Grey-haired chimpanzees are not always old


This 2018 BBC video says about itself:

Chimpanzees show empathy and altruism just like humans do – we can even learn from how they behave, explains anthropologist Frans de Waal.

From George Washington University in the USA:

For chimpanzees, salt and pepper hair not a marker of old age

New GW study finds there is significant variation in how chimpanzees experience pigment loss

July 14, 2020

Silver strands and graying hair is a sign of aging in humans, but things aren’t so simple for our closest ape relatives — the chimpanzee. A new study published today in the journal PLOS ONE by researchers at the George Washington University found graying hair is not indicative of a chimpanzee’s age.

This research calls into question the significance of the graying phenotype in wild non-human species. While graying is among the most salient traits a chimpanzee has — the world’s most famous chimpanzee was named David Greybeard — there is significant pigmentation variation among individuals. Graying occurs until a chimpanzee reaches midlife and then plateaus as they continue to age, according to Elizabeth Tapanes, a Ph.D. candidate in the GW Department of Anthropology and lead author of the study.

“With humans, the pattern is pretty linear, and it’s progressive. You gray more as you age. With chimps that’s really not the pattern we found at all,” Tapanes said. “Chimps reach this point where they’re just a little salt and peppery, but they’re never fully gray so you can’t use it as a marker to age them.”

The researchers gathered photos of two subspecies of wild and captive chimpanzees from their collaborators in the field to test this observation. They visually examined photos of the primates, evaluated how much visible gray hair they had and rated them accordingly. The researchers then analyzed that data, comparing it to the age of the individual chimpanzees at the time the photos were taken.

The researchers hypothesize there could be several reasons why chimpanzees did not evolve graying hair patterns similar to humans. Their signature dark pigmentation might be critical for thermoregulation or helping individuals identify one another.

Dr. Brenda Bradley, an associate professor of anthropology, is the senior author on the paper. This research dates back to an observation Dr. Bradley made while visiting a field site in Uganda five years ago. As she was learning the names of various wild chimpanzees, she found herself making assumptions about how old they were based on their pigmentation. On-site researchers told her that chimps did not go gray the same way humans do. Dr. Bradley was curious to learn if that observation could be quantified.

There has been little previous research on pigmentation loss in chimpanzees or any wild mammals, Dr. Bradley said. Most existing research on human graying is oriented around the cosmetic industry and clinical dermatology.

“There’s a lot of work done on trying to understand physiology and maybe how to override it,” Dr. Bradley said. “But very little work done on an evolutionary framework for why is this something that seems to be so prevalent in humans.”

The researchers plan to build on their findings by looking at the pattern of gene expression in individual chimpanzee hairs. This will help determine whether changes are taking place at the genetic level that match changes the eye can see.

This study comes ahead of World Chimpanzee Day on July 14. GW’s faculty and student researchers make contributions to our global understanding of chimpanzees and primates as part of the GW Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology. Through various labs, investigators study the evolution of social behavior in the chimpanzees and bonobos, the evolution of primate brain structure, and lead on-the-ground projects at the Gombe Stream Research Center in Tanzania. Dr. Bradley’s lab is also currently working on research about color vision and hair variation in lemurs.

COVID-19 infects Texas, USA babies


This 19 July 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

85 Babies Tested Positive For COVID-19 In One Texas County, Health Director Says

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Dozens of babies infected by coronavirus in Texas as state struggles to contain the spread

Report comes amid surging cases in 18 states across the United States

By Richard Hall

Dozens of babies have contracted the coronavirus in one Texas county alone, officials said, as the state continued to hit record numbers of daily deaths.

Health officials made the grim announcement as the state reported a record 174 new coronavirus deaths on Friday, numbers that are expected to climb further still. It was the third consecutive day the state recorded more than 100 deaths.

“We currently have 85 babies under the age of one year in Nueces County that have all tested positive for Covid-19,” said Annette Rodriguez, director of public health for Corpus Christi Nueces County.

Golden-winged and blue-winged warblers, new research


This 2011 video from the USA says about itself:

Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers and Hybrids in Connecticut. ©JimZipp.com

Note that the Blue-winged has yellowish wingbars and the Golden-winged sings a Blue-winged song. Lots of interbreeding in this area and Golden-winged Warblers are rarer every year.

From Penn State University in the USA:

What determines a warbler’s colors?

Researchers use hybrid birds to narrow genetic region underlying difference in color between blue-winged and golden-winged warblers

July 14, 2020

A new study has narrowed down the region of the genome that drives the black color in throat and face of warblers by studying the hybrid offspring produced when two species mate. The hybrids of golden-winged and blue-winged warblers have a mix of coloration from the parent species, which allows researchers to identify which regions of the genome are associated with which color patterns. The study, led by researchers at Penn State, also reveals a more complex basis for the amount of yellow in warbler bellies and raises concerns about how hybrids of these species are classified.

Their results appear online in the journal The Auk: Ornithological Advances.

“The distinct plumage of these otherwise very similar birds has perplexed ornithologists for more than a hundred years,” said Marcella Baiz, postdoctoral researcher at Penn State and first author of the paper. “Our research team previously compared the genomes of golden-winged and blue-winged warblers and identified 6 regions that differed between them, some of which may control color. In this study, we used hybrid birds of these species, which mix and match the features of their parent species, to help identify which regions of the genome are associated with which color patterns.”

Color is an important cue for warblers and is prominently displayed during mating and other behaviors. Blue-winged warblers have yellow throats and bellies, while golden-winged warblers have white bellies and a black throat patch and face mask. Hybrids of these species vary in amounts of yellow and whether they have a black face mask and throat, and these characteristics are commonly used to categorize birds into different classes of hybrids.

The research team rated hybrid birds based on their plumage color and genetic likeness to the two parental species. They found that the amount of yellow in hybrids, which is produced by pigments called carotenoids, is not directly related to a bird’s genetic likeness to the parent species — for example, hybrids with more yellow were not genetically closer to blue-winged warblers. Additionally, the extent of yellow in hybrids re-captured in subsequent years appeared to decline over time.

“Some researchers have hoped that the extent of yellow could indicate how many generations a hybrid is removed from the parent species,” said David Toews, assistant professor of biology at Penn State and leader of the research team. “Our results indicate that it isn’t quite so straightforward, and that classifying hybrids into groups based on the amount of yellow can be misleading.”

The inheritance of a black throat patch and face mask, however, appears to be much more straightforward. The research team previously identified a genetic region related to black coloration in warblers. In the current study, the team used a rarer type of hybrid to narrow that to a region about five times smaller.

“This one type of very rare hybrid looks almost entirely like a blue-winged warbler, with a yellow body but with a black throat patch and face mask, like a golden-winged warbler,” said Baiz. “By comparing its genome to that of blue-wing warblers, we were able to identify a much smaller genetic region where the birds differed, which we believe drives the black coloration.”

The genetic region is located near the Agouti-signaling protein (ASIP) gene, which is thought to regulate production of the pigment melanin in some birds. Next, the research team would like to confirm that this section of the genome affects expression of the ASIP protein in warblers and underlies differences in their black plumage patches.

“We plan to continue to study the evolution of color across the 110 species of warblers, which have incredibly diverse plumage,” said Toews. “Now that we have identified a starting point, this narrowed down genetic region, we won’t be stabbing in the dark.”

In addition to Baiz and Toews, the research team includes Gunnar Kramer and Henry Streby from the University of Toledo, Scott Taylor from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Irby Lovette from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This research was supported by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Science Foundation.

United States novelist Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street


This 2017 video from the USA says about itself:

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis. Documentary.

By James McDonald in the USA:

Sinclair Lewis’s novel Main Street at 100

16 July 2020

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of Sinclair Lewis’s novel Main Street, the breakthrough work of an author who would become, a decade later, the first American awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Harry Sinclair Lewis was born in 1885 in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, which he later described as “a prairie village in that most Scandinavian part of America, Minnesota,” the son of “a country doctor.” ..

In all, Lewis published 24 novels, including six books of varying seriousness prior to Main Street. The latter, his first important work, was an enormous success, selling 180,000 copies in its first six months and within a few years, an estimated 2 million.

In the following decade and a half, Lewis produced what readers and critics generally consider his most important books, namely Babbitt (1922), Arrowsmith (1925), Elmer Gantry (1927), Dodsworth (1929) and It Can’t Happen Here (1935).

Although Lewis, who died in 1951, has long since fallen from the syllabi of high school and college American literature courses, his major works merit reading a century or so later not only for their engaging storytelling and the vivid chronicle they offer of American middle-class life in the first half of the twentieth century in particular, but also for their withering satirical attack on the hypocrisies, and worse, of that American life.

Main Street tells the story of Carol Kennicott. When we meet her, in the first decade of the last century, she is still Carol Milford, a highly sensitive but moderately talented co-ed at the fictional Blodgett College on the outskirts of Minneapolis.

Carol yearns “to conquer the world—almost entirely for the world’s own good”—but cannot determine how to accomplish this feat. With a humor that is characteristically frank yet sympathetic, Lewis tells us that at “various times during Senior year Carol finally decided upon studying law, writing motion-picture scenarios, professional nursing, and marrying an unidentified hero.” Such vacillation on Carol’s part seems at first the result of youthful wistfulness, but the beauty of her character is that, as Lewis warns us early on, “Whatever she might become, she would never be static.”

After a few dull years working as a librarian in St. Paul, Carol meets and marries the “solid” Dr. Will Kennicott of Gopher Prairie, feeling for him an affection short of love that will evolve through moods and complications to form as clear-eyed a portrayal of a marriage as is to be found in American literature. (In the marriage to a doctor and the banality of small-town life, there are obvious hints of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, 1856.)

Kennicott’s Gopher Prairie is a market town loosely based on Lewis’s hometown of Sauk Centre, but generic of Midwest prairie towns of the time in its ad hoc ugliness and devotion to money-making. Kennicott persuades the relatively, and self-consciously, urbane Carol to travel back with him and make Gopher Prairie “artistic”, pleading with her, “Make us change!”

The prospect of beautifying “one of these prairie towns” ignites in her a passionate enthusiasm, and the novel follows Carol’s various schemes for accomplishing this mission, from attempting to build a beautiful town hall to wishing to produce edifying plays by George Bernard Shaw. Time and again her efforts bump up against the complacence and venality of her neighbors, and Carol contemplates what it is that makes “the more intelligent young people (and the fortunate widows!) flee to the cities with agility” and not come back in passages such as this:

“It is an unimaginatively standardized background, a sluggishness of speech and manners, a rigid ruling of the spirit by the desire to appear respectable. It is contentment…the contentment of the quiet dead, who are scornful of the living for their restless walking.”

It is to Carol’s credit as a character, and Lewis’s as a novelist, that her understanding of Gopher Prairie and her relationship to it are not summed up in such passages. At times she is filled with compassion for the town’s inhabitants and at others becomes swept up by the beauty of the countryside and is convinced that she loves Gopher Prairie. Such moments of peace, though, Lewis likens to “the contentment of the lost hunter stopping to rest.”

Throughout Main Street, Lewis sees to it that Carol’s consciousness develops, growing more complex as she continuously examines town life, her marriage and herself. Further, her restless spirit—her dedication to beauty, to frankness, to justice for the farmers who are exploited by the town’s businesses, to her own fulfillment as a human being—never flags, making her one of the most compelling female characters in American literature. As she says of herself near the end of the novel, “I’ve never excused my failures by sneering at my aspirations, by pretending to have gone beyond them.”

As noted above, Main Street was an instant bestseller and its publication a national literary event. As Lewis’s biographer Mark Schorer remarks in Sinclair Lewis: An American Life (1961), “It was the most sensational event in twentieth-century American publishing history.” Part of the novel’s importance at the time was that it partook of both fame and infamy. Schorer again: “No reader was indifferent to Main Street: if it was not the most important revelation of American life ever made, it was the most infamous libel upon it.” The novel’s popularity and influence were underscored by the fact that the phrase “Main Street” became a common term denoting a particularly American brand of philistinism.

In 1930, Lewis observed that the novel had been a succès de scandale, because one of “the most treasured American myths had been that all American villages were peculiarly noble and happy, and here an American attacked that myth. Scandalous. Some hundreds of thousands read the book with the same masochistic pleasure that one has in sucking an aching tooth.”

Lewis’s greatest strength as a novelist was his sensitive detection of large social forces as they work themselves out culturally and in the desires and behavior of individuals. Carol Kennicott, for instance, in addition to constituting an intensely detailed and convincing consciousness, serves for Lewis as an embodiment of middle-class liberalism. She imagines improvements to Gopher Prairie that will make the town more pleasant to look at and live in, and she significantly wants to ease the discomfort of the economically oppressed, as when she dresses up the rest room that Gopher Prairie grudgingly provides for the wives of farmers who have been brought to “G.P.” on market day.

Yet Carol is also easily discouraged, giving way to personal emotion when she meets with resistance or ingratitude. And though she occasionally mouths “socialistic” sentiments, she has no stomach whatever for the hard, unglamorous work of political organization. (Toward the end of the novel she does lend a hand to the suffrage movement, but she notes the vast difference between herself and those women who are truly committed to the work.) …

His remarkable novel Babbitt is his first to explore these themes in any depth, with the “boosterism” practiced by businessmen like George F. Babbitt (again, Lewis contributed something to the English language) in the fictional city of Zenith, Ohio, shown to be at once inane in its promotion of “pep” and “zip,” and sinister in its suspicion of those who would challenge the premises of the money-worshipping life. A glimpse of Babbitt can already be seen in Main Street, in the person of “Honest Jim” Blausser, a land speculator and hustler who comes to Gopher Prairie to “boost” it, that is, to make it grow, and who delivers demagogic speeches against “all knockers of prosperity and the rights of property.”

In It Can’t Happen Here, Lewis confronts fascism head-on. While the novel may not compare favorably with his novels of the 1920s as a work of art, its analyses of fascism—as a tool of capitalism, as ruthless toward opponents and as fundamentally irrational—and of specifically American demagoguery make it valuable reading in 2020 America.

Burzelius “Buzz” Windrip is a senator with dictatorial aspirations, intended by Lewis to echo the governor of Louisiana, Huey P. Long. “The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his ‘ideas’ almost idiotic. …” Like Donald Trump and others, Windrip is a symptom of the objective conditions of his time, a worldwide depression and the rise of fascism in Europe, and in It Can’t Happen Here, an obviously ironic title, Lewis considers seriously and with insight just what an American “corporatist” (Windrip’s word) authoritarianism might look like and how the American people might respond.

COVID-19 disaster, worldwide


This 17 July 2020 video is called Philippines surge: Restrictions reimposed in Manila.

Brazil surpasses two million coronavirus cases as reopening drive continues. By Tomas Castanheira, 18 July 2020. “We cannot continue suffocating the economy,” President Jair Bolsonaro said, as Brazil suffered the highest single day death toll in the world: here.

US hits record 74,987 new daily COVID-19 cases. By Benjamin Mateus, 18 July 2020. The number of daily new cases in the United States has tripled from a month ago amid a massive resurgence of the pandemic.

Hawaii officials push unsafe reopening of schools despite outcry by educators and parents. By Renae Cassimeda and Liz Laliberte, 18 July 2020. The reopening of the schools, along with the lifting of travel restrictions in Hawaii, will greatly exacerbate the spread of the virus throughout the islands.

Johnson’s return-to-work speech: UK ruling class opts for mass murder. By Laura Tiernan, 18 July 2020. Johnson’s homicidal plans to end home working and lift public transportation restrictions reveal a financial oligarchy hell-bent on driving millions back to work no matter what the cost in human life.

COVID-19 spread accelerates across Europe as EU summit opens. By Alex Lantier and Johannes Stern, 18 July 2020.

Australian medical experts call for workplace and school shutdowns as Victoria’s COVID-19 surge escalates. By Oscar Grenfell, 18 July 2020. Despite the highest spike in Australian coronavirus infections since the pandemic began, the Victorian Labor government has implemented a “lockdown” that leaves schools and most workplaces open.

Australia: Hundreds of health workers in Victoria contract COVID-19. By Clare Bruderlin, 18 July 2020 A national survey of 500 healthcare workers found that half were experiencing PPE shortages and some were having to source their own supplies.

From the World Socialist Web Site, 18 July 2020:

Chemical Warehouse distribution workers refuse to enter Melbourne facility because of COVID-19 infections

Chemist Warehouse Distribution Centre workers in Somerton, Melbourne refused to enter the premises on July 10 after learning that a colleague had tested positive to COVID-19. According to the United Workers Union (UWU) the infected worker and five others have gone into isolation, despite the possibility that up to 100 staff who worked the same shift could have come in contact with the confirmed case.

While Chemist Warehouse management has demanded work should continue as normal, workers insisted that the facility must be closed for cleaning. Management has also declared that employees who refuse to work use their own entitlements, forcing casual employees and others with limited entitlements to choose between financially supporting their family or putting their health at risk.

The union has demanded that all workers at the site be placed on pandemic leave until they have been able to obtain a negative COVID test and that the facility be closed for 72 hours to allow for a deep clean. Although the issue is a workplace occupational health and safety concern the union has not called any industrial action despite complaining that the company has provided little details of the thoroughness of the cleaning process.