Oviraptor dinosaurs, not egg thieves


This 16 October 2019 video says about itself:

The Case of the Dinosaur Egg Thief

Paleontologists found a small theropod dinosaur skull right on top of a nest of eggs that were believed to belong to a plant-eating dinosaur. Instead of being the nest robbers that they were originally thought to be, [Oviraptor] raptors like this one would reveal themselves to actually be caring parents.

Stuffed museum birds help living Darwin finches


This 2014 video says about itself:

The Galápagos finches remain one of our world’s greatest examples of adaptive radiation. Watch as evolutionary biologists Rosemary and Peter Grant detail their 40-year project to painstakingly document the evolution of these famous finches. Their pioneering studies have revealed clues as to how 13 distinct finch species arose from a single ancestral population that migrated to the islands 2 million to 3 million years ago.

From the University of Cincinnati in the USA:

Museums put ancient DNA to work for wildlife

Old museum specimens are giving researchers fresh insights into endangered species

October 17, 2019

Summary: Scientists who are trying to save species at the brink of extinction are finding help in an unexpected place. Researchers increasingly are embracing the power of ancient DNA from old museum specimens to answer questions about climate change, habitat loss and other stresses on surviving populations.

Scientists who are trying to save species at the brink of extinction are finding help in an unexpected place.

Heather Farrington, curator of zoology for the Cincinnati Museum Center, is using DNA from specimens collected more than 100 years ago to help understand the evolution and stresses faced by today’s animals.

Farrington runs the museum’s new state-of-the-art genetics laboratory, which helps researchers study populations of animals over time.

Researchers increasingly are embracing the power of ancient DNA from old museum specimens to answer questions about climate change, habitat loss and other stresses on surviving populations. Ancient DNA has been used to explain the diversity of livestock in Africa and the first domestication of wild horses in Asia.

Farrington earned her doctorate in biological sciences from the University of Cincinnati, where she charted the family trees of Galapagos finches and used the latest DNA tools to gain fresh insights about the birds from century-old museum specimens.

The museum’s genetics lab works with researchers and government agencies on a variety of projects that require DNA analysis, from conserving wildlife to improving our understanding of the natural world.

Recently, the lab helped with a conservation project on the Allegheny woodrat, a small rock-loving rodent that is in decline across much of its historic range from Indiana to New Jersey. In Ohio it’s found in only one place, the Richard and Lucille Durrell Edge of Appalachia Preserve, a mix of mature forest and limestone cliffs along the Ohio River.

The museum’s lab analysis found that Ohio’s woodrats are maintaining their genetic diversity so far despite their geographic isolation.

The lab also has studied the genetics of Ohio’s crayfish and a beautiful yellow-and-black songbird called a hooded warbler.

The museum’s DNA lab has glass walls on two sides so the public can watch scientists at work. Next door, visitors also can watch museum staff and volunteers prepare fossils from a public gallery at the paleontology lab.

Farrington’s colleague, museum collections manager Emily Imhoff, explained how the sensitive equipment works.

The lab keeps DNA samples in refrigerators, including one set to a chilly minus-112 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists can identify the concentration of DNA, amplify the sample and sequence it to understand the lineage and relationships of species.

“We definitely feel our work is useful when we take on projects with other researchers,” Imhoff said. “Heather and I are both passionate about our work.”

Farrington was looking for a graduate program in aquatic ecology that could satisfy her growing curiosity about genetics. UC biology professor Kenneth Petren, who served as dean of UC’s McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, reached out to recruit her to UC.

“He said, ‘Well, I do genetics, but I don’t do fish. I work on Darwin’s finches,'” Farrington said.

At UC, Petren has conducted two decades of research on descendants of birds that shaped Charles Darwin‘s understanding of evolution through natural selection in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I can’t say no to Darwin’s finches,'” Farrington said.

Farrington, Petren and UC biology professor Lucinda Lawson authored a study of finch populations that was published recently in the journal Conservation Genetics. Moreover, at UC Farrington also realized what a valuable resource museum collections are for genetic research. For her dissertation, she examined museum specimens gathered more than 100 years ago to understand how Galapagos finch populations have changed over time.

Farrington developed many of the important lab techniques she uses at the museum while conducting research at UC, Petren said.

“While at UC, Heather worked very hard to pioneer the use of museum specimens for population genetics analysis,” Petren said. “Our lab was a leader in this field because of Heather’s efforts.

“She used the techniques she developed to address issues of conservation in several different species of Galapagos finches,” Petren said. “She went on to become a leader in the field of environmental DNA in her role working for the U.S. Department of Defense, which was interested in monitoring rare species or to provide early warnings of problematic invasive species like the Asian carp.”

Farrington said her experience while researching museum specimens for her dissertation at UC convinced her of how valuable these resources can be for future study. “That is really what got me into museum work and the amazing things you can learn from museum specimens,” Farrington said.

Dutch air force killed many Iraqi civilians


Hawija, Iraq industrial estate, bombed by Dutch air force, NOS photo

This photo shows the industrial estate of Hawija, Iraq, after the Dutch air force bombed it in 2015.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

In Hawija, no one has forgotten the Dutch bombing

A Dutch bombing raid in Iraq four years ago went horribly wrong, according to research by NOS and NRC daily. Dozens of civilians were killed in an air raid … in Hawija. …

It is the first time that it has become clear where the Netherlands bombed in Syria and Iraq and how many civilian casualties there have been. For years, the government has said it does not want to make any announcements about specific attacks and civilian casualties due to security.

The huge havoc caused by the bombing on 3 June 2015 does not go unnoticed by the international media. Images of that night show how the hospital in Hawija is flooded with injured people. Residents speak of “an atomic bomb that hit” and could still be heard fifty kilometers away in Kirkuk. “A complete residential area has been destroyed,” writes Reuters news agency.

Four years later, the neighborhood on the east side of the city is exactly the same. There are debris of collapsed buildings everywhere. Dozens of car wrecks are scattered along the road. Only the flour factory has been rebuilt.

The residents of the neighborhood can still remember June 3, 2015. Some show the scars of the injuries sustained by the attack. Others tell about the chaos of that night. …

“At that time there were mainly refugees living here,” says the owner of a small garage a little further in the neighborhood. A family with six children lived next to him. The walls fell over during the explosion. “They were all killed except for the mother. I saw them again later in Kirkuk. She was severely disabled.” …

According to Osama Suleman, director of the hospital, many refugees have been left dead under the rubble of the collapsed buildings. “We don’t know where they came from. We couldn’t register them as fatalities.” …

The hospital received over two hundred dead and injured that night. “It was a very bloody day. Some were seriously injured, others died here.” Suleman thinks that the number of victims added up is “above two hundred”. …

The United States Pentagon does not want to make public the investigation that they did after the attack and the Dutch Ministry of Defense does not want to confirm that the Netherlands was involved in the attack. …

“We don’t know about all the buildings where the owners have stayed,” says Mohamed, who offers his services as a writer of letters and forms in a dilapidated tea house. Hardly anyone can rebuild because compensation has not yet been paid. “We have all filled in our forms,” ​​says the writer with wide arm gestures. “The only answer we get is that we have to wait. We have been doing that for two years now.” …

Only when the rebuilding starts, will it become clear how many people died. “We asked the municipality to come and see if there are any people underneath it,” says Mohamed.

Velociraptor relative dinosaur discovery in Canada


This 2009 video says about itself:

Tribute to Saurornitholestes

Saurornitholestes (“lizard-bird thief”) is a genus of coyote-sized carnivorous dromaeosaurid dinosaur from the Upper Cretaceous (Upper Campanian stage) of Alberta, Canada. Several partial skeletons, dozens of isolated bones, and scores of teeth are known from the badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta; most of these are housed at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, in Drumheller, Alberta.

Like other theropods in the family Dromaeosauridae, Saurornitholestes had a long, curving, blade-like claw on the second toe. Saurornitholestes was more long-legged and lightly built than other dromaeosaurids such as Velociraptor and Dromaeosaurus. It resembles Velociraptor in having large, fanglike teeth in the front of the jaws. Saurornitholestes most closely resembles Velociraptor, although the precise relationships of the Dromaeosauridae are still relatively poorly understood.

Saurornitholestes appears to have been the most common small theropod in Dinosaur Provincial Park, and teeth and bones are much more common than those of its more massive contemporary, Dromaeosaurus. Little is known about what it ate and how it lived, but a tooth of Saurornitholestes has been found embedded in the wing bone of a large pterosaur, probably a juvenile Quetzalcoatlus. Because the pterosaur was so much larger than Saurornitholestes, Currie and Jacobsen suggest that the theropod was probably scavenging the remains of an already dead animal.

Similar teeth are found in younger deposits, but whether they represent S. langstoni or a different, related species is unknown.

From the University of Alberta in Canada:

Paleontologists discover complete Saurornitholestes langstoni specimen

Discovery provides valuable insight into evolution of theropod dinosaurs around the world

October 17, 2019

The discovery of a nearly complete dromaeosaurid Saurornitholestes langstoni specimen is providing critical information for the evolution of theropod dinosaurs, according to new research by a University of Alberta paleontologist.

The 76-million-year-old species was long thought to be so closely related to Velociraptor from Mongolia that some researchers even called it Velociraptor langstoni — until now.

The landmark discovery was made by paleontologists Philip Currie and Clive Coy from the University of Alberta and David Evans, James and Louise Temerty Endowed Chair of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum. The research illustrates how Saurornitholestes differs from Velociraptor. Importantly, the research also identifies a unique tooth evolved for preening feathers and provides new evidence that the dromaeosaurid lineage from North America that includes Saurornitholestes is distinct from an Asian lineage that includes the famous Velociraptor.

“Palaeontology in general is a gigantic puzzle where most of the pieces are missing. The discovery and description of this specimen represents the recovery of many pieces of the puzzle,” said Currie, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Canada Research Chair in Dinosaur Paleobiology. “This ranks in the top discoveries of my career. It is pretty amazing.”

Another piece of the puzzle

Saurornitholestes is a small, feathered carnivorous dinosaur within the dromaeosaurid family (also known as “raptors“) that was previously known from fragmentary remains. Discovered by Coy in Dinosaur Provincial Park in 2014, the new skeleton is remarkably complete and exquisitely preserved, with all the bones (except for the tail) preserved in life position. The new research, which focuses on the skull, shows that the North American form has a shorter and deeper skull than the Velociraptor. At the front of the skull’s mouth, the researchers also discovered a flat tooth with long ridges, which was likely used for preening feathers. The same tooth has since been identified in Velociraptor and other dromaeosaurids.

“Because of their small size and delicate bones, small meat-eating dinosaur skeletons are exceptionally rare in the fossil record. The new skeleton is by far the most complete and best-preserved raptor skeleton ever found in North America. It’s a scientific goldmine,” said Evans.

The study also establishes a distinction between dromaeosaurids in North America and Asia. “The new anatomical information we have clearly shows that the North American dromaeosaurids are a separate lineage from the Asian dromaeosaurids, although they do have a common ancestor,” said Currie. “This changes our understanding of intercontinental movements of these animals and ultimately will help us understand their evolution.”

Future research will investigate the remainder of the skeleton as well as additional analyses on the relationships between dromaeosaurids.

Trump, Syria, Al-Qaeda, United States Democrats


This 16 October 2019 video from United States Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is about her contribution to the Democratic party presidential candidates‘ debate in Ohio; focusing on the war in Syria.

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

A rare moment of truth on the US support for Al Qaeda

17 October 2019

There was a rare moment of truth during Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate. Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, an Iraq war veteran, said that while Trump had Kurdish blood on his hands, “so do many of the politicians in our country from both parties who have supported this ongoing regime-change war in Syria that started in 2011, along with many in the mainstream media, who have been championing and cheerleading this regime-change war.”

This was directed not only against the Obama-Biden administration, which began the US covert intervention in Syria, but against the New York Times and CNN, the co-sponsors of the debate, who have been among the most strident in denouncing Trump’s order to withdraw from Syria. (See The Democrats support the “Forever War” )

Gabbard continued, “As president, I will end these regime-change wars by doing two things, ending the draconian sanctions that are really a modern-day siege, the likes of which we are seeing Saudi Arabia wage against Yemen, that have caused tens of thousands of Syrian civilians to die and to starve, and I would make sure that we stop supporting terrorists like Al Qaeda in Syria who have been the ground force in this ongoing regime-change war.”

This remarkable admission that American imperialism was allied in Syria with Al Qaeda—the supposed main enemy in the “war on terror” now nearly 20 years old—was passed over in silence by the three media “moderators”, two from CNN and one from the Times, and by the other eleven candidates.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a military intelligence veteran of the Afghanistan war, tried to rebut Gabbard’s claim that Syria was a US-backed “regime-change” war. He reiterated the conventional presentation of the war as a struggle to defend civilians from the brutality of the government of President Bashar al-Assad, while not acknowledging that Washington and its allies among the Gulf sheikdoms had funneled money, weapons and Islamist gunmen for years in an effort to put a stooge regime into power in Damascus.

Gabbard responded, “So, really, what you’re saying, Mayor Pete, is that you would continue to support having U.S. troops in Syria for an indefinite period of time to continue this regime-change war that has caused so many refugees to flee Syria, that you would continue to have our country involved in a war that has undermined our national security, you would continue this policy of the U.S. actually providing arms in support to terrorist groups in Syria, like Al Qaeda, HTS, al-Nusra and others, because they are the ones who have been the ground force in this regime change war? That’s really what you’re saying?”

Buttigieg had no answer on the facts, merely declaring that Gabbard was advocating the same policy in Syria as Donald Trump. As for the corporate media, there was virtually no mention of Gabbard’s charge of a US-Al Qaeda alliance in Syria, and no attempt to refute it. Even to discuss that connection would call into question the entire foreign policy of American imperialism in the Middle East.

Gabbard is neither a pacifist nor an opponent of imperialism, but a serving military officer in the Army Reserve who did two tours of duty in Iraq, including in 2005 at the height of the war, and took several weeks off from the campaign in August for a unit training exercise in Indonesia—part of the US preparations for a future war with China.

New praying mantis species discovered in Peru


This 17 October 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Dr. Gavin Svenson, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s Director of Research & Collections and Curator of Invertebrate Zoology, discovered a new species of praying mantis on an insect survey expedition in the Amazon Rainforest. The mantis, named Vespamantoida wherleyi, is brightly colored and mimics wasps in an effort to ward off predators—a combination that has never been seen before. The discovery and analysis have had widespread implications for the Mantoididae family.

From the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in the USA:

Scientists discover new species of wasp-mimicking praying mantis

Peruvian mantis represents the first known example of a praying mantis species conspicuously mimicking a wasp

October 17, 2019

Cleveland Museum of Natural History Director of Research & Collections and Curator of Invertebrate Zoology Dr. Gavin Svenson and former Case Western Reserve University graduate student, Henrique Rodrigues, have discovered a new species of praying mantis, described as the first known mantis species to conspicuously mimic a wasp. In addition, the new species joins one previously described species within a newly erected genus Vespamantoida. The results of the team’s findings were published today in the online journal PeerJ.

The new species, named Vespamantoida wherleyi, was discovered near the Amazon River in Peru in 2013 during a general entomological survey of the field site. The male specimen was attracted to a light trap, and its bright coloration and wasp-like shape and behavior immediately caught the team’s eye.

“Typically, the majority of species differentiation is discovered and confirmed within a lab or collection setting,” explains Dr. Svenson. “To have that rare eureka moment where you know you have found something new in the field is incredibly exciting.”

The mantis exhibited a bright red-orange coloration, as well as the body structure, erratic locomotion patterns, and even antennae behavior typically associated with most wasp species. This apparent style of mimicry, known as Batesian mimicry, is a strategy in which a mostly harmless organism adopts the appearance, and occasionally the behaviors, of an organism known to pose a greater threat to would-be predators.

“In nature, when you are intentionally conspicuous, you are advertising something,” says Dr. Svenson. “When you are a species that can be easily taken as prey, you advertise because you want predators to think that you are poisonous, or could injure them, or any combination of unpleasant factors that tell the predator to think twice before pursuing you.”

In the mantis world, mimicry of vegetation is a fundamental strategy, but wasp mimicry in adults is unique, and limited to just one family, of which Vespamantoida is now a part. Until the discovery of V. wherleyi, however, mantis mimicry strategies were theorized to aid the mantis primarily in hiding from predators, and occasionally in luring prey. The conspicuous appearance and behavior of V. wherleyi represent a novel form of defensive mimicry whereby the mantis imitates a harmful organism’s natural defense signals to warn predators away. It is a strategy that is unique among known mantises.

“There are about 2,500 species of mantises described,” says Dr. Svenson. “I’d put a bet on there being about 5,000. So, I think we’re just halfway there. I think the most interesting thing about this family of mantises is the fact that most of the adults do mimic wasps, and that is quite unique for praying mantises. I think the next natural thing is to study the evolutionary biology of the lineage. If wasp mimicry is successful in this lineage, why has it not evolved in the other lineages as well? Why have no other species within the family evolved brightly colored wasp mimicry? We’re just not sure.”

Trump’s ‘ceasefire’ OKs Erdogan invasion of Syria


This 12 October 2019 video says about itself:

Protesters across the world condemn Erdoğan‘s invasion of northeastern Syria

Thousands of Kurdish residents of Qamishli and Tal Abyad protested against the Turkish invasion of northern Syria. Solidarity protests with Kurds, and against the Turkish invasion were also organized in the UK, Germany, Spain and other countries. Protesters condemned the offensive as yet another attempt by Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan to suppress the struggles of Kurdish people.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

US claims “ceasefire” deal in Turkey’s invasion of Syria

18 October 2019

The Trump administration claimed Thursday that it had achieved a major diplomatic victory by negotiating a “cease-fire” in the eight day old Turkish offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria. The US president had himself green-lighted the invasion in an October 6 phone call with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and then pulled back US Special Forces troops deployed on the Syrian-Turkish border to facilitate the operation.

Announced at a press conference convened by US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the US embassy in Ankara, the existence of a “cease-fire” was immediately denied by Turkish officials, who asserted that they would never reach such a deal with “terrorist” forces. Ankara regards the YPG, which served as the Pentagon’s main proxy ground forces in the so-called war on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as a branch of the PKK, the Kurdish separatist movement in Turkey, against which it has waged a brutal counterinsurgency campaign for the past three decades.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a 13-point “Joint Turkey US Statement on Northeast Syria” Thursday afternoon. Nowhere does the document mention a cease-fire, instead stating that Turkey will “pause” its offensive in Syria for 120 hours “to allow the withdrawal of the YPG”. Once the Kurdish militia is driven from the Syrian-Turkish border—the principal objective of the Turkish invasion—the military campaign dubbed Operation Peace Spring will be halted, according to the terms of the agreement.

The document begins by affirming the status of the US and Turkey as NATO allies and goes on to declare Washington’s understanding of Ankara’s “legitimate security concerns on Turkey’s southern border” and to affirm a commitment to “protecting NATO territories and NATO populations against all threats.”

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said after the meeting between Erdogan and the US officials, “We got what we wanted … This means that the US has approved the legitimacy of our operations and aims.”

The deal also promises that no new US sanctions will be imposed against Turkey, and that existing sanctions will be lifted once the military operations in Syria are brought to a halt.

The invasion by the Turkish army has killed several hundred and sent at least 200,000 Syrian Kurds fleeing south for their lives. Atrocities have been attributed to Turkish-backed Islamist militias, drawn from the same Al Qaeda-linked forces that were previously armed and funded by the CIA in the regime change war against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Preening before the cameras in Fort Worth, Texas, Trump described the deal with Turkey—which amounted to Washington’s ceding to all of Ankara’s demands—as historic, “something they’ve been trying to get for 10 years, everybody, and they couldn’t get it.” He asserted that “millions of lives” had been saved, as if the shaky pause in the fighting on Syria’s northern border meant an end to the country’s eight year old conflict. He credited the deal to his “unconventional” approach and “rough love.”

In a rare statement of truth, Trump blamed the Obama administration for having “lost more than half a million lives in a very short period in the same region” during the protracted regime change operation launched in 2011.

The day before the Pence-Erdogan meeting in Ankara, Trump had told a White House press conference that the fighting on the Turkish-Syrian border had “nothing to do with us” and was “not our problem”. He referred dismissively to the YPG, which suffered some 11,000 casualties in the US intervention in Syria, suggesting that they were mercenaries who were “paid a lot of money to fight”, adding that they were “no angels”.

In response to growing bipartisan criticism, the White House also released an October 9 letter to Erdogan in which Trump warned the Turkish president that he would be seen as a “devil” if Turkey continued its offensive, while telling him “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” Turkish officials reported that Erdogan threw the letter in the trash and responded by stepping up the military assault in Syria.

The joint statement issued Thursday declares US-Turkish agreement on the establishment of a “safe zone in order to address the national security concerns of Turkey”, adding that this zone will be “primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces and the two sides will increase their cooperation in all dimensions of its implementation.”

The statement gives no precise definition of the “safe zone”, nor spells out what role the US will play in its imposition. Pence told the press conference in Ankara that it would extend roughly 20 miles south of the Turkish-Syrian border but gave no indication of what length of the border it would cover. The Erdogan government has indicated its intention to occupy a 200-mile strip covering all of northeastern Syria from the Euphrates River to the Syrian border with Iraq.

Ankara has long advocated the creation of a “safe zone” inside the Syrian border, both to break up the semi-autonomous region carved out by the Kurds, and to create an area for the training and arming of Islamist militias in order to escalate the bloody sectarian civil war launched with the purpose of overthrowing Assad.

And to deport Syrian refugees in Turkey (who are not from north east Syria) to.

Erdogan has also stated his intention to send millions of Syrian Sunni Arab refugees from Turkey into the “zone”, an exercise in ethnic cleansing against the Kurds.

The demand for such a “zone” has been echoed by US Republicans like the late Senator John McCain, as well as Democrats such as Hillary Clinton, who made it part of her 2016 presidential platform. Both supported it as a means of prosecuting the war for regime change in Syria.

The US-Turkish proposal for carving out a “safe zone” is further complicated by the deployment of Syrian government troops along with Russian military units, which have moved into the cities of Kobane and Manbij, taking over bases abandoned by the US Special Forces that Trump ordered to withdraw. Syrian government troops have also moved into Raqqa, the former “capital” of ISIS which was decimated by US airstrikes.

The Kurdish militia forces announced on Sunday that they had invited the Syrian government and Russian forces to fill the vacuum left by the withdrawal of US troops in order to protect the population from the Turkish invasion. According to some reports, YPG militiamen in the border areas have integrated themselves into the government forces.

While Pence claimed at the press conference in Ankara that the Erdogan government had agreed not to engage in any military action in the Syrian city of Kobane, Foreign Minister Cavusoglu directly contradicted the US vice president, saying, “We did not make any promises about Kobane,” and that the issue would be discussed with Russia. …

While condemning the “betrayal” of the Pentagon’s erstwhile Kurdish proxy forces, the principal concern among politicians of both big business parties is that Trump has ceded ground in the Middle East to both Russia and Iran.

Faced with mounting political crisis, as well as intensification of the class struggle and social tensions within the United States, the threat of an escalation of US militarism in the region will intensify, regardless of the deal struck in Ankara. The danger is that the increasingly complex conflicts on the Syrian-Turkish border can erupt into a wider war, dragging in the entire region as well as the world’s two major nuclear powers, the US and Russia.

Fighting continued in northeastern Turkey in the wake of an agreement struck Thursday between US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. At least 14 civilians were reported killed Friday in air strikes and shelling near the bitterly contested Syrian border town of Ras Al-Ain: here.