White storks rest on church in Malta


This video says about itself:

Some of the White Storks which visited Malta in March 2020 roosted for several nights around Mosta and Birkirkara. The storks spent more than a week on Malta.

Notably, four of them settled for several nights on the steeple of St. Theresa’s Church in Birkirkara. Members of the public took photos and footage of these majestic birds in this urban setting.

White Storks (Ċikonja Bajda in Maltese) are large birds, tall, with a 155-200 cm wingspan. They are completely white except for the black wing flight feathers, and their red bill and legs, which are black on juveniles. They walk slowly and steadily on the ground. Like all storks, the White Stork flies with its neck outstretched. For us in Malta, the White Stork is a rare migrant, both in spring and autumn. It is more common in autumn than in spring.

Footage and editing by Nathaniel Attard.

‘United States armed forces, stop honouring Confederacy’


This August 2017 video from the USA says about itself:

The Truth About America: Army Bases Around Nation Named After Confederate War Figures

Roland Martin and #NewsOneNow are going to expose the Truth about America. #TruthAboutAmerica will feature and expose the lies and half-truths taught in schools that still promote white supremacy.

Today’s focus on #TruthAboutAmerica exposes military bases named after Confederate generals who LOST the Civil War. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are ten army bases named after Confederate generals.

From VoteVets.org in the USA today:

Add your name to our petition asking the Army, Navy and Air Force to join the Marines in banning all Confederate flags and materials, and to rename 10 Army bases named after Confederate generals.

ADD YOUR NAME

Last month the commandant of the Marine Corps, General David Berger, ordered a ban on all Confederate flags and materials on Marine bases.

Now, VoteVets is launching a petition asking the secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force to join the Marines in banning Confederate symbols and requesting the Army rename 10 bases that bear the name of Confederate generals.

This isn’t about history — it’s about keeping symbols of hate out of our nation’s military. Soldiers of the Confederacy have a place in books, museums, and other educational centers that can properly teach – not honor – what they fought a war against the United States of America for.

If you’re with us, we need your signature on this petition today. Our military should not honor the Confederacy or those who decided to take up arms against the United States to defend slavery. Sign if you agree.

ADD YOUR NAME

These symbols have become rallying cries for hate, violence, and white supremacy. As the largest group representing veterans and military families, we have a unique voice to lend on this topic — so let’s send a message loud and clear.

Thanks for joining us,

VoteVets.org
ADD YOUR NAME

Pacific robins, four, not one species


This 2012 video from Australia says about itself:

Scarlet Robin

Found in Eastern NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Southern coastal areas of Western Australia.

From the University of Maryland Baltimore County in the USA:

One species to four: New analysis documents new bird diversity in the Pacific

March 6, 2020

Summary: New findings suggest several island bird populations in the Pacific that were previously designated as a single species actually comprise up to four distinct species. The results upend understanding of the islands’ robin populations, which have been used as a textbook example of evolution since the 1940s. The new findings have important implications for conservation, as some of the newly-designated species live only on a few isolated islands.

In the 1930s, famed biologist Ernst Mayr became the first to study Pacific Robins. Based on his observations of the robins and other birds on Australia and its outlying islands, he developed foundational concepts that continue to inform the study of evolution. He took copious notes on the birds’ physical characteristics, behaviors, and habitats. Always, he described the robin populations as a single species, albeit with significant variation from island to island.

Ernst Mayr made lasting contributions to evolutionary biology — but like most scientists, he wasn’t right about everything.

Bold new claims

Anna Kearns is a former UMBC postdoctoral fellow now at the Smithsonian Institution’s Conservation Biology Institute. With her UMBC postdoc advisor Kevin Omland and other colleagues, she has conducted new investigations into the relationships among Pacific Robins on various islands using many of the same bird specimens Mayr himself used. The difference is, “He would have mainly been just using his eyes” to compare specimens, Kearns says. She and her colleagues have had the advantage of major advances in technology since Mayr’s time.

Kearns has built on Mayr’s work by using techniques like DNA sequencing and spectrophotometry, which quantitatively compares the hue, brightness, and saturation of feathers. She has come to a more nuanced understanding of the relationships between, say, a robin on Fiji and one on the Solomon Islands.

As a result of this research, Kearns and colleagues from UMBC, the Australian National Wildlife Collection, Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History are making bold new claims about the relationships between these birds. In a 2015 paper in Conservation Genetics, Kearns demonstrated that robins living on Norfolk Island, directly east of mainland Australia, are a distinct species from the rest. A new paper in the Journal of Avian Biology published this month indicates two more unique species — one that inhabits the Solomon and Bougainville Islands, and another that lives on Fiji, Vanuatu, and Samoa.

Preserving biodiversity

The new work demonstrates just how much is still unknown about avian biodiversity. “Even in this well-studied group of birds, that’s been a textbook example since 1942, we did not really know what the units of biodiversity were,” says Omland, professor of biological sciences at UMBC, and senior author on the new paper.

Understanding those “units of biodiversity” is critical for conservation. When all the Pacific Robins and mainland Australia’s Scarlet Robin were considered a single species (a single unit of biodiversity), the loss of the birds on one or two islands would be unfortunate, but not necessarily very impactful. If those birds were actually the only remaining members of a unique species, however, the same loss becomes catastrophic.

“What Anna’s work is showing is that the bird populations on these islands have very distinctive traits,” Omland adds, “so just knowing what the biodiversity is that we want to conserve is super important.”

Unpredictable patterns

The team’s work indicates that all the Pacific Robins are descended from an ancestral Australian population where males were brightly-colored and females were dull-colored. But as small groups of robins colonized the outlying islands, the population on each island took its own evolutionary path. Today, some island groups still maintain the bright male and dull female pattern, but on other islands both sexes have evolved bright coloration. On other islands, both sexes have evolved dull coloration.

“When you look at the genetics, you find two distinct lineages” leading from the common ancestor to all the island populations that exist today, Kearns says. “So that means these patterns have evolved independently multiple times.”

Kearns and Omland think the changes have more to do with random forces than evolutionary adaptation. “If we flipped two coins, this is about what we’d expect,” Omland says.

For example, the pattern an island’s population ended up with could depend on the color of the individuals that happened to get blown onto that island initially. Also, in a very small population, the random way genes are redistributed from generation to generation can have a significant impact — as much of an effect or more than natural selection.

Detective work

Kearns and Omland are both excited to have the opportunity to suggest names for the new species they’ve identified. Kearns suggests “Mayr’s Robin” for the Fiji/Vanuatu/Samoa population, in honor of Ernst Mayr’s pioneering study of these birds.

But their contribution to ornithology is more than a name. “Because these birds are all on very small isolated islands, and Pacific birds are often on many, many, many isolated islands, collecting is very difficult. So there haven’t actually been that many comprehensive studies,” Kearns says. Revealing the complexity of the relationships among these robins adds much-needed information to the field. It also raises the prospect that other birds — especially those on islands — might have undergone similar, as-yet-unstudied, evolutionary processes.

The work is a unique blend of past and present. “You really wouldn’t be able to do this study without using these old collections,” Kearns says. At the same time, discovering the new species also wouldn’t have been possible without modern techniques.

“It’s kind of like detective work in a way,” Kearns says. “I feel like there’s just so much more we need to know about it. But we feel like we have made a big step forward.”

Giant extinct swans of Sicily and Malta


This 8 March 2020 video says about itself:

At one point in time giant swans inhabited Sicily and Malta alongside dwarf elephants, resulting in a pretty unique ecosystem. But what were these swans – Cygnus falconeri – like when they were alive?

Bernie Sanders campaign in the USA news


This video from the USA says about itself:

WISE 12-Year-Old Bernie Supporter: “Human Rights Violation” to Deprive People of Healthcare

Status Coup’s Jenn Dize spoke to Jordan Chariton who spoke with Alan, a 12-year-old Bernie Sanders supporter, in Grand Rapids Michigan on March 8th, 2020 (yes, his mom gave us permission!).

This 8 March 2020 video from the USA is called Bernie Sanders & AOC Rally 2 Days Before Michigan Primary–Jenn LIVE From Ann Arbor Michigan.

How burying beetles raise their offspring


This 2019 video says about itself:

A beetle (Nicrophorus vespilloides) finds a dead shrew. He takes the shrew and feeds his larvae. Finally, the larvae pupate and a new generation arises. 3 weeks compressed in 4 minutes.

From the University of Exeter in England:

Older beetle parents ‘less flexible’

March 6, 2020

Older parents are less flexible when it comes to raising their offspring, according to a new study of beetles.

University of Exeter scientists studied a species of burying beetle which raises its young on carcasses of small animals such as mice or birds.

They found that younger females adapted the number and total weight of offspring, and the effort they put into caring for them, based on the size of the carcass (smaller carcasses mean less food is available).

Meanwhile, older females largely ignored the conditions and put consistently high effort into reproduction.

“Being flexible can help organisms adapt to rapid changes in their environment,” said Dr Nick Royle, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“It makes sense to produce more offspring when food is plentiful, and less when it’s scarce.

“However, such flexibility takes effort and energy.

“So, for older beetles that may not get the chance to breed again, the best strategy might be to invest everything you have, regardless of the situation.”

Like baby birds, young burying beetles beg to their parents for food and are fed by regurgitation in return.

The researchers varied the size of carcass available to the beetles to see how mothers responded.

Young mothers showed restraint — when less food was available, they saved resources for future reproduction — while the effort put in by older mothers was largely unaffected by the size of the carcass available.

Dr Royle said: “Parental care is hard work — it is costly — so it makes sense not to expend more energy than is necessary if there is a good chance you will get an opportunity to breed again.

“That is what the younger mothers are doing here — protecting assets for future reproductive opportunities by not engaging in high-risk behaviours.

“Flexibility is the key to this.

“But for older mothers, the chance of them breeding again is less likely so it is better to just go for it now as they might not have a future.”

He added: “To our knowledge, this is the first time such age-dependent plasticity (flexibility) in parental care has been shown.

“It helps us to understand why there is such variation in plasticity in the natural world and how this can help organisms adapt to changes in their environment.

“Being plastic is good for burying beetles, but only when they are young.”