the Pacific access to the canal against Japan and Germany.

Today, the Pentagon is basing US military spy planes in the eastern Pacific in the context of an escalating trade war and military buildup aimed at preventing China’s rise as an economic and geo-strategic competitor.

Ecuador is a significant battlefield in this intensifying “great power” conflict, with Washington pointing to Chinese investment and Ecuador’s $6 billion in debt to China as symptomatic of Beijing’s intolerable interference in Yankee imperialism’s “backyard”.

The government of President Moreno has done its utmost to submit to Washington’s demands. The terms of the agreements reached along these lines—signed, sealed and delivered during a visit to Quito a year ago by US Vice President Mike Pence—have become clear.

First and foremost, the Moreno government threw open the doors of its London embassy last April, inviting in a British police snatch squad to drag Julian Assange out of the diplomatic facility where he had been granted political asylum in 2012.

Moreno and his henchmen claimed that the British had offered guarantees that the WikiLeaks co-founder would not be extradited to a country where he would face torture, the death penalty or life in prison. As a result of their betrayal, he is now held in the UK’s Belmarsh maximum security prison under conditions tantamount to torture and the UK home minister has signed an extradition request from the US, where the journalist is facing 18 criminal counts, including under the Espionage Act—which carries the death penalty—for exposing the war crimes and criminal conspiracies of US imperialism.

Meanwhile, Ola Bini, a Swedish programmer and friend of Assange residing in Ecuador, has been jailed without charges for two months. Ecuadorian authorities have indicated that they are going to turn him over to US interrogators.

The trampling on the right to asylum, democratic principles and international law in the Assange case has been accompanied by a radical realignment of Quito’s foreign policy with that of US imperialism, with Moreno becoming one of the most enthusiastic supporters of
Washington’s regime change operation in Venezuela.

At home, the Moreno government has carried out a relentless assault on the jobs and living standards of Ecuadorian workers, faithfully implementing the austerity measures demanded under the agreement it reached with the IMF.

Both these attacks and the betrayal of Assange have provoked protests that have been met with police repression.

The stampede to the right by the Moreno government in Ecuador is part of the broader fate of the so-called “Pink Tide”, i.e., the rule by various populist, nationalist bourgeois parties in Latin America. This has seen the ousting of the Workers Party and the coming to power of the fascistic President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, the replacement of the Peronist Kirchner … by the right-wing multimillionaire Mauricio Macri in Argentina in 2015 …

In Ecuador, this political process is personified by the current president. Lenin Moreno came into politics as part of a generation of radicalized students who protested against US imperialism’s domination of Latin America and the fascist-military dictatorships that it spawned. He began his career as a member of the MIR (Movement of the Revolutionary Left) …

Moreno has long since shed his youthful radicalism, becoming a ruthless political enforcer for imperialism and the Ecuadorian ruling oligarchy.

As the former vice-president, Moreno was the hand-picked successor of President Rafael Correa, a self-proclaimed supporter of the Bolivarian Revolution [in Venezuela]. … Moreno turned viciously against his former political partner and implemented the policies that have shifted Ecuador violently to the right.

Lynx in Turkey, new study

This 2015 video is about a lynx in Turkey.

From Forschungsverbund Berlin in Germany:

Lynx in Turkey: Noninvasive sample collection provides insights into genetic diversity

June 17, 2019

Summary: A team of scientists collected data and samples (feces, hair) from the Caucasian Lynx (Lynx lynx dinniki), in a region of Anatolian Turkey over several years. The results of the genetic analyses indicated an unexpectedly high genetic diversity and lack of inbreeding despite the recent isolation of the study population.

Little is known about the biology and the genetic status of the Caucasian Lynx (Lynx lynx dinniki), a subspecies of the Eurasian lynx distributed across portions of Turkey, the Caucasus region and Iran. To collect baseline genetic, ecological, and behavioural data and assist future conservation efforts, a team of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) collected data and samples in a region of Anatolian Turkey over several years. They were particularly interested in the question whether non-invasive samples (faeces, hair) were helpful to discern genetic diversity of the study population. The results of the genetic analyses indicated an unexpectedly high genetic diversity and lack of inbreeding despite the recent isolation of the study population, a result that would not have been obtained with the use of conventional samples. The data also revealed that females stay near home ranges in which they were born whereas males disperse after separation from their mothers. These insights into the genetics and behaviour of the Caucasian Lynx are published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Among lynx species, the Eurasian Lynx has the widest geographical distribution. Previous research has largely focused on European populations, with the result that there is little known about the subspecies in Asia, such as the Caucasian and Himalayan subspecies. “Scientists still know surprisingly little about their ecological requirements, spatial structure and genetic diversity,” says Leibniz-IZW researcher Deniz Mengulluoglu (Department for Evolutionary Ecology). “Our study aimed at collecting baseline genetic, ecological and behavioural data of the lynx population in a mountainous region in north-west Anatolia.” Making use of box trapping and non-invasive faecal sampling allowed Mengulluoglu to extract DNA and conduct genetic analyses on a population scale. The lynx population had also been monitored via camera traps at 54 different stations for nearly a decade.

Looking into family relationships of individual lynx, the data revealed that females stay near the territories in which they were born whereas males disperse after separation from their mothers. Such behaviour is known from many mammals, most likely to avoid inbreeding. “We can conclude from our analyses that territoriality in lynx and philopatry in female lynx can result in low genetic diversity estimates if sampling is done in small study areas via box trapping alone,” says Mengulluoglu. This behaviour — females remaining in close proximity to their mothers’ territory — is called female philopatry, and Mengulluoglu and his team confirmed it for this subspecies. “Using faecal samples that were non-invasively collected, we were able to sample more non-territorial individuals, gaining information about an additional component of this lynx population.” Unless individuals become used to the presence of box traps within their own range (habituation), and thus are ready to enter them, sampling them by conventional means is unlikely. Hence habituation will bias conventional sample collection in favour of resident territorial individuals and their kittens.

A second important finding is that genetic diversity is unexpectedly high in this population. Lynx in north-west Anatolia are isolated from southern and north-eastern populations by a series of natural and human constructed barriers. “Population isolation can be harmful and, for example, lead to a loss of genetic variation. But it appears that genetic diversity is in fact substantial at the moment and matches the diversity found in European endogenous populations,” states senior author Daniel Foerster from the Leibniz-IZW, Department of Evolutionary Genetics. “Management should therefore focus on maintaining the current level of diversity.” As a first step, Mengulluoglu and Foerster recommend identification and conservation of primary lynx habitats and corridors in the region.

“We also need to address threats that can lead to future loss of genetic variation” adds Mengulluoglu. Since this study has set a baseline for comparison with future findings, similar work is needed for the other two Turkish populations in order to determine whether the three big populations are currently connected by gene flow at all, Mengulluoglu and Foerster say. Mengulluoglu is currently working on a long-term lynx monitoring project and the development of a “Turkish Lynx Conservation Action Plan” in collaboration with the Wildlife Department of Turkey.