Birds of Dutch Nijmegen region on the Internet


This video says about itself:

BTO Bird ID – Skylark & Woodlark

10 June 2015

Lauded by poets for their wonderful, uplifting song, larks are rather nondescript birds when seen. There are two species regularly found in Britain and Ireland and their ranges and habitats do overlap, so how can we tell them apart?

The Dutch ornithologists of Vogelwerkgroep Nijmegen have made a new Internet atlas site about birds in the area around Nijmegen city.

In its English version, you see a list of bird species which live there, or used to live there.

In the Dutch language version, there is much more information. If you click on a bird species’ name, then you get extensive details, including, eg, maps, on how these birds live locally.

Eg, here is the page about woodlarks around Nijmegen.

Flamingos in love, video


This video from England says about itself:

Flamingos Display Best Moves – Animals In Love – BBC

10 February 2016

There are six different species of Flamingo, Liz Bonin visits the Slimbridge Wetlands Centre in the UK to find out more about the greater flamingo. In their efforts to attract a mate they do something no other Flamingo species does…

Chinese crested terns discovery in Indonesia


This 2014 video is called The Bird of Legend: Chinese Crested Tern.

From BirdLife:

Survey confirms Chinese Crested Terns in Indonesia

By Ed Parnell, Tue, 09/02/2016 – 08:45

A survey team led by Burung Indonesia (BirdLife in Indonesia) and BirdLife’s Asia Division has confirmed a wintering site of the globally threatened Chinese Crested Tern Thalasseus bernsteini in eastern Indonesia.

At least one adult and possibly one first-year Chinese Crested Tern were seen in a flock of up to 250 Greater Crested Terns T. bergii near Seram Island (approximately midway between Sulawesi and Papua). Threats to the site and the birds were assessed in detail during the one-week survey that was carried out in mid-January 2016, and the team also visited local university and government institutions to raise awareness of the nearby presence of this Critically Endangered seabird.

Despite its name, the Chinese Crested Tern was first found near Halmahera, in the Wallacea region of eastern Indonesia. However, since its discovery in 1861 the species had not subsequently been recorded in Indonesia (apart from an unverified record in Bali) until December 2010, when a lone bird was photographed near Seram. As a result of this initial sighting (and further reports in 2014/15), BirdLife and Burung Indonesia believed the area to perhaps be a regular wintering site. A survey team was formed, including local conservationists and three university students from Hong Kong.

“Although the number of Chinese Crested Terns found during the survey is low, it does confirm that the species is a regular wintering bird to the Seram Sea, and it is very likely that Wallacea is a main wintering area for this species. As the local authorities and community are starting to be aware of and feel proud of its presence, it will surely only be a matter of time before more sightings are reported from the region,” said Simba Chan, adding that more surveys and outreach work are planned by BirdLife around Seram in the future.

“The involvement of local communities in conservation actions is one of Burung’s main strategies,” added Ria Saryanthi, Head of Communication and Knowledge Center, Burung Indonesia. Burung has been focusing its work in the Wallacea region which includes Sulawesi, the Lesser Sundas and the Moluccas, since it was established in 2002.

It is also hoped that another recent project – in China itself – may help to build more knowledge of this little-known species. In August 2015 some 31 crested tern chicks (probably all Greater Crested Terns, which share the colony with their rarer relatives) were banded at Tiedun Dao, the largest Chinese Crested Tern colony. The birds were ringed with numbered red bands, the first step in a systematic study that aims to investigate the movements of the colony’s terns.

Ocean Park Conservation Foundation (OPCFHK) Foundation Director Ms. Suzanne Gendron said, “The Foundation has been supporting the conservation efforts on Chinese crested terns since 2008.  We are excited to know that after years of efforts, there is a higher hope for the recovery of this critically endangered species. I believe our sponsored students benefit from and are inspired by Mr. Simba Chan’s passion and experience.

New tarantula species named after singer Johnny Cash


Aphonopelma johnnycashi. Image credit: Hamilton C.A. et al.

From Sci-News.com in the USA:

Aphonopelma johnnycashi: Newfound Tarantula Species Named after Johnny Cash

Feb 5, 2016 by Enrico de Lazaro

A team of researchers, directed by Dr. Chris Hamilton of the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, has discovered a previously unknown species of tarantula that lives in the plains and foothills of the western Sierra Nevada Mountains, the United States, and named it after the famed American singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, and author Johnny Cash.

The newly-discovered species, Aphonopelma johnnycashi, has a distribution running along the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California and can be found inhabiting the following regions: Sierra Nevada, Central California Foothills and Coastal Mountains, and Central California Valley.

“The specific epithet, johnnycashi, is in honor of the country music legend, Johnny Cash,” Dr. Hamilton and co-authors explained in a paper in the journal ZooKeys.

“This species can be found near the area of Folsom Prison in California (famous for Cash’s song ‘Folsom Prison Blues’), and like Cash’s distinctive style of dress, where he was referred to as ‘the man in black’, mature males of this species are generally black in color.”

The breeding season of Aphonopelma johnnycashi, when mature males abandon their burrows in search of females, occurs during the fall (generally September-November).

“More than 50 different species of tarantulas had been previously reported from the United States, but that many of them were poorly defined and actually belonged to the same species,” Dr. Hamilton said.

To gain a better understanding of the diversity and distributions of these spiders, he and his colleagues spent more than a decade searching for tarantulas throughout scorching deserts, frigid mountains, and other locations in the American Southwest.

The team studied nearly 3,000 specimens, undertaking the most comprehensive taxonomic study ever performed on a group of tarantulas.

Because most species of tarantula in the United States are very similar in appearance and cannot be distinguished from each other using anatomical features alone, the researchers implemented a modern approach to taxonomy by employing anatomical, behavioral, distributional, and genetic data.

Their results indicate there are 29 species in the United States, among which Aphonopelma johnnycashi and 13 other species are new to science.

This music video from the USA says about itself:

Johnny Cash – Man in black with lyrics

Recorded February 16, 1971; Nashville, Tennessee

New water mites discovery in the Netherlands


This video says about itself:

A tiny species of water mite (taxa Hydracarina, species unresolved) and microworms (Panagrellus redivivus, a nematode) in a still-water aquarium.

From the Watermites introduction page:

ANYONE WHO TOOK A PEEK IN A CLEAR DITCH HAS SEEN THEM: the little red spiders that swim in the beautiful contrasting green of the water plants. They seem to roam about aimlessly, like simple red little balls with sprawling legs. Yet there are smaller species, not coloured red, but inconspicuous green or pale yellow. And you have to be an attentive observer to distinguish these minuscule dots in a jar full of jumping water fleas, where they move in more or less steady tracks, like planets between sparkling stars.

Worldwide there are over 5000 water mite species, with large differences in shape and habits. Some species are very similar to species on land.

Translated rom the Dutch EIS entomologists:

Feb 8, 2016 – Water mites are tiny, spider-like aquatic creatures. In the Netherlands, this group is well studied because they are used as indicators of water quality. It is therefore noteworthy that in recent years as many as nine new species of water mites have been found in the Netherlands. This brings the total number of species for our country to 267. …

In a recent article in Nederlandse Faunistische Mededelingen No. 45 eight new species were reported. Since the publication of this article again a new species for the Dutch fauna has been found, by Cynthia Kruijff-Van der Voorn of Waterschap Scheldestromen: Arrenurus denticulatus. This species is internationally very rare and had only been found in France, Romania and Sweden.

Fossil dinosaur and fossil wildebeest, discoveries and simillarities


This video says about itself:

Shared noses: Extinct wildebeest relative was remarkably dinosaur-like

5 February 2016

An artist’s interpretation of Rusingoryx atopocranion on the Late Pleistocene plains of what is now Rusinga Island, Lake Victoria.

From the Christian Science Monitor in the USA:

Weird convergence: Extinct wildebeest cousin and dinosaur shared noses

Scientists discover two unrelated, extinct animals had the same strange nose.

By Eva Botkin-Kowacki, Staff writer February 5, 2016

You might not expect to find many similarities between a mammal and a reptile, particularly if they lived millions of years apart. But scientists have found that two such extinct beasts share a rare, distinctive facial feature.

An extinct relative of the wildebeest and a duck-billed dinosaur both had bizarre crests on their heads. But it wasn’t the protruding bump that has most intrigued scientists, it’s what they found beneath.

The bony crest is hollow, forming a trumpet-shaped nasal passage unlike any seen outside these two species. No other animal, living or dead, has been found with such a feature.

So how did two beasts from two very different taxa come to have such a mysterious commonality? Convergent evolution, scientists say in a paper published Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

“We have an animal that its skeleton looks a lot like a wildebeest – it’s actually very closely related to modern wildebeests – but its face looks a lot more like something you would see if you went way back in time to the Cretaceous and looked at hadrosaur dinosaurs,” study lead author Haley O’Brien tells The Christian Science Monitor in an interview.

Rusingoryx atopocranion, the mammal, lived about 65 thousand years ago, during the late Pleistocene, while Lambeosaurine hadrosaurs, the dinosaur, lived closer to 65 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous – and yet both animals evolved the same strange nose.

And not only do their nasal passages look alike, she said, the feature also appears to develop the same way as the animals grow up from juveniles to adults, as a variety of fossils display.

“When I first saw the complete skulls, I was blown away,” vertebrate paleontologist David C. Evans, who was not part of the study, writes in an email to the Monitor. “The resemblance between Rusingoryx and some hollow-crested dinosaurs in the form of their nasal structures is truly striking, and there are clear parallels in how they evolved and grew. Both groups elongated their noses to such a degree that they evolved highly domed skulls to house their nasal passages on top of their heads, above their eyes.”

Different origins, same result

“It’s probably one of the best examples of convergence in large animals that I’ve seen in a long time,” Ali Nabavizadeh, a researcher in evolutionary biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago, who was not involved in the study, tells the Monitor.

One was a mammal and the other a reptile, and millions of years elapsed between their tenure on Earth, but still, these animals developed the same adaptation.

Convergent evolution occurs when two species along different lineages independently evolve the same, or similar, features for the same function. One example is how insects, birds, and bats can all fly.

Convergence typically occurs when different species face the same ecological pressures. So what did Rusingoryx and the hadrosaurs have in common?

Both animals were herbivores and lived in herds. Rusingoryx was a ruminant and hadrosaurs have been called the cows of the Cretaceous, but the similarities, besides the shared nose, stop there.

Rusingoryx lived on the savanna, a dry wide open plain, while Lambeosaurine hadrosaurs were thought to have lived in a tropical rainforest.

Understanding this mysterious convergence might hinge on the purpose that these strange nasal passages served.

Inner trumpets

Without looking inside the animals’ skulls, the crest might appear to be simply for visual display or some other external use.

“We have known for decades that visual display and physical combat have strongly shaped skull evolution in many groups of animals with elaborate horns and crests,” Dr. Evans says. But the long, trumpet-shaped interior suggests a more complex purpose.

The hollow cavity, part of the respiratory tract, loops up over the animal’s head and seems to connect to the vocal tract.

To determine the purpose behind this strange nose, scientists focused on the mammal’s living cousins, wildebeests and antelopes. While researchers can look at their soft tissue for clues, all that’s left of the dinosaurs is bone.

The unusual nose could have helped the animals smell, bugle, or even regulate their temperature, Evans says. “The case for vocalization as the primary function of the nasal dome in Rusingoryx is by far the most convincing, as the authors advocate.”

The Rusingoryx are very social, says Ms. O’Brien. “They live in herds and they use a lot of vocal signals to communicate. When we looked into the function of what this skull type might be doing in Rusingoryx, we really couldn’t prescribe a function outside of that social vocalization.”

“There are obviously a lot of things that animals do with their faces,” she says. “But we don’t think that this crazy nasal dome would have really changed those more normal functions for this animal. We think that it was using the nasal crest to modify the way that it’s producing these vocalizations and communicating.”

That makes sense, says Thomas E. Williamson, curator of paleontology at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, who was not part of the study.

“When you have any kind of a tubing, it becomes naturally resonant,” he explains. “So the idea that it’s being used somehow to amplify certain frequencies of sound, it will do that,”

Not your average moo

O’Brien and her colleagues suggest that Rusingoryx, and perhaps the dinosaurs by extension, used this bizarre nasal dome to communicate at frequencies other animals cannot hear. This is called infrasound, and animals like elephants and cassowaries use it to communicate under the radar.

That’s possible, says Dr. Nabavizadeh. “If you have a very gregarious group of animals and they’re in a big arid, open environment, as these bovids are, then you are under the selective pressure to start to create more lower bellowing sounds that are possibly outside of the hearing range of carnivores, so they can communicate without being found in big open environments.”

But the environment doesn’t preclude the dinosaurs from needing this ability too, says Dr. Williamson. “Infrasound … is able to travel over great distances and open areas and in closed environments. It pretty much goes everywhere,” he says. And cassowaries, the living birds thought to communicate in infrasound, live in dense tropical rainforests.

Mice live longer with cell therapy


AGE STAGE By about 2 years old, mice that age normally (back left) are hunchbacked and nearly blind. A treatment that removes decrepit “senescent” cells makes mice the same age (front right) healthier: They look and act younger and live longer. Photo: Mayo Clinic

From Science News:

Removing worn-out cells makes mice live longer and prosper

Antiaging treatment shows promise for lengthening life span

By Tina Hesman Saey

1:00pm, February 3, 2016

Killing worn-out cells helps middle-aged mice live longer, healthier lives, a new study suggests.

Removing those worn-out or “senescent” cells increased the median life span of mice from 24 to 27 percent over that of rodents in which senescent cells built up normally with age, Mayo Clinic researchers report online February 3 in Nature. Clearing senescent cells also improved heart and kidney function, the researchers found.

If the results hold up in people, they could lead to an entirely new way to treat aging, says gerontology and cancer researcher Norman Sharpless at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. Most prospective antiaging treatments would require people to take a drug for decades. Periodically zapping senescent cells might temporarily turn back the clock and improve health for people who are already aging, he says. “If this paper is right, I believe it will be one of the most important aging papers ever,” Sharpless says.

Senescent cells are ones that have ceased to divide and do their usual jobs. Instead, they hunker down and pump out inflammatory chemicals that may damage surrounding tissues and promote further aging. “They’re zombie cells,” says Steven Austad, a biogerontologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. ”They’ve outlived their usefulness. They’re bad.”

Cancer biologist Jan van Deursen of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues devised the strategy for eliminating senescent cells by making the cells commit suicide. A protein called p16 builds up in senescent cells, the researchers had previously discovered. The team hooked up a gene for a protein that causes cells to kill themselves to DNA that helps turn on p16 production, so that whenever p16 was made the suicide protein was also made.

The suicide protein needs a partner chemical to actually kill cells, though. Once mice were a year old — 40 to 60 years old in human terms — the researchers started injecting them with the partner chemical. Mice got injections about every three days for six months. Mice that got the cell-suicide cocktail were compared with genetically engineered mice that were injected with a placebo mix.

Senescent cells were easier to kill in some organs than others, the researchers found. Colon and liver senescent cells weren’t killed, for instance. But age-related declines in the function of organs in which the treatment worked — eyes, fat, heart and kidney —were slowed.

Genetic engineering and regular shots would not be feasible for use in people, but several companies are developing drugs that might clear the zombie cells from humans, Austad says. Some side effects to the treatment in mice also would be important to consider if those drugs are ever used in people. Senescent cells have previously been shown to be needed for wound healing, and mice that got the killing cocktail couldn’t repair wounds as well as those that didn’t get the treatment. Once treatment stopped, the mice were able to heal normally again. That result suggests that people undergoing senescent-cell therapy might need to stop temporarily to heal wounds from surgery or accidents.

Previously, the researchers had killed senescent cells in mice with a mutation that caused them to age prematurely (SN: 12/3/11, p. 11). Removing the worn-out cells helped the prematurely old mice live longer, but other researchers weren’t convinced that the results applied to normal aging. “It’s great when you find something that helps prevent premature aging, but there’s always this nagging doubt,” says Judith Campisi, a researcher at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, Calif. It’s gratifying that the treatment works to extend life and health in normally aging animals, she says.

Campisi also studies the effect of senescent cells on aging, but doesn’t think the cells are entirely to blame for the ills of old age. “We don’t believe senescence is the only thing that drives aging,” she says. “That would be stupid. If this were the magic bullet, Jan’s mice would live forever, but they don’t.”