Fennec foxes, video


This 18 October 2019 video says about itself:

Fennec Foxes Are All Ears

In one of the world’s most inhospitable places lives one of the cutest predators.

This is the Fennec Fox.

‘Free jailed Egyptian blogger’


This 19 October 2019 video says about itself:

UN urges Egypt to release detained blogger

The U.N. human rights office called on Egypt on Friday to free a prominent blogger, lawyer and journalist allegedly mistreated in custody who are among nearly 2,000 people detained since street protests began a month ago.

Officials at the interior ministry were not immediately available for comment. The state prosecutor’s office said in late September that it had questioned a number not exceeding 1,000 suspects who took part in the demonstrations.

“Unfortunately such arrests are continuing, and have included a number of well-known and respected civil society figures,” U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a news briefing in Geneva.

Protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo and other cities have followed online calls for demonstrations against alleged government corruption.

Sisi, who came to power after, while army chief, leading the 2013 overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, has overseen a broad crackdown on dissent that has extended to liberal and Islamist groups, and which rights groups say is the most severe in recent memory.

Journalist and activist Esraa Abdelfattah was arrested by plainclothes security officers in Cairo on Oct. 12 and was reportedly beaten after she refused to unlock her mobile phone, Shamdasani said. Abdelfattah is on a hunger strike, she added.

Alaa Abdel Fattah, a blogger and software engineer, was released in March after serving a five-year sentence for protesting without permission, but was re-arrested on Sept 29, Shamdasani said. The same day, his lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer, was arrested while attending the interrogation, she added.

Abdel Fattah was struck by guards on his back and neck while being forced to walk down a corridor in his underwear, while al-Baqer has been subjected to physical and verbal abuse, and denied water and medical aid, she said.

American mountain lions, research and conservation


This September 2014 video from the USA is called Mountain lion encounter in Montana.

From the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the USA:

Whole genome sequencing could help save pumas from inbreeding

October 18, 2019

Summary: The first complete genetic sequences of individual mountain lions point the way to better conservation strategies for saving threatened populations of the wild animals.

When students at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) found a dead mule deer on campus, they figured it had been killed by coyotes. Wildlife biologist Chris Wilmers rigged up a video camera to spy on the carcass at night. But the animal that crept out of the shadows to dine on the deer was no coyote — it was a mountain lion.

Mountain lions, or pumas, stay close to their prey, “so it must have been hiding in a nearby gorge all day,” says Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Beth Shapiro, an evolutionary biologist at UCSC.

The persistent puma was already well-known by Wilmers, who had radio-collared and tagged him as part of a long-term study of California mountain lions. But now the animal, dubbed 36m, is becoming even more famous: he’s the first puma to have his complete genome deciphered by scientists.

The information in 36m’s genes may lead to better conservation strategies, Shapiro, Wilmers, and their colleagues report October 18, 2019, in the journal Nature Communications. Many puma populations across North America are becoming increasingly isolated, Wilmers says. That ups their chances of succumbing to inbreeding and its consequences — serious abnormalities such as damaged hearts and malformed sperm. But with whole genomic information, scientists can pinpoint populations that need an influx of new genes or identify the best pumas to move between populations.

Such work could stop inbreeding in its tracks and help keep local populations from going extinct, Shapiro says. “This is the first time that whole genomes have been used in this way.”

Pumas in peril

The team’s new sequencing work is not the first effort to unlock pumas’ genetic secrets. Years of painstaking research by geneticist Stephen O’Brien, molecular ecologist Warren Johnson, and others had previously shown that Florida’s tiny population of pumas (also known as cougars or panthers) had become dangerously inbred, resulting in health defects like holes in their hearts and missing testicles. These abnormalities threatened the animals’ ability to reproduce.

The research team also proved that the introduction of eight female cougars from west Texas in 1995 had added enough new genes to boost health and help the population grow from about 30 individuals to more than 120. But the team’s effort was limited by the genetic technology available at the time, which relied on analyzing just small snapshots of DNA, or markers, scattered throughout the genome. So the scientists didn’t have a complete picture of the pumas’ genes.

Animals get two versions of every gene — one from mom and, usually, a different one from dad. This means that offspring have the genetic diversity needed to keep populations healthy. But when populations become small and isolated, relatives breed with each other. As a result, genetic diversity plunges, and many genome locations end up with two identical versions of a gene. That’s when weird things happen to animals, like the kinked tails, damaged hearts, and malformed sperm found in the inbred Florida panthers before the infusion of Texas cougar genes.

Using DNA markers alone, scientists can estimate the average amount of genetic variation within a population and get a rough picture of the level of inbreeding. But this approach can’t say whether major stretches of DNA between those markers contain copies of genes that are the same. These runs of identical gene copies are crucial, says Johnson, who is at the Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit and affiliated with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Species Survival.

The number and length of these stretches provide a precise measure of both the extent of inbreeding and how recent it is — and, therefore, how close a population is to falling off a genetic cliff. Inbreeding is not a slow and progressive process, Shapiro explains. Instead, once enough long runs of DNA with identical copies accumulate, the effects of inbreeding kick in suddenly, like turning off a light switch, she says.

From mammoths to mountain lions

Shapiro is best known for recovering and sequencing tiny bits of DNA from ancient bones, charting the genetic changes in mammoths and other now-extinct animals as their numbers shrank. But she also has a keen interest in applying the same techniques to existing creatures, like the North American mountain lion. She wants to learn more about the genetic roads to extinction — and possibly prevent those creatures from suffering the same fate. While talking with Wilmers one day about the Santa Cruz lion population, the two scientists realized that a crucial piece of information was missing: the puma’s complete genetic sequence.

Using blood that Wilmers had already collected from puma 36m, Shapiro and her team, including graduate student Nedda Saremi and postdoc Megan Supple, read the lion’s entire genome to serve as a reference for the species. Then, for comparison, they sequenced the genomes of nine other mountain lions using stored samples — another from the Santa Cruz area, two from the Santa Monica mountains, one from Yellowstone, three from Florida, and one from Brazil.

The work let Shapiro see what had taken years to figure out in Florida — that the translocation of Texas cougars had boosted genetic diversity and health of the Florida panthers. The sequences also brought new insights: even after mixing in the Texas DNA, the Florida population remains closer to the genetic brink than previously thought. “The big takeaway is that translocation worked, but the lights are going to go off because they continue to inbreed,” Shapiro explains.

Similarly, the population in the Santa Cruz Mountains “is not doing as well as we expected,” she says. The 10 genomes also held controversial hints that mountain lions may have existed in North America far longer than previously thought — as many as 300,000 years, instead of fewer than 20,000 years. “What Beth and her students are able to learn from just 10 individuals greatly extends what could be inferred with traditionally used DNA markers,” Johnson says.

More insights will come as scientists ramp up whole genome sequencing. Sequencing the full genomes of many individuals across a species’ range is “tremendously valuable,” explains Brad Shaffer, director of the UCLA La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science. “That can tell us a lot about the potential for climate adaptation and other critical conservation goals.” And with costs rapidly declining — Shapiro says reading 36m’s genome cost about $10,000, down from $30,000 a couple of years ago, with subsequent lions sequenced for just $400 each — O’Brien and others are pushing for a much larger effort. “Whole genome sequencing should be done for every critter we can catch,” says O’Brien, of Nova Southeastern University.

Already, Shapiro’s work is shining a powerful new spotlight on the genetic health of individual mountain lions and populations, pointing the way to more effective conservation strategies. Isolated populations, for example, may benefit from wildlife bridges across major highways, to allow animals to wander more widely. In other cases, scientists may need to move animals from one region to another. Overall, a more complete picture of the genome makes it possible to spot populations at greatest risk for inbreeding ¬- and the best candidates for translocation.

“Now we can make more informed decisions,” says Johnson. “In the past, we made decisions based on limited genetic information.” The new approach takes out much of the uncertainty about a population’s genetic heritage, he says. It also offers clues about how to preserve genetic variation and may help populations adapt to change.

Though puma 36m didn’t live to see any of these advances, his genetic legacy will remain. “While 36m was a badass puma by any measure, he might one day come to be the most recognized puma anywhere,” Wilmers wrote in a tribute.”[His] will be the puma genome against which other puma genomes can be compared and used to test all sorts of evolutionary and ecological questions.”

Ancient Chinese historian on the Roman empire


This 13 October 2019 video says about itself:

Ancient Chinese Historian Describes The Roman Empire // 3rd century AD “Weilüe” // Primary Source

“The ruler of Da Qin is not permanent. When disasters result from unusual phenomena, they unceremoniously replace him, installing a virtuous man as king, and release the old king, who does not dare show resentment…”

Here we have the words of the early third-century Chinese historian Yu Huan, who lived during the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. Though he never left China, he collected large amounts of information on the countries to the West, chief among them the Roman Empire.

Enormous thanks to John E. Hill for kindly allowing us to use his translation, and for tips on the possible locations mentioned and correct pronunciation. There is still some debate on some of the places mentioned in the text, so please enjoy debating further about it!

Young European eels, new research


This 3 April 2018 video from Germany is called Glass eel restocking in Hamburg.

From the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science in the USA:

New study uncovers ‘magnetic’ memory of European glass eels

Researchers find first evidence of a fish capable of forming and retaining a magnetic memory of water currents

October 17, 2019

A new study led by researchers at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and at the Institute of Marine Research in Norway found that European glass eels use their magnetic sense to “imprint” a memory of the direction of water currents in the estuary where they become juveniles. This is the first direct evidence that a species of fish uses its internal magnetic compass to form a memory of current direction.

“It’s an important step forward in understanding the migratory behavior of the commercially important European eel and in expanding our knowledge of the orientation mechanisms that fish use to migrate,” said Alessandro Cresci, a Ph.D. student at the UM Rosenstiel School and first author of the paper. “This research should provide awareness that tiny young eels can accomplish incredible tasks to migrate.”

The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is a migratory species that crosses the Atlantic Ocean twice during its life. After hatching in the Sargasso Sea, eel larvae move more than 5,000 kilometers with the Gulf Stream until reaching the continental slope of Europe. There, they metamorphose into the post-larval transparent glass eel and continue the migration across the continental shelf to the coast. After reaching the coast, glass eels enter estuaries, where some of them continue their migration upstream into freshwater until later in life (up to 50 years), when as silver eels, they navigate back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn and die.

The research team collected over 200 glass eels from various estuaries in the archipelago of Austevoll, Norway flowing in different directions: north, south, southeast or northwest. The fish were then placed in a magnetic laboratory, the “MagLab”, where magnetic north was rotated to observe their magnetic orientation. In each case the eels oriented towards the magnetic direction of the prevailing tidal current occurring at their recruitment estuary at the time of the tests.

The findings show that glass eels use their magnetic compass to memorize the magnetic direction of tidal flows in their recruitment estuary, which may help them orient in moving water during migration.

“Surprisingly, fish early life behavior can be goal oriented.” said Claire Paris, professor of ocean sciences at the UM Rosenstiel School. “This study complements previous findings showing innate magnetic sense in glass eels and highlights the importance of understanding the complexities of larval behavior. There is a lot we need to learn.”

The European eel is a commercially important species that is critically endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Eel populations have declined precipitously since the 1980.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez supports Sanders for US president


This 19 October 2019 video from New York City in the USA says about itself:

HIGHLIGHTS from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘s endorsement of Bernie Sanders for President.

This 19 October 2019 video from New York City in the USA says about itself:

Filmmaker Michael Moore speaks at the “Bernie‘s Back” Rally in Queens on Oct. 19, 2019 and endorses Senator Bernie Sanders for President.