This video from Panama says about itself:
Common Basilisk Takes Food From Variegated Squirrel – Aug 16, 2019
I saw both species in Costa Rica.
This video from Panama says about itself:
Common Basilisk Takes Food From Variegated Squirrel – Aug 16, 2019
I saw both species in Costa Rica.
This 16 August 2019 video from the USA says about itself:
The details revealed in Jeffrey Epstein’s have fueled more speculation about how he died.
Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss on The Young Turks.
Epstein’s autopsy reportedly showed multiple broken neck bones, the Washington Post wrote Thursday, citing anonymous sources. But the curiosity surrounds one of the broken bones: The hyoid.
Though the bone is small, it’s been critical in several high-profile cases. The reason: The hyoid can break when a person dies by hanging, particularly when a person is older. But it can also provide tell-tale clues that a person was strangled.”
Read more here.
By Matthew Taylor in the USA:
Autopsy indicates death of Jeffrey Epstein likely due to strangulation
16 August 2019
A report from an autopsy performed on multi-millionaire sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein has revealed that he suffered broken bones in his neck during his alleged suicide by hanging last week.
The Washington Post and other media have reported that the hyoid bone, which lies behind the Adam’s apple, was found broken during the examination.
The Post article quoted Jonathan L. Arden, who is president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, as stating that a broken hyoid bone is more commonly associated with death by homicidal strangulation than hanging.
The article goes on to cite studies done in both Thailand and India over the past decade on the results of suicide by hanging. The Thai study found that in only one-fourth of the twenty cases examined was there damage to the hyoid bone. The Indian study examined 264 suicides by hanging and found hyoid damage in only 16 cases, or six percent of the total.
The Indian study stated that rates of hyoid fractures in hangings depend on a variety of factors, including “age of the victim, the weight of the victim, type of suspension and height of suspension.”
The Post article also cites an incident in 2008 where the cause of death of a prisoner found dead by hanging in a Washington, DC, jail cell was determined to be a homicide, due to the discovery of a broken hyoid bone. The prisoner, Ronnie L. White, had been accused of killing a police officer. The autopsy performed on White stated that he had likely been strangled by a sheet, towel or “crux of the elbow”—a chokehold.
A broken hyoid bone due to strangulation is common enough that the New York City police cited the lack of a broken hyoid to excuse the murder by asphyxiation of Eric Garner, who was killed in 2014 when multiple NYPD officers pinned him to the ground, compressing his neck and chest, which lead to his death.
The initial report from the autopsy explodes the efforts by the media, led by the New York Times, to dismiss all questioning of the official explanation of Epstein’s death as “conspiracy theories”. Whether Epstein died from hanging or murder, there is clearly enough evidence to warrant a full criminal investigation.
The evidence of a conspiracy to have Epstein killed in one form or another is mounting. The Post article comes after other reports that screaming was heard from Epstein’s cell the morning of his death.
The warden of the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) has been transferred to a desk job, and the two guards on duty at the time of his death have been placed on administrative leave, following revelations that basic security protocols were not followed.
Among the procedures violated was the requirement that regular checks be made on Epstein every half hour. It was later revealed they had falsified logs.
Epstein had allegedly attempted suicide on July 23, after which he was placed on suicide watch. He was then removed from suicide watch on July 29 and returned to his cell in a segregated housing unit, apart from the main inmate population. A cellmate who was with Epstein was removed, leaving Epstein alone in his cell for at least 12 hours before he died.
The New York Times, however, is continuing its efforts at damage control. It buried its own report on Epstein’s autopsy in its local news section and attempted to spin the medical examiner’s findings to indicate that suicide was the most likely cause of death.
The headline of the Times article, “Autopsy Shows Bones in Jeffrey Epstein’s Neck Were Broken”, avoids drawing any conclusions, while the subhead in the online edition attempts to draw the opposite conclusion from the Post, namely that “such injuries can occur in a suicide by hanging, especially in older people like the financier, who was 66.”
The article ignores the statement by Arden and instead quotes a qualified statement from a Dr. Burton Bentley, head of a medical consulting firm in Arizona, who states that the hyoid fracture is not enough to determine a cause of death. “It’s not a hundred percent. It’s not even going to get us to ninety.”
In multiple articles published since Epstein’s death, the Times has worked to discredit any questioning of Epstein’s death while simultaneously being unable to explain any of the suspicious circumstances surrounding the incident.
Epstein was a man with connections at the very highest levels of society. A 2008 plea deal involved Epstein serving a thirteen-month sentence, with work release six days a week, in the Palm Beach county jail. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop any further investigations, granted immunity to Epstein’s unnamed co-conspirators and agreed to conceal the plea bargain from his victims until after his sentencing, a violation of federal law.
Included in the language of Epstein’s plea bargain was an acknowledgment that he had provided assistance in an unrelated case, a fact that still remains unexplained.
In 2011, when Epstein attempted to have his sex offender status removed in the state of New York, the federal prosecutor assigned to the case argued on behalf of Epstein, a bizarre occurrence noted by the presiding judge in the case where she denied Epstein’s request.
The author also recommends:
This 2016 video says about itself:
Yellow Winged Bat (Lavia frons)
The beautiful Yellow Winged Bat. Common across East and West Africa in woodlands.
From the University of Helsinki in Finland:
Tiny GPS backpacks uncover the secret life of desert bats
August 16, 2019
A new study from the University of Helsinki using miniaturized satellite-based tags revealed that during drier periods desert bats must fly further and longer to fulfil their nightly needs. According to researchers this signals their struggle in facing dry periods.
Wildlife tracking has revolutionized the study of animal movement and their behavior. Yet, tracking small, flying animals such as desert bats remained challenging. Now a new generation of miniaturized satellite-based tags is allowing unique insights into the life of these mysterious mammals.
Researchers used 1 g GPS devices to reconstruct the movements of yellow-winged bats, one of two false vampire bats occurring in Africa and one of the few desert bats large enough to carrying this innovative technology. “GPS tags have seen up to now a limited use with insectivorous bats due to weight constraints and low success in data collection — we achieved great results in tracking such a light species,” says Irene Conenna, a PhD candidate at the University of Helsinki and the lead author of the study.
Future under the changing climate?
“Bats are some of the most successful desert mammals. Powered flight allows them to efficiently track scarce resources and their nocturnal lifestyle buffers them from the baking sun. However, they still struggle to find enough resources during the drier periods of the year,” says Ricardo Rocha, one of the co-authors of the paper.
The study was conducted in Sibiloi National Park, Northern Kenya, along the shores of Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake. Researchers placed GPS loggers in 29 bats, 15 in the rainy season and 14 in the dry and, for one week. Their whereabouts were recorded every 30 to 60 minutes every night. This revealed that during dry periods bats used larger home ranges and had extended activity periods, potentially to compensate for a shortage in food resources.
Bats comprise roughly one fifth of all mammal species and deserts are home to over 150 bat species. They display wide variation in morphology, foraging behavior, and habitat use, making them an excellent indicator group for assessing how species respond to changes in their habitats. “The responses exhibited by bats offer important insights into the responses of other taxonomic groups,” explains Conenna. “These new miniaturized satellite-based tags now allow us to better understand how increased aridity affects bats foraging efficiency, leading us one step forward to understanding limits in aridity tolerance and impacts of climate change,” adds Conenna.
Deserts around the world are getting warmer and as they warm desert creatures need to cope with even harsher conditions. “Understanding how animals cope with seasonal changes is key to understand how they might react to the challenges in the horizon. New technological devices, such as miniaturized satellite-based loggers, go a long way to help us in this task”, adds Mar Cabeza, senior author of the study, University of Helsinki.
This 16 August 2019 video from the USA says about itself:
Guard Strikes ICE Protesters With Car
A correctional officer came dangerously close to running over protesters with his car. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.
“The protesters were sitting on the pavement to block staff from parking at a Rhode Island prison that works with Immigration and Customs Enforcement when a black pickup truck swerved toward them. The protesters shouted as the driver laid on the horn, and the truck briefly stopped.
And then, the driver hit the gas.
In a viral video captured by bystanders, the protesters screamed and jumped out of the way. Several were struck, according to organizers of the Wednesday night demonstration at the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I. Some were treated at a hospital, though none were severely injured.
“It was terrifying because we didn’t know what exactly his intention was”, Amy Anthony, a spokesperson for Never Again Action, a Jewish activist group that planned the protest, told The Washington Post. “It certainly appeared he was trying to hit us.”
By Trévon Austin in the USA:
Protesters pepper-sprayed outside Rhode Island ICE facility after officer drives truck into crowd
16 August 2019
An Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer was placed on administrative leave after driving his pickup truck through a group of Jewish protesters Wednesday night outside of the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island. A 64-year-old man, identified by protesters as Jerry Belair, suffered a broken leg, internal bleeding and a possible back injury in the assault.
The suspended officer was identified in a statement released by the ICE facility as Captain Thomas Woodworth. Representatives would not confirm whether Woodworth was behind the wheel of the truck, but a video of the incident showed protesters shouting Woodworth’s name as they surrounded the vehicle.
The episode unfolded as Woodworth allegedly accelerated towards protesters sitting peacefully on the ground outside of the facility’s employee parking lot. The video shows a truck nearly ramming into a line of people while the driver honked his horn. The group of protesters stood and surrounded the vehicle, shouting “shame” at the truck driver. An individual also jumped into the truck’s cargo bed to try to dissuade the driver from moving. The driver then accelerated again before stopping shortly after and screaming is heard.
Soon after, police officers approached the scene and demanded the group move away from the truck while protesters chanted “The whole world is watching.” One of the officers claimed to be a federal official. After about 45 seconds, one agent is seen unleashing a cloud of pepper spray, causing the group to disperse. About a dozen people were treated for irritation due to pepper spray and one other went to the hospital for minor injuries.
The protest outside the facility was organized under the banner of the Never Again protest movement, which has drawn parallels between the Trump Administration’s treatment of migrants and that of the Jewish people during the Holocaust by the Nazis. Similar demonstrations organized by Jewish groups have been held outside ICE offices and detention centers nationally this summer.
Protesters have been at the Wyatt center since July, but they say it is the first time any of their demonstrations ended in violence.
The group released a statement Thursday, saying, “Last night we experienced a small example of the violence that ICE uses against our immigrant neighbors every day. As Jews, our families taught us the lessons of the Holocaust, and we promised that we would speak out and act if we ever saw a group of people being targeted, dehumanized, and rounded up.
“We are answering the call of our ancestors to sound the alarm: #NeverAgainIsNow. Every person in the United States needs to join the fight to close the concentration camps, shut down ICE, and secure permanent protection for all undocumented people in the U.S.”
J. Aaron Regunberg, a former Democratic state representative who has been participating in the demonstrations, reported in a statement on Facebook that local police at the scene declined to intervene on behalf of the protesters, arrest Woodworth, or even take witness statements from protesters.
“I also want to make very clear that literally dozens of us from tonight’s protest asked, clamored, demanded that the police take witness statements about the attack, and they actively refused to do so,” Regunberg wrote. “What kind of violence is someone like that willing to regularly unleash on powerless detainees, inside a prison where there are no cameras and no accountability?”
Rhode Island’s attorney general’s office and state police announced Thursday that an investigation would be opened into the attack.
By Ben Sales, Jewish Telegraph Agency, August 15, 2019:
Truck Drives Into Jewish Protestors At ICE Detention Center
(JTA) — A pickup truck drove into a row of Jewish protestors demonstrating at the street entrance to an ICE detention center in Rhode Island on Wednesday night. …
Protesters were then pepper-sprayed, according to people present at the protest.
Hundreds of Jewish protestors had gathered at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in Central Falls, and risked arrest by blocking the center’s entrance. The protest was the latest demonstration by Never Again Action, a new Jewish group protesting ICE and United States immigration policy by getting arrested at its detention facilities.
At around 9:45 p.m., according to an eyewitness and social media posts from the protest, a black pickup truck driving 10 to 15 miles per hour drove into a group of about 30 people who were sitting in a row and blocking the street that fed into the detention center’s parking lot.
Video of the incident shows people screaming and running as the car moves slowly into the crowd. The crowd then broke out into a chant of “The whole world is watching.” Protesters then surrounded the truck.
“The truck came in and people ran,” Lex Rofeberg, a protester who was not in the car’s path, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. …
A person taking video of the event said “Everybody is OK, thank you for asking. I don’t think anyone was hurt,” though the person later added that someone may have been hurt.
Never Again Action tweeted that the car belonged to a guard at the detention center.
“Oh my god”, the group tweeted. “An ICE Detention Center guard just drove their truck straight through a line of us sitting peacefully to block the parking lot. … still assessing the situation, police are moving in on us now.”
Minutes later, guards at the detention center pepper-sprayed the protesters.
“All of us who were in the vicinity caught some of the tear gas,” Rofeberg said.
“It was shocking, it was unexpected,” he added. “There’s some amount of risk when you go to an action like this. You don’t expect it to unfold like this.”
This 15 August 2019 video from the USA says about itself:
An ICE official runs over civilians, who are peacefully protesting. John Iadarola breaks it down on The Damage Report.
By Alyssa Fisher, August 15, 2019:
Several Hospitalized After Truck Drives Into Jewish ICE Protestors
Several people were taken to the hospital Wednesday evening after a pickup truck drove into a row of Jewish protestors blocking an entrance at an ICE detention center in Rhode Island.
Some injuries were caused by the truck and others from the affects of being pepper-sprayed by detention officials, said Matthew Harvey, a spokesperson for Never Again Providence who was at the protest.
Between 400 and 500 people gathered in an attempt to shut down the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in Central Falls. At about 9 p.m., the crowd thinned a little and moved to the entrance of the guard parking lot, coinciding with the center’s staff shift change. The protestors linked arms and continued chanting, singing and praying, Harvey said.
At about 9:45 p.m., a pickup truck swerved into the row of protestors. Some jumped up out of the way and others tried to block its process. The driver was in a detention center’s uniform, with a badge and walkie talkie, according to Harvey, and at one point he revved his engine. After a few minutes of idling, a few more officials arrived and pushed protestors. About half a dozen people were on the ground from being pepper-sprayed. EMT aids were on site to help until ambulances arrived.
Some left without being admitted, but others, like a man in his 70s who suffered a broken leg, stayed the night. Several told Harvey on Thursday that they still felt the effect of the pepper spray, and one person had to return to the hospital to seek treatment.
The group protested once before at Wyatt on July 2, which ended peacefully. On Wednesday night, the crowd was “shocked, horrified,” Harvey said, and left “shaken up and scared.” But he said it mostly heightened fears at the worse treatment the immigrants must be getting behind the center’s walls. The violence proved to him that the group is having an effect and is being seen as a threat.
“We’re not going to be deterred,” Harvey said. “We’ll be back.”
ICE Officer Who Drove Truck Into Jewish Protesters Won’t Be Charged: here.
Facing Jewish Protest, ICE Detention Center Moves Public Meeting To Shabbat: here.
ICE off our buses: End Greyhound collaboration with ICE: here.
This November 2017 video says about itself:
Climatic cooling during the Ordovician caused explosion of marine diversity
Read more here.
From Ohio University in the USA:
Early species developed much faster than previously thought
Landmark review of Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event
When Earth’s species were rapidly diversifying nearly 500 million years ago, that evolution was driven by complex factors including global cooling, more oxygen in the atmosphere, and more nutrients in the oceans. But it took a combination of many global environmental and tectonic changes occurring simultaneously and combining like building blocks to produce rapid diversification into new species, according to a new study by Dr. Alycia Stigall, Professor of Geological Sciences at Ohio University.
She and fellow researchers have narrowed in a specific time during an era known as the Ordovician Radiation, showing that new species actually developed rapidly during a much shorter time frame than previously thought. The Great Biodiversification Event where many new species developed, they argue, happened during the Darriwilian Stage about 465 million years ago. Their research, “Coordinated biotic and abiotic change during the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event: Darriwilian assembly of early Paleozoic building blocks”, was published in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology as part of a special issue they are editing on the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event.
New datasets have allowed them to show that what previously looked like species development widespread over time and geography was actually a diversification pulse. Picture a world before the continents as we know them, when most of the land mass was south of the equator, with only small continents and islands in the vast oceans above the tropics. Then picture ice caps forming over the southern pole. As the ice caps form, the ocean recedes and local, isolated environments form around islands and in seas perched atop continents. In those shallow marine environments, new species develop.
Then picture the ice caps melting and the oceans rising again, with those new species riding the waves of global diversification to populate new regions. The cycle then repeats producing waves of new species and new dispersals.
Lighting the Spark of Diversification
The early evolution of animal life on Earth is a complex and fascinating subject. The Cambrian Explosion (between about 540 to 510 million years ago) produced a stunning array of body plans, but very few separate species of each, notes Stigall. But nearly 40 million years later, during the Ordovician Period, this situation changed, with a rapid radiation of species and genera during the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event.
The triggers of the GOBE and processes that promoted diversification have been subject to much debate, but most geoscientists haven’t fully considered how changes like global cooling or increased oxygenation would foster increased diversification.
A recent review paper by Stigall and an international team of collaborators attempts to provide clarity on these issues. For this study, Stigall teamed up with Cole Edwards (Appalachian State University), a sedimentary geochemist, and fellow paleontologists Christian Mac Ørum Rasmussen (University of Copenhagen) and Rebecca Freeman (University of Kentucky) to analyze how changes to the physical earth system during the Ordovician could have promoted this rapid increase in diversity.
In their paper, Stigall and colleagues demonstrate that the main pulse of diversification during the GOBE is temporally restricted and occurred in the Middle Ordovician Darriwilian Stage (about 465 million years ago). Many changes to the physical earth system, including oceanic cooling, increased nutrient availability, and increased atmospheric oxygen accumulate in the interval leading up to the Darriwilian.
These physical changes were necessary building blocks, but on their own were not enough to light the spark of diversification.
The missing ingredient was a method to alternately connect and isolate populations of species through cycles of vicariance and dispersal. That spark finally occurs in the Darriwilian Stage when ice caps form over the south pole of the Ordovician Earth. The waxing and waning of these ice sheets caused sea level to rise and fall (similar to the Pleistocene), which provided the alternate connection and disconnection needed to facilitate rapid diversity accumulation.
Stigall and her collaborators compared this to the assembly of building blocks required to pass a threshold.
This 16 August 2019 video from the USA says about itself:
Trump Wants to Buy Greenland: Reports
President Trump has allegedly directed the White House counsel to “look into the idea” of purchasing Greenland, The Wall Street Journal reported. The president also reportedly brought up the idea at a dinner with his associates last spring, asking his guests, “What do you guys think about that? Do you think it would work?”
TRUMP MIGHT WANT TO BUY GREENLAND President Trump is reportedly interested in buying Greenland, an ice-covered island melting before the world’s eyes. According to The Wall Street Journal, sources say the president has repeatedly expressed interest in acquiring the autonomous Danish territory situated between the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans. [HuffPost]
Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:
Greenland: we are not for sale
The Greenland Foreign Minister says that her country is not for sale. She responds to a report in the newspaper The Wall Street Journal. It wrote last night based on sources around US President Trump that he has his eyes on the huge island and wants to buy the land from Denmark.
Trump is said to have come up with the idea when he heard that Denmark transfers abmorning.a billion euros to the country every year. …
Danish politicians attacked the idea this morning. “It must be a April Fools‘ joke”, said former Prime Minister Rasmussen. “You can’t sell Greenland like you used to do with a colony”, said a Social Liberal MP. …
Rich in minerals
Greenland has the interest of superpowers such as the US, China and Russia because of its strategic location and the raw materials it has. ..
Greenland has an air force base of the United States, the Thule Air Base.
It is not the first time that the US Americans want to buy Greenland. The US proposed in 1946 to buy the country for $ 100 million, but that was refused.
In 1917, the USA did buy the then Danish West Indies for $ 25 million. Today, that island group in the Caribbean is known as the US Virgin Islands. The state of Alaska was also bought: in 1867 from Russia for 7.2 million dollars.
DANISH PM: GREENLAND ISN’T FOR SALE President Donald Trump confirmed that he is considering the “large real estate deal” of purchasing the autonomous Danish territory of Greenland, saying that it would be “strategically interesting.” The Danish prime minister has slammed the notion, saying “Greenland isn’t for sale.” [HuffPost]
This 14 August 2019 video from the USA says about itself:
2019 Barred Owl Cam Season Highlights
Relive all the wonderful memories from the 2019 Wild Birds Unlimited Barred Owl cam!
Classic hooting calls announced the return of the owls to their rural Indiana nest box. “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?”
In the following days, two white eggs appeared beneath the female. The male played the role of hunter while his mate tended to the eggs. As opportunistic predators, Barred Owls eat everything from small mammals to aquatic prey, like crayfish.
Incubation continued for 33 days before the eggs started hatching. The female quickly assumed her role as attentive mother to her downy duo.
Thanks to committed parents and plenty of food, “Fluff” and “Puff” began to grow and grow and grow.
At five weeks old, they were ready to leave the nest box with a bit of encouragement. “Fluff” fledged with confidence, while “Puff” was a bit reluctant. Good luck to our favorite owl family on the next stage! Thanks for watching and learning with us in 2019. See you next year!
My dear blogging friend YBP has been so kind to nominate Dear Kitty. Some blog for the Sunshine Blogger Award.
Thank you so much for this kind gesture!
The rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award are:
Thank and mention the blogger who has nominated you by linking to their blog.
Insert the logo of the Sunshine Blogger Award in the post.
Answer the eleven questions that are posed to you.
Nominate eleven bloggers [and link to their blogs].
Formulate eleven questions to be answered.
Indicate the rules of the nominations.
YBP’s questions, and my answers, are:
1. I love it when ……
When there wil be more peace and less injustice in the world. See here.
2. If I could, I would ……
Go to Antarctica; where I loved the wildlife when I was there.
3. Not too many people know that ……
4. What really gets to my nerves …..
5. I can’t comprehend why …..
6. My fantasy job would be …..
President of the USA, to be be able to stop all those wars immediately.
7. If I were a color, I’d be ……
8. Sometimes when I’m by myself …..
I look for videos about birds on the internet.
9. This may sound crazy but …..
I once saw a grizzly bear in Canada, and it ran away from me (it was still a young bear, so maybe it does not sound that crazy).
10. The funniest thing about me …..
I have two eyes with very different vision.
11. It doesn’t really matter if ……
It rains, as it good for plants.
My 11 questions are:
1. Who is your favourite artist?
2. Who are your three least favourite prominent people in politics?
3. Who are your three least favourite prominent people in business?
4. Which is your favourite bird species?
5. Which is your favourite mammal species?
6. What is the best thing which happened to you in 2019?
7. Which film did you see, but wish in retrospect you had not bothered to see?
8. Which book haven’t you read yet, but would like to read?
9. If you would be invited to make a space journey, then to which solar system planet would you like to go?
10. To which country where you have not been yet would you like to go?
11. If WordPress would stop, would you continue to blog elsewhere?
My 11 nominees are:
2. Sound Eagle
This 2017 video from Florida in the USA says about itself:
The gods of birding and photography were with me on this day. I stopped to capture some shots of a Crested Caracara Family feeding on a carcass in an open field. They were soon in competition with a Vulture and then a Bald Eagle. It was amazing to witness.
Extinct Caribbean bird yields DNA after 2,500 years in watery grave
August 15, 2019
Scientists have recovered the first genetic data from an extinct bird in the Caribbean, thanks to the remarkably preserved bones of a Creighton’s caracara from a flooded sinkhole on Great Abaco Island.
Studies of ancient DNA from tropical birds have faced two formidable obstacles. Organic material quickly degrades when exposed to heat, light and oxygen. And birds’ lightweight, hollow bones break easily, accelerating the decay of the DNA within.
But the dark, oxygen-free depths of a 100-foot blue hole known as Sawmill Sink provided ideal preservation conditions for the bones of Caracara creightoni, a species of large carrion-eating falcon that disappeared soon after humans arrived in the Bahamas about 1,000 years ago.
Florida Museum of Natural History postdoctoral researcher Jessica Oswald extracted and sequenced genetic material from a 2,500-year-old C. creightoni femur from the blue hole. Because ancient DNA is often fragmented or missing, Oswald had modest expectations for what she would find — maybe one or two genes. But instead, the bone yielded 98.7% of the bird’s mitochondrial genome, the set of DNA that most living things inherit only from their mothers.
“I was super excited. I would have been happy to get that amount of coverage from a fresh specimen,” said Oswald, lead author of a study describing the work and also a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Nevada, Reno. “Getting DNA from an extinct bird in the tropics is significant because it hasn’t been successful in many cases or even tried.”
The mitochondrial genome showed that C. creightoni is closely related to the two remaining caracara species alive today: the crested caracara, Caracara cheriway, and the southern caracara, Caracara plancus. The three species last shared a common ancestor between 1.2 and 0.4 million years ago.
At least six species of caracara once cleaned carcasses and picked off small prey in the Caribbean. But the retreat of glaciers 15,000 years ago and the resulting rise in sea levels triggered extinctions of many birds, said David Steadman, Florida Museum curator of ornithology.
C. creightoni managed to survive the sweeping climatic changes, but the arrival of people on the islands ultimately heralded the species’ demise, as the tortoises, crocodiles, iguanas and rodents that the caracara depended on for food swiftly disappeared.
“This species would still be flying around if it weren’t for humans,” Steadman said. “We’re using ancient DNA to study what should be modern biodiversity.”
Today, the islands host only a fraction of the wildlife that once flourished in the scrubland, forests and water. But blue holes like Sawmill Sink can offer a portal into the past. Researchers have collected more than 10,000 fossils from the sinkhole, representing nearly 100 species, including crocodiles, tortoises, iguanas, snakes, bats and more than 60 species of birds.
Sawmill Sink’s rich store of fossils was discovered by cave diver Brian Kakuk in 2005 in his quest for horizontal passages in the limestone. The hole was not a popular diving spot: Thirty feet below the surface lay a 20-foot-thick layer of saturated hydrogen sulfide, an opaque mass that not only smells of rotten egg, but also reacts with the freshwater above it to form sulfuric acid, which causes severe chemical burns.
After multiple attempts, Kakuk, outfitted with a rebreather system and extra skin protection, punched through the hydrogen sulfide. His lamp lit up dozens of skulls and bones on the blue hole’s floor.
Soon after, Kakuk and fellow cave diver Nancy Albury began an organized diving program in Sawmill Sink.
“This was found by someone who recognized what it was and never moved anything until it was all done right,” Steadman said.
Though the hydrogen sulfide layer presented a foul problem for divers, it provided excellent insulation for the fossils below, blocking UV light and oxygen from reaching the lower layer of water. Among the crocodile skulls and tortoise shells were the C. creightoni bones, including an intact skull.
“For birds, having an entire head of an extinct species from a fossil site is pretty mind-blowing,” Oswald said. “Because all the material from the blue hole is beautifully preserved, we thought at least some DNA would probably be there.”
Since 2017, Oswald has been revitalizing the museum’s ancient DNA laboratory, testing methods and developing best practices for extracting and analyzing DNA from fossils and objects that are hundreds to millions of years old.
Ancient DNA is a challenging medium because it’s in the process of degradation. Sometimes only a minute quantity of an animal’s original DNA — or no DNA at all — remains after bacteria, fungi, light, oxygen, heat and other environmental factors have broken down an organism.
“With ancient DNA, you take what you can get and see what works,” Oswald said. “Every bone has been subjected to slightly different conditions, even relative to other ones from the same site.”
To maximize her chance of salvaging genetic material, Oswald cleans a bone, freezes it with liquid nitrogen and then pulverizes it into powder with a rubber mallet.
“It’s pretty fun,” she said.
While previous studies required large amounts of bone, Oswald’s caracara work showed ancient DNA could be successfully recovered at a smaller scale.
“This puts an exclamation point on what’s possible with ancient DNA,” said Robert Guralnick, Florida Museum curator of bioinformatics. “We have new techniques for looking at the context of evolution and extinction. Beyond the caracara, it’s cool that we have an ancient DNA lab that’s going to deliver ways to look at questions not only from the paleontological perspective, but also at the beginnings of a human-dominated planet.”
Steadman, who has spent decades researching modern and extinct biodiversity in the Caribbean, said some questions can only be answered with ancient DNA.
“By understanding species that weren’t able to withstand human presence, it helps us better appreciate what we have left — and not just appreciate it, but understand that when these species evolved, there were a lot more things running and flying around than we have today.”
Other co-authors are Julia Allen of the University of Nevada, Reno; Kelsey Witt of the University of California, Merced; Ryan Folk of the Florida Museum and Nancy Albury of the National Museum of the Bahamas.
From daily News Line in Britain:
Grenfell families rehoused in ‘high fire-risk’ building
16th August 2019
A fire risk assessment of the Hortensia Road block in Kensington, which is currently housing 20 people and was set aside for the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, also found that there was ‘no evidence’ that the cladding of the building had been inspected.
A fresh fire-risk assessment commissioned by the residents and carried out by consultancy Fire-X last month, found three sources of ‘high substantial risk’ in the building.
As its first substantial risk, Fire-X found ‘service penetrations’ through the riser walls had ‘either been sealed incorrectly or not sealed at all’.
The assessment of Hortensia Road found that the doors leading to the fire escape had gaps larger than the recommended 3mm, meaning fire and smoke could spread through them.
Wednesday evening saw over 300 survivors, local community and their supporters demanding justice attended the Silent Walk on Wednesday evening, the twenty-sixth month after the Grenfell fire which claimed 72 lives.
A delegation of 30 firefighters from the FBU North West region travelled from as far as Cumbria to join the walk.
FBU North West Region Secretary, Mark Rowe, told News Line: ‘Firefighters from Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire, Merseyside and Manchester have come down today to show their solidarity and commitment to this community.
‘We want to ensure the Grenfell Tower tragedy is never ever repeated anywhere else in the UK.
‘From the time of the Summerland fire in the Isle of Man in the 1960s, when over 30 people lost their lives, it was known that certain cladding materials can be a death trap.
‘The government removal of “Red Tape” has meant the deregulation of building materials.’
FBU North West Region treasurer Andrew Fox-Hewitt said: ‘Due to Thatcher government’s deregulation policies carrying out the risk assessment of buildings as safe is driven by the need of profit and taken out of the control of the local authority.’