Saharan silver ants, short-legged but world’s fastest


This 29 October 2019 video says about itself:

Watch Saharan silver ants run | Science News

Slowed-down videos of silver ants on a portable runway in the Sahara sun show how the synchronized movements of three legs at a time let the ants achieve high speeds. As an ant runs, a trio of legs (the right front, right rear and left middle circled) touch down only briefly (white circles, ground phase) and then swing forward rapidly (black circles, swing phase). The final video clip shows an ant rushing by in real-time.

By Susan Milius in Science News, October 29, 2019 at 12:26 pm:

Saharan silver ants are the world’s fastest despite relatively short legs

At top speeds, these scavengers basically gallop, with all six legs in the air at once

The world’s newly crowned fastest known ants don’t look as if they’ve got the legs to be champs.

Saharan silver ants (Cataglyphis bombycina) have merely runner-up proportions, with legs about 18 percent shorter than those of a related desert ant (C. fortis). Yet adjusting for body length, video shows silver ants rushing along about twice as fast as their leggier cousins.

Sarah Pfeffer of the University of Ulm in Germany and colleagues took a high-speed video camera to Tunisia to get that video of the shorter ants in their hot and sandy home. At an oasis on the northern edge of the great dunes, the researchers searched for glimpses of silver.

Tiny silver hairs coat the ants, reflecting some of the sun’s glare and shedding heat (SN: 6/22/15). When Pfeffer, an applied neuroethologist, digs out a nest to study, several thousand ants seething in her transport box look “like quicksilver,” she says.

That silvery protection comes in handy because the ants stay in their nests at night and scavenge for food in the furnace of midday. “The sun really burns down,” Pfeffer says. Surface sand temperatures can soar over 60° Celsius (about 140° Fahrenheit). Even at ant heights, the air is still brutal.

Silver ants, however, get two bonuses for foraging in the worst of the heat. It’s a great time to find fresh carcasses of creatures that the sun fried but that heat-averse scavengers haven’t found yet. Also, ant-hungry predators often take shelter from the heat, so silver ants are less likely to become lunch themselves.

To see how those shortish legs can run through hell, Pfeffer set up an outdoor open-topped metal runway dusted with sand. She then offered a free lunch for ants. “They love mealworms,” she says. As ants rushed along the runway, Pfeffer got high-speed film of the step details. The shorter legs compensate by packing more strides into each second, up to 47 for the silver ants running at top speed versus 36 for their taller relatives, the team reports October 16 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Pfeffer clocked speeds as high as 855 millimeters per second. That’s 108 times a silver ant’s body length in a second.

The camera picked up six legs moving in two groups of triplets, like alternating tripods. At higher speeds, an ant gets airborne for just an instant with no legs touching the ground. In horses, that’s galloping. Pfeffer describes it as gliding, since the ants zoom forward smoothly instead of galumphing.

That glide is fast enough to crown the dune dwellers as the fastest ant known so far, though not the fastest insect. They’re beaten, in terms of body lengths per second, by tiny mites in southern California. Young Paratarsotomus macropalpis can zoom across concrete around three times as fast (SN: 6/12/14).

Hygiea, a new dwarf planet?


This 28 October 2019 video says about itself:

A computer simulation shows how a head-on collision between two objects in the asteroid belt more than 2 billon years ago could have formed Hygiea, along with thousands of much smaller companion asteroids. After the impact initially obliterated Hygiea’s parent body, most of the fragments clumped back together into Hygiea, and the strength of their collective gravity molded them into the nearly round dwarf planet seen today.

By Maria Temming in Science News, October 28, 2019, at 12:00 pm:

The solar system may have a new smallest dwarf planet: Hygiea

New images reveal the wee world is round, a final criterion for dwarf planet status

The asteroid belt object known as Hygiea may be the new baby of the dwarf planet family.

Hygiea, currently classified as an asteroid, already met three of four requirements for dwarf planet status: It orbits the sun. It isn’t a moon. And it hasn’t swept its orbital path clear of other space rocks, the way fully-fledged planets are able to. Now, new telescope images reveal that Hygiea is nearly spherical, which checks the last box to qualify as a dwarf planet.

If officially reclassified by the International Astronomical Union, Hygiea would join the handful of dwarf planets, including Pluto, in our solar system (SN: 5/25/18). About 430 kilometers across, Hygiea would unseat Ceres, with its 950-kilometer diameter, as the smallest dwarf planet discovered in our solar system, researchers report online October 28 in Nature Astronomy.

High-resolution images from the Very Large Telescope in Chile confirmed that Hygiea is about as round as Ceres — and that its surface isn’t marred by a huge impact basin. That was a surprise for the researchers, led by astronomer Pierre Vernazza of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille in France. They had expected to see an enormous crater from a collision billions of years ago that formed Hygiea’s entourage of over 6,800 small asteroids. By comparison, the asteroid Vesta sports a huge scar from the formation of its own, smaller asteroid swarm.

Computer simulations run by Vernazza’s team offer a possible explanation: More than 2 billion years ago, a space rock about 100 kilometers across completely shattered Hygiea’s parent body. When most of the remnants clumped back together into the space rock now known as Hygiea, they formed the smooth, spherical body seen today. By contrast, Vesta — about three times as massive as Hygiea and struck by 65-kilometer object — merely had some of its material carved out, leaving behind a big divot.

Sorry We Missed You, new Loach film


This 17 May 2019 video from France says about itself:

SORRY WE MISSED YOU – Press conference – Cannes 2019 – EV

Press conference of SORRY WE MISSED YOU with Henry Béhar moderator / Rebecca O’Brien producer / Rhys Stone actor / Katie Proctor actress / Kris Hitchen actor / Ken Loach director / Debbie Honeywood actress / Paul Laverty screenplay / Robbie Ryan cinematography.

By Maria Duarte in Britain:

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Film Of The Week

On message for December 12

Ken Loach‘s film on the obscenity of the gig economy is a vital reminder of what’s at stake in the coming election, says MARIA DUARTE

Sorry We Missed You (15)
Directed by Ken Loach

AFTER his critically acclaimed I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach shines a much-needed spotlight on Britain’s exploitative zero-hours contract and gig economy in this powerful, heart-wrenching drama.

It comes shortly after his impassioned speech on BBC Question Time in which he slammed the gig economy for killing a white-van driver, for which Loach was hailed as a working-class hero by some social media users.

Penned by Paul Laverty, Loach’s long-term writing partner, Sorry We Missed You tells the story of a loving working-class family struggling to make ends meet and battling debt ever since the 2008 financial crash and the collapse of Northern Rock, which ended their dreams of owning their own home.

But father-of-two Ricky (Kris Hitchen), working endless odd jobs for years, sees an opportunity to get his family’s life back on track by becoming his own boss as a self-employed delivery driver.

He lays a guilt-trip on his care-worker wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood) and she sells her car so that he can buy a van. That makes getting to her many elderly clients a much more arduous job and, being on a zero-hours contract, she is only paid for the visits she makes.

The film opens with a black screen and Ricky being enticed by his prospective employer (Ross Brewster, a former serving police officer) as to the advantages of working for himself and the company. “You don’t work for us, you work with us,” he tells him as he seals the deal with: “You are the master of your own destiny.”

The stark reality is that Ricky is beholden to the electronic scanner that tracks his every move and delivery. If he needs to take a day off and cannot provide a replacement driver, he is fined and sanctioned, plunging him into deeper debt and putting him in a moral quandary.

Both he and his wife end up working 14-hour-long days, after which they don’t have any time or energy for each other or their two kids who are left to fend for themselves.

Their 16-year-old son Seb (impressive newcomer Rhys Stone) is going off the rails and their wise younger daughter Lisa Jane (a phenomenal Katie Proctor) is the glue that is holding the family together.

With no cinematic frills or gimmicks, just a poignant screenplay brought to captivating life by his remarkable cast, Loach drives home the criminal injustice and inhumane practices of a gig economy, which exploits and penalises people desperately trying to keep afloat. In extreme cases, it costs them their lives.

With another general election looming, let’s hope that the film’s vital message isn’t lost in the melee. It will certainly make you see delivery drivers in a whole new, and compassionate, light.

Freed bats keep friends from captivity days


Thus 2012 video says about itself:

When it comes to feeding, this thumb-sized bat definitely sides with Dracula. Vampire bats are the only mammals on an all-blood diet — and an unsuspecting cow is the perfect prey.

From ScienceDaily:

After release into wild, vampire bats keep ‘friends’ made in captivity

October 31, 2019

Vampire bats that share food and groom each other in captivity are more likely to stick together when they’re released back into the wild, find researchers in a study reported on October 31 in the journal Current Biology. While most previous evidence of “friendship” in animals comes from research in primates, these findings suggest that vampire bats can also form cooperative, friendship-like social relationships.

“The social relationships in vampire bats that we have been observing in captivity are pretty robust to changes in the social and physical environment — even when our captive groups consist of a fairly random sample of bats from a wild colony,” said Simon Ripperger of the Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz-Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science in Berlin. “When we released these bats back into their wild colony, they chose to associate with the same individuals that were their cooperation partners during their time in captivity.”

He and study co-lead author Gerald Carter of The Ohio State University say their findings show that repeated social interactions they’ve observed in the lab aren’t just an artifact of captivity. Not all relationships survived the transition from the lab back into the wild. But, similar to human experience, cooperative relationships or friendships among vampire bats appear to result from a combination of social preferences together with external environment influences or circumstances.

Carter has been studying vampire bat social relationships in captivity since 2010. For the new study, he wondered whether the same relationships and networks he’d been manipulating in the lab would persist or break down after their release in the wild, where the bats could go anywhere and associate with hundreds of other individuals.

Studying social networks in wild bats at very high resolution hadn’t been possible until now. To do it, Simon Ripperger and his colleagues in electrical engineering and computer sciences developed novel proximity sensors. These tiny sensors, which are lighter than a penny, allowed them to capture social networks of entire social groups of bats and update them every few seconds. By linking what they knew about the bats’ relationships in captivity to what they observed in the wild, they were able to make this leap toward better understanding social bonds in vampire bats.

The researchers found that shared grooming and food sharing among female bats in captivity over 22 months predicted whom they’d interact with in the wild. While not all relationships survived, the findings suggest that the bonds made in captivity weren’t just a byproduct of confinement and limited options. The researcher report that the findings are consistent with the idea that both partner fidelity and partner switching play a role in regulating the bats’ relationships.

“Our finding adds to a growing body of evidence that vampire bats form social bonds that are similar to the friendships we see in some primates,” Carter said. “Studying animal relationships can be a source of inspiration and insight for understanding the stability of human friendships.”

The researchers say they’ll continue to work on individual differences in cooperativeness among vampire bats and exploring how individuals go from being strangers to cooperation partners. Taking advantage of their newfound abilities to measure relationships in the wild, they’re also looking into social foraging and whether bats that cooperate within their day roost also go hunting together at night.

This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, a Smithsonian Scholarly Studies Awards grant, and a National Geographic Society Research Grant.

See also here.

Bats face many threats — from habitat loss and climate change to emerging diseases, such as white-nose syndrome. But it appears that wildfire is not among those threats, suggests a study from the University of California, Davis, published today in the journal Scientific Reports. It found that bats in the Sierra Nevada appear to be well-adapted to wildfire: here.

Horsemeat scandal businessman on trial


This April 2013 video says about itself:

The horsemeat scandal UK government now says “needs crime unit”

Horsemeat Scandal: Tracing the beginnings of widespread horsemeat selling to Ireland

This shocking report into the Irish roots of the horsemeat scandal goes undercover to reveal a systematic criminal harvest of thousands of horses, which netted millions and stretches well beyond Ireland’s borders.

“Nobody bothered asking the question, where are all the Irish horses going?”, says animal rights activist Stephen Philpott, who ran a surveillance operation on gangs smuggling thousands of unwanted horses across the border for illegal slaughter.”Five years ago horses like that were everywhere.” It was all an unexpected consequence of the global financial crisis. When the bubble burst in Ireland, expensive horses were dumped and left to fend for themselves in parks, fields and by the side of the road. It wasn’t long before criminal gangs got in on the action.

One whistle-blower, who is now in fear of his life, admits forging passports for the horses to get them across borders. He says these fakes were never checked. He also reveals how horses too weak to travel were routinely drugged to make sure they arrived at the abattoir still alive. “If you could get it up the ramp it would be on”, he says. Alan Reilly, CEO of the Food Standards Authority, explains how “there are over 26 countries in Europe who are now involved”. But in this scandal, nobody – from the supermarkets to the suppliers – is accepting blame.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

How horse meat transformed into beef (at least, on paper)

Against meat trader Hans W. from Breda, the public prosecutor has demanded three years in prison. He is said to have sold tons of horse meat as beef, together with the main suspect in the fraud case, Jan F. W. is suspected of participating in a criminal organization and forgery.

It was the largest European meat scandal in 2013. Ravioli, spaghetti bolognese, moussaka and other frozen meals in various European countries turned out to contain horse meat, while according to the labels they contained beef. Dutch companies appear to have played a crucial role.

At the court in Breda today the case against a number of companies involved was dealt with. The court case showed how meat was dragged around and how fraud was committed on a large scale.

Made up data

Tens of thousands of kilograms of horse meat were shipped by boat from Canada to Breda. The meat ended up in a cold store where labels were changed – coincidentally opposite the court in Breda where the case was being dealt with today. The origin of the meat was no longer visible and slaughter dates were made up.

It was then delivered to a French corporation, as so-called beef from Romania. It ended up in frozen meals. Horse meat from Belgium and Ireland was also sold as more expensive beef from Romania. Only after checking meals in Great Britain and Germany did it become clear that there was horse DNA in the beef meals.

Protest

Main suspect Jan F. – also called the horse king of Breda – was not present at the trial. He is under arrest in Spain for a similar case and, according to his lawyer, did not dare to come to Breda. Afraid of being arrested because of a European investigation order and of then being extradited to France. There he was sentenced to two years in prison for other meat fraud.

..

Trust

“The label must match the content,” said the public prosecutor. “If you order beef, then you must get beef. Trust comes on foot and runs away on horseback. It will take a while before consumers will be able to trust their bolognese again.”

W. claims to have been used by Jan F. and denies having known anything about the fraud. He also believes that the corporation in France could have known that they were getting horse meat. “There is a completely different air in a cold store if it contains horse meat than in a cold store with beef”, says W .. “And the colour of the fat is different. Horse meat is much yellower.”

The two meat traders were previously convicted of selling horse meat as more expensive halal beef.

The court will rule on Hans W. in four weeks. A new date is being sought for the case against Jan F.

Rare Bermuda petrels are back on their nest


This video from Bermuda says about itself:

Adult Cahow Makes First Visit of the 2020 Breeding Season — Oct. 23, 2019

An adult [male] cahow returned to the Cahow cam nesting burrow on October 23, meaning the November courtship period will likely soon be underway for the pair inhabiting this nest site. Now we wait for its mate to return!

Both the 2017-2018 cam burrow and the original 2013-2014 burrow are visible, as well as two different views of Nonsuch Island (where the cams are based).

The CahowCam is a collaboration between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Nonsuch Expeditions. You can watch the cam live here.

and learn more about Nonsuch Island’s environs (including the cahow) here.

The Cornel Lab of Ornithology writes:

The cahows will spend the next few weeks courting, copulating, and preparing their nest scrape for what’s to come. Watch while you can, because they won’t stay for long. Both adults will head back out to sea near the start of December before the female ultimately returns to lay a single egg in early January.

Fiat Chrysler pollution software fraud scandal


This 13 January 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

EPA: Chrysler Also Cheating On Emissions

Another company has been accused of cheating on emissions tests. Again, it involves diesel and the very harmful nitrogen oxide. Ana Kasparian, Ben Mankiewicz, Grace Baldridge, and Aida Rodriguez, hosts of The Young Turks, discuss.

“Last fall, the Environmental Protection Agency discovered that Volkswagen had used illegal “defeat device” software that enabled hundreds of thousands of diesel vehicles to cheat on their pollution tests. As a result, the cars emitted far more harmful nitrogen oxide on the road than they did during laboratory testing. This ended up being a huge global scandal that cost VW billions of dollars.

Now the scandal may be widening. On Thursday, the EPA also accused Fiat Chrysler of cheating — by failing to disclose software in at least 104,000 diesel vehicles that could increase their emission levels.

… One key thing to note is that it’s still not clear that this is exactly like the Volkswagen scandal, which featured a company that was very explicitly trying to fool regulators. Fiat Chrysler denies it was doing anything of the sort. Here’s a breakdown what we know so far:

1) After the VW scandal broke, the EPA began testing other carmakers’ vehicles to see if their pollution levels on the road matched what was being shown in the lab tests used by regulators. The agency discovered that a number of Fiat Chrysler models — including 2014 to 2016 model year Dodge Ram 1500 pickup trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokees with 3.0-liter diesel engines — emitted higher levels of nitrogen oxide pollution “under conditions that would be encountered in normal operation and use.” (There are at least 104,000 such vehicles on the road today.)”

Read more here.

That was then. And now …

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today, by Gert-Jan Dennekamp:

“51 million polluting diesel vehicles on European roads, but little action yet”

At a time when every gram of nitrogen counts, it is remarkable how easily the car industry seems to get off the hook. Because, according to the US Americans, Fiat Chrysler (with brands Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Dodge, Jeep) has cheated with the environmental tests for their diesels and has used fraudulent software. This appears from a US American indictment of a senior manager of the corporation.

The Dutch regulator RDW and the Dutch public prosecution service have been investigating Jeep for years. The head office is located in the Netherlands and for a number of diesels the Netherlands has issued the European environmental certificate. But according to United States justice, there is no doubt: the tests have been tampered with. The diesels emit much more nitrogen than suggested.

The RDW carried out research into all diesels that have been awarded an environmental certificate in the Netherlands. These cars were all suspicious during the first tests. After laboratory tests and discussions with the manufacturer, two cars are now under suspicion: the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Suzuki Vitara. Both cars have a Fiat Chrysler engine.

In 2015 the Volkswagen fraud became known. The company committed fraud with the environmental tests for diesels that were much cleaner during the test installation than in reality. The cars emit much more nitrogen than the rules allow. The diesel affair has cost Volkswagen billions. Top people are criminal suspects in Germany or have already been convicted in the US.

“There are 51 million heavily polluting diesels on European roads. It is an industry-wide emissions-manipulation scandal,” said Julia Poliscanova, of the Brussels-based Transport & Environment club. “But we see very little binding legal action against manufacturers such as Volkswagen.”

The results of the investigation by the RDW have been shared with the Public Prosecution Service. If it is definitively established in the coming month that both cars were equipped with fraudulent software, then the car manufacturers can be prosecuted. FCA, the parent company of Fiat Chrysler, is a Dutch company.

Conspirators

Whereas the RDW and the public prosecution service are still investigating in the Netherlands, they are one step further in the US. There, FCA paid more than $ 650 million to settle US lawsuits after the US regulator concluded that the company had used cheating software. The company says it has done nothing wrong.

But a month ago, a senior FCA manager, Emanuele Palma, was arrested. The indictment states that the company has indeed cheated and deliberately fooled the supervisor. “Palma and his co-conspirators,” the indictment said, tampered with the software systems so that the vehicles “produce fewer nitrogen emissions during federal testing procedures than when the vehicles in question were driven by real-world customers”.

The indictment is quoted from internal emails that the manager and his colleagues wrote. It shows that they wrote software that only worked during the tests. “Our approach will certainly not be accepted by CARB (the regulator in California). Because it is clearly focused on recognizing the test cycle.” Another writes: “If CARB discovered this, they would probably see it as manipulating the test cycle.”

A senior boss responds immediately. “Don’t call it recognizing the test cycle, even among each other.” The man who has now been arrested finally writes: “I want this software to become active, but I don’t want it to be known.”

Unacceptable

The Jeep diesel was presented as an EcoDiesel, the cleanest diesel in its category. But according to the American FBI, Palma knew that this representation was “incorrect and misleading”. “The FCA diesel cars polluted the environment.” In the case of the American Jeep Grand Cherokee there is therefore no doubt, according to the US American justice and environmental supervisor: Fiat Chrysler cheated with the software.

The German transport minister wrote a letter to his Italian colleague three years ago, in which he accused Fiat of manipulation. The Germans tested four cars from the Fiat group and “similar behavior was found in all tested vehicles” as in Volkswagen. The equipment switches off after 22 minutes. A test only takes 20 minutes.

The RDW also came to the conclusion earlier that the Suzuki was also equipped with such software. The RDW finds this “inadmissible” and wanted to do additional research. That investigation is now almost complete.

John German of the International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT) put the US American government on the trail of Volkswagen five years ago. He thinks that there is certainly a case against Fiat Chrysler. “But whether it is watertight enough for a conviction is not yet certain”.

CHRYSLER AND PEUGEOT MERGE IN MEGA AUTO DEAL Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot owner PSA Group have announced the terms of a merger that would create a new trans-Atlantic automaking giant with roughly 410,000 employees and combined revenues of $190 billion. Shareholders of each automaker would own 50% of the combined operation. [CNN]

Merger between PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler presages new assault on autoworkers: here.

Many dinosaur footprints discovered in Alaska


This June 2018 video says about itself:

Frontiers 146: Great Alaska Dinosaur Hunt

Dinosaurs, flying reptiles and giant sea creatures. They were all residents of Alaska, but definitely not eligible for a Permanent Fund Dividend Check. They lived here long before statehood. About 80 million years ago.

From PLOS:

Dozens of dinosaur footprints reveal ancient ecosystem of Alaskan Peninsula

These trackways allow researchers to explore habitat preferences in high-latitude dinosaurs

October 30, 2019

Abundant dinosaur footprints in Alaska reveal that high-latitude hadrosaurs preferred tidally influenced habitats, according to a study released October 30, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Anthony Fiorillo of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Texas and colleagues.

Dinosaur fossils are well-known from Alaska, most famously from areas like Denali National Park and the North Slope, but there are very few records of dinosaurs from the Alaskan Peninsula in the southwest part of the state. In this study, Fiorillo and colleagues document abundant dinosaur trackways from Aniakchak National Monument, around 670km southwest of Anchorage.

The trackways were preserved in the Chignik Formation, a series of coastal sediment deposits dating back to the Late Cretaceous Period around 66 million years ago. Survey work from 2001-2002 and 2016-2018 identified more than 75 trackway sites including dozens of dinosaur footprints. Based on the anatomy of the prints, the authors identified two footprints of armored dinosaurs, one of a large predatory tyrannosaur, and a few footprints attributable to two types of birds. The remaining 93% of the trackways belonged to hadrosaurs, highly successful herbivores which are typically the most common dinosaurs in high-latitude fossil ecosystems.

Previous research on skeletal dinosaur remains in northern Alaska has found that hadrosaurs were most abundant in coastal habitats. The trackways documented in this study reveal that the same trend was true in southern Alaska. The authors suggest that understanding habitat preferences in these animals will contribute to understanding of how ecosystems changed through time as environmental conditions shifted and dinosaurs migrated across northern corridors between continents.

Fiorillo adds, “Our study shows us something about habitat preferences for some dinosaurs and also that duck-billed dinosaurs were incredibly abundant. Duck-billed dinosaurs were as commonplace as cows, though given we are working in Alaska, perhaps it is better to consider them the caribou of the Cretaceous.”

Ötzi the Iceman and prehistoric plants


This 2017 video is called Ötzi The Iceman. Film documentary.

From PLOS:

Alongside Ötzi the Iceman: A bounty of ancient mosses and liverworts

Frozen flora holds clues to the ancient Alps ecosystem and to the Iceman’s final journey

October 30, 2019

Buried alongside the famous Ötzi the Iceman are at least 75 species of bryophytes — mosses and liverworts — which hold clues to Ötzi’s surroundings, according to a study released October 30, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by James Dickson of the University of Glasgow, UK and colleagues at the University of Innsbruck.

Ötzi the Iceman is a remarkable 5,300-year-old human specimen found frozen in ice approximately 3,200 meters above sea level in the Italian Alps. He was frozen alongside his clothing and gear as well as an abundant assemblage of plants and fungi. In this study, Dickson and colleagues aimed to identify the mosses and liverworts preserved alongside the Iceman.

Today, 23 bryophyte species live the area near where Ötzi was found, but inside the ice, the researchers identified thousands of preserved bryophyte fragments representing at least 75 species. It is the only site of such high altitude with bryophytes preserved over thousands of years. Notably, the assemblage includes a variety of mosses ranging from low-elevation to high-elevation species, as well as 10 species of liverworts, which are very rarely preserved in archaeological sites. Only 30% of the identified bryophytes appear to have been local species, with the rest having been transported to the spot in Ötzi’s gut or clothing or by large mammalian herbivores whose droppings ended up frozen alongside the Iceman.

From these remains, the researchers infer that the bryophyte community in the Alps around 5,000 years ago was generally similar to that of today. Furthermore, the non-local species help to confirm the path Ötzi took to his final resting place. Several of the identified moss species thrive today in the lower Schnalstal valley, suggesting that Ötzi traveled along the valley during his ascent. This conclusion is corroborated by previous pollen research, which also pinpointed Schnalstal as the Iceman’s likely route of ascent.

Dickson adds, “Most members of the public are unlikely to be knowledgeable about bryophytes (mosses and liverworts). However, no fewer than 75 species of these important investigative clues were found when the Iceman (aka Ötzi) was removed from the ice. They were recovered as mostly small scraps from the ice around him, from his clothes and gear, and even from his alimentary tract. Those findings prompted the questions: Where did the fragments come from? How precisely did they get there? How do they help our understanding of the Iceman?”