Coral discovery in Great Barrier Reef


This 25 October 2020 video says about itself:

Join RV Falkor as we conduct ROV SuBastian’s 401st dive on a newly discovered 500 m tall reef.

This is the ninth dive of the ‘Northern Depths of the Great Barrier Reef’ expedition.

Today we are exploring this 500 m tall ‘detached’ reef, one of seven other detached reefs offshore of Cape York Peninsula, which lie upon a ~500 m deep ledge extending out from below the Great Barrier Reef shelf. The dive will cross the broader base, then climb the steep flanks of the reef to the summit at about 50 m depth – an underwater mountain climb to find out what is living on this newly discovered reef.

From the Schmidt Ocean Institute:

Scientists have discovered a massive detached coral reef in the Great Barrier Reef — the first to be discovered in over 120 years, Schmidt Ocean Institute announced. Measuring more than 500 meters high — taller than the Empire State Building, the Sydney Tower and the Petronas Twin Towers — the reef was discovered by Australian scientists aboard Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor, currently on a 12-month exploration of the ocean surrounding Australia.

The reef was first found on Oct. 20, as a team of scientists led by Dr. Robin Beaman from James Cook University was conducting underwater mapping of the northern Great Barrier Reef seafloor. The team then conducted a dive on Oct. 25 using Schmidt Ocean Institute’s underwater robot SuBastian to explore the new reef. The dive was live-streamed, with the high-resolution footage viewed for the first time and broadcast on Schmidt Ocean Institute’s website and YouTube channel.

The base of the blade-like reef is 1.5km-wide, then rises 500m to its shallowest depth of only 40m below the sea surface. This newly discovered detached reef adds to the seven other tall detached reefs in the area, mapped since the late 1800s, including the reef at Raine Island — the world’s most important green sea turtle nesting area.

“This unexpected discovery affirms that we continue to find unknown structures and new species in our Ocean,” said Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute. “The state of our knowledge about what’s in the Ocean has long been so limited. Thanks to new technologies that work as our eyes, ears and hands in the deep ocean, we have the capacity to explore like never before. New oceanscapes are opening to us, revealing the ecosystems and diverse life forms that share the planet with us.”

“We are surprised and elated by what we have found,” said Dr. Beaman. “To not only 3D map the reef in detail, but also visually see this discovery with SuBastian is incredible. This has only been made possible by the commitment of Schmidt Ocean Institute to grant ship time to Australia’s scientists.”

The discovery of this new coral reef adds to a year of underwater discoveries by Schmidt Ocean Institute. In April, scientists discovered the longest recorded sea creature — a 45m siphonophore in Ningaloo Canyon, plus up to 30 new species. In August, scientists discovered five undescribed species of black coral and sponges and recorded Australia’s first observation of rare scorpionfish in the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef Marine Parks. And the year started with the discovery in February of deep sea coral gardens and graveyards in Bremer Canyon Marine Park.

“To find a new half-a-kilometer tall reef in the offshore Cape York area of the well-recognized Great Barrier Reef shows how mysterious the world is just beyond our coastline,” said Dr. Jyotika Virmani, executive director of Schmidt Ocean Institute. “This powerful combination of mapping data and underwater imagery will be used to understand this new reef and its role within the incredible Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.”

The Northern depths of the Great Barrier Reef voyage will continue until Nov. 17 as part of Schmidt Ocean Institute’s broader year-long Australia campaign. The maps created will be available through AusSeabed, a national Australian seabed mapping program, and will also contribute to the Nippon Foundation GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project.

Free imprisoned Israeli anti-militarist woman, protest today


This 22 October 2020 video from Israel says about itself:

Hallel Rabin – I Refuse

Hallel Rabin, a conscientious objector, spent two terms in Prison 6

That military prison is near Atlit, on Oren Junction.

for refusing to serve in the army. A few days before returning to the ICRC to refuse for a third time, she was interviewed by Social TV and justified her decision to refuse in public, after the IDF Conscience Committee was not persuaded to dismiss her.

For more interviews with other Israelis who refuse military service in Israel: here.

From Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom today:

Stand with Conscientious objector Hallel Rabin – demonstration at the Israeli Army’s Military Prison 6

Conscientious objector Hallel Rabin was sent to the military prison because of her refusal to join an army of occupation which oppresses the Palestinians.

She has asked – and fully deserves – for public support for her struggle.

The army’s method of dealing with refusers and conscientious objectors (male or female alike) is incremental sentences of a month at a time,

After each term the objector is again ordered to enlist, refuses again and is sent again to prison.

Hallel Rabin is now undergoing the third such one-month term, and many more can follow.

Using this method enables the army to avoid a court-martial which would be held in public and where the defendant can be represented by a lawyer and call witnesses.

Instead, the cumulative one-month terms are issued at “instant trials” held in camera at an officer’s bureau and lasting about five minutes.

‘Mesarvot’ and ‘Yesh Gvul’ invite the public to attend a protest vigil in support of Hallel and decrying her incarceration,

Today, Saturday October 31st, 2020 at 12:30

On the mountainside facing Military Prison 6, from where protesters are visible – and audible – to prisoners (and to their guards).

For those coming from the Tel-Aviv/Gush-Dan or Jerusalem areas, transportation is available; register here.

Contact: Yishai Menuchin +972-(0)54-3355373 +972-(0) 54-4860050.

Giant prehistoric seabirds discovery in Antarctica


This 2016 video says about itself:

How the Largest Flying Bird of All Time Stayed Airborne

With a 24-foot wingspan, how did the prehistoric Pelagornis sandersi, the largest known flying bird of all time, manage to fly so well? It relied on two key factors: a light frame and an ability to soar with the ocean currents.

From the University of California – Berkeley in the USA:

Antarctica yields oldest fossils of giant birds with 21-foot wingspans

Two fossils from a group of extinct seabirds represent the largest individuals ever found

October 27, 2020

Summary: Some of the largest birds in history, called pelagornithids, arose a few million years after the mass extinction that killed off the dinosaurs and patrolled the oceans with giant wingspans for some 60 million years. A team of paleontologists has found two fossils — each from individual pelagornithids with wingspans of 20 feet or more — that show this gigantism arose at least 50 million years ago and lasted at least 10 million years.

Fossils recovered from Antarctica in the 1980s represent the oldest giant members of an extinct group of birds that patrolled the southern oceans with wingspans of up to 21 feet that would dwarf the 11½-foot wingspan of today’s largest bird, the wandering albatross.

Called pelagornithids, the birds filled a niche much like that of today’s albatrosses and traveled widely over Earth’s oceans for at least 60 million years. Though a much smaller pelagornithid fossil dates from 62 million years ago, one of the newly described fossils — a 50 million-year-old portion of a bird’s foot — shows that the larger pelagornithids arose just after life rebounded from the mass extinction 65 million years ago, when the relatives of birds, the dinosaurs, went extinct. A second pelagornithid fossil, part of a jaw bone, dates from about 40 million years ago.

“Our fossil discovery, with its estimate of a 5-to-6-meter wingspan — nearly 20 feet — shows that birds evolved to a truly gigantic size relatively quickly after the extinction of the dinosaurs and ruled over the oceans for millions of years,” said Peter Kloess, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley.

The last known pelagornithid is from 2.5 million years ago, a time of changing climate as Earth cooled, and the ice ages began.

Kloess is the lead author of a paper describing the fossil that appears this week in the open-access journal Scientific Reports. His co-authors are Ashley Poust of the San Diego Natural History Museum and Thomas Stidham of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. Both Poust and Stidham received their Ph.Ds from UC Berkeley.

Birds with pseudoteeth

Pelagornithids are known as ‘bony-toothed’ birds because of the bony projections, or struts, on their jaws that resemble sharp-pointed teeth, though they are not true teeth, like those of humans and other mammals. The bony protrusions were covered by a horny material, keratin, which is like our fingernails. Called pseudoteeth, the struts helped the birds snag squid and fish from the sea as they soared for perhaps weeks at a time over much of Earth’s oceans.

Large flying animals have periodically appeared on Earth, starting with the pterosaurs that flapped their leathery wings during the dinosaur era and reached wingspans of 33 feet. The pelagornithids came along to claim the wingspan record in the Cenozoic, after the mass extinction, and lived until about 2.5 million years ago. Around that same time, teratorns, now extinct, ruled the skies.

The birds, related to vultures, “evolved wingspans close to what we see in these bony-toothed birds (pelagornithids),” said Poust. “However, in terms of time, teratorns come in second place with their giant size, having evolved 40 million years after these pelagornithids lived. The extreme, giant size of these extinct birds is unsurpassed in ocean habitats.”

The fossils that the paleontologists describe are among many collected in the mid-1980s from Seymour Island, off the northernmost tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, by teams led by UC Riverside paleontologists. These finds were subsequently moved to the UC Museum of Paleontology at UC Berkeley.

Kloess stumbled across the specimens while poking around the collections as a newly arrived graduate student in 2015. He had obtained his master’s degree from Cal State-Fullerton with a thesis on coastal marine birds of the Miocene era, between 17 million and 5 million years ago, that was based on specimens he found in museum collections, including those in the UCMP.

“I love going to collections and just finding treasures there,” he said. “Somebody has called me a museum rat, and I take that as a badge of honor. I love scurrying around, finding things that people overlook.”

Reviewing the original notes by former UC Riverside student Judd Case, now a professor at Eastern Washington University near Spokane, Kloess realized that the fossil foot bone — a so-called tarsometatarsus — came from an older geological formation than originally thought. That meant that the fossil was about 50 million years old instead of 40 million years old. It is the largest specimen known for the entire extinct group of pelagornithids.

The other rediscovered fossil, the middle portion of the lower jaw, has parts of its pseudoteeth preserved; they would have been up to 3 cm (1 inch) tall when the bird was alive. The approximately 12-cm (5-inch-) long preserved section of jaw came from a very large skull that would have been up to 60 cm (2 feet) long. Using measurements of the size and spacing of those teeth and analytical comparisons to other fossils of pelagornithids, the authors are able to show that this fragment came from an individual bird as big, if not bigger, than the largest known skeletons of the bony-toothed bird group.

A warm Antarctica was a bird playground

Fifty million years ago, Antarctica had a much warmer climate during the time known as the Eocene and was not the forbidding, icy continent we know today, Stidham noted. Alongside extinct land mammals, like marsupials and distant relatives of sloths and anteaters, a diversity of Antarctic birds occupied the land, sea and air.

The southern oceans were the playground for early penguin species, as well as extinct relatives of living ducks, ostriches, petrels and other bird groups, many of which lived on the islands of the Antarctic Peninsula. The new research documents that these extinct, predatory, large- and giant-sized bony-toothed birds were part of the Antarctic ecosystem for over 10 million years, flying side-by-side over the heads of swimming penguins.

“In a lifestyle likely similar to living albatrosses, the giant extinct pelagornithids, with their very long-pointed wings, would have flown widely over the ancient open seas, which had yet to be dominated by whales and seals, in search of squid, fish and other seafood to catch with their beaks lined with sharp pseudoteeth,” said Stidham. “The big ones are nearly twice the size of albatrosses, and these bony-toothed birds would have been formidable predators that evolved to be at the top of their ecosystem.”

Museum collections like those in the UCMP, and the people like Kloess, Poust and Stidham to mine them, are key to reconstructing these ancient habitats.

“Collections are vastly important, so making discoveries like this pelagornithid wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have these specimens in the public trust, whether at UC Riverside or now at Berkeley,” Kloess said. “The fact that they exist for researchers to look at and study has incredible value.”

Dutch neo-nazi terrorists arrested


This 2019 video is called Netherlands: ‘Nijmegen against racism’ demo held against neo-Nazi RVF.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio, 30 October 1980:

The police arrested two 19-year-old men from Amsterdam and Zwijndrecht for right-wing extremist incitement and crimes with a terrorist aim. The two had large amounts of Nazi material at home, searches revealed.

These are two separate cases, the Public Prosecution Service writes in a press release. Both suspects had eg, Nazi uniforms, posters, flags and illegal knives in their parents’ homes.

The suspects are probably affiliated with right-wing extremist groups that incite racial hatred and anti-Semitism online. One of those groups is The Base, a network mainly active in the USA.

Elections and COVID-19 in Donald Trump’s USA


This 30 October 2020 video says about itself:

As tens of millions of US voters cast their ballots early, former criminals are struggling to get their voices heard.

In Florida, ex-inmates are allowed to vote but only if they have paid off court fines and fees, which many cannot afford to do.

Al Jazeera’s Andy Gallacher reports from Miami.

MINNEAPOLIS POLICE UNION RECRUITS EX COPS AS ‘POLL CHALLENGERS’ The Minneapolis police union is facing a warning after recruiting retired cops to work as “poll challengers” in a “problem” area of the city at the request of an attorney for Trump’s reelection campaign. “Targeting anyone for a challenge based on being in a so-called ‘problem area’ is unlawful and will not be permitted in Minnesota’s polling places,” Minnesota Secretary of State Steven Simon said. State law guarantees voters the right to a peaceful polling place free of harassment or intrusion, he added. [HuffPost]

TRUMP’S BEST LIE MAY HAVE LOST ITS PUNCH Trump’s most frequent and most effective lie — that he built “the greatest economy in history” — appears to be losing its punch at the worst possible time for him. Trump has never had overall favorability ratings in his entire three years and nine months in office, but for most of that time has enjoyed the perception that he was doing a good job handling the economy. Now, with his election for a second term only days away, just about as many Americans think he is doing a bad job. [HuffPost]

EXTREME ABORTION RESTRICTIONS ON THE BALLOT Voters in Louisiana and Colorado are casting their ballots on two extreme anti-abortion measures that could have devastating effects on people seeking abortions and reproductive health care. In Colorado, Proposition 115 would ban abortion after 22 weeks with almost no exceptions. In Louisiana, Amendment 1 would ban abortion completely with no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother. Both ballot initiatives use intentionally vague language to mislead voters, abortion rights activists in each state told HuffPost. [HuffPost]

I broke up with my boyfriend because he refused to wear a mask.

How fish became amphibians, new research


This 2018 video says about itself:

385 million years ago, a group of fish would undertake one of the most important journeys in the history of life and become the first vertebrates to live on dry ground. But first, they had to acquire the ability to breathe air.

Thanks to Ceri Thomas for the Ichthyostega reconstruction.

From Uppsala University in Sweden:

Large tides may have driven evolution of fish towards life on land

October 27, 2020

Big tidal ranges some 400 million years ago may have initiated the evolution of bony fish and land vertebrates. This theory is now supported by researchers in the UK and at Uppsala University who, for the first time, have used established mathematical models to simulate tides on Earth during this period. The study has been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

“During long periods of the Earth’s history, we’ve had small tidal ranges. But in the Late Silurian and Early Devonian, they seem to have been large in some parts of the world. These results appear highly robust, because even if we changed model variables such as ocean depth, we got the same patterns,” says Per Ahlberg, professor of evolutionary organismal biology at Uppsala University.

Between 420 and 380 million years ago (Ma) — that is, during the end of one geological period, the Silurian, and beginning of the next, the Devonian — Earth was a completely different world from now. Instead of today’s well-known continents there were other land masses, clustered in the Southern Hemisphere. Stretching across the South Pole was the huge continent of Gondwana. North of it was another big one known as Laurussia, and squeezed between the two were a few small continents. Other salient differences compared with now were that Earth’s day lasted only 21 hours, since our planet revolved faster on its own axis, and the Moon looked much larger because its orbit was closer to Earth.

Life on land had gradually begun to get established. But the vertebrates, then consisting only of various kinds of fish, were still to be found only in the oceans. Then, during the Devonian, immense diversification of fish took place. One group to emerge was the bony fish, which make up more than 95 per cent of all fish today but were also the ancestors of terrestrial vertebrates. The earliest bony fish were the first animals to evolve lungs. What set off the evolution of bony fish, and how some of them started to adapt to a life on land, has not been clarified. One theory is that it happened in tidal environments where, in some periods, fish had been isolated in pools as a result of particularly large tides. This challenging habitat may have driven the evolution of lungs and, later on, the transformation of fins into front and hind legs.

To test this tidal theory, researchers at Uppsala University, in collaboration with colleagues from the Universities of Oxford and (in Wales) Bangor, used an established mathematical model of the tidal system for the first time to simulate, in detail, the tides in the Late Silurian and Early Devonian. Data on the positions of the continents, the distance of the Moon, the duration of Earth’s day, our planet’s gravity and the physical properties of seawater were fed into the model. These simulations showed unequivocally that the period, just like that of the present day, was one when large tides occurred in some places. The small continent of South China on the Equator showed a difference of more than four metres in sea level between high and low tide. The existence of tides at the time has previously been verified through studies of geological strata, but determining the extent of the difference between low and high tide has not been feasible. To researchers this news has been interesting, since fossil finds indicate that it was specifically around South China that bony fish originated.

“Our results open the door to further and even more detailed tidal analyses of key episodes in Earth’s past. The method can be used to explore the possible role of tides in other evolutionary processes of vertebrate development. And perhaps, conversely, whether tides, with their influence on ocean dynamics, played a part in the big marine extinctions that have taken place again and again in Earth’s history,” Ahlberg says.

Happy Halloween everyone, with Siouxsie


As it will be Halloween tomorrow, 31 October, this music video.

It is the song Halloween, by Siouxsie and the Banshees, played live in Cologne in Germany in 1981.

During that 1981 tour, the Banshees also played that song at their 7 July open-air radio concert in Tiel, the Netherlands. A very special concert. Siouxsie said in this interview that it was the first time they had played in sunlight, not in a dark hall.

Siouxsie & The Banshees - Tiel, Nieuwe Kade 7-7-1981

This is a photo from a local 1981 newspaper showing that concert.

Good leopard news from China


This 2016 video says about itself:

First ever video footage of snow leopards and common leopards using the exact same location. Filmed in Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve, China.

Footage by Shan Shui Conservation Center, Panthera, Snow Leopard Trust, Government of Zadoi County, Qinghai, and SEE Foundation.

From the University of Copenhagen in Denmark:

Surprised researchers: Number of leopards in northern China on the rise

October 26, 2020

Most of the world’s leopards are endangered and generally, the number of these shy and stunning cats is decreasing. However, according to a recent study, leopard populations in northern China are on the mend.

Leopards are fascinating animals. In addition to being sublime hunters that will eat nearly anything and can survive in varied habitats from forests to deserts, they are able to withstand temperatures ranging from minus 40 degrees Celsius during winter to plus 40 degrees in summer.

Despite their resilience, the majority of leopard species are endangered. Poaching and the clearing of forest habitat for human activities are among the reasons for their global decline.

But in northern China — and specifically upon the Loess Plateau — something fantastic is occurring.

Numbers of a leopard subspecies called the North Chinese leopard have increased according to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Copenhagen and their colleagues in Beijing.

“We were quite surprised that the number of leopards has increased, because their populations are declining in many other places. We knew that there were leopards in this area, but we had no idea how many,” says Bing Xie, a PhD student at UCPH’s Department of Biology and one of the researchers behind the study.

Together with researchers at Beijing Normal University, she covered 800 square kilometers of the Loess Plateau between 2016 and 2017.

The just-completed count reports that the number of leopards increased from 88 in 2016 to 110 in 2017 — a 25 percent increase. The researchers suspect that their numbers have continued to increase in the years since.

This is the first time that an estimate has been made for the status of local population in North Chinese leopards.

Five-year reforestation plan has worked

The reason for this spotted golden giant’s rebound likely reflects the 13’th five-year plan that the Chinese government, in consultation with a range of scientific researchers, implemented in 2015 to restore biodiversity in the area.

“About 20 years ago, much of the Loess Plateau’s forest habitat was transformed into agricultural land. Human activity scared away wild boars, toads, frogs and deer — making it impossible for leopards to find food. Now that much of the forest has been restored, prey have returned, along with the leopards,” explains Bing Xie, adding:

“Many locals had no idea there were leopards in the area, so they were wildly enthused and surprised. And, it was a success for the government, which had hoped for greater biodiversity in the area. Suddenly, they could ‘house’ these big cats on a far greater scale than they had dreamed of.”

Leopards are nearly invisible in nature

The research team deployed camera equipment to map how many leopards were in this area of northern China. But even though the footage captured more cats than expected on film, none of the researchers saw any of the big stealthy felines with their own eyes:

“Leopards are extremely shy of humans and sneak about silently. That’s why it’s not at all uncommon to study them for 10 years without physically observing one,” she explains.

Even though Bing Xie has never seen leopards in the wild, she will continue to fight for their survival.

“That 98 percent of leopard habitat has been lost over the years makes me so sad. I have a great love for these gorgeous cats and I will continue to research on how best to protect them,” she concludes.

Coronavirus and elections in Trump’s USA


This 28 October 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Can We Stop Trump From Stealing 2020? (w/ Dr. Justin Frank)

Back in 2000, Dr. Justin Frank felt that jackboots were about to march down Pennsylvania Avenue. And all to do with votes and those infamous hanging chads not being counted. Is it all about to happen again?

New study suggests COVID-19 may age some patients‘ brains by 10 years.

THIS IS VOTER INTIMIDATION There is an unmistakable effort underway to intimidate voters — specifically Democratic voters — when they go to the polls. Right-wing groups are organizing to show up at polls with guns, a development election officials fear will create an unsafe environment for other voters to cast their ballots. In one swing state, an effort to limit the presence of guns at polling locations was met with a court fight and a standoff between the state’s election officials and some members of law enforcement. Only about a dozen states explicitly ban open or concealed carry of firearms at the polls. [HuffPost]

WITH JUST eight days to go before the US presidential election the right-wing judge Amy Coney Barrett was appointed to the American Supreme Court ensuring a Republican majority. US president Donald Trump nominated Barrett and rushed through her appointment in a move that clearly demonstrates the important role that a Republican-dominated Supreme Court will play in Trump’s determination to overturn his expected defeat at the polls on November 3rd. Back in August, Trump launched a campaign to discredit postal balloting in US elections with the baseless claim that voting by mail leads to fraud: here.