Hog-nosed rat discovery in Sulawesi, Indonesia

This 1 October 2015 is about a newly discovered rat species in Sulawesi, Indonesia.

From the Journal of Mammalogy:

A hog-nosed shrew rat (Rodentia: Muridae) from Sulawesi Island, Indonesia

Jacob A. Esselstyn, Anang S. Achmadi, Heru Handika, Kevin C. Rowe

29 September 2015


We document a new genus and species of shrew rat from the north peninsula of Sulawesi Island, Indonesia. The new taxon is known only from the type locality at 1,600 m elevation on Mt. Dako, in the district of Tolitoli.

It is distinguished from all other Indonesian murines by its large, flat, pink nose with forward-facing nares. Relative to other Sulawesi murines, the species has extremely large ears (~ 21% of head and body length), very long urogenital hairs, prominent and medially bowing hamular processes on the pterygoid bones, extremely long and procumbent lower incisors, and unusually long articular surfaces on the mandibular condyles.

Morphologically, the new taxon is most similar to a group of endemic Sulawesi rats known commonly as “shrew rats.” These are long faced, carnivorous murines, and include the genera Echiothrix, Melasmothrix, Paucidentomys, Sommeromys, and Tateomys. Our Bayesian and likelihood analyses of DNA sequences concatenated from 5 unlinked loci infer the new shrew rat as sister to a clade consisting of Melasmothrix, Paucidentomys, and Echiothrix, suggesting that Sulawesi shrew rats represent a clade.

The Sulawesi water rat, Waiomys mamasae, was sister to the shrew rats in our analyses. Discovery of this new genus and species brings known shrew rat diversity on Sulawesi to 6 genera and 8 species. The extent of morphological diversity among these animals is remarkable considering the small number of species currently known.

Films about sparrows and hoopoes at Rotterdam festival

This video, recorded in the USA, says about itself:

Planet Sparrow, New York Segment

4 April 2014

Sparrows in New York City, part of the international documentary about the life of [house] sparrows, directed & produced by Kurt Mayer for ORF, Arte & NDR.

At the Wildlife Film Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, there will be more films about birds. Including Planet Sparrow.

The festival organisers write about it:

A sparrow in the Souk in Cairo: bushy and tousled, he flits between crowded stalls to build his nest and attract a mate. He‘s one of the five heroes of Planet Sparrow. Small and grey-brown, sparrows may seem dull, but this first impression is deceptive; they’re extremely clever. The camera pursues these artists of flight through narrow alleys, revealing their spectacular aerial manoeuvres.

In New York, orphaned sparrow chicks are adopted by new sparrow parents. Sparrows play Russian roulette in Moscow, flying beneath the cars on the busiest roads to save winter energy. In Beijing they’re captured and then released to bring good luck. In Paris, centuries of living with humans have taught them to form teams that steal and share the food of café diners. Planet Sparrow is a documentary about these flying survival artists, their neighbours and adversaries, all filmed from the perspective of the birds!

This video, recorded in Austria, is the film Return of the Hoopoe.

There will be also the film Return of the Hoopoe at the Rotterdam festival.

The organisers write about it:

Across Europe hoopoes are struggling. But amidst the orchards and vineyards of the Wagram region near Vienna they are thriving. This documentary shows how the small bird with the spectacular crown feathers made a comeback in the heart of Europe and how it is dealing with its neighbours: Aesculapian snakes, foxes and falcons.

It is also the story of one man’s dream that came true: Manfred Eckenfellner is the Hoopoe Whisperer, and because of his passion the birds found their way back to the Wagram. Even cultivated landscapes like Wagram’s vineyards offer countless opportunities for wild animals to find new niches. Kestrels use castle towers to breed and bee-eaters live in the same layers of loess vintners grow their grapes on.

Film about hummingbirds at Rotterdam festival

This video is called HUMMINGBIRDS-JEWELLED MESSENGERS (trailer).

Another film at the Wildlife Film Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, will be Hummingbirds – Jewelled Messengers.

The festival organizers write about this film:

This is the story of how hummingbirds became the greatest aerial acrobats on earth. Plants ‘created’ hummingbirds as their messengers, carrying pollen from flower to flower. The film, narrated by David Attenborough, follows the evolution of the birds, as they are shaped by their role as ‘go-betweens’.

Hummingbirds have the highest metabolism of any vertebrate. They can hover, fly backwards and even backwards and upside down at the same time. They are the smallest warm-blooded creatures on earth. These glittering birds live on the edge of what is possible, even going into a kind of hibernation each night, and all because of plants.

Colourful cephalopods, video

This video from the USA says about itself:

Science Today: Colorful Cephalopods | California Academy of Sciences

1 June 2015

Learn how and why octopus, squid, and cuttlefish change colors.

Extinct horse with fossil uterus discovery

A skeleton of a Eurohippus messelensis mare is shown with its fetus (white ellipse). (photo: Sven Traenkner)

From the Los Angeles Times in the USA:

Oldest preserved uterus found in ancient horse-like fossil

Deborah Netburn

October 7, 2015

Talk about a mother of a discovery: Researchers in Germany have found the fossil of a 48-million-year-old pregnant horse relative, her fetus and bits of her preserved uterus as well.

It is the oldest and only the second fossil uterus ever described, according to Jens Franzen of the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany.

Franzen and his colleagues described the find in a paper published Wednesday in PLOS One.

Less than 2% of fossil mammal finds have yielded anything more than fragments of jaw material and other bones, which makes this discovery particularly unexpected.

The primitive horse relative is known as Eurohippus messelensis. It was much smaller than modern-day horses. Even fully grown, the ancient equine was about the size of a fox terrier — about 12 inches high at the shoulders. It was discovered in Grube Messel, near Darmstadt, Germany.

In the picture above, you are looking mostly at the fossilized remains of the mare. The fetus is located in the white oval.

Franzen and his colleagues report that the 48-million-year-old uterus looks nearly identical to those found in modern horses. This suggests that the uteral system was already well developed by the Eocene period (56 to 34 million years ago), and may date back to the Paleocene era (66 million to 56 million years ago) or even earlier.

Grube Messel is a former shale quarry that is famous for its complete vertebrate skeletons. Back in the time when Eurohippus messelensis roamed, it was a freshwater lake, surrounded by a tropical rainforest.

Animals that fell in the lake were preserved thanks to an interaction between bacteria in the lake and iron in the water.

After a dead animal was submerged in the lake, bacteria gathered on its soft tissue and started producing CO2. The CO2 reacted with the iron in the lake to form iron carbonate minerals. This material hardened on the bacteria, creating a fixed bacterial mat that exactly followed the lines of the decomposing soft tissue.

“The bacteria petrified themselves,” Franzen said.

The preserved bit of uterus was not immediately obvious, however. The researchers said they first noticed a “conspicuous gray shadow” between the fetus and the lumbar vertebrae of the mother, after taking a micro X-ray of the fossil.

They eliminated the possibility that the shadow was an artifact of preparation or an abdominal muscle. Eventually, they concluded that they were looking at the oldest bit of fossilized uterus ever seen.

The authors are still not sure what killed the mother Eurohippus messelensis, but it is unlikely that childbirth was to blame. Although the fetus was near term when its mother died, it was not yet positioned to enter the birth canal.

See also here. And here.

Film about birds on Dutch Terschelling island

This 9 February 2015 Dutch video is the trailer of the film ‘De Vogelwachter, tijd bestaat niet, alleen maar tij’.

At the Wildlife Film Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, there will not be just the new kingfisher film, but this one as well:

The work of bird rangers in European Nature Reserve De Boschplaat on Dutch island Terschelling not merely consists of guarding the reserve. Hosting, providing information, monitoring and making inventories are equally important. The last professional bird ranger from Staatsbosbeheer, Oene de Jong, takes us on a journey into this extraordinary world, through a beautiful, dynamic landscape.

Retired rangers share their stories, supported by unique footage, philosophical anecdotes and beautiful time-lapse photography. All this manifests the importance of the bird ranger history and its great value to the cultural-historical heritage of this West Frisian Island. Beside De Boschplaat the filmmaker also visits Engelsmanplaat and Rottumerplaat, two unique islands in the Wadden Sea World Heritage area where bird rangers are permanently stationed during the breeding season.

New Dutch film on kingfishers

Picture from new Dutch kingfisher film

From the Wildlife Film festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands:

WFFR will open the festival this year with this beautiful film! De IJsvogel (Kingfisher) is an amazing Dutch wildlife film that shows why the kingfisher is thriving in the Netherlands the last couple of years. From within the nest a camera captures the hatching of the eggs until the young fledge. De IJsvogel has unique footage never seen before in the Netherlands. The music is composed by Big Orange, who previously won a Gouden Kalf (Dutch award) for best soundtrack.

The WWFR premiere of this film will be on 29 October 2015, 19:30.

This is a kingfisher video by Dennis Smit from the Netherlands.