Royal albatross father feeds his chick, video


This 21 April 2020 video from New Zealand says about itself:

OGK Returns! Long Feeding Visit By Royal Albatross Parent | #RoyalCam | NZ DOC | Cornell Lab

After more than 4 weeks, the father of the Northern Royal Albatross chick returned to feed. According to rangers from the New Zealand Dept. of Conservation, he appears to be unfortunately injured; hopefully this is superficial and he can recover from this. We have no way of knowing what has happened while he was out over the ocean, but the fact that he returned and fed the chick and flew away from the colony are at least positive developments.

Coronavirus worldwide news


This 21 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Tea Party 2.0? Reopen Government Protests Linked To Right-Wing Donors

The ongoing protests endanger public health, but are supported by Trump and may be funded by right-wing donors.

Donors like the billionaire DeVos family of Trump’s Secretary of Miseducation Betsy DeVos; and the Koch brothers.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 21 April 2020:

Trump was given ‘realtime updates’ over Covid-19 as the pandemic developed

US SCIENTISTS at the World Health Organisation (WHO) headquarters gave US President Donald Trump “real-time updates” about the emergence and spread of coronavirus in China in late 2019, undermining his claims that the organisation covered up information in the early stages of what became a pandemic.

More than a dozen health experts working for the WHO in Geneva relayed regular information to Mr Trump about Covid-19, US and international officials have confirmed.

The Washington Post has reported that many of the US team of researchers, physicians and public-health experts worked for the centres for disease control & prevention (CDC) at the global health body and were based there when the virus was first discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

By Steve Sweeney, 21 April 2020:

Chile’s teachers vow to defend health of workers and students in defiance of government plans to reopen schools

CHILEAN teaching unions have vowed to protect the health of students, teachers and all other workers in the country’s education system in defiance of government plans to reopen schools from next week.

The College Professors of Chile (CPC) union said that measures announced by right-wing President Sebastien Pinera were irresponsible and risked the health of 3.6 million students, 200,000 teachers, 200,000 assistants and the administrative workers in schools, academies and colleges.

Mr Pinera said on Sunday that schools would reopen and some public-sector workers would start a gradual return to work as he outlined plans for the resumption of some social and economic activities.

By Steve Sweeney, 21 April 2020:

Strike for the right to life on May 1, Turkish unions urged

TURKISH trade unions have been urged to co-ordinate strike action on May 1 to demand the right to life and paid leave after the government allowed workers to be furloughed for three months without wages.

Former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Figen Yuksekdag’s Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) insisted that strikes have never been more necessary as thousands face poverty and starvation thanks to the government’s emergency measures agreed last week.

While layoffs are banned for three months under the plans, workers can be sent home on unpaid leave and are only able to access benefits of 1,117 lira (£130) per month or a payment of 39 lira (£4.50) per day.

Top 50 BBC natural history moments, continued


This 21 April 2020 video says about itself:

BBC Earth 50 Top Natural History Moments | 30-21

This Earth Day, stay in and explore the beauty, drama and spectacle of our natural world with 50 incredible natural history moments from BBC Earth based on what you’ve been liking and sharing. This is the third of five videos.

Coronavirus crisis in Britain


This 21 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Amazon Workers Plan To Protest Lack Of Coronavirus Protections | TODAY

Hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers across the country are threatening a mass call-out to protest what they say is a lack of coronavirus protections. The job action is supposed to start Wednesday and last throughout the week.

By Ceren Sagir in Britain, 21 April 2020:

Close Amazon warehouses and give staff sick pay, campaigners demand

AMAZON warehouses should be closed for deep cleaning and staff must receive sick pay, a new fundraising campaign is demanding.

SumofUs is asking members of the public to donate £1 or more to pay for a mobile billboard to circle the US mansion of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos in order to take workers’ voices directly to his door.

Mr Bezos, the world’s richest man, is forcing his employees to continue working in warehouses where multiple cases of Covid-19 have been discovered.

Doctor Meenal Viz holds a banner as she protests outside Downing Street in London, on Sunday

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain, 21 April 2020:

NHS workers still dying in PPE shortage

Tributes paid as demands for urgent action intensify

THE government came under increasing pressure today to correct the continued lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health and social care workers.

Ministers came under fire as a top civil servant said the failure to take part in a joint EU medical equipment procurement scheme was a “political decision” – and as evidence emerged that Britain is still exporting PPE to other countries.

Tributes were paid to medical staff who have recently died from Covid-19. More than 100 health and social care workers are now dead as a result of the coronavirus.

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain, 21 April 2020:

Covid care home deaths should be counted daily, Labour says

The Party warned delayed weekly data is ‘just scratching the surface’

DEATHS in care homes as a result of Covid-19 should be reported daily rather than in weekly announcements, Labour said today after data showed a large increase.

Numbers of hospital deaths linked to the coronavirus are issued daily, while deaths in care homes are recorded every week and are made public nearly a fortnight later.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which collates deaths that occur in community and home settings, published data yesterday showing that there were 1,662 such deaths up to April 10, a five-fold increase on the 217 deaths recorded for the previous week.

By Anna Rose in Britain, 21 April 2020:

Our care home service is designed for profits not people – and that’s why its failing

An unaccountable system governed by the markets has seen has seen adult care bounce from crisis to crisis over the last decade, writes ANNA ROSE

IN 1988 Yazz & the Plastic Population made number 1 in the UK charts with The Only Way Is Up.

For many in social care, Sir Roy Griffiths’s 1988 report, on funding and organising community care, signalled that the only way for them was in fact down.

The report led to the 1990 National Health Service & Community Care Act.

We are experiencing first hand the need for a fairer society. The task that lies ahead when the coronavirus crisis ends is to turn this collective experience into action, says CRAIG ANDERSON.

Greek islands lizards new love life


This 2018 video says about itself:

Erhard’s wall lizard (Podarcis erhardii), also called the Aegean wall lizard, is a species of lizard in the family Lacertidae. The species is endemic to Southeast Europe. Sithonia, Greece.

From Washington University in St. Louis in the USA:

Lizards develop new ‘love language’

Animal chemical signals shift after only four generations

April 21, 2020

Relocated in small groups to experimental islands, lizards rapidly and repeatedly developed new chemical signals for communicating with each other. Free from the risk of predators and intent to attract potential mates, male lizards produce a novel chemical calling card, according to new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

Studies of animal signal evolution usually focus on acoustic and visual signals — like the complex warbling in a bird’s song or the bright flashes of color on fish scales. Chemical signals between animals are less obvious to humans and more technically complex to parse. Much of the existing research on these signals has focused on insect pheromones relevant to certain agricultural applications.

But chemical signals are the oldest and most widespread communication mode, spanning bacteria to beavers. As such, they represent a valuable opportunity for decoding how animals communicate and perceive the world around them, researchers said.

“What we’ve discovered is that within species there is important variation in chemical signals depending on your context: Who’s trying to eat you, who wants to mate with you and who you’re trying to compete with,” said Colin Donihue, a postdoctoral fellow in biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and lead author of a new study published April 21 in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

Both lizards and snakes collect chemical cues from their surroundings by flicking out their slender forked tongues, then process those cues using a well-developed sensory organ in the roof of their mouths.

Lizards deposit their chemical messages encoded in secretions from specialized glands located on their inner thighs. The secretions are a waxy cocktail of lipid compounds that contains detailed information about the individual lizard that produced them.

In this study, researchers relocated groups of eight male and 12 female Aegean wall lizards (Podarcis erhardii) from a single source population in Naxos, Greece, to five small islets that lacked predators. Under normal conditions, these lizards would have to contend with a number of native and non-native predators — including snakes, birds and cats.

Free from predators on the small islets, the lizard populations grew rapidly and competition for resources was fierce.

Each of the relocated lizards was individually tagged so they could be identified when the researchers returned to check up on them. Over the next four years, the scientists revisited the populations, tracking the fates of the relocated lizards and their offspring.

What they found was striking: On each of the predator-free islands, lizards rapidly and repeatedly developed a new chemical “mix” that was distinct from that of lizards in the source population. The changes were apparent after only four generations.

For the first time, researchers believe that they have demonstrated solid evidence that lizards can “put on a new cologne” to suit their setting.

“Signals to attract mates are often conspicuous to predators,” said Simon Baeckens, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Antwerp in Belgium and co-author of the new paper. “As such, sexual signals present a compromise between attractiveness and avoidance of detection. However, on these islets, there is no constraint on the evolution of highly conspicuous and attractive signals.

“In the experimental islands, we found that the ‘signal richness’ of the lizard secretions is the highest — meaning that the number of different compounds that we could detect in the secretion is the highest,” Baeckens added. “Our previous research suggests that this more elaborate signal might advertise the high quality of a male.”

Donihue continued: “Animals have spent over a billion years developing a complex chemical communication library. But we only invented the technology to identify many of those chemicals a century ago, and the experiments for understanding what those chemicals mean for the animals in nature have only just begun.

“We found that animal chemical cues can rapidly and flexibly change to suit new settings, but this is only the beginning for understanding what the lizards are saying to each other.”

London Grenfell disaster inquiry continuing onlilne?


The burnout remains of the Grenfell Tower block in London, England

From daily The Morning Star in Britain today:

Grenfell inquiry could resume via video conferencing

THE Grenfell Tower inquiry could resume via video conferencing, organisers said today.

The second phase of hearings into the disaster was halted last month due to coronavirus restrictions.

Now the inquiry has written to key witnesses and victims of the 2017 blaze with three options for how evidence may continue to be heard.

THOUSANDS OF RESIDENTS STILL TRAPPED IN DANGEROUS BUILDINGS says the Fire Brigades Union.

How black-tailed godwits nest, new research


This 20136 video from Britain says about itself:

BTO Bird ID – godwits

Godwits are large, elegant waders and relatively common in the right habitats at certain times of year. The two commonly encountered species, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwit, should be reasonably straightforward to separate, although their eponymous tail markings may not always be the easiest feature to use! Some birds such as juveniles or out of context lone birds can prove more problematic, however, and this workshop will help you to confidently identify both species.

From the University of Groningen in the Netherlands:

The secret life of godwits

Geolocators give new insights into nesting behavior

April 20, 2020

To find out more about birds such as the black-tailed godwit, ecologists have been conducting long-term population studies using standardized information on reproductive behaviour — such as dates of egg-laying or hatching and levels of chick survival. New information gathered using geolocators on godwits in the Netherlands shows that traditional observation methods can lead to inaccurate data. The study was published in the April-issue of the Journal of Avian Biology.

PhD student Mo Verhoeven from the University of Groningen used geolocators attached to the legs of black-tailed godwits to follow their migration pattern. ‘These consist of a tiny chip that records light intensity every five minutes, together with the exact date and time,’ explains Verhoeven. This combination allows him to determine longitude and latitude from the times of sunrise and sunset. Geolocators can collect data for up to 26 months and the information is read after removal of the chip.

Shaded periods

Geolocators are generally used to learn about where birds migrate to and when they migrate. However, for this study, Verhoeven used the geolocators in a different way. ‘During the nesting season, the geolocators registered shaded periods during the day,’ says Verhoeven. This happens when a bird is sitting on a nest, with its legs folded under its body. ‘We were, therefore, able to determine when these birds were nesting.’ This was interesting. Accurate data on nesting is difficult to obtain since every observation of a nesting bird will also disturb its behaviour.

The main revelation from Verhoeven’s analysis is that the godwits in this study always started a second nest if their first nest failed. ‘So far, estimates of this re-nesting varied from 20 to 45 percent,’ says Verhoeven. Based on traditional observation techniques, many of these second attempts were previously thought to be first nests, or they were not discovered at all. ‘During the season, our observations shifted focus from detecting nests to following the development of chicks,’ explains Verhoeven. His data also mean that counting nests to estimate the breeding population is not very accurate since many birds build a second nest.

Conservation

The study also revealed a firm final date for re-nesting attempts: after 18 May, no godwit built another nest if its previous clutch failed. ‘There is something really cool here,’ says Verhoeven. ‘Back in 1954, a biologist experimented by destroying godwit nests. He noticed that they would not re-nest after 20 May, which is almost the same date! It is really intriguing that there is such a strict end to the nesting season. What causes it? That’s something I would like to find out.’

The fact that these birds make a second attempt after their first clutch is lost means that the breeding season for godwits is longer than previously thought. That has consequences for conservation. ‘These second attempts are on average less successful than the first clutches,’ says Verhoeven. ‘But they are not trivial.’ In conservation areas, farmers delay mowing the meadows in which the birds nest until some time in June. ‘But the young from the second attempts may still be there with their parents in early July.’

Magic

By re-purposing the information from the geolocators, Verhoeven and his colleagues revealed an unknown part of godwit life. ‘This also confronts us with our very limited understanding of the ecology of these birds and the bias in our observations,’ he says. This is succinctly described by the team at the end of the article in the Journal of Avian Biology: ‘Ultimately, part of the magic of ecology is its complexity and our permanent inability to fully understand that complexity.’

After BP disaster, another big oil spill?


This 17 December 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

2010: Blowout: The Deepwater Horizon Disaster

A survivor recalls his harrowing escape; plus, a former BP insider warns of another potential disaster

U.S. MORE AT RISK THAN EVER OF MAJOR OIL SPILL On April 20, 2010 BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded while drilling an exploratory well off the coast of Louisiana. The catastrophic event killed 11 workers and unleashed more than 200 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico ― the largest oil spill in U.S. history. A decade later, experts and environmental advocates warn that the U.S. remains woefully unprepared for a major spill ― and is perhaps even more at risk of one due to the Trump administration’s relentless push to expand offshore drilling and gut environmental regulations. [HuffPost]

From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the USA:

What did scientists learn from Deepwater Horizon?

April 20, 2020

Ten years ago, a powerful explosion destroyed an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and injuring 17 others. Over a span of 87 days, the Deepwater Horizon well released an estimated 168 million gallons of oil and 45 million gallons of natural gas into the ocean, making it the largest accidental marine oil spill in history.

Researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) quickly mobilized to study the unprecedented oil spill, investigating its effects on the seafloor and deep-sea corals and tracking dispersants used to clean up the spill.

In a review paper published in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, WHOI marine geochemists Elizabeth Kujawinski and Christopher Reddy review what they — and their science colleagues from around the world — have learned from studying the spill over the past decade.

“So many lessons were learned during the Deepwater Horizon disaster that it seemed appropriate and timely to consider those lessons in the context of a review,” says Kujawinski. “We found that much good work had been done on oil weathering and oil degradation by microbes, with significant implications for future research and response activities.”

Prehistoric fish, ancestors of humans


This 2018 video says about itself:

Early Vertebrate Evolution – 3.1 – Evolution of Jaws – Part 1

From the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University in Japan:

Promiscuity in the Paleozoic: Researchers uncover clues about vertebrate evolution

April 20, 2020

To look at how life evolved, scientists usually turn to the fossil record, but this record is often incomplete. Researchers from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), alongside an international team of collaborators, have used another tool — the chromosomes of living animals — to uncover clues about our past. The study, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, reveals early events in the evolution of vertebrates, including how jawed vertebrates arose through hybridization between two species of primitive fish.

“It’s remarkable that although these events occurred almost half a billion years ago, we can figure them out by looking at DNA today,” said Professor Daniel Rokhsar, who leads OIST’s Molecular Genetics Unit.

Reading the stories in our genes

Chromosomes are tiny structures that carry an organism’s genetic material. They normally come in paired sets, with one set inherited from each parent. While humans have 23 pairs, this number varies across species.

The study found that, even over hundreds of millions of years, chromosomes can be surprisingly stable. Although mutations and rearrangements have occurred, the chromosomes of modern animals have striking similarities to each other.

“We can use these similarities to trace our evolution and infer biology from the distant past,” said Professor Rokhsar, “If a group of genes is carried together on the same chromosomes in two very different animals — say, snails and sea stars — then these genes were also likely together on the same chromosome in their last common ancestor.”

Two former OIST postdoctoral scholars, Professor Oleg Simakov, now at the University of Vienna, and Dr. Ferdinand Marlétaz, now at University College, London, led the study that compared the chromosomes of amphioxus, a small marine invertebrate, to those of other animals, including mollusks, mammals, birds, frogs, fish, and lampreys.

After accounting for a handful of rearrangements, they concluded that the chromosomes of amphioxus resemble those of long-extinct early vertebrate ancestors and confirmed the existence of 17 ancient chromosomal units. The researchers then traced the evolution of these ancient chromosomes in living vertebrates.

“Reconstructing the ancestral chromosomes was the key that allowed us to unlock several puzzles of early vertebrate evolution,” said Professor Rokhsar.

Duplicating and disappearing

The puzzles center on a phenomenon known as ‘genome duplication.’ In the 1970s, geneticist Susumu Ohno suggested that vertebrate genomes were doubled, perhaps repeatedly, relative to their invertebrate ancestors. Genomic studies have confirmed and refined this suggestion, but how many doublings there were, and how and when they occurred, are still debated.

Part of the challenge is that duplicated genomes change rapidly, and these changes can obscure the duplication itself. Although a doubled genome starts with redundant copies of every gene, most of these extra copies will be inactivated by mutation and eventually lost; the doubled chromosomes themselves may also become scrambled.

Using the 17 ancestral chromosome pairs as an ancient anchor, the researchers concluded that there were two separate instances of genome doubling.

The first duplication is shared by all living vertebrates — both the jawed vertebrates, including humans, birds, fish, and frogs, as well as the jawless lampreys and their relatives. The researchers inferred that this most ancient duplication occurred about five hundred million years ago, around the same time the earliest vertebrate fossils appear.

The second duplication is shared only by jawed vertebrates. The researchers found that, unlike the first event, gene loss after the second doubling occurred unevenly across the two sets of chromosomal copies — a surprising but informative feature.

“This kind of uneven gene loss is the hallmark of a genome duplication that follows the hybridization of two species,” said Professor Rokhsar.

Usually, the hybrid offspring of two different species are infertile, in part because the chromosomes from the two parents aren’t properly coordinated. But very occasionally, in some fish, frogs, and plants, the hybrid genome becomes doubled to restore chromosomal pairing. The resulting offspring have twice as many chromosomes as their mismatched parents — and are often more vigorous. The new study unexpectedly found that such hybrid-doubling occurred in our ancient ancestors.

“Over 450 million years ago, two different species of fish mated and, in the process, spawned a new hybrid species with twice as many chromosomes,” said Professor Rokhsar, “And this new species would become the ancestor of all living jawed animals — including us!”

Coronavirus news from Trump’s USA


This 20 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Finding Hope During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Dr. Gerald Horne says workers organizing and fighting for basic rights offer hope during the coronavirus pandemic, increasingly catastrophic government response, dire economic outlook, and two unappealing options at the ballot box in November.

FAUCI: ECONOMY CAN’T RECOVER BEFORE PEOPLE DO White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that protests against coronavirus safety measures could “backfire.” “Clearly this is hurting from the standpoint of economics … but unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically is not going to happen,” he told “Good Morning America.” “If you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you’re going to set yourself back.” [HuffPost]

TRUMP DISMISSES TESTING CONCERNS AS STATES PREPARE TO REOPEN Trump again insisted that the country was in “very good shape” with coronavirus testing, even as some governors say their states don’t have adequate supplies. Meanwhile, other governors have already announced the reopening of certain businesses as early as this week. When a “PBS NewsHour” reporter asked the president Monday about the “outcry” about a lack of access to testing, Trump shot back that “it’s not bipartisan, it’s mostly partisan. More important, it’s incorrect.” [HuffPost]

EX-RNC CHAIR FACT-CHECKS TRUMP ON COVID-19 PROTESTS Trump continues to defend people protesting stay-at-home orders to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. But former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele says those demonstrators aren’t just putting their own lives at risk, they’re also endangering the lives of vulnerable people around them. Trump claimed the demonstrators ― who are being goaded by right-wing media ― “love our country” and “want to get back to work.” [HuffPost]

WHITE EVANGELICALS ‘MOST LIKELY’ TO SUPPORT RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS About one-third of white evangelical Protestants ― a religious group with strong ties to Trump and the Republican Party ― support the idea of granting religious exemptions to stay-at-home-orders, according to a Public Religion Research Institute report. About one-quarter of nonwhite Protestants said the same, along with 18% of both white Catholics and the religiously unaffiliated of all races, and 15% of white mainline Protestants. [HuffPost]

Fact check: Trump gets caught in a lie about not leaving White House for months. What about those campaign rallies?

CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE TO ADDRESS RACIAL DISPARITY Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed an executive order creating an advisory task force meant to help address how the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately infected and killed Black and brown Americans. The executive order cited data showing Black residents make up a staggering 40% of COVID-19 deaths in Michigan, though they represent 13.6% of the state’s population. [HuffPost]