Why tarantula spiders are blue or green


This video is called Greenbottle Blue and Sazimai’s Blue Tarantula Comparison.

By Yale-NUS College in the USA:

Scientists discover why tarantulas come in vivid blues and greens

September 24, 2020

Summary: Researchers find support for new hypotheses: that tarantulas‘ vibrant blue colors may be used to communicate between potential mates, while green coloration confers the ability to conceal among foliage. Their research also suggests that tarantulas are not as color-blind as previously believed, and that these arachnids may be able to perceive the bright blue tones on their bodies.

Why are some tarantulas so vividly coloured? Scientists have puzzled over why these large, hairy spiders, active primarily during the evening and at night-time, would sport such vibrant blue and green colouration — especially as they were long thought to be unable to differentiate between colours, let alone possess true colour vision.

In a recent study, researchers from Yale-NUS College and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) find support for new hypotheses: that these vibrant blue colours may be used to communicate between potential mates, while green colouration confers the ability to conceal among foliage. Their research also suggests that tarantulas are not as colour-blind as previously believed, and that these arachnids may be able to perceive the bright blue tones on their bodies. The study was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on 23 September, and is featured on the front cover of the current (30 September 2020) issue.

The research was jointly led by Dr Saoirse Foley from CMU, and Dr Vinod Kumar Saranathan, in collaboration with Dr William Piel, both from the Division of Science at Yale-NUS College. To understand the evolutionary basis of tarantula colouration, they surveyed the bodily expression of various opsins (light-sensitive proteins usually found in animal eyes) in tarantulas. They found, contrary to current assumptions, that most tarantulas have nearly an entire complement of opsins that are normally expressed in day-active spiders with good colour vision, such as the Peacock Spider.

These findings suggest that tarantulas, long thought to be colour-blind, can perceive the bright blue colours of other tarantulas. Using comparative phylogenetic analyses, the team reconstructed the colours of 110 million-year-old tarantula ancestors and found that they were most likely blue. They further found that blue colouration does not correlate with the ability to urticate or stridulate — both common defence mechanisms — suggesting that it did not evolve as a means of deterring predators, but might instead be a means of attracting potential mates.

The team also found that the evolution of green colouration appears to depend on whether the species in question is arboreal (tree-dwelling), suggesting that this colour likely functions in camouflage.

“While the precise function of blueness remains unclear, our results suggest that tarantulas may be able to see these blue displays, so mate choice is a likely potential explanation. We have set an impetus for future projects to include a behavioural element to fully explore these hypotheses, and it is very exciting to consider how further studies will build upon our results,” said Dr Foley.

The team’s survey of the presence of blue and green colouration across tarantulas turned up more interesting results. They found that the blue colouration has been lost more frequently than it is gained across tarantulas. The losses are mainly in species living in the Americas and Oceania, while many of the gains are in the Old World (European, Asian, and African) species. They also found that green colouration has evolved only a few times, but never lost.

“Our finding that blueness was lost multiple times in the New World, while regained in the Old, is very intriguing. This leaves several fascinating avenues for future research, when considering how the ecological pressures in the New and the Old Worlds vary,” said Dr Saranathan. “For instance, one hypothesis would be differences in the light environments of the habitats between the New and the Old World, which can affect how these colours might be perceived, if indeed they can be, as our results suggest.”

Greek students strike against schools coronavirus danger


Greek school students march with a banner stating: ‘Masks are not the only protection – give money for education’

From daily News Line in Britain, 26 September 2020:

SEVERAL hundreds of secondary schools throughout Greece remain shut as school students refused to attend classes considering the Covid-19 government guidelines to be ineffective.

Last Thursday in Athens, over 2,000 school students, along with delegations from university students’ unions, marched to the Vouli (Greek parliament) shouting ‘money for health and education, that’s what could protect us from the pandemic’ and ‘masks are not enough’. Marchers demanded the resignation of the Education Ministry.

The march took place as Covid-19 cases and deaths have more than trebled this month as compared to spring, with Athens hardest hit.

The government have imposed draconian rules, prohibiting meetings of more than nine persons, either indoors or outdoors. Over summer, the government voted in a reactionary Bill restricting marches and demonstrations.

But Greek riot police stayed away from the school students’ march.

Greek hospital doctors were also on the march last Thursday in a mass protest meeting at the Health Ministry building as part of their 24-hour national strike demanding the employment of doctors and staff at state hospitals and mass free Covid-19 tests for all.

But a OENGE (hospital doctors federation) spokesperson announced that Health Ministry officials had told their delegation that no government cash is available for hospitals.

At the port of Piraeus, seafarers on ferries staged a solid 100% 24-hour strike against the Greek government attack on wages and rights. Last June, the government annulled all collective agreements for freight ships and oil tankers.

Seafarers’ unions called the strike against this government action and in defence of their rights.

But the PNO (federation of seafarers trades unions) leaders have refused to call a national strike.

At a mass meeting in the Piraeus docks, the President of the PENEN (deck crews) trade union Antonis Dalakogeorgos called for the unification of all the different protests and for the creation of a ‘common centre of struggle’ to fight the government.

The GSEE (Greek TUC) leaders have obeyed the EU and bosses’ diktats and have refused to even call a protest march.

Delakogeorgos stopped short of calling for a new leadership in the trade union and labour movement to organise the overthrow of the current right-wing government.

More restrictive lockdown set for Israel as coronavirus cases soar.

Blue-grey tanagers in Panama


This video says about itself:

Blue-grey Tanager Pair Share The Panama Fruit Feeder – Sept. 24, 2020

A lovely pair of Blue-gray Tanagers visit the feeder and share some banana. These sky-blue tanagers with dark eyes are quite common in towns and gardens and mainly feed at mid and upper levels in trees. Note the cameo by a Snowy-bellied Hummingbird at the end of this highlight on the right nectar feeder.

Serco, incompetent British coronavirus disaster profiteers


This 9 September 2020 video from Britain says about itself:

Professor Anthony Costello slams the test and trace “fiasco”

The government‘s test, track and trace system is in disarray. With rising coronavirus infections and the system failing to get a grip on the pandemic, it’s time for a change.

The privatised system, run by Serco and Sitel has failed. Professor Anthony Costello here explains how and why we need an alternative.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 24 September 2020:

Protesters to demand Serco gets the sack on test and trace contract

CAMPAIGNERS will protest outside the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) tomorrow morning to demand that failing contractor Serco is sacked from its Covid-19 test-and-trace contract.

Dressed in giant beer costumes and proclaiming that Serco “couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery” they will demand that local public-health protection teams are put in charge of the crucial system.

The protest, scheduled to start at 10am, echoes the rising public distrust in the ability of profit-hungry privateers to deliver the efficient test-and-trace system needed to bring down infection rates.

Pascale Robinson, of organisers We Own It, said: “This week, Boris Johnson has introduced tighter restrictions in an attempt to get a handle on the recent spike in Covid cases.

“But sadly, his response is falling well short of what’s needed to get out of this crisis safely.”

Mr Robison said that in order to get out of lockdown, save lives and hug our loved ones, “we desperately need a test, track and trace system that works.

“Unfortunately, what we have instead is an unmitigated disaster, with large parts run by Serco, a company synonymous with bungling and never-ending failure.

“The truth is that Serco couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery. It’s time for [the company] to be kicked out of the track-and-trace system.”

New mosasaur genus discovered


A skeletal mount of the mosasaur Gnathomortis stadtmani at BYU’s Eyring Science Center. Image credit: BYU

From Utah State University in the USA:

Jaws of death: Paleontologist renames giant, prehistoric marine lizard

September 23, 2020

Summary: Paleontologists describe a new genus of mosasaur, Gnathomortis stadtmani, a marine lizard that roamed the oceans of North America toward the end of the Age of Dinosaurs.

Some 92 to 66 million years ago, as the Age of Dinosaurs waned, giant marine lizards called mosasaurs roamed an ocean that covered North America from Utah to Missouri and Texas to the Yukon. The air-breathing predators were streamlined swimmers that devoured almost everything in their path, including fish, turtles, clams and even smaller mosasaurs.

Coloradoan Gary Thompson discovered mosasaur bones near the Delta County town of Cedaredge in 1975, which the teen reported to his high school science teacher. The specimens made their way to Utah’s Brigham Young University, where, in 1999, the creature that left the fossils was named Prognathodon stadtmani.

“I first learned of this discovery while doing background research for my Ph.D.,” says newly arrived Utah State University Eastern paleontologist Joshua Lively, who recently took the reins as curator of the Price campus’ Prehistoric Museum. “Ultimately, parts of this fossil, which were prepared since the original description in 1999, were important enough to become a chapter in my 2019 doctoral dissertation.”

Upon detailed research of the mosasaur’s skeleton and a phylogenetic analysis, Lively determined the BYU specimen is not closely related to other species of the genus Prognathodon and needed to be renamed. He reclassified the mosasaur as Gnathomortis stadtmani and reports his findings in the most recent issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

His research was funded by the Geological Society of America, the Evolving Earth Foundation, the Texas Academy of Science and the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin.

“The new name is derived from Greek and Latin words for ‘jaws of death,'” Lively says. “It was inspired by the incredibly large jaws of this specimen, which measure four feet (1.2 meters) in length.”

An interesting feature of Gnathomortis’ mandibles, he says, is a large depression on their outer surface, similar to that seen in modern lizards, such as the Collared Lizard. The feature is indicative of large jaw muscles that equipped the marine reptile with a formidable biteforce.

“What sets this animal apart from other mosasaurs are features of the quadrate — a bone in the jaw joint that also forms a portion of the ear canal,” says Lively, who returned to the fossil’s Colorado discovery site and determined the age interval of rock, in which the specimen was preserved.

“In Gnathomortis, this bone exhibits a suite of characteristics that are transitional from earlier mosasaurs, like Clidastes, and later mosasaurs, like Prognathodon. We now know Gnathomortis swam in the seas of Colorado between 79 and 81 million years ago, or at least 3.5 million years before any species of Prognathodon.”

He says fossil enthusiasts can view Gnathomortis’ big bite at the BYU Museum of Paleontology in Provo, Utah, and see a cast of the skull at the Pioneer Town Museum in Cedaredge, Colorado. Reconstructions of the full skeleton are on display at the John Wesley Powell River History Museum in Green River, Utah, and in BYU’s Eyring Science Center.

“I’m excited to share this story, which represents years of effort by many citizen scientists and scholars, as I kick off my new position at USU Eastern’s Prehistoric Museum,” Lively says. “It’s a reminder of the power of curiosity and exploration by people of all ages and backgrounds.”

Bezos’ Amazon sells bleach as coronavirus ‘medicine’


This 30 April 2020 video from Canada says about itself:

Amazon workers slam warehouse conditions

Workers for online retail giant Amazon say the company is not protecting staff from the spread of the coronavirus. Five cases of COVID-19 have been reported at the company’s facility north of Calgary.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Industrial bleach is being sold on Amazon through its product pages which consumers are buying under the mistaken belief that it is a “miracle cure” for Covid-19, despite health warnings from the US Food and Drug Administration that drinking the fluid can kill.

The chlorine dioxide solutions are being sold on the Amazon platform under the brand name CD Kit and NatriChlor. …

In comments from Amazon customers under the review section of the pages … users discuss how many drops of bleach they are imbibing and explain they are drinking the chemical which they call MMS to “disinfect ourselves”, a phrase that echoes Donald Trump’s controversial remarks in April that injections of disinfectant could cure Covid-19.

Former NSA chief Keith Alexander has joined Amazon’s board of directors. Alexander was the public face of US surveillance during the Snowden leaks: here.

A march on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s Beverly Hills mansion is planned today by activist groups, who hope to draw attention to the e-commerce giant’s business practices and working conditions: here.

Many birds at Panama feeder


This video says about itself:

Blue-gray Tanagers And A Rufous Motmot Enjoy The Panama Fruit Feeder Buffet – Sept. 16, 2020

A pair of Blue-gray Tanagers visit to fill up on some banana and are then startled off by the sudden arrival of a much larger visitor, the Rufous Motmot. Enjoy this colorful scene of these drastically different tropical birds.

NASA sends woman to moon, which woman?


This 2018 video says about itself:

Moon 101 | National Geographic

What is the moon made of, and how did it form? Learn about the moon’s violent origins, how its phases shaped the earliest calendars, and how humans first explored Earth’s only natural satellite half a century ago.

NASA PLANNING TO SEND FIRST WOMAN TO THE MOON IN 2024 NASA revealed this week that it plans to send a woman to the moon for the first time in 2024. The Artemis Plan describes the first lunar mission since 1972 aimed at sending a man and the first woman to Earth’s nearest neighbor. “Sending human explorers 250,000 miles to the Moon, then 140 million miles to Mars, requires a bold vision, effective program management, funding for modern systems development and mission operations, and support from all corners of our great nation as well as our partners across the globe,” NASA said in the plan’s introduction. [HuffPost]

So, now the question is: Which woman will be sent to the moon? Some people in the USA might suggest: Ann Coulter, provided it is a one-way ticket.

And which man? Donald Trump, same condition?

Climate change threatens Komodo dragons


This 2019 video says about itself:

The Raw Nature crew observe Komodo dragons hunting in the wild during a visit to Rincah Island in Indonesia. They then demonstrate the effect of the powerful Komodo venom on a piece of raw meat.

From the University of Adelaide in Australia:

Climate change threatens Komodo dragons

September 17, 2020

The world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon, could be driven to extinction by climate change unless significant measures to intervene are taken soon.

A new international study, led by the University of Adelaide and Deakin University, has found that the impact of both global warming and sea-level rise threatens the extinction of Komodo dragons, which already have restricted habitats, and this must be better incorporated into conservation strategies.

“Climate change is likely to cause a sharp decline in the availability of habitat for Komodo dragons, severely reducing their abundance in a matter of decades,” says lead author Dr Alice Jones from the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences. “Our models predict local extinction on three of the five island habitats where Komodo dragons are found today.”

The Komodo dragon, Varanus komodoensis, is the world’s most iconic lizard species which has existed on Earth for more than a million years, but only an estimated 4000 individuals survive in the wild. They are endemic to five islands in southeast Indonesia: Komodo, Rinca, Nusa Kode and Gili Motang which are part of Komodo National Park, and Flores, the fifth and largest island which has three nature reserves.

“Current-day conservation strategies are not enough to avoid species decline in the face of climate change. This is because climate change will compound the negative effects of already small, isolated populations,” says Dr Jones.

“Interventions such as establishing new reserves in areas that are predicted to sustain high-quality habitats in the future, despite global warming, could work to lessen the effects of climate change on Komodo dragons.

This study, which is published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, is the result of many years of fieldwork on the ecology and conservation status of Komodo dragons.

“Using this data and knowledge in conservation models has provided a rare opportunity to understand climate change impacts on Indonesia’s exceptional but highly vulnerable biodiversity,” says co-author Dr Tim Jessop, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University.

Importantly, the research project involved close collaboration with the Komodo National Park and the Eastern Lesser Sunda Cen¬tral Bureau for Conservation of Natural Resources.

“The severity and extent of human actions impacting Komodo dragon populations, especially on Flores Island, are only just being realised,” says co-author Deni Purwandana, Coordinator of the Komodo Survival Program.

“Having an insight into future impacts of climate change provides new possibilities to work with conservation agencies and local communities to find on-ground solutions that will limit climate and other threats to Komodo dragons and their habitats.”

The researchers say climate-change-informed decisions should be a common part of conservation practice.

“Our conservation models show that Komodo dragons on two protected large islands are less vulnerable to climate change. However, even these island habitats might not provide an adequate insurance policy for the survival of the species,” says Associate Professor Damien Fordham from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute.

“Conservation managers in coming decades may need to consider translocating animals to sites where Komodo dragons have not been found for many decades. This scenario can be tested easily using our approach.

“Our research shows that without taking immediate action to mitigate climatic change, we risk committing many range-restricted species like Komodo dragons to extinction.”

Violence encouraged in Donald Trump’s USA


This 22 September 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Florida [ruled by Trump’s Republican party] To Legalize Murdering Protesters

This is not an exaggeration. John Iadarola and Emma Vigeland break it down on The Damage Report.

“The American Civil Liberties Union joined Florida Democrats on Monday in condemning a proposed bill by Gov. Ron DeSantis that would newly classify certain forms of protest as felonies and impose harsh penalties on some protesters.

Flanked by Republican lawmakers and law enforcement officials at an afternoon press conference in Winter Haven, DeSantis referred to Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon as he announced the proposed legislation.

“I look at what goes on in Portland. They’ll have people, they’ll arrest them,” DeSantis said. “They’re all scraggly-looking Antifa-types. They get their mugshot taken, then they get released. It’s like a carousel; on and on it goes.”

“That’s not going to happen in here in Florida,” the governor vowed.”

Read more here.

TRUMP CELEBRATES VIOLENCE AGAINST JOURNALISTS Trump celebrated violence against journalists during a campaign rally in Pennsylvania on Tuesday night, mocking a reporter who was injured covering this summer’s racial injustice demonstrations and calling the act “actually a beautiful sight.” The president’s comments are the latest of many attacks on the free press but an overt endorsement of members of the media coming under attack. Trump also recounted racial justice demonstrations in Minneapolis following the police killing of George Floyd, saying the city had been “cured” after National Guard troops were deployed. [HuffPost]