Elephant family in Kenya video


This 12 April 2019 video from Kenya about elephants says about itself:

Look at who our team spotted recently while out collecting data in Samburu National Reserve – Monsoon and her adorable calf! This little guy was seen suckling while in the company of his aunties – Hurricane and Tempest – and his cousin who is seen here pushing his way around. Monsoon, the matriarch of the Storms 2 herd, amazed researchers last year when she gave birth again for the first time in nine years to this feisty youngster. Footage: Tanya Onserio.

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New horseshoe bats species discoveries


This 16 March 2019 video from Australia says about itself:

Rescuing a horseshoe bat: this is Lentil

Lentil is an adult female Eastern Horseshoe Bat who was found hanging over a doorway for 24 hours. When she didn’t fly off, the MOP (member of public) called for rescue.

She has some damage to her wing membrane, which in a flying fox would probably be a death sentence, but microbats seem to be able to regenerate quite a lot of wing membrane after damage and fly again.

I don’t know what has caused the membrane damage; Lentil didn’t come with a case history and she hasn’t mentioned anything to us about her recent history.

She’s in care now with the Princess, who is great with micros and was delighted to care for an uncommon (to our city) little horseshoe bat.

You can see from the shape of her nose why she’s called a horseshoe bat. In 12 years I’ve never rescued a horseshoe bat in my territory. I don’t know if she’s come in on a truck from out in the country or how she got there. The MOPs haven’t been out of town in the last few weeks.

It’s possible that there are horseshoe bats in the area – Sydney is certainly within the geographical distribution area for horseshoe bats, it’s just that I haven’t heard about any being rescued in the city before. The house backs onto a golf course which is nicely treed.

Her name? I actually called her Lentil as Anything. She was quite cranky, and there is a rock band called Mental as Anything… and Lentil came from Lenthall Street.

The Princess says that’s an appalling name for a beautiful little batty, so she will, no doubt, rename her.

Generally horseshoe bats are cave dwellers but they will roost in tree hollows. They have short broad wings and low wing loading, which means they have slow highly manoeuvrable flight. They can hover, and move successfully in dense branches and shrubs. They can hang and catch their insect prey, or they can pursue their prey aerially. Their dominant food is moths but they’ll eat beetles, flies, crickets, bugs, cockroaches and wasps. (ref: Sue Churchill, Australian Bats, 2nd edition).

From the Field Museum in the USA:

There are way more species of horseshoe bats than scientists thought

August 22, 2019

Horseshoe bats are bizarre-looking animals with giant ears and elaborate flaps of skin on their noses that they use like satellite dishes. There are about a hundred different species of horseshoe bats — and that number is only going to grow. By studying the DNA of horseshoe bat specimens in museum collections, scientists have discovered that there are probably a dozen new species of horseshoe bat that haven’t been officially described yet.

If you’ve never seen a horseshoe bat, you’re missing out. Their comically large ears are only rivaled for wackiest feature by their nose leaves, little flaps of skin that spread outward from their faces like petals. If you grew up with siblings who would say, “That’s you”, when they saw an ugly creature on TV, they’d have a field day with horseshoe bats.

But while they have faces only a biologist could love, horseshoe bats have caught the interest of scientists studying the bat family tree. There are more than 100 recognized species of horseshoe bats, and researchers now believe that number could be still higher. In a study published in BMC Evolutionary Biology, researchers from the Field Museum, National Museums of Kenya, and Maasai Mara University used gene sequencing to identify up to 12 new species of horseshoe bats. They also cast doubt on the validity of several recognized species.

MacArthur Curator of Mammals and senior author of the study Bruce Patterson says, to put it simply, “We found a lot more species than we thought were there.”

“Horseshoe bats are defined by the broad flap of skin on their upper lip. It serves as a radar dish for their echolocation calls,” says Patterson. “I think they’re totally bizarre and for students of biology that bizarreness is what makes them so fascinating.”

Terry Demos, post-doctoral researcher and lead author of the paper, also agrees that horseshoe bats are unique looking — “You could say there’s beauty in the elaborateness of the nose, I mean it is so intricate.”

The researchers wanted to study the bats because, despite being so rich in different species, little is known about their evolutionary history. East Africa has remained understudied, even though it’s one of the most diverse regions in the world. For centuries, colonialism meant that European researchers were the only people with access to the land. Patterson and Demos hope that studies like this one will help equip local scientists with the tools they need to research their own land. “We’re trying to understand evolutionary history in an understudied area,” says Demos, “while also building in-country resources.”

The research team examined hundreds of bat specimens from the collections at the Field Museum and National Museums of Kenya. Using small samples of tissue, they sequenced the bats’ DNA to see how closely related they were to each other, like 23AndMe testing on a species level.

The genetic similarities and differences between the bats suggested that some distinctive groupings could be new species. Some of these new species may be what scientists call “cryptic” — visually, they look very similar to species we already know about, but genetically, they’re different enough to be considered their own separate species. These cryptic species were hiding in plain sight in the museums’ collections, waiting to be discovered.

While the study did suggest that there are more species of horseshoe bat than previously imagined, new species will not be officially named until the team carries out the next part of their research. To designate a new species, researchers will need to examine the bats’ teeth and skulls to see how their physical traits differ. They’ll also need to compare the bats’ echolocation calls, since different bat species that live near each other often make their calls at different frequencies, like different channels on a walkie-talkie.

The researchers are excited by the possibilities that come with rewriting the horseshoe bat family tree. “The implications of this study are really countless,” says Patterson. “Bats eat insects that carry diseases, what are the implications of that? We can also use this to designate areas for conservation.”

Monkey, ape brain evolution, new research


This 21 August 2019 video says about itself:

See the digital reconstruction of an ancient monkey’s skull | Science News

The digital reconstruction of an extinct South American monkey’s fossilized skull, seen twirling in this video, offered a rare chance to study brain development in a 20-million-year-old animal. From high-resolution X-ray CT scans of the skull, researchers built a 3-D model of the brain of Chilecebus carrascoensis, seen in the second part of the video.

Read more here.

From the American Museum of Natural History in the USA:

20-million-year-old skull suggests complex brain evolution in monkeys, apes

New study reveals that brain enlargement and modern features evolved repeatedly in anthropoids

August 21, 2019

It has long been thought that the brain size of anthropoid primates — a diverse group of modern and extinct monkeys, humans, and their nearest kin — progressively increased over time. New research on one of the oldest and most complete fossil primate skulls from South America shows instead that the pattern of brain evolution in this group was far more checkered. The study, published today in the journal Science Advances and led by researchers from the American Museum of Natural History, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the University of California Santa Barbara, suggests that the brain enlarged repeatedly and independently over the course of anthropoid history, and was more complex in some early members of the group than previously recognized.

“Human beings have exceptionally enlarged brains, but we know very little about how far back this key trait started to develop,” said lead author Xijun Ni, a research associate at the Museum and a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “This is in part because of the scarcity of well-preserved fossil skulls of much more ancient relatives.”

As part of a long-term collaboration with John Flynn, the Museum’s Frick Curator of Fossil Mammals, Ni spearheaded a detailed study of an exceptional 20-million-year-old anthropoid fossil discovered high in the Andes mountains of Chile, the skull and only known specimen of Chilecebus carrascoensis.

“Through more than three decades of partnership and close collaboration with the National Museum of Chile, we have recovered many remarkable new fossils from unexpected places in the rugged volcanic terrain of the Andes,” Flynn said. “Chilecebus is one of those rare and truly spectacular fossils, revealing new insights and surprising conclusions every time new analytical methods are applied to studying it.”

Previous research by Flynn, Ni, and their colleagues on Chilecebus provided a rough idea of the animal’s encephalization, or the brain size relative to body size. A high encephalization quotient (EQ) signifies a large brain for an animal of a given body size. Most primates have high EQs relative to other mammals, although some primates — especially humans and their closest relatives — have even higher EQs than others. The latest study takes this understanding one step further, illustrating the patterns across the broader anthropoid family tree. The resulting “PEQ” — or phylogenetic encephalization quotient, to correct for the effects of close evolutionary relationships — for Chilecebus is relatively small, at 0.79. Most living monkeys, by comparison, have PEQs ranging from 0.86 to 3.39, with humans coming in at an extraordinary 13.46 and having expanded brain sizes dramatically even compared to nearest relatives. With this new framework, the researchers confirmed that cerebral enlargement occurred repeatedly and independently in anthropoid evolution, in both New and Old World lineages, with occasional decreases in size.

High-resolution x-ray computed tomography (CT) scanning and 3D digital reconstruction of the inside of Chilecebus’ skull gave the research team new insights into the anatomy of its brain. In modern primates, the size of the visual and olfactory centers in the brain are negatively correlated, reflecting a potential evolutionary “trade-off”, meaning that visually acute primates typically have weaker senses of smell. Surprisingly, the researchers discovered that a small olfactory bulb in Chilecebus was not counterbalanced by an amplified visual system. This finding indicates that in primate evolution the visual and olfactory systems were far less tightly coupled than was widely assumed.

Other findings: The size of the opening for the optic nerve suggests that Chilecebus was diurnal. Also, the infolding (sulcus) pattern of the brain of Chilecebus, although far simpler than in most modern anthropoids, possesses at least seven pairs of sulcal grooves and is surprisingly complex for such an ancient primate.

“During his epic voyage on the Beagle, Charles Darwin explored the mouth of the canyon where Chilecebus was discovered 160 years later. Shut out of the higher cordillera by winter snow, Darwin was inspired by ‘scenes of the highest interest’ his vista presented. This exquisite fossil, found just a few kilometers east of where Darwin stood, would have thrilled him”, said co-author André Wyss from the University of California Santa Barbara.

Wildlife crossing plan in Los Angeles, USA


This September 2015 CBS TV video from the USA says about itself:

California unveils plan to build overpass for wildlife

The $30 million overpass across one of Los Angeles County’s busiest freeways will be designed for wild animals, whose habitats are shrinking because of urban sprawl. Washington state broke ground on its first wildlife crossing in June. Ben Tracy reports on how the largest animal bridge in America could help save one of the last big carnivores in the western U.S.

A 21 August 2019 CBS TV video from the USA, soon removed from ouTube, used to say about itself:

Los Angeles one step closer to a first-of-its-kind wildlife crossing

Los Angeles is famous for its freeways and now it’s one step closer to building a major thoroughfare just for wildlife. An overpass estimated to cost $88 million is in its final design phase. It will allow mountain lions and other animals to roam more freely. Officials say it could help them avoid extinction. Carter Evans reports.

White wolves in Canadian Arctic, video


This 19 August 2019 video, recorded in Canada, says about itself:

The Wolf Queen and Cubs | Kingdom of the White Wolf

The high Arctic is the realm of the Arctic wolf. On Ellesmere Island, these wolves‘ line is unbroken, reaching back ten thousand years.

About Kingdom of the White Wolf:

Watch photographer Ronan Donovan as he tracks and observes Arctic wolves. The three-hour special airs on August 25 starting at 8/9c on Nat Geo WILD.

Common basilisk, variegated squirrel quarrel in Panama


This video from Panama says about itself:

Common Basilisk Takes Food From Variegated Squirrel – Aug 16, 2019

A Variegated Squirrel and a Common Basilisk were eating at the feeder in relative peace until the basilisk decided that it wanted the exact piece of fruit the squirrel was eating.

I saw both species in Costa Rica.