Eocene fossil crane-flies’ eyes, new research


This 15 August 2019 video says about itself:

Exceptionally Detailed Fossil [Crane-]Fly Eyes Discovered In Denmark

The ancient eyes, each just 1.25mm across, belonged to a tiny crane-fly that lived 54 million years ago. Discovered by Lund University researchers, evidence of pigment within them is shedding new light on the evolution of compound eyes.

From Lund University in Sweden:

Composition of fossil insect eyes surprises researchers

August 15, 2019

Eumelanin — a natural pigment found for instance in human eyes — has, for the first time, been identified in the fossilized compound eyes of 54-million-year-old crane-flies. It was previously assumed that melanic screening pigments did not exist in arthropods.

“We were surprised by what we found because we were not looking for, or expecting it,” says Johan Lindgren, an Associate Professor at the Department of Geology, Lund University, and lead author of the study published this week in the journal Nature.

The researchers went on to examine the eyes of living crane-flies, and found additional evidence for eumelanin in the modern species as well.

By comparing the fossilized eyes with optic tissues from living crane-flies, the researchers were able to look closer at how the fossilization process has affected the conservation of compound eyes across geological time.

The fossilized eyes further possessed calcified ommatidial lenses, and Johan Lindgren believes that this mineral has replaced the original chitinous material.

This, in turn, led the researchers to conclude that another widely held hypothesis may need to be reconsidered. Previous research has suggested that trilobites — an exceedingly well-known group of extinct seagoing arthropods — had mineralized lenses in life.

“The general view has been that trilobites had lenses made from single calcium carbonate crystals. However, they were probably much more similar to modern arthropods in that their eyes were primarily organic,” says Johan Lindgren.

Compound eyes are found in arthropods, such as insects and crustaceans, and are the most common visual organ seen in the animal kingdom. They are made up of multiple tiny and light-sensitive ommatidia, and the perceived image is a combination of inputs from these individual units.

Trump bans Congresswomen from Palestine


This 15 August 2019 Bloomberg news agency video from the USA says about itself:

Israel Bans Entry to Representatives Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar After Trump’s Tweet …

Shortly before the decision [by the Israeli government] was announced, Trump had tweeted that “it would show great weakness” if Israel allowed them to visit.

Last month, however, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer had said Israel would not deny entry to any member of Congress. …

Tlaib and Omar have also been the target of repeated attacks by President Donald Trump in recent months, including a series of racist tweets on July 14 in which he said they should “go back” to the “broken” countries they came from. Both are U.S. citizens and Tlaib was born in the United States. The two are members of the so-called “Squad” of newly-elected left-wing Democrats, along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. …

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro wrote on Twitter that the decision to bar their entry “harms Israel’s standing in the U.S., boosts BDS.”

Israeli lawmaker Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List of Arab parties, criticized the move, writing that “Israel has always banned Palestinians from their land and separated us from other Palestinians, but this time the Palestinian is a U.S. Congresswoman.”

Arthur Lenk, formerly Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, said barring Omar and Tlaib “would be sinking us deeper into U.S. domestic political quagmire.”

It is the job of members of the United States Congress to monitor the foreign policy of the president.

Two congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib of the left wing of the Democratic party, wanted to do just that by going to Israel and the Palestine territories.

The right-wing Israeli government of Netanyahu gave them permission for that.

However, then President Donald Trump of the USA pressured them to annul that permission. And Netanyahu’s government showed that they are slavish puppets …, sorry, I forgot that I have to use euphemisms … reliable allies of Donald Trump.

Jewish daily The Forward in the USA writes about it today:

Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were supposed to travel to the West Bank this weekend. Now Israel won’t let them in. Why?

After all, even American Jewish groups and politicians like AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer – none of them fans of Omar and Tlaib – said Thursday that Israel had made the wrong decision. Forward Opinion writer Emma Goldberg said it doesn’t bode well for Israeli democracy.

Some background: Omar and Tlaib are the only two representatives to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
Israel has a law on the books that it uses to turn away BDS supporters, even Jewish ones. Yet last month, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said the Jewish state would allow the duo in.

Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, has been trying for months to organize a congressional delegation to the area. Only Omar signed up. More than 40 other Democrats went on AIPAC’s annual Israel trip, where they met with Israeli and Palestinian government officials.

Omar and Tlaib were planning to meet with activists, and with American diplomats. They were planning on staying in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank, which Israel controls and Palestinians claim as their state. They called the trip a visit to “Palestine”; neither Israel nor the U.S. recognizes such a place.

Still, the trip was moving forward until Thursday. That was when President [no; Prime Minister] Netanyahu stopped the trip, because “the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it.” What changed?

Well, President Trump tweeted that letting Omar and Tlaib into Israel would “show great weakness”.

Netanyahu is a few weeks away from elections, and he’s staked his reputation on two things: toughness, and close ties with the White House.

Omar responded saying:

“The irony of the ‘only democracy’ in the Middle East making such a decision is that it is both an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation.”

The Forward will continue to monitor the situation.

Thank you for reading

Aiden Pink
Deputy news editor

The Israeli government’s decision Thursday to bar a visit to Israel and the West Bank by US congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar is an authoritarian attack on democratic rights, carried out by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the direction of US President Donald Trump against two critics in the legislative branch, in violation of US constitutional norms. … The Israeli media has already noted the brazen hypocrisy of Netanyahu denying entry to Omar and Tlaib when he has effusively welcomed right-wing anti-Semites like Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban and Italian Deputy Prime Minister—and would-be Mussolini—Matteo Salvini. The chain of events has ominous implications. The president of the United States has no authority over members of Congress, which under the Constitution is a co-equal branch of government. No US president has ever before sought to bar travel by senators or representatives.: here.

UPDATE: after this letter, Ms Tlaib admitted after all.

Psittacosaurus dinosaur brains, from baby to adult


This 2016 video from England says about itself:

How to bring a dinosaur to life in technicolour | Natural History Museum [in London]

A science team from the University of Bristol and palaeoartist Robert Nicholls have created a life-size model of Psittacosaurus featuring real colour patterns. Discover how they did this and what it tells us about the tiny dinosaur’s life 130 million years ago. Find out about fossil evidence of colour in the Museum‘s Colour and Vision exhibition (open until 6 November 2016).

From the University of Bristol in England:

Dinosaur brains from baby to adult

August 15, 2019

New research by a University of Bristol palaeontology post-graduate student has revealed fresh insights into how the braincase of the dinosaur Psittacosaurus developed and how this tells us about its posture.

Psittacosaurus was a very common dinosaur in the Early Cretaceous period — 125 million years ago — that lived in eastern Asia, especially north-east China.

Hundreds of samples have been collected which show it was a beaked plant-eater, an early representative of the Ceratopsia, which had later relatives with great neck frills and face horns, such as Triceratops.

The babies hatched out as tiny, hamster-sized beasts and grew to two metres long as adults.

As they grew, the brain changed in shape, from being crammed into the back of the head, behind the huge eyes in the hatchling, to being longer, and extending under the skull roof in the adults.

The braincase also shows evidence for a change in posture as the animals grew. There is good evidence from the relative lengths of the arms and legs, that baby Psittacosaurus scurried about on all fours, but by the age of two or three, they switched to a bipedal posture, standing up on their elongate hind legs and using their arms to grab plant food.

Claire Bullar from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences led the new research which has been published this week in PeerJ.

She said: “I was excited to see that the orientation of the semi-circular canals changes to show this posture switch.

“The semi-circular canals are the structures inside our ears that help us keep balance, and the so-called horizontal semi-circular canal should be just that — horizontal — when the animal is standing in its normal posture.

“This is just what we see, with the head of Psittacosaurus pointing down and forwards when it was a baby — just right for moving on all-fours. Then, in the teen or adult, we see the head points exactly forwards, and not downwards, just right for a biped.”

Co-supervisor Dr Qi Zhao from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing, where the specimens are housed, added: “It’s great to see our idea of posture shift confirmed, and in such a clear-cut way, from the orientation of the horizontal ear canal.

“It’s also amazing to see the results of high-quality CT scanning in Beijing and the technical work by Claire to get the best 3D models from these scan data.”

Professor Michael Ryan of Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, another collaborator, said: “This posture shift during growth from quadruped to biped is unusual for dinosaurs, or indeed any animal. Among dinosaurs, it’s more usual to go the other way, to start out as a bipedal baby, and then go down on all fours as you get really huge.

“Of course, adult Psittacosaurus were not so huge, and the shift maybe reflects different modes of life: the babies were small and vulnerable and so probably hid in the undergrowth, whereas bipedalism allowed the adults to run faster and escape their predators.”

Professor Michael Benton, also from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences and another collaborator, added: “This is a great example of classic, thorough anatomical work, but also an excellent example of international collaboration.

“The Bristol Palaeobiology Research Group has a long-standing collaboration with IVPP, and this enables the mix of excellent specimens and excellent research.

“Who would have imagined we could reconstruct posture of dinosaurs from baby to adult, and with multiple lines of evidence to confirm we got it right.”

Trump, Erdogan, deportations to, war in, Syria


This 14 August 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

United States and Turkey Agree to a Syrian “Safe Zone“, Betraying the Kurds

Baris Karaagac discusses how the U.S allowed the Turkish government to seize land in northern Syria to counter Russian and Iranian influence in spite of former Kurdish allies.

At first, United States wannabe dictator Donald Trump and Turkish wannabe dictator Erdogan really got along well. Later, they quarrelled, hurting common people in Turkey. Now, it seems they are cronies again.

The boss of NATO already earlier OK’d the bloody war by Erdogan and his ex(?)-ISIS allies in northern Syria. Now, Trump OKs as well Erdogan and his jihadist allies having an UNsafe ‘safe’ zone in Syria; safe for killing civilians.

As Erdogan wages war in Syria, he sends Syrian refugees back to that war; emulating Trump’s anti-refugee policies.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Deportations in Turkey: “They sent him to Syria”

The Turkish government firmly denies it, but there is increasing evidence that Syrian refugees are being transferred from Turkey to Syria. It has been reported since the end of July about several thousand people. In Istanbul, people are arrested who turn up in Syria days or weeks later. According to Turkey, this is voluntary return, but deported Syrians deny that.

Sending refugees back to a war zone is prohibited under international refugee conventions. This new step by Turkey may therefore endanger the refugee deal between the EU and Turkey. It is based on the assumption that Turkey is a safe country for Syrians. If they can be returned against their will, then Turkey is no longer a safe country.

The whole Turkey-European Union deal was already anti-human rights anti-refugee refoulement from the start.

The arrests and deportations lead to tension among Syrians in Istanbul. For fear of the police, in neighborhoods where many Syrians have settled in recent years, considerably fewer people are on the street. …

“I’m in Idlib”

Fida shuffles and does not look cheerful, he points to an empty shop window. “My friend here has closed his shop because he has no residence permit. He is afraid of the police.” In the shopping center in the center of the Esenyurt district, Fida also has two clothing stores. They are still open, but sales have plummeted.

“People no longer come out, there are police everywhere. Even after midnight, you still encounter patrols. Those who do not have an ID will be sent to Syria.” Fida has his papers in order. Until recently, the police made no problem if you had no registration or work permit. “Syrians worked everywhere without a work permit,” he says. “Now they have all had to leave work and have been arrested or sit anxiously at home.”

His gloom is more personal than that, says the shopkeeper. “Fifteen days ago I was drinking coffee with my best friend when the police came. They asked for IDs. My friend was taken, after which I heard nothing from him for two days. I could not reach him. On the third day he called me : “I’m in Idlib.”

Idlib is a zone in Syria where the Turkish army and their jihadist puppets wage war.

They sent him to Syria.” …

We had to sign

But according to Fida and a number of other sources that the NOS spoke to, that [the denial of forced deportation by the Turkish government] is not the case. We reach Fida’s friend Nour, who was taken by the police during drinking coffee, on his Syrian number. He is in a suburb of Idlib, he says, and the situation is tense. “I am now surviving at acquaintances’. Every day I stay somewhere else. People are having a hard time. There is hunger, no work and there are bombardments.”

According to Nour, his deportation was forced, and several buses full of Syrians went from Turkey to Idlib with him. “We had to sign a paper, it was a deportation document for return to Syria. We asked what it said because some people couldn’t read it. They forced us to sign. We didn’t want to be deported.”

The story of Nour is consistent with that of Haytham. He was also picked up at a police check in Istanbul and taken to a deportation center. “I signed papers and gave fingerprints, then I was detained for three weeks before we were put on a bus with our wrists shackled together“, he says on the phone from Syria. “They took us to the Syrian border post Bab al-Hawa, at Jabhat al Nusra territory.”

Jabhat al-Nusra is the Syrian franchise of al-Qaeda, the perpetrators of 9/11 in the USA.

According to the European Commission and the Turkish government, the EU-Turkey deal of March 2016, which is intended to bring the flow of migrants from Turkey to Greece under control, is still standing.

A spokesperson for the Commission said in a reaction to reports on deportations of Syrians from Turkey that the Commission “is confident that Turkey will investigate the facts behind these allegations”.

Top Ten of most beautiful snakes


This 2017 video says about itself:

10 Most Beautiful Snakes In The World

When it comes to snakes, most people would actually think of scary venomous animals. While some snakes are venomous, some are actually quite harmless to humans.

Despite their venomous / non-venomous properties, some snakes are actually really beautiful. In this video, we are going to look at 10 most beautiful / pretty / prettiest / gorgeous / wonderful looking snake species in the world.

These snake species include Asian vine snake, blue racer, eastern coral snake, green tree python, iridescent shieldtail, red-headed krait, Formosan odd-scaled snake, Honduran milk snake, Brazilian rainbow boa and San Francisco garter snake.

Abbott’s duikers, other Kilimanjaro, Tanzania wildlife


This 8 August 2019 German language video shows wildlife, recorded by camera traps, in the Kilimanjaro region in Tanzania.

From the University of Würzburg in Germany:

Rare antelopes and black cats

August 14, 2019

Summary: Numerous large mammals have been documented with video traps on Mount Kilimanjaro by researchers. The protected areas of the mountain are of tremendous importance for the biodiversity of this animal group.

Tanzania is home to a very elusive antelope species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. According to the Red List, it can be classified as endangered. The first photograph of one of these antelopes was taken by researches as recently as the year 2003. So far, the distribution of this species on Mt. Kilimanjaro has not been documented. Its scientific name: Abbott’s duiker (Cephalophus spadix).

This 2009 video says about itself:

The only known footage of an Abbott’s duiker in the wild. This clip of the endangered and Tanzania-endemic antelope was taken by a video camera trap in Nyumbanitu forest, Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania. OK, she’s not doing much, but she’s a beautiful and mysterious animal. By Trevor Jones of Anglia Ruskin University and the Udzungwa Elephant Project.

The article continues:

However, now there are numerous videos showing this antelope. The film sequences were taken by a research group of Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg in Bavaria, Germany. The group has been doing research on biodiversity at Kilimanjaro for years. Current research has focused, among other things, on the question of how the biodiversity of larger mammals is influenced by climate change and human activities.

“We recorded the Abbott’s Duiker with our video traps at eleven locations at altitudes between 1920 and 3849 meters for a total of 105 times,” says doctoral student Friederike Gebert from the JMU Biocenter. “There’s even a video of a mating attempt,” says the scientist. And that’s not the only special feature that has now been captured on film.

Tens of thousands of video sequences evaluated

The team led by JMU Professor Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter and Dr. Marcell Peters installed a total of five camera traps each on 66 study plots at Kilimanjaro — from the savannah in the lowlands to the forest regions at medium altitudes to the bush landscape at altitudes of up to 4550 metres. The cameras remained on site for two weeks, after which they were collected and evaluated.

Friederike Gebert had 80,000 film snippets to go through, of which 1,600 were actually showing mammals. Among them were a total of 33 wild mammal species — in addition to the Abbott’s duiker, species like bush pig and porcupine, lesser kudu and yellow baboon were documented. Serval cats were also recorded. These yellow-black patterned predators are about the size of lynxes, but more daintily built. The videos also show a very special kind of serval: an animal whose coat is completely black.

Protected areas are important for biodiversity

The results of the JMU research group will be published in the Journal of Animal Ecology. “All in all, we were able to show that the species richness of large mammals is greatest at mid-elevations of the mountain, i.e. in the forest regions,” says Friederike Gebert. The more plant biomass and potential prey there are, the greater the biodiversity.

“In the case of large mammals, biodiversity is particularly high in nature reserves, while it falls by 53 percent in unprotected areas — even though many of the unprotected areas still have natural vegetation,” says Professor Steffan-Dewenter. “Our study thus underscores the importance of protected areas for maintaining species diversity of large mammals in tropical mountain regions. To preserve the existing protected areas at Kilimanjaro and to designate further ones is a very desirable goal from the scientific point of view.

Cooperation partners and sponsors

This publication is the result of a cooperation between the University of Würzburg, the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (Arusha, Tanzania), and the College of African Wildlife Management (Mweka, Tanzania).

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has funded the work as part of the DFG Research Group 1246 (Kilimanjaro Ecosystems Under Global Change: Linking biodiversity, biotic interactions and biogeochemical ecosystem processes – speaker: Prof. Dr. Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter). Financial support was also provided by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).