Pacific parrotlets’ and ancestral birds’ flight


This 24 May 2017 video says about itself:

From Science News:

Petite parrots provide insight into early flight

by Helen Thompson

9:00am, May 24, 2017

When it comes to hopping between branches, tiny parrots try only as hard as they need to. The finding comes from high-speed video taken to measure how Pacific parrotlets (Forpus coelestis) shift momentum from takeoff to landing.

Bird flight is though to have started with jumping and gliding. When traveling short distances, parrotlets get most of their oomph from their legs, probably because it’s a more efficient way to accelerate than pushing against air with their wings. Still, small wingbeats do help support some of the birds‘ bodyweight. The farther the trip, the more that wings contribute to keeping the birds in the air. The birds also optimize their takeoff angles to apply as little mechanical energy as possible, Diana Chin and David Lentink of Stanford University report May 17 in Science Advances.

The researchers also found that one partial wingbeat can support 15 to 30 percent of a parrotlet’s weight — on par with feathered, flightless dinosaurs like Archaeopteryx. With a bit of mathematical modeling, they determined that one such flap in flight could have extended Archaeopteryx’s jumping range by 20 percent, perhaps giving the dinos an edge in foraging for food.

Chin says the simulation provides a potential explanation for how feathered dinosaurs and early birds refined their tree hopping skills, ultimately giving rise to foraging flights of modern parrotlets and other birds.

Pentagon wars come home to New York City


This video from the USA says about itself:

Many Vietnam veterans still struggle with PTSD

22 July 2015

New research shows more than a quarter-million Vietnam veterans are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, 40 years after the war ended. Kenneth Craig reports from New York.

By Eric London in the USA:

Veteran drives through crowd in Times Square: The war comes home

20 May 2017

On Thursday, a 26-year-old military veteran named Richard Rojas drove his Honda Accord through a crowded sidewalk in New York City’s Times Square, killing an 18-year-old Michigan woman and wounding 22. Rojas says he was on Phenycylidine (PCP) and that he intended to kill passers-by.

After crashing through the crowd, Rojas ran around screaming and waving his arms. He evidently told police that god told him to commit this horrible act. He had previously reported hearing voices in his head. He allegedly told police, “You were supposed to shoot me!”

At a press conference following the incident, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced, “There is no indication that this was an act of terrorism.”

By this, de Blasio meant that Rojas had no association with an organized terrorist group. But, in a larger sense, this tragedy is the product of the terror wreaked by US imperialism across the world, poisoning social relations domestically and breaking the minds of countless young enlisted people.

In an interview with the New York Times, Rojas’ childhood friend, Hansel Guerrero, explained that Rojas joined the Navy as “a journey out of the New York life.” Guerrero and Rojas lived in the same apartment building on Walton Avenue in the working-class neighborhood of Mount Eden, in New York’s Bronx borough.

Guerrero told the Times: “People go and they serve their country and they come back crazy and nobody helps them.”

Rojas, whose mother is Dominican, worked in auto shops and dreamed of graduating from college. He joined the Navy in 2011, working as an electrician’s mate until he was dishonorably discharged in 2014. It is not clear whether he served in a combat zone. While stationed at a Naval base in Jacksonville, Florida, Rojas was arrested in 2012 for threatening violence against police. In 2013, the Navy locked him up for two months in a military jail, though it has not been reported why.

Rojas’ friends explained that he wasn’t the same upon returning from the Navy. On April 15, 2015, he was convicted for driving while intoxicated.

Reuters spoke with another of Rojas’ friends, Harrison Ramos: “Rojas returned from his Navy service with a drinking problem and had posted ‘crazy stuff’ on social media,” the news service reported.

Ramos told Reuters: “Don’t make him out to be a terrorist or something. He served his country and when he came back, nobody helped him. He went through a real rough time. That’s my friend, and it hurts.”

“He finally came home, and it was hard for him to find a job,” Ramos added. “He was having a lot of bad nightmares. He was talking crazy. He was acting strange.”

The Times reported: “His mind was clouded with conspiracy theories. His dreams of opening his own clothing business had wilted. He lashed out at friends who challenged him; some thought his grasp of reality slipped and that he needed psychiatric help.

“During a string of arrests in recent years, Mr. Rojas once threatened to kill police officers, and last week accused a notary of trying to steal his identity and grabbed his neck, the authorities said.”

The sentiments expressed by Rojas’ friends are commonplace in a country where hundreds of thousands of veterans have been broken by the weight of a quarter century of war. There are many young people in the US who know a veteran who “came back crazy” with “nobody to help them,” as Rojas’ friends put it. Some counties have even set up special court programs for veterans convicted of crimes.

Last month, a 23-year-old Army veteran in North Carolina strapped her service dog to a tree and shot it five times before posting a video of the execution to Facebook. The dog was intended to help her with her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the episode calls to mind the first line of Phil Klay’s Redeployment, a series of short stories about returning veterans and the ongoing wars: “We shot dogs.”

On May 16, 24-year-old Edwin Fuentes was shot to death by police following a stand-off in Tustin, California. Fuentes was an Afghanistan veteran who suffered from PTSD. His neighbor, another veteran, told the OC Register that Fuentes “was having problems and he wanted other vets to talk to.”

A 2016 study from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) revealed that 20 veterans kill themselves every day—over 116,000 since 2001, roughly the size of the population of Michigan’s state capital, Lansing.

A survey of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans also revealed that a majority of veterans have contemplated suicide. A 2017 VA report found that female veterans are two to five times more likely to kill themselves than civilian women, in part due to the prevalence of rape and sexual abuse within the military.

The reactionary climate of nationalism and brutality engendered by the US military has transformed the social composition of the country.

The US Defense Department is the country’s largest employer, with 3.2 million employees, military and civilian. As the strike force of corporate America, the military exerts an immense power over all of the “official” institutions of American capitalism.

It’s reactionary culture, of idealizing violence and justifying its crimes in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan through hyper-nationalism, permeates into broader sections of society, altering not only the personal lives of millions of veterans, but also the social psychology of the country as a whole. No American is unfamiliar with the nauseating displays of militarism in everyday life: the bomber fly-overs before sporting events, Marine Corps recruiters in high schools, the use of tanks and assault rifles by local police.

In the words of Shakespeare’s Edward IV: “They shall have wars and pay for their presumption.” The personal breakdown of individuals like Richard Rojas exemplifies the breakdown of American society under the weight of US imperialism and capitalism.

Beavers save salmon from climate change


This video from the USA says about itself:

26 March 2013

Presenter Dr. Jimmy Taylor shares information about Oregon‘s state animal – the beaver – and how we benefit from their activity. Taylor is a supervisory research wildlife biologist and field station leader for the National Wildlife Research Center in Corvallis, Oregon. His research project focuses on understanding human-wildlife conflicts and improving management strategies to reduce damage by forest and aquatic mammals, with an emphasis on non-lethal tools and techniques.

North America’s largest rodent, the beaver, was once the most widely distributed mammal but virtually trapped to extinction in the early 1800’s for its pelt. A decline in demand for its fur and proper wildlife management helped beaver to become reestablished in much of their former range. While beaver foraging and building activities can cause flooding, damaging private property; beaver ponds and dams are also good for Oregon’s native fish and other wildlife. Beaver activities can also benefit private landowners by controlling downstream flooding and creating wetlands which improve water quality and facilitate ground water recharge. If managed correctly, conflict with beaver can be minimized.

From PLOS ONE:

Alteration of stream temperature by natural and artificial beaver dams

May 17, 2017

Abstract

Beavers are an integral component of hydrologic, geomorphic, and biotic processes within North American stream systems, and their propensity to build dams alters stream and riparian structure and function[s] to the benefit of many aquatic and terrestrial species.

Recognizing this, beaver relocation efforts and/or application of structures designed to mimic the function of beaver dams are increasingly being utilized as effective and cost-efficient stream and riparian restoration approaches. Despite these verities, the notion that beaver dams negatively impact stream habitat remains common, specifically the assumption that beaver dams increase stream temperatures during summer to the detriment of sensitive biota such as salmonids.

In this study, we tracked beaver dam distributions and monitored water temperature throughout 34 km of stream for an eight-year period between 2007 and 2014. During this time the number of natural beaver dams within the study area increased by an order of magnitude, and an additional 4 km of stream were subject to a restoration manipulation that included installing a high-density of Beaver Dam Analog (BDA) structures designed to mimic the function of natural beaver dams.

Our observations reveal several mechanisms by which beaver dam development may influence stream temperature regimes; including longitudinal buffering of diel summer temperature extrema at the reach scale due to increased surface water storage, and creation of cool—water channel scale temperature refugia through enhanced groundwater—surface water connectivity. Our results suggest that creation of natural and/or artificial beaver dams could be used to mitigate the impact of human induced thermal degradation that may threaten sensitive species.

In this way, beavers save sensitive species like salmon, which cannot live in warm water.

Interviewed by Dutch daily De Volkskrant on this today, Belgian Antwerp University beaver expert Kristijn Swinnen thinks that the European relatives of American beavers may in similar ways benefit European relatives of American salmon and other species threatened by climate change. European beavers came back in the Netherlands only recently after having been exterminated there in the nineteenth century.

New elf frog species discovered in Vietnam


Adult male of Ophryophryne elfina sp. n. in calling position in Hon Ba N.R., Khanh Hoa Prov., Vietnam. Photo by L.T. Nguyen

From ScienceDaily:

Herpetologists describe an elf frog from the elfin forests in southern Vietnam

May 19, 2017

Summary: Going under the common name of Elfin mountain toad, a new amphibian is recognized as one of the smallest representative of its group. The new species was identified from the highland wet forests of Langbian Plateau, Southern Vietnam. The discoverers gave it this name that derives from German and Celtic folklore because of the resemblance they found between the tiny delicate amphibians and elves – small magic creatures. Furthermore, their habitat is known as elfin forests.

Deep in the foggy, moss-covered forests of Southern Vietnam, herpetologists uncovered one of the smallest species of horned mountain toads.

The name of the new amphibian (Ophryophryne elfina) derives from European mythology and translates to “elfish eyebrow toad.” Despite being recently discovered, the new species is already considered to be endangered. Having remained hidden in the highlands of Langbian Plateau, it is now described in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The unique species name “elfina” derives from the English word “elf.” In German and Celtic folklore, elves are described as small, supernatural creatures usually dwelling deep in the forests of magical hills. The frogs were named after them primarily because of their small size of around 3 cm, which makes them the smallest known species of the genus — as well as their fascinating appearance — they have small horn-like projections above their eyes.

The unique habitat of the amphibians also inspired their species name. The Elfin mountain toad lives in the highland wet subtropical evergreen forest. There it can only be found on mountain summits higher than 1800 m, or on the slopes of the eastern side of Langbian Plateau, where the rainfall is high because of the sea nearby. Both the rocks and the dwarf curbed trees are covered with a heavy layer of moss, whilst a thick misty fog is constantly lingering amongst the trees. This is why such wet mountain ecosystems are known as elfin forests.

The Elfin mountain toad is one of the three known species in the genus Ophryophryne that inhabit Langbian Plateau. Curiously, all three of them share the same habitat, but can be easily distinguished by their advertisement calls resembling whistling birds.

Viking army camp discovery in England


This video says about itself:

Top 10 GLORIOUS Facts about the VIKINGS

7 October 2016

The first record of the Scandinavian people known as the Vikings, or Norsemen (Northmen), was when they raided England in 793 A.D. The word Viking comes from the Scandinavian term vikingr, a word for “pirate.” Essentially, Scandinavian men would go on “a Viking” during the summer in which they’d raid the coastal areas of countries like France and England. Even today, over 1,200 years after they first made landfall in England, the Vikings have a reputation as fierce warriors and amazing seafaring people that explored more of the world than anyone before them.

10. Traders
9. Women Vikings Travelled with the Men
8. Viking Feasts
7. Drug Users
6. They Filed Their Teeth
5. The Viking Compass
4. Mead
3. The Middle East
2. They Founded Dublin and Other Irish Towns
1. Caused the Spread of the House Mouse

From the University of Sheffield in England:

Viking army camp uncovered by archaeologists in England

May 18, 2017

Summary: Thousands of Vikings established a camp in Lincolnshire as they prepared to conquer ninth century England, archaeologists have discovered. Vikings used camp in winter to repair ships, melt down stolen loot, trade and play games.

A huge camp which was home to thousands of Vikings as they prepared to conquer England in the late ninth century has been uncovered by archaeologists.

Established in Torksey, on the banks of the River Trent in Lincolnshire, the camp was used as the Vikings‘ defensive and strategic position during the winter months.

The research, conducted by archaeologists at the Universities of Sheffield and York, has revealed how the camp was used by thousands of Viking warriors, women and children who lived there temporarily in tented accommodation.

They also used the site as a base to repair ships, melt down stolen loot, manufacture, trade and play games.

Professor Dawn Hadley, who led the research from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology said: “The Vikings’ camp at Torksey was much more than just a handful of hardy warriors — this was a huge base, larger than most contemporary towns, complete with traders, families, feasting, and entertainment.

“From what has been found at the site, we know they were repairing their boats there and melting down looted gold and silver to make ingots — or bars of metal they used to trade.

“Metal detectorists have also found more than 300 lead game pieces, suggesting the Vikings, including women and children, were spending a lot of time playing games to pass the time, waiting for spring and the start of their next offensive.”

The findings have now been used to create a virtual reality experience giving users an opportunity to experience what life was like in a Viking army camp.

The virtual reality experience has been developed by researchers at the University of York and is part of an exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum that opens on Friday (19 May 2017).

All the scenes featured in the virtual reality experience are based on real objects found by archaeologists and metal detectorists at Torksey.

Professor Julian Richards, from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, said: “These extraordinary images offer a fascinating snap shot of life at a time of great upheaval in Britain.

“The Vikings had previously often raided exposed coastal monasteries and returned to Scandinavia in winter, but in the later ninth century they came in larger numbers, and decided to stay. This sent a very clear message that they now planned not only to loot and raid — but to control and conquer.”

Dr Gareth Beale from York’s Digital Creativity Labs added: “The new research by the Universities of Sheffield and York has been used to create the most realistic images of the camp to date, based on real findings. These images are also believed to be the most realistic Virtual Reality ever created anywhere of the Viking world.”

The exact location and scale of the camp in Lincolnshire has been debated for many years, but now the research by Sheffield and York is beginning to reveal the true extent of the camp. It is now thought to be at least 55 hectares in size, bigger than many towns and cities of the time, including York.

There have also been more than a thousand finds by metal detectorists and archaeologists, including over 300 coins. They include more than 100 Arabic silver coins which would have come to the area through established Viking trade routes.

More than 50 pieces of chopped up silver, including brooch fragments and ingots have been found along with rare hackgold. Evidence has been found that these items were being processed at the camp — chopped up to be melted down. Other finds include the 300 gaming pieces, iron tools, spindle whorls, needles and fishing weights.

Using landscape analysis, the research has been able to reveal the topography of the camp. With the River Trent to the west and surrounding land prone to flooding to this day, its strength as a defensive position becomes clear.

Mammal-like reptiles, warm-blooded earlier than thought


This video says about itself:

19 May 2016

Ophiacodon (meaning “snake tooth”) is an extinct genus of synapsids belonging to the family Ophiacodontidae that lived from the Late Carboniferous to the Early Permian in North America and possibly Europe. The genus was named along with its type species O. mirus by paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh in 1878 and currently includes five other species. As an ophiacodontid, Ophiacodon is one of the most basal synapsids and is close to the evolutionary line leading to mammals.

Music: Pianoman by Billy Joel.

From the University of Bonn in Germany:

Warm-bloodedness possibly much older than previously thought

Characteristic may have developed 20 million years earlier, study shows

May 18, 2017

Summary: Warm-bloodedness in land animals could have evolved much earlier than previously thought, suggests a study of the bones of the long-extinct mammal predecessor Ophiacodon.

Warm-bloodedness in land animals could have developed in evolution much earlier than previously thought. This is shown by a recent study at the University of Bonn, which has now been published in the journal Comptes Rendus Palevol.

People who like watching lizards often get the best opportunity to do so in the morning, as they can usually be found sunbathing at this time of day. This is because they rely on an external energy supply to reach their operating temperature. However, mice and other mammals make themselves nice and cozy in a different way: they burn calories and can even keep themselves warm during a bitterly cold winter’s night.

Mammals are thus referred to as warm-blooded. Until now, it was thought that the “body heater” was invented in four-legged land animals around 270 million years ago. “However, our results indicate that warm-bloodedness could have been created 20 to 30 million years earlier,” explains Prof. Martin Sander from the Steinmann Institute for Geology, Mineralogy and Paleontology at the University of Bonn.

Bones as a thermometer

For long-extinct animals, it is naturally not possible to simply determine body temperature using a thermometer. However, warm-bloodedness leaves behind tell-tale signs in fossils. It not only means that the animal is not reliant on the ambient temperature, but also enables faster growth. “And this is shown in the structure of the bones,” explains Sander.

Bones are composites of protein fibers, collagen, and a biomaterial, hydroxyapatite. The more orderly the arrangement of the collagen fibers, the more stable the bone, but the more slowly it normally grows as well. The bones of mammals thus have a special structure. This allows them to grow quickly and yet remain stable. “We call this bone form fibrolamellar,” says the paleontologist.

Together with his PhD student Christen D. Shelton (now at the University of Cape Town), the scientist looked at humerus bones and femurs from a long-extinct land animal: the mammal predecessor Ophiacodon. This lived 300 million years ago. “Even in Ophiacodon, the bones grew as fibrolamellar bones,” says Sander to summarize the analysis results. “This indicates that the animal could already have been warm-blooded.”

Ophiacodon was up to two meters long, but otherwise resembled today’s lizards — and not without good reason: mammals and reptiles are related; they thus share a predecessor. In the family tree, Ophiacodon is very close to the place where these two branches separate.

Were the first reptiles warm-blooded?

However, lizards, turtles and other reptiles living today are cold-blooded. Until now, it has been assumed that this was the original form of the metabolism — i.e. that the shared ancestor of both animal groups was cold-blooded. Warm-bloodedness would thus be a further development, which arose over the course of mammalian evolution.

However, Ophiacodon appears a very short time after the division between mammals and reptiles. “This raises the question of whether its warm-bloodedness was actually a completely new development or whether even the very first land animals before the separation of both branches were warm-blooded,” says Sander. That is just speculation. However, if this theory is correct, we would have to drastically correct our image: the first reptiles would then also have been warm-blooded — and would have only discarded this type of metabolism later.