Extinct Polynesian sandpiper species discovery


This video says about itself:

Tuamotu Sandpiper | South Pacific & French Polynesia | Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic

The world’s most exciting sandpiper,” as undersea specialist Mike Greenfelder puts it, is notable for its rarity and tame behavior.

Video by Eric Wehrmeister aboard the National Geographic Orion in Tahanea, Tuamotus, French Polynesia.

From the Canterbury Museum in New Zealand:

Henderson island fossils reveal new Polynesian sandpiper species

November 16, 2020

Fossil bones collected in the early 1990s on Henderson Island, part of the Pitcairn Group, have revealed a new species of Polynesian sandpiper.

The Henderson Sandpiper, a small wading bird that has been extinct for centuries, is described in an article in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society published last week.

The newly-described bird is formally named Prosobonia sauli after Cook Islands-based ornithologist and conservationist Edward K Saul.

A team of researchers from New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands and China, led by Canterbury Museum Research Curator Natural History Dr Vanesa De Pietri, described the Henderson Sandpiper from 61 fossilised bones cared for by the Natural History Museum at Tring in England.

Canterbury Museum Visiting Researcher Dr Graham Wragg collected the bones from caves and overhangs on Henderson Island in 1991 and 1992 during the Sir Peter Scott Commemorative Expedition to the Pitcairn Islands.

Prosobonia sauli is the fifth known species of Polynesian sandpiper. All but one of the species, the endangered Tuamotu Sandpiper (Prosobonia parvirostris), are extinct.

“We think Prosobonia sauli probably went extinct soon after humans arrived on Henderson Island, which archaeologists estimate happened no earlier than the eleventh century,” says Dr De Pietri.

“It’s possible these humans brought with them the Polynesian rat, which Polynesian sandpiper populations are very vulnerable to.”

DNA of the living Tuamotu Sandpiper and the extinct Tahiti Sandpiper (Prosobonia leucoptera), which is known only from a skin in the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands, was used to determine how Polynesian sandpipers are related to other wading birds.

“We found that Polynesian sandpipers are early-diverging members of a group that includes calidrine sandpipers and turnstones. They are unlike other sandpipers in that they are restricted to islands of the Pacific and do not migrate,” says Dr De Pietri.

Comparisons with the other two extinct Polynesian sandpiper species, the Kiritimati Sandpiper (Prosobonia cancellata) and the Mo’orea Sandpiper (Prosobonia ellisi), are complicated. These birds are known only from illustrations primarily by William Wade Ellis, an artist and Surgeon’s Mate on Captain James Cook’s third expedition, who probably saw the birds alive in the 1770s.

Compared to the Tuamotu Sandpiper, its geographically closest cousin, the Henderson Sandpiper had longer legs and a wider, straighter bill, indicating how it foraged for food. It probably adapted to the habitats available on Henderson Island, which are different to those on other islands where Polynesian sandpipers were found.

Henderson Island is the largest island in the Pitcairn Group, in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. It has been uninhabited since around the fifteenth century and was designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1988.

Dr Paul Scofield, Canterbury Museum Senior Curator Natural History and one of the study’s co-authors, says Henderson Island is home to a number of unique species, a handful of which are landbirds like the Henderson Sandpiper.

“The island is really quite remarkable because every landbird species that lives there, or that we know used to live there, is not found anywhere else,” he says.

Dr De Pietri says the study shows the need to protect the one remaining Polynesian sandpiper species, the Tuamotu Sandpiper.

“We know that just a few centuries ago there were at least five Polynesian sandpiper species scattered around the Pacific. Now there’s only one, and its numbers are declining, so we need to ensure we look after the remaining populations.”

This research was supported by a grant from the Marsden Fund Council, managed by the Royal Society Te Apārangi, as well as the R S Allan Fund managed by Canterbury Museum.

British food factories coronavirus danger


This video from Harvard University in the USA says about itself:

Food Insecurity, Inequality and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing crises of food insecurity and health disparities. In the United States, mass protests continue to spotlight deep-seated inequities — including access to affordable, nutritious food — faced by communities of color. Black Americans in particular have been disproportionately burdened by the pandemic. Globally, issues about potential disruptions in local food supply chains and prices have caused concern. Drawing on new U.S. Census and other data, this Forum explored public policy and actions needed to preserve access to federal nutritional assistance programs, including SNAP, WIC, and National School Lunch Programs. The panelists also discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the global food supply and nutritional quality, especially in low and middle-income countries, as well as strategies to minimize food system disruptions and ensure food access and nutrition during and after the pandemic.

Presented jointly with The World from PRX & WGBH on June 30, 2020.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain today:

Food factories could be Christmas super-spreaders, warns TUC

FOOD factories could be “super-spreaders” of Covid-19 in the run-up to Christmas, the TUC warns today.

The trade union organisation says that workers in food plants already face a higher chance of contracting coronavirus due to the lack of airflow, poor social distancing and low temperatures.

And a huge influx of temporary staff over the festive period could see cases “rocket”, it predicts.

Food processing has the third-highest rate of outbreaks of any sector across Europe, after care homes and hospitals, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Control.

Since March, several British food factories have been forced to close during the pandemic after reporting hundreds of cases of coronavirus, among them suppliers to major supermarkets.

Last month, turkey meat manufacturer Bernard Matthews reported 147 positive cases across two sites.

But food manufacturing companies across Britain are currently advertising for temporary workers as they gear up for the busy Christmas period.

They include Dessert factory Bakkavor, which had 115 staff test positive for Covid-19 over the summer, with at least one fatality.

The company is seeking hundreds of seasonal staff to meet demand for Christmas.

Meat supplier Cranswick, hit by outbreaks that led to three workers losing their lives, is recruiting for at least 130 Christmas jobs in one factory.

The TUC warns that current workplace safety guidance for food production is “out-of-date” and called on ministers to “stop dragging their feet” and make it a legal requirement for employers to publish their risk assessments.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “There is a real danger that food factories could become ‘super spreaders’ of Covid-19 as they produce turkeys and other seasonal fare for Christmas.

“Out-of-date guidelines on food production, combined with the seasonal increase in staff, will put factory workers at an even higher risk of infection.

“Ministers urgently need to update the guidance for food production. They must require employers to publish their risk assessments.

“And they must resource the HSE properly, so it can get into food factories and crack down on unsafe working.

“That’s how to make sure everyone is safe at work this Christmas.”

The Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been approached for comment.

Extinct walrus species discovery in California, USA


This July 2020 video says about itself:

The rise and fall of ancient walruses, and how modern ones got their tusks, is a story that spans almost 20 million years. And while there are parts of the story that we’re still trying to figure out, it looks like tusks didn’t have anything to do with how or what these animals ate.

From ScienceDaily:

Paleontologists uncover three new species of extinct walruses in Orange County, California

Study gives insight to tusk evolution of the marine mammal

November 16, 2020

Millions of years ago, in the warm Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California, walrus species without tusks lived abundantly.

But in a new study, Cal State Fullerton paleontologists have identified three new walrus species discovered in Orange County and one of the new species has “semi-tusks” — or longer teeth.

The other two new species don’t have tusks and all predate the evolution of the long iconic ivory tusks of the modern-day walrus, which lives in the frigid Arctic.

The researchers describe a total of 12 specimens of fossil walruses from Orange, Los Angeles and Santa Cruz counties, all estimated to be 5 to 10 million years old. The fossils represent five species, with two of the three new species represented by specimens of males, females and juveniles.

Their research, which gives insights on the dental and tusk evolution of the marine mammal, was published today in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Geology graduate Jacob Biewer, and his research adviser James F. Parham, associate professor of geological sciences, are authors of the study, based on fossil skull specimens.

Parham and Biewer worked with Jorge Velez-Juarbe, an expert in marine mammals at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, who is a co-author of the paper. Velez-Juarbe is a former postdoctoral scholar in Parham’s lab and has collaborated on other CSUF fossil research projects. Parham is a research associate at the museum, which provides research opportunities for him and his students.

The researchers teamed to study and describe the anatomy of the specimens, most of which are part of the museum’s collection.

“Orange County is the most important area for fossil walruses in the world,” said Biewer, first author of the paper who conducted the research for his master’s thesis. “This research shows how the walruses evolved with tusks.”

Extinct Walrus Species Get Names

Today, there is only one walrus species and its scientific name is Odobenus.

For the new species found in Orange County, the researchers named the semi-tusked walrus, Osodobenus eodon, by combining the words Oso and Odobenus. Another is named Pontolis kohnoi in honor of Naoki Kohno, a fossil walrus researcher from Japan. Both of these fossils were discovered in the Irvine, Lake Forest and Mission Viejo areas.

Osodobenus eodon and Pontolis kohnoi are both from the same geological rock layer as the 2018 study by Parham and his students of another new genus and species of a tuskless walrus, Titanotaria orangensis, named after CSUF Titans. These fossils were found in the Oso Member of the Capistrano Formation, a geological formation near Lake Forest and Mission Viejo.

The third new walrus species, Pontolis barroni, was found in Aliso Viejo, near the 73 Toll Road. It is named after John Barron, a retired researcher from the U.S.Geological Survey and world expert on the rock layer where the specimens were found, Parham said.

Analysis of these specimens show that fossil walrus teeth are more variable and complex than previously considered. Most of the new specimens predate the evolution of tusks, Parham said.

“Osodobenus eodon is the most primitive walrus with tusk-like teeth,” Parham said. “This new species demonstrates the important role of feeding ecology on the origin and early evolution of tusks.”

Biewer explained that his work focused on getting a better understanding of the evolutionary history of the walrus in regards to its teeth.

“The importance of dental evolution is that it shows the variability within and across walrus species. Scientists assumed you could identify certain species just based on the teeth, but we show how even individuals of the same species could have variability in their dental setup,” said Biewer, who earned a master’s degree in geology in 2019.

“Additionally, everyone assumes that the tusks are the most important teeth in a walrus, but this research further emphasizes how tusks were a later addition to the history of walruses. The majority of walrus species were fish eaters and adapted to catching fish, rather than using suction feeding on mollusks like modern walruses.”

Biewer, now a paleontologist in the Modesto area, also examined whether climate changes in the Pacific Ocean had an impact on ancient walruses. His work suggests that a rise in water temperature helped to boost nutrients and planktonic life, and played a role in the proliferation of walruses about 10 million years ago, which may have contributed to their diversity.

Background

For the fossil walrus research project, geology graduate Jacob Biewer spent hours in the lab measuring and describing the walrus bones.

“I sat many hours with a handy caliper taking notes on the lengths of teeth and width of skulls, among many other measurements,” he said. “Describing bones is much more in-depth and meticulous than it sounds. There are traits that the bones of each walrus species have — the size, shape and number of teeth. I recorded how the bones are different from, or similar to, other extinct walrus species.”

Biewer, a paleontologist who lives in Modesto, noted that despite the pandemic, he and Parham worked on the scientific paper with 300 miles of social distancing.

Completing his first journal publication, based on his master’s work, and conducting the research project helped him to understand scientific methods and techniques that he now uses in his career, where he monitors construction sites for paleontological resources. He also teaches undergraduate geology courses at Cal State Stanislaus, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in geology, and is considering pursuing a doctorate.

“The experiences I had in conducting this research, especially the presentations at national paleontological conferences, led to a big increase in my confidence in my scientific abilities,” Biewer said. “I credit my time working with Dr. Parham directly to the achievements in my current employment — from the skills he imparted to the doors he helped open.”