Pine grosbeak and owls in Sweden


This video is about three birds in Sweden: a pine grosbeak, a northern hawk-owl and a Ural owl.

African grey parrots help each other


This 2008 video says about itself:

African Grey Parrots in the Wild

Grey Parrots (Psittacus erythacus) foraging and flying in Cameroon, Africa. To help save wild grey parrots, please support us by clicking on the DONATE button and learn more about what we’re doing for these birds here.

From ScienceDaily:

African grey parrots spontaneously ‘lend a wing’

January 9, 2020

People and other great apes are known for their willingness to help others in need, even strangers. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on January 9 have shown for the first time that some birds — and specifically African grey parrots — are similarly helpful.

“We found that African grey parrots voluntarily and spontaneously help familiar parrots to achieve a goal, without obvious immediate benefit to themselves,” says study co-author Désirée Brucks of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany.

Parrots and crows are known for having large brains relative to the size of their bodies and problem-solving skills to match. For that reason, they are sometimes considered to be “feathered apes”, explain Brucks and study co-author Auguste von Bayern.

However, earlier studies showed that, despite their impressive social intelligence, crows don’t help other crows. In their new study, Brucks and von Bayern wondered: what about parrots?

To find out, they enlisted several African grey parrots and blue-headed macaws. Both parrot species were eager to trade tokens with an experimenter for a nut treat. But, their findings show, only the African grey parrots were willing to transfer a token to a neighbor parrot, allowing the other individual to earn a nut reward.

“Remarkably, African grey parrots were intrinsically motivated to help others, even if the other individual was not their friend, so they behaved very ‘prosocially'”, von Bayern says. “It surprised us that 7 out of 8 African grey parrots provided their partner with tokens spontaneously — in their very first trial — thus without having experienced the social setting of this task before and without knowing that they would be tested in the other role later on. Therefore, the parrots provided help without gaining any immediate benefits and seemingly without expecting reciprocation in return.”

Importantly, she notes, the African grey parrots appeared to understand when their help was needed. When they could see the other parrot had an opportunity for exchange, they’d pass a token over. Otherwise, they wouldn’t.

The parrots would help out whether the other individual was their “friend” or not, she adds. But, their relationship to the other individual did have some influence. When the parrot in need of help was a “friend”, the helper transferred even more tokens.

The researchers suggest the difference between African greys and blue-headed macaws may relate to differences in their social organization in the wild. Despite those species differences, the findings show that helping behavior is not limited to humans and great apes but evolved independently also in birds.

It remains to be seen how widespread helping is across the 393 different parrot species and what factors may have led to its evolution. The researchers say that further studies are required to investigate the underlying mechanisms of the parrots’ helping behavior. For instance, how do parrots tell when one of their peers needs help? And, what motivates them to respond?

‘Australian climate-denialist government kills a billion animals’


This 6 January 2020 video says about itself:

Australia bush fires have affected over 1 billion animals, pushing many toward extinction

Australia’s iconic wild animals are being caught up in the nation’s months-long bush fire crisis, with many species now in danger of extinction. The South China Morning Post spoke with Christopher Dickman, an ecology professor at the University of Sydney, who estimates that more than 1 billion animals have been affected by the widespread fires.

Translated from Roel Pauw of Dutch NOS radio today:

“More than a billion animals will not survive forest fires in Australia

Very carefully vet Jasmin Hunter and her assistants remove the bandage from the legs of a kangaroo. He is lying on a mattress with a towel over his head and is slightly numb. All forms of stress must be avoided. Whether he will make it is still uncertain.

“More than a billion animals will not survive the forest fires in Australia,” said Chris Dickman, professor of ecology at the University of Sydney. That number is actually many times greater because, eg, about frogs and bats we do not know how many occurred in the affected areas. They are therefore not included in the estimates. Just as little as fish, insects and other invertebrates.

Many animals die in the flames, or because of heat stress, and more thousands animals of will die in the coming weeks and months due to lack of food, because their habitat has also been lost. And according to Dickman, the decline will continue for years because, for example, old trees with possible nest cavities have been burned or fallen.

The ecologist fears that this catastrophe could mean the end for a number of rare animals with a small range. The long-footed potoroo, a small marsupial, is an example of this.

Scorched forests

There are animals that have just managed to get to safety, but are injured. That is why Wires (Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service) volunteers drive into the scorched forests of Southwest Australia every day to look for them. According to Christie Jarrett, everything comes in such as birds, kangaroos, wallabies, snakes and squirrels.

Animals with damaged lungs, due to the inhalation of smoke and hot air, have been put to death and are given a syringe to put them to sleep. Animals with burn wounds are treated with great care. Complicated cases and animals classified as endangered go to one of the sites of the Taronga Zoo.

Uncertain whether an animal will survive

“In principle, every animal goes back to where it was found,” says Jarrett. “Sometimes that means that we have to feed it until nature has recovered. But that is not possible with all animals either. That does not work with koalas, for example. So it remains uncertainwhether an animal will ultimately survive, no matter how much time and energy we have there. have put in. ”

“Twenty years ago, scientists warned about this type of large, uncontrollable forest fire,” says Professor Dickman. “For twenty years all our advice has been ignored by politicians. I hope that after this disaster we will be invited again to talk about the policy.”

For Christie Jarrett, it starts with everyone acknowledging that climate change is a fact and that people need to change their behavior. “We need to protect those animals much better, because without them we wouldn’t be there in the end.”

This 6 January 2020 video says about itself:

Paul the koala makes miraculous recovery after rescue from Australian bushfire l GMA Digital

Paul was found burnt and barely alive in the ashes — but look at him now!

HOW TO HELP SUPPORT THE AUSTRALIAN WILDFIRES RELIEF EFFORT: here.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Australian climate activists vow to press on with protests in defiance of ‘government’s criminal negligence

AUSTRALIAN climate activists have vowed to defy politicians by pressing ahead with protests targeting Prime Minister Scott Morrison over wildfires that have ravaged large swathes of the country.

Victoria state Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville described the demonstrations, set to take place in nine cities as “selfish and reckless,” with today expected to be a high fire danger day. …

But critics have accused the authorities of hypocrisy after the New South Wales state administration refused to cancel a huge New Year’s Eve firework display in Sydney.

Many of today’s protests have been organised under the slogan Sack Scomo – short for Scott Morrison – reflecting widespread anger at his handling of the fires.

“We’re protesting this Friday because we’re outraged about our government’s criminal negligence about the bushfire crisis, exacerbated by climate change,” said one group on Facebook.

“We are protesting to give a voice to the tens of thousands of people who want real action on climate change and real funding for relief services.”

They are organising around five key demands and calling on supporters to donate to fire relief efforts.

At least 27 people are known to have died in the fires and thousands have lost their homes. Millions of animals have also been killed.

This 8 January 2020 video from Australia says about itself:

AUSTRALIAN BUSHFIRE EMERGENCY: We are STILL on FIRE / Yasmin Scott

Didn’t feel like doing a video today. But the heartache of the destruction of what is STILL happening & we have been screaming & begging about climate change for YEARS I made this video.

AUSTRALIA ARSON MISINFORMATION UNDERMINES CLIMATE LINK Multiple Australian state police agencies have found limited evidence to suggest the major destructive wildfires in their states were ignited by arsonists, contradicting the international onslaught of misinformation suggesting otherwise. [HuffPost]

Lack of action on climate change leads to warmest decade ever recorded: here.

How prehistoric whales fed, new research


This 2014 video says about itself:

Morphed: When Whales had Legs

Examine the environmental pressures that turned a wolflike creature that hunted in shallow waters into a leviathan of the seas. We witness the ancient turning points in the whales’ evolutionary journey, and how the ice age became its unlikely savior.

From Nagoya University in Japan:

A ‘pivotal’ moment for understanding whale evolution

January 9, 2020

Scientists could soon better investigate the feeding behaviors of extinct dolphin and whale species. A third-year student at Japan’s Nagoya University has found that the range of motion offered by the joint between the head and neck in modern-day cetaceans, a group of marine mammals that also includes porpoises, accurately reflects how they feed. The authors of the study, published in the Journal of Anatomy, suggest this method could help overcome current limitations in extrapolating the feeding behaviors of extinct cetaceans.

Taro Okamura of Nagoya University and Shin-ichi Fujiwara of the Nagoya University Museum examined the skulls and cervical skeletons of 56 cetaceans that are still in existence, representing 30 different species. They assessed the range of motion of the ‘atlanto-occipital joint’ in each skeleton, a joint that forms between the base of the skull and the first cervical vertebra. They then categorized each cetacean according to their well-studied feeding behaviors, including how they approach their prey, move it within their oral cavities, and swallow it.

“We found that the range of neck-head flexibility strongly reflects the difference of feeding strategies among whales and dolphins,” says Okamura. “This index can be easily applied to reconstruct the feeding strategies of extinct whales and dolphins,” he adds.

Cetaceans are known for their diverse behaviors, physiologies, ecologies and diets. Some cetaceans feed on organisms in the open water, while others feed on those found near the ocean floor. Some whales are ram feeders, widely opening their mouths to gather zooplankton and other actively swimming organisms into their mouths while moving forward. Other whales, like the sperm whale, suction their prey into their oral cavities. The orca whale and some dolphins bite the fish they catch into smaller segments, a process that may require head movement. Other dolphins swallow their prey whole.

Until now, scientists have used the structures of teeth, throat bones and lower jaws in cetacean fossils to develop an idea of what their feeding behaviors might have looked like. But these individual features can’t accurately predict the behaviors of extinct cetaceans. For example, the teeth of some suction feeders, like those of the sperm whale, aren’t suggestive of this kind of feeding. Okamura and Fujiwara propose that using a combination of features, which include the range of motion of the atlanto-occipital joint, could help to develop more accurate descriptions of extinct cetacean feeding behaviors.

In prehistoric times, many different types of cetaceans existed, including ones with walrus-like tusks, extremely long snouts, and an ancient sperm whale with huge predatory teeth. The ancient baleen whale had teeth, whereas modern-day baleen whales have ‘baleen’, or fringed plates, in their place. This has created much interest in how baleen whale feeding, for example, has evolved from catching prey with teeth to filtering it with baleen.

The two researchers next plan to determine the atlanto-occipital joint range of motion in some of these cetacean fossils to attempt to develop reconstructions of how they used to feed. Answering these questions could help reveal the evolutionary process of the diverse feeding behaviors among cetaceans.

Florida, USA invasive fish, wrong name corrected


This 2014 aquarium video says about itself:

A pair of my ‘next generation’ Cichlasoma dimerus are guarding a huge number of fry . . . all from a female about 3″ SL.

From the Florida Museum of Natural History in the USA:

Fish switch: Identity of mystery invader in Florida waters corrected after 20 years

January 8, 2020

Sometimes scientists make mistakes. Case in point is the chanchita, a South American freshwater fish that has been swimming in Florida’s waters for at least two decades, all the while identified by experts as another invader, the black acara.

Although the two species look strikingly similar, the black acara is tropical, a native of equatorial South America, while the subtropical chanchita isn’t typically found north of Southern Brazil. Because the chanchita is more cold-tolerant, researchers say it could have a more widespread impact in Florida than the black acara and could threaten native species in North Central Florida ecosystems.

“Even the professionals get it wrong,” said Robert Robins, Florida Museum of Natural History ichthyology collection manager. “The chanchita has been right here, right under our noses. It’s spread into seven different counties and five different river drainages in Florida, well beyond the Tampa Bay drainage where it appears to have been first introduced.”

Introduced by the pet trade, the black acara has been a well-known invader in the Miami area since the 1950s and is now common in South Florida. When a similar cichlid appeared in the waters draining into North Tampa Bay around 2000, scientists assumed the black acara was simply expanding its range or had been introduced a second time.

The misidentification was finally spotted by sharp-eyed amateur fish collectors as well as Mary Brown, a biologist who studies non-native fishes. Brown questioned Robins’ assertion that a specimen he brought home from holiday collecting near Tampa in 2017 was a black acara, Cichlasoma bimaculatum. Although the fish had the same general appearance, something wasn’t adding up.

“The body color and the pattern on the scales on its head just looked a little different,” said Brown, a scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey Wetland and Aquatic Research Center. “It wasn’t the same as the black acara I’ve come across while conducting non-native fish surveys in South Florida.”

Meanwhile Ryan Crutchfield, founder of the fish identification database FishMap.org, was getting feedback from amateur collectors that he’d misidentified a fish as a black acara for an article on the history of the species in Florida. Crutchfield, Robins and Brown took a closer look at the specimens in question, eventually identifying them as the chanchita, Cichlasoma dimerus.

“I don’t think anyone except for the amateurs who have an interest in fishes of Florida thought twice about whether or not these fish were black acara,” Robins said. “They’re out there collecting stuff while quite honestly a lot of us are stuck behind our computers typing emails.”

Because of their hardiness and bright colors, cichlids are often coveted by aquarists. But with about 1,900 species — 20 of which are invasive in Florida — and constant revision to the family’s classification, cichlid identification becomes tricky, Robins said.

Robins said that life color, or how a fish appears in its environment, was likely an essential indicator to amateur collectors the chanchita had found its way to Central Florida. Cichlids can change color according to their surroundings, temperament and time of day. But the colorful variations between species disappear in a laboratory setting, where they’re often preserved in alcohol and lose nearly all coloration.

“When we started going out into the field and collecting them and actually finding them in breeding condition or as dominant males, they’re stunningly beautiful,” Robins said. “I think that’s what the amateur community was keying in on. They’re the ones detecting life color, and that was really instructive in determining this was a different species.”

Once the researchers determined the Tampa invader wasn’t a black acara, it came down to microscopic differences in physiology to identify the species as the chanchita. They relied on CT scanning to zoom in on the number of teeth in the specimen’s outer lower jaw and tiny fingerlike structures along the fish’s fourth gill arch.

The Florida Museum’s ichthyology collection was instrumental in providing insight into the chanchita’s invasion timeline, with specimens dating back 20 years. These specimens had been incorrectly cataloged as black acara, but were key indicators of when the chanchita colonized Central Florida, where the species formed reproducing populations as early as 2000.

Brown said non-native fish species like the chanchita have the potential to impact Florida’s aquatic ecosystems by outcompeting native fishes for habitat and food resources.

“Locating and identifying non-native fishes requires an interdisciplinary approach and coordination with partners from across the state,” she said. “This finding is leading us to look at other non-native fish species — it’s possible that there may be other fish out there that are misidentified, and properly identifying the species is critical for proper management.”

Florida is a welcoming arena for invaders to compete with native species and one another due to the state’s intersection of tropical and temperate climates. Constant invasions pose a challenge to conservationists and can often threaten already-endangered native species. Robins said Florida waters could be the chanchita’s first chance at meeting the black acara — and what happens afterward is anyone’s guess.

“Will they hybridize? Would it matter other than just making things more confusing? Are there other species of acara that have been let loose and established populations? What’s actually happening in the environment?” Robins said. “Florida’s aquatic ecosystems are, in a nutshell, one big experiment.”