How sharks and rays evolve

This 21 May 2020 video says about itself:

Sharks and Rays by Annie Crawley

Sharks & Rays takes you on a journey to discover the wonders of sharks and rays from around the world. Join underwater photographer, filmmaker and ocean explorer, Annie Crawley to learn all about these amazing creatures. You learn the biology with complex information in easy to understand language.

Exclusive footage will have you diving with schooling hammerhead sharks, observing manta rays feeding, nurse sharks entering a state of tonic immobility, plus you will experience the first Shark Sanctuary in the world while diving in the blue waters of Palau. Whale sharks, hammerheads, great white sharks, electric rays, manta rays, reef sharks, mako sharks, dozens of species of sharks and rays from around our world’s ocean are explored in this program.

From Flinders University in Australia:

Ecosystem diversity drives the origin of new shark and ray species

May 19, 2020

Summary: Biologists how different oceanographic conditions in the Gulf of California and the Baja California Peninsula influenced formation of new species of sharks and rays.

What drives the evolution of new species of sharks and rays? Traditionally, scientists thought it required species to be separated by geographic or spatial barriers, however, a new study of elasmobranchs (the group of sharks and rays) has challenged this expectation — and found evolution is happening faster than many think.

Flinders University evolutionary biologists Dr Jonathan Sandoval-Castillo and Professor Luciano Beheregaray tested how different oceanographic conditions in the Gulf of California and the Baja California Peninsula (Mexico) influenced the formation of new species of guitarfish (genus Pseudobatos).

The team discovered four types, or ‘young species’, of guitarfish that have similar external appearance but are genetically different.

Each type of guitarfish appears to have adapted to one of the four separate regions of the Gulf of California. This promotes environmental tolerances which result in those guitarfish having improved odds for survival and reproduction in the region where they were born.

“We have shown that these four guitarfish species evolved quite quickly from the same common ancestor,” says Dr Jonathan Sandoval-Castillo.

“The process where several new species originate from one ancestor in a relatively short period of time is called adaptive radiation, and this is the first report of such a process in sharks and rays. Our results help changing the false popular belief that sharks and rays do not evolve, or only evolve very slowly,” says Prof Luciano Beheregaray.

These findings also have important implications for the management of exploited elasmobranch species, such as guitarfish in the Gulf of California which represents an important fishery for Mexico.

If these young species adapt and evolve to their local habitat conditions, they cannot be replaced by migrants from other habitats.

“If such species are incorrectly managed as a single stock, it can result in the over-exploitation and possibly extinction of the entire species.”

Don’t drive workers to COVID-19 infected workplaces

British workers demonstrate against going back to work prematurely

By Helen O’Connor in England:

As the lockdown eases who will pay the price?

No worker should be expected to risk their life for a wage — the unions are calling for a whole range of measures to be enforced to protect the members before the return to work, writes HELEN O’CONNOR, southern regional organiser GMB

THERE is no method to eliminate Covid-19. There are no imminent plans to release a vaccine so the risk to public health is still present and significant.

It doesn’t take an expert to tell us that while the virus is still in circulation and workplaces start to fill up the transmission rate of the virus will again increase. The death rates of those in vulnerable groups, care home workers, NHS workers and other low-paid workers will rise once again.

Damning statistics from ONS show that lower-paid and BAME workers are most likely to die from the virus.

People's health before profit

Common whitethroat, mallards and gadwalls

Mallards and gadwall, 20 May 2020

After my earlier blog post, still 20 May 2020 in the sand dunes nature reserve. We walked away from the lake, just south of Egmond aan Zee village. Just to the south of that lake, in the next lake, were these three mallards dabbling, and a gadwall duck swimming behind them.

Further away, a little grebe swimming.

Common whitethroat, 20 May 2020

On a bush above the lake, this common whitethroat singing.

Common whitethroat, on 20 May 2020

An oystercatcher flying.

Mallards, 20 May 2020

Meanwhile, the mallards were still dabbling.

Gadwall, 20 May 2020

The gadwalls had moved to another part of the lake.

Gadwall, on 20 May 2020

As we walked back, a brimstone butterfly.

COVID-19 disaster in Trump’s USA, news

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

Representative Shames GOP [Republican party] for Reopening at the Risk of Low-Wage Workers | NowThis

‘You might laugh, and you might not care, but I care about the people I serve.’ — This state rep was met with boos when he stood up for service industry workers who might be asked to reopen the Pennsylvania economy without proper safety measures.

VIRUS DITHERING COST THOUSANDS OF LIVES — New disease models from Columbia University show that 36,000 fewer people would have died in the U.S. if stay-at-home measures had been imposed just one week earlier in March. And if the lockdowns started March 1 — about two weeks earlier than when most Americans started staying home — about 83% of deaths could have been avoided. [New York Times]

US health workers dying because of lack of PPE, unions charge: here.

GUARDS AND INMATES: UNPROTECTED AND OVERWHELMED Corrections officers are facing uncertainty and fear as the virus sickens prisoners and Michigan Department Of Corrections staff. As of Monday, 334 officers have been confirmed positive, though the true figure is thought to be much higher because the department has conducted limited testing. Staff say MDOC is failing to manage sick inmates in a safe way and isn’t providing enough personal protective equipment. Officials have also failed to address staffing shortages, forcing fatigued officers to work up to 25 hours of overtime weekly. When prison staff gets sick, they are using paid time off ― and if they run out, they don’t get paid. [HuffPost]

COHEN TO BE RELEASED ON HOME CONFINEMENT Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer and longtime attorney, will be released from prison early and serve the remainder of his three-year term under home confinement. Cohen will be released from a facility in New York later this week, The Wall Street Journal reported. He has served about a year of his sentence after being convicted on charges of lying to Congress and violating campaign finance laws when he directed hush-money payments to women who said they had sex with Trump. He had been scheduled to be released in November 2021. [HuffPost]

TRUMP THREATENS KEY 2020 STATES OVER MAIL VOTING President Donald Trump intensified his attacks on mail-in ballots by casting threats and falsehoods. Trump, who previously said he was “allowed to” vote by mail in Florida’s March 17 primary, has railed against Democratic-led states offering that same opportunity to their voters. Despite the risk of casting in-person ballots during the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has encouraged Republicans to fight against mail-in voting, claiming it “doesn’t work out well” for their party politically. Lately, the president and his allies have amplified the conspiracy theory that voting by mail encourages voter fraud. [HuffPost]

Trump’s vaccine chief has vast ties to the drug industry.

GOP ADVANCES JUDICIAL NOMINEE WHO CALLED AFFORDABLE CARE ACT ‘ILLEGITIMATE’ Amid a national health emergency that has left millions of Americans out of work and worrying about health insurance, Senate Republicans moved toward confirming a judicial nominee — Cory Wilson — who has called the Affordable Care Act “illegitimate,” “perverse” and “liberal-utopia-dictated healthcare.” In 2012, Wilson called same-sex marriage “an attempt to cast Republicans as intolerant, uncaring and even bigoted.” In 2016, as a state legislator, he voted for what has been dubbed the nation’s most extreme anti-LGBTQ law. [HuffPost]

In a racism-fueled pandemic, Asian Americans find healing through art and storytelling.

Indoor, high-intensity fitness classes may help spread the coronavirus. As more U.S. states reopen and people return to public life, dance fitness classes in South Korea tell a cautionary tale. By Emily DeMarco, May 19, 2020.

OUSTED DESIGNER OF FLORIDA’S CORONAVIRUS DASHBOARD WAS ASKED TO CENSOR DATA The Florida official in charge of designing and managing the state’s online dashboard of COVID-19 data says she was fired after refusing to censor and “manually change data” in order to present a picture justifying the state’s process of reopening and loosening COVID-19 restrictions. Rebekah Jones, who led a group of data scientists and public health experts at Florida’s Department of Health, announced her departure in an email to colleagues late Friday. [HuffPost]

CHURCH THAT REOPENED AMID VIRUS CLOSES AGAIN AFTER PRIEST DIES A Roman Catholic church in Texas has indefinitely suspended public Masses after the death of a priest and the COVID-19 diagnoses of five others. The Rev. Donnell Kirchner, a 79-year-old priest from Houston’s Holy Ghost Church, died on May 13 after being diagnosed with pneumonia, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston said. Holy Ghost Church’s website says there is a possibility that the priest contracted the coronavirus before he died. [HuffPost]

Will tapirs save the Brazilian Amazon?

This video says about itself:


The story of our Amazon journey in June 2019 and our plans for the establishment of the LTCI Amazon Tapir Program in 2020!

Filmed and produced by Laurie Hedges.

By Gloria Dickie, May 12, 2020 at 8:00 am:

Tapirs may be key to reviving the Amazon. All they need to do is poop

A Brazilian ecologist is determined to understand the role of tapir dung in forest restoration

Beneath the viridescent understory of the Brazilian Amazon, ecologist Lucas Paolucci has been honing his skills for hunting tapir dung. In this region’s degraded rain forests, he sees the piglike mammal’s enormous piles of poop as a treasure.

Chock full of seeds, the dung from trunk-nosed lowland tapirs (Tapirus terrestris) may be key in regenerating forests that have been hit by intensive logging and slash-and-burn agriculture, says Paolucci, of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute in Brazil.

“Tapirs in Brazil are known as the gardeners of the forests,” he says. Feasting on the fruit of more than 300 plant species, the animals travel through the forest underbrush with their bellies full of seeds. That includes seeds from large, carbon-storing trees like mess apple trees (Bellucia grossularioides) that can’t pass through smaller animals. So the lowland tapir, South America’s largest mammal, is one of the key agents dispersing seeds throughout the Amazon.

Rooting through poop piles in Mato Grosso, a state in west-central Brazil, wasn’t how Paolucci began his career; he studied ants in Brazil’s coastal Atlantic Forest. Later, he began to wonder how forest fires in the Amazon might affect the rain forest’s insect communities. And then, he became intrigued by the monstrous dung piles — each pile “bigger than my head”, he says.

In 2016, Paolucci joined other researchers studying the role of these magnanimous defecators in restoring disturbed forests. The team conducted an experiment in eastern Mato Grosso, where two forest plots had been control burned to varying degrees from 2004 to 2010. One plot was burned every year, and the other every three years. A third plot was left untouched as a control group.

Paolucci’s colleagues walked through the plots, recording the location of 163 dung piles and comparing them with camera-trap recordings of tapirs roaming through the area. Then the team sieved the fecal findings to separate out seeds, counting a total of 129,204 seeds from 24 plant species. The camera traps showed tapirs spending far more time in burned areas than in the pristine forest, perhaps enjoying the sunshine away from the forest canopy, Paolucci says. The animals also deposited more than three times as many seeds per hectare in burned areas as in the untouched forest.

This 13 May 2020 video is called Tapir dung might help restore degraded tracts of the Amazon | Science News.

Just months after the team published those findings in March of 2019 in Biotropica, the Amazon saw one of its most destructive fire seasons in years (SN: 8/23/19). That made Paolucci even more determined to understand tapirs’ role in forests’ recovery. But he knows the tapirs can’t be doing the job alone.

So Paolucci went back to the insects he began his career with, studying how they might be partners in planting new growth. Tapirs may be leaving fecal fortunes on the forest floor, but dung beetles are actually responsible for pushing the poop around. The insects will break off and bury small pieces of dung, including any seeds within, to snack on later. That helps seed germination get going.

In early 2019, Paolucci returned to the Amazon to collect 20 kilograms of tapir dung, which he broke apart and molded into 700-gram clumps. In each clump, he inserted plastic beads as dummy seeds and then returned the poop pellets to the field. After 24 hours, Paolucci collected the dung clumps again and counted how many beads remained. Those missing had presumably been rolled away by the beetles, and, by proxy, indicated how many seeds would potentially grow into plants one day. Paolucci hopes to publish these results in 2021.

This 13 May 2020 video is called How dung beetles are inadvertent gardeners | Science News.

Amazon ranchers are typically required by law to maintain 80 percent of native forest cover on their properties, but many trees have been illegally cleared and need to be replanted. Tapirs could provide cost-effective help with that effort, Paolucci speculates.

But the population of lowland tapirs, the only tapir species that is widespread throughout the Amazon, is decreasing and is now considered vulnerable, due to habitat loss and hunting for meat. Roughly 20 percent of the Amazon has been destroyed, with another 7 percent expected to be gone by 2030 if current deforestation rates continue. If tapirs fail to thrive, future “seed dispersal is expected to rely even more on organisms such as dung beetles,” Paolucci says.

School staff gets coronavirus infection

This 21 May 2020 video says about itself:

Coronavirus: Elite Sydney school shut after positive COVID-19 test | Nine News Australia

New South Wales Education Treasurer Mark Scott discusses the closure of an elite Sydney boys’ school after a student tested positive to COVID-19.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

At a primary school in Eygelshoven (South Limburg), the coronavirus was diagnosed in four staff members. They have been quarantined, reports regional broadcaster 1Limburg.

The case at primary school De Veldhof came to light when a teacher turned out to be infected. The three other infections emerged from source and contact investigations. …


All parents have been informed about the infections. As long as their children don’t show symptoms of Covid-19, they can just go to school.

If a person shows symptoms of COVID-19, then it may already be too late. At first sight healthy people, not showing symptoms (yet) may infect others.

Newly born baby in South Africa dies from COVID-19: here.

Respiratory failure has occurred in some infected children and an emerging inflammatory disease may be connected to the coronavirus. By Aimee Cunningham, May 12, 2020.

Wild pansies, little grebes and nightingales

Wild pansies, 20 May 2020

This photo shows wild pansies which we saw on 20 May 2020 in the sand dunes nature reserve, on the day after 19 May.

As we start walking, a blackbird sings. And a chiffchaff.

A cuckoo calls.

A brimstone butterfly.

A wood warbler sings.

We arrive at the hide where we saw little grebes in the lake. This time, we see only a coot couple with their youngsters. The littles grebes are audible, not visible.

A small, but noisy flock of starlings.

Nightingales sing.

A male chaffinch sings from the top of a bush.

Small heath butterflies.

Wild pansies, on 20 May 2020

We arrive at an area with many wild pansies.

Sand dune plants, 20 May 2020

And other plants adapted to this sandy environment.

Rabbit droppings.

We arrive at a lake, not far from Egmond aan Zee village.

Swifts, house martins and barn swallows flying around.

Little grebes, 20 May 2020

Two little grebes swimming.

Coot, 20 May 2020

And a coot.

Stay tuned, as there will be a sequel to this blog post!

Puerto Rican workers strike against COVID-19 danger

This 11 May 2020 United States CBS TV video says about itself:

Puerto Rico slowly reopening economy despite rising numbers of COVID-19 cases

Puerto Rico is slowly rolling out its plan to reopen the economy after two months of strict lockdowns. Associated Press correspondent Danica Coto joins CBSN to preview what that plan looks like, how the island is struggling to feed children, and if the U.S. will include earthquake recovery funding in its next stimulus package. She also gave an update on the investigation into the homicide of two transgender women in Puerto Rico.

From the World Socialist Web Site, 19 May 2020:

Puerto Rican highway workers refuse to go to work over COVID-19 concerns

Workers for the Puerto Rico Highway and Transportation Authority (ACT by its Spanish acronym) stayed at home on May 12 in an effort to get the agency to comply with protocols to safeguard them from COVID-19. The workers are members of the ProSol Utier union.

In a press statement, the union said that 18 ACT work centers were idled because of the lack of protective clothing and equipment like masks, gloves, soap and sanitizer. It added, “Social distancing measures were not taken, work areas were not disinfected, nor were personnel given guidance on protocols established by the agency and the commitments established previously by the union in a meeting held on May 8.”

The statement referred to Executive Order 2020-38—issued by the administration of Wanda Vázquez on May 1—which permits the phased reopening of some businesses. It allows businesses to submit applications to the Puerto Rico Occupational Safety and Health Administration (PROSHA) of their “self-certified” plans to make their workplaces safe.

Workers in health, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment manufacture, as well as the Banco Popular and Walmart, submitted over 680 complaints to PROSHA between March 14 and April 29, according to a Center for Investigative Journalism report. By May 17, the number of COVID-19 cases was 2,646 with 123 deaths.

Yelkouan shearwater chick hatched, Malta video

This 21 May 2020 video from Malta says about itself

Early May is the peak time in the Yelkouan breeding season for hatching and many new faces have emerged in the colonies over the past couple of weeks.

The Yelkouan Shearwater chicks first enter the world damp and fragile, but soon dry off to reveal their grey downy coat which will keep them warm until they grow their flight feathers. In the first few days of its life, the parents are very attentive to ensure survival of the chick, at least one parent will remain with the chick to brood it whilst it continues to develop.

By the end of the first week, the chick is left to fend for itself, whilst the parents forage for food. The chick is provided with a meal at least once each night. Foraging trips during early chick-rearing are shorter, so the adults can return more frequently to feed the demanding chick.

Editing by Katarzyna Pacon.

Coronavirus disaster in Donald Trump’s USA

This 19 May 2020 parody music video from Britain is called Obesity Boys – Fight for Far Right (Tea Party!).

It says about itself:

Donald Trump‘s Beastie Boys tribute band.


You wanna go to work, make the economy grow
You say to Fauci “please?” but he still says no
Just take hydroxywhatsit and drink Lysol
And try to get some sunlight up your asshole

You gotta fight for the far-right
Tea Party

I told the press my cures and they’re all appalled
I probably shouldn’t mention the Adderall
Now Nancy Pelosi called me a chub
I hope Sleepy Joe gives her a shoulder rub

New analysis predicts US coronavirus deaths will triple by end of year. By Bryan Dyne, 20 May 2020.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 20 May 2020:

US trade unions to sue over failure to protect workers from Covid-19

US TRADE unionists have filed papers to sue the country’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), accusing President Donald Trump of refusing to force companies to protect workers from Covid-19.

The AFL-CIO, which represents nearly 13 million workers in the US, filed a suit with the Court of Appeals in Washington DC on Monday.

The federation insisted that the matter was urgent as states were starting to let businesses reopen and crowds of people were beginning to gather, increasing the risk of the spread of coronavirus.

The government and corporations are demanding a return to work in the midst of a pandemic, which is claiming thousands of lives every week. Their drive for profits takes priority over the health and safety of workers and their families: here.

“We need our jobs, but our lives and health are more important”. COVID-19 cases at Ford plants in Detroit, Chicago as anger grows over inadequate safety measures. By Jessica Goldstein and Jerry White, 21 May 2020. New infections have emerged at Ford plants in Dearborn, Michigan and Chicago and also at supplier plant, just days after the reopening of the North American auto industry.

Ford Chicago Assembly worker tests positive for COVID-19 after North American auto plants reopen. By Shannon Jones, 20 May 2020.

As COVID-19 spreads throughout southern US. Florida scientist was fired for ‘refusing to manipulate’ COVID-19 data. By Bryan Dyne, 21 May 2020. The state governments of both Florida and Georgia have been charged with manipulating their coronavirus case counts and death tolls in order to prematurely reopen their economies.

Florida stalls jobless pay to force workers back to work. By Alex Johnson, 21 May 2020. The state has only paid out 22 percent of the claims for unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They can more than afford to let us keep it permanently”. Amazon workers react to elimination of pandemic hazard pay. By Douglas Lyons, 21 May 2020. Amazon has terminated its unpaid sick time policy and will roll back the $2 per hour pay raise it implemented during the coronavirus pandemic, despite the rising number of infections.

By Benjamin Mateus in the USA, 20 May 2020:

Capitalism vs. science: The lessons of the 36-hour Moderna vaccine frenzy

20 May 2020

Monday’s announcement by the Boston-based biotech company Moderna that it had positive results from the first COVID-19 vaccine test conducted on humans was greeted with a wave of media hysteria and adulation.

The evening news led with the “revolutionary” treatment, which was called a “breakthrough.” NBC News declared the finding was “generating a wave of optimism.” Everywhere, the line was the same, from Fox News to CNN to PBS.

A miracle cure had supposedly been found and Wall Street was beside itself. The markets surged on the news, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising more than 900 points. Moderna shares were up by more than $20.

But within just 36 hours, this campaign began to collapse under its own weight.

It turned out that no one had paid attention to the fact that the information provided by Moderna was highly limited, and that the manufacturer had withheld or did not have data on the outcomes for most participants in the tiny study.

When the medical publication STAT published a report raising the most elementary scientific questions about the supposed breakthrough vaccine, Moderna shares plunged by 10 percent, dragging the Dow Jones Industrial Average down with it.

But that did not matter to Moncef Slaoui, the Moderna board member tapped by US President Donald Trump to head the government’s “warp speed” vaccine development drive. Slaoui announced Friday that he would sell his stake in Moderna Monday, meaning that he became $2.4 million richer as a result of the publicity blitz, but took none of the losses when questions emerged about the study.

US prepares anti-Russian war games amid COVID-19 pandemic. By Andrea Peters, 21 May 2020. In a little over two weeks, 6,000 US and Polish troops will simulate ground and airborne attacks about 35 miles from the Russian territory of Kaliningrad.

Deaths and illness among youth raise concerns as schools plan to reopen. By Sam Wayne, 21 May 2020. Several recent deaths of youth and students due to COVID-19 demonstrate that, despite efforts by the media and politicians to downplay the danger of the virus to youth, the virus can pose a deadly threat to young people.

Jameela Dirrean-Emoni Barber (Lancaster ISD)

This photo shows 17-year-old Jameela Dirrean-Emoni Barber from Texas, killed by COVID-19.

Trump official blames high US coronavirus death toll on the diversity that “unfortunately” exists in the population. By Jacob Crosse, 19 May 2020.

Almost no US prisoners have been released since the beginning of the pandemic. By Sam Dalton, 21 May 2020. Despite highly publicized executive orders, only a handful of inmates have been released from jails and prisons across the US even as 100,000 inmates are projected to die from COVID-19.

From the World Socialist Web Site, 19 May 2020:

St. Paul nurse fired by Allina Healthcare in dispute over lack of protective equipment

Cliff Willmeng, a registered nurse at United Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, was fired May 8 over a dispute with management over the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and management’s refusal to allow nurses a voice in decision-making during the current coronavirus pandemic. Allina Healthcare, which owns United Hospital, “violated hospital policy and expectations regarding uniforms and hospital scrubs as well as his duty to follow the directions of his leader.”

“I think what the hospital is engaged in is basic and textbook retaliation. That’s what I believe,” Willmeng told WCCO. He specifically cited the need for disposable surgical booties and hospital-issued scrubs that are available, but not being distributed to protect nurses.

Willmeng is not alone. Nurse Brittany Livaccari told the Pioneer Press, “We have multiple other members who are in the process and not far behind the one who was fired. We’ll probably have at this rate a couple of other people who get fired.”

Nurses at United Hospital are planning a protest march to the St. Paul capital May 20 to highlight their concerns.

COVID-19 cases anger Minnesota Amazon workers

Minnesota Amazon workers are angry over the company’s failure to protect them in the wake of six new cases of COVID-19 at the company’s Eagan warehouse. While the company has provided masks, workers report hand sanitizer receptacles are empty and social distancing is difficult to maintain in the facility and not being enforced by management.

Workers have also complained that the company has not been alerting workers in a timely manner when co-workers contract the virus. One worker who spoke to the Sahan Journal said she had trained a worker and later found out he had tested positive for COVID-19. Her source was not the company, but the mother of the sick worker who contacted employees directly.

Amazon has implemented a points program. Each employee receives 20 attendance points for a three-month period. If they don’t come into work, including a decision to self-quarantine, they lose four-and-a-half points. If they run out of points before the three-month period expires, they get fired.

One Amazon worker said, “We have small kids. My mom has high blood pressure who lives with me. I cannot quit because I need the job. My safety is at risk.”