Honduran women fight for their rights


This video says about itself:

Honduran Women Organize to Demand Legal Abortion

25 May 2016

Abortion in Honduras was completely banned in 1997. Now social movements are demanding the government to approve it under certain circumstances.

Tyrannosaurus rex, by David Attenborough


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

What Was Tyrannosaurus rex Like? – #Attenborough90BBC

25 May 2016

Sir David visits the Museum of Colorado to talk to Robert T. Bakker, who explains some of what he has learnt about the Tyrannosaurus rex.

Neanderthal constructions discovered in French cave


This video says about itself:

175,000-Year-Old Stone Circles Built By Neanderthals Have Been Found In French Cave

25 May 2016

Modern humans often regard Neanderthals as dim-witted, sluggish sorts, but, once again, evidence to the contrary has emerged. It turns out they were likely behind the building of a number of accomplished yet perplexing stone circles found inside France’s Bruniquel Cave decades ago, reports The Atlantic. A recently published study about the site reveals those structures date back about 175,000 years.

That places their making firmly in the time of the Neanderthal, notes National Geographic. According to Discovery News, a team led by French archaeologist Jacques Jaubert, a professor at the University of Bordeaux, also found evidence of fire, another indication of builders’ skills and resourcefulness. One probable reason for the use of fire is that it was used as a light source. Beyond that, why the blazes were started remains unknown. Given the great number of mysteries about the site that remain, researchers are eager to launch the next phase of exploration – digging into the ground below.

From Nature:

Early Neanderthal constructions deep in Bruniquel Cave in southwestern France

25 May 2016

Very little is known about Neanderthal cultures1, particularly early ones. Other than lithic implements and exceptional bone tools2, very few artefacts have been preserved. While those that do remain include red and black pigments3 and burial sites4, these indications of modernity are extremely sparse and few have been precisely dated, thus greatly limiting our knowledge of these predecessors of modern humans5.

Here we report the dating of annular constructions made of broken stalagmites found deep in Bruniquel Cave in southwest France. The regular geometry of the stalagmite circles, the arrangement of broken stalagmites and several traces of fire demonstrate the anthropogenic origin of these constructions.

Uranium-series dating of stalagmite regrowths on the structures and on burnt bone, combined with the dating of stalagmite tips in the structures, give a reliable and replicated age of 176.5 thousand years (±2.1 thousand years), making these edifices among the oldest known well-dated constructions made by humans. Their presence at 336 metres from the entrance of the cave indicates that humans from this period had already mastered the underground environment, which can be considered a major step in human modernity.

‘Extinct’ dove rediscovered in Brazil


Blue-eyed ground dove

From BirdLife:

Extremely rare ‘Species X’ rediscovered in Brazil after 75 year disappearance

By Shaun Hurrell, 23 May 2016

The blue eyes of an extremely rare bird hadn’t been seen for nearly a century. In one of the most extraordinary stories in Brazilian conservation, a group of researchers have announced the comeback of the Blue-eyed Ground-dove. Last documented in 1941, it was believed extinct. But now the species has been found at top-secret locations in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. However researchers can only confirm sightings of 12 individuals, so securing its habitat will be the key to conserving this elusive bird.

Imagine the buzz in the crowd last weekend at the Brazilian Birdwatching Festival when ornithologist Rafael Bessa unveiled his rediscovery. The highly-anticipated talk was named ‘Species X’ and for the first time in history, this bird’s song was played to the public. Previously known from a handful of stuffed and ageing museum specimens and some more recent unsubstantiated reports, Bessa brought the Blue-eyed Ground Dove Columbina cyanopis back to life.

“When he played the video there was a commotion in the crowd and non-stop applause,” said Pedro Develey, SAVE Brasil (BirdLife in Brazil). “It was pure emotion.”

For the last few months the group of researchers – supported by SAVE Brasil, Rainforest Trust, and Butantan Bird Observatory – have been working in secret to scientifically report the rediscovery, and to simultaneously develop a conservation plan that secures the Critically Endangered bird’s long-term survival.

Describing the rediscovery, Bessa told Estadão:

“I returned to the place and I could recreate this vocalization with my microphone. I reproduced the sound and the bird landed on a flowering bush, coming towards me. I photographed the animal, and when I looked at the picture carefully, I saw that I had recorded something unusual. My legs started shaking.”

The Blue-eyed Ground-Dove occurs exclusively in Brazil and is threatened by the destruction of the Brazilian Cerrado, a savannah-like habitat. The jubilation of rediscovery quickly turned to sobering thoughts of acting fast to save the 12-or-more birds.

“We are now worried about the conservation of the species”, explained Rafael Bessa. “We are working on several fronts to build this plan. The main action is to ensure that the area where it was found becomes a protected area, which would benefit not only the Blue-eyed Ground-Dove, but many other threatened species occurring there.”

With cobalt-blue eyes and dark blue spots on its wings that standout against its overall reddish-chestnut plumage, it’s hard to believe such an eye-catching bird went unnoticed for so long. But rapid rates of habitat loss in the region mean that many more species could be heading to extinction unseen.

“Increasing the knowledge on Brazilian biodiversity is the first step to ensure its conservation“, said Luciano Lima, Instituto Butantan. “And, by doing so, we contribute to a better quality of life and health for all species, including our own.”

Right after first spotting the bird, in July 2015, the ornithologist Rafael Bessa contacted Lima, from Instituto Butantan. With the support from the Institute and SAVE Brasil, they started studying the species. A research group was formed also including ornithologists Wagner Nogueira, Marco Rego and Glaucia Del Rio, the latter two from Louisiana State University (USA).

The exact location where the species was found, nor the bird’s song, will not be released by the researchers, until they conclude the conservation plan and the proposed measures may be enabled.

Within the conservation plan, the researchers are undertaking studies on the biology of the species, especially on behavior, breeding biology and feeding. They are also venturing to places with geographic and environmental features similar to the site of the original rediscovery, aiming to find additional populations. The search areas are identified through satellite imagery as well as a technique called Ecological Niche Modelling: based on several environmental features of the sites where the species occur, specific software uses mathematical models to predict areas potentially suitable to the species.

“So far we have visited many areas in three states, but the species was located only in two sites close together, both in the state of Minas Gerais, which reinforces the need for urgent action to guarantee its survival”, warned the ornithologist Wagner Nogueira.

The Blue-eyed Ground-dove seems to have a specific habitat that could be as Critically Endangered as the bird itself. Let the orange-red of the birds feathers be a colour warning to potential new infrastructure projects in the region – even a small project could wipe out this entire species.

Now brought to life publically again, only time will tell how SAVE Brasil and the research team can help further the life of this species.

Your chance to save Species X: become a Species Champion for the Blue-eyed Ground-Dove by writing to species.champions@birdlife.org. Find out more about BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme.

New bug species discovered on Texel island


This video shows a Rhopalus subrufus bug.

Today, warden Jitske Esselaar on Texel in the Netherlands reports on research about bugs on the island in 2015.

Four species, new for Texel, were found: Hesperocorixa castanea, an aquatic species discovered in a pond.

Liorhyssus hyalinus is a land species. It had been found earlier on Schiermonnikoog, Terschelling and Vlieland islands.

Compsidolon salicellum was found in a forest; a first for all Wadden Sea islands.

Finding Rhopalus subrufus was also a first for the Wadden islands.

Undersea marine biology lab, video


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

Aquarius Reef Base (HD) | JONATHAN BIRD’S BLUE WORLD

20 May 2016

Jonathan visits Aquarius Reef Base–the world’s only undersea lab where scientists live in saturation for days or weeks at a time, studying the ocean. It’s an amazing combination of science fiction and undersea adventure!