New York migratory birds endangered by lighting


This video from the USA says about itself:

28 April 2015

The state of New York is to turn off non-essential lights in state-run buildings to help birds navigate their migratory routes in spring and autumn.

Migrating birds are believed to use stars to navigate but they can be disorientated by electric lights, causing them to crash into buildings.

The phenomenon, known as “fatal light attraction”, is estimated to kill up to one billion birds a year in the US.

Millions of birds migrate through New York along the Atlantic Flyway route.

Now those passing over the city by night will stand a better chance of making it further north.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that bright outdoor lights will be turned off between 23:00 and dawn during peak migration seasons in spring and autumn.

The state will join several well-known New York landmarks that have already signed up to the National Audubon Society‘s Lights Out programme, including the Rockefeller Centre, Chrysler Building and Time Warner Centre.

“This is a simple step to help protect these migrating birds that make their home in New York’s forests, lakes and rivers,” Mr Cuomo said in a statement.

He also announced the new “I Love NY Birding” website, which will provide information on bird watching and how to participate in the Lights Out initiative.

The National Audubon Society already works with other major cities to protect birds from strikes, including Baltimore, Chicago, and San Francisco.

Fatal light attraction appears to affect migratory songbirds such as warblers, thrushes and sparrows more than local birds, who learn where they can fly safely.

Daniel Klem, professor of ornithology and conservation biology at Muhlenberg College who pioneered the study of window strikes, told the BBC last year that the strikes were particularly worrying because the fittest members of the population were just as likely to die in this way as weaker birds.

“You may be killing some very important members of the population that would be instrumental in maintaining its health,” he said.

Writing in the New Yorker earlier this month, US novelist and bird-lover Jonathan Franzen criticised the developers of a Minnesota stadium for neglecting to use a specially patterned glass that may reduce collisions.

From the BBC, about the USA (with video there):

Why New York is to switch off lights for migrating birds

28 April 2015 Last updated at 09:07 BST

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that the state of New York is to turn off non-essential lights in state-run buildings.

But rather than this being an energy saving measure – instead, it is to help migrating birds navigate routes in spring and autumn.

Ornithologists say that birds become disorientated by electric lights, causing them to crash into buildings – also known as “fatal light attraction“.

Lucas De Jong explains.

Read more here.

New bat species discovery in Asia


Hypsugo dolichodon. Photo by: Judith L. Eger

From Inspire Wildlife:

New Bat Species Packs A Bite

Emily Stewart, April 26, 2015

A new bat species has been identified in the rainforests of Lao PDR and Vietnam, and it has a set of fangs which would make any dentist quake in their boots. Named the long-toothed pipestrelle (Hypsugo dolichodon) the species is most closely related to the Chinese pipestrelle (Hypsugo pulveratus) although it is much larger in overall size as well as fang length.

But why does the long-toothed pipestrelle sport such impressive dentures?

It is believed the large fangs may be a result of niche segregation, whereby it could grab larger prey or beetles with a harder exoskeleton and thus removing competition from other species for food. In essence, evolution has allowed the long-toothed pipestrelle to create its own ecological niche within its environment.

Despite first being trapped in 1997 by Charles M. Francis, and Antonio Guillén it has taken 17 years to formally identify the bat as more evidence was needed to determine it was a separate species. However genetic analysis has now proven the species was until now unknown to science. This is highly exciting news and can mean a variety of things.

Foremost we cannot ignore the fact that usually when a new species is identified it usually already endangered. To name but a few examples; the bahian mouse-colored tapaculo a small Brazilian songbird discovered in 2014 is under threat from logging, the first new river dolphin to be discovered in a century last year is though to be highly endangered and a tree dwelling porcupine (Coendou speratus)identified in 2013 is also thought to be vulnerable to deforestation.

As is often the answer in these cases, more research is needed into the long-toothed pipestrelle to determine whether conservation action is needed. Although currently one of the areas where a specimen has been caught is currently being destroyed by the construction of a dam along the Xe Kaman River in Lao PDR. Despite the vegetation of this area being obliterated, Tamás Görföl lead author of the paper identifying the new species does not proclaim this to be death knell for the bat.

In an interview with Mongabay, he claims that although the dam threatens the species, they can “presumably survive in other areas of its distribution if we stop the deforestation of the tropical landscapes”. He also adds that they may be a cave dweller so the protection of caves may also be needed. Another factor is that although the species current distribution is only known to be within Vietnam and Lao PDR it is possible it may be more widely distributed, something which the study and genetic analysis of previously collected materials can reveal.

Bats play a huge ecological role in their environment and every discovery of a new species can be exciting as they can reveal more hidden secrets about the world we live in. Hopefully the long-toothed pipestrelle will buck the trend and be a newly discovered species which is not immediately endangered.

For More Information:

GÖRFÖL, TAMÁS, GÁBOR CSORBA, JUDITH L. EGER, NGUYEN TRUONG SON, and CHARLES M. FRANCIS. “Canines make the difference: a new species of Hypsugo (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae) from Laos and Vietnam.” Zootaxa 3887, no. 2 (2014): 239-250.

New Bat Species has Fangs you won’t believe

Vegetarian Tyrannosaurus rex relative discovery in Chile


A reconstruction of the skeleton and external appearance of Chilesaurus. Paleontologists have labelled it “a truly odd mix”. Illustration: Gabriel Lío

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

‘Bizarre’ Jurassic dinosaur discovered in remarkable new find

Chilesaurus diegosuarezi was related to Tyrannosaurus rex, but was vegetarian and has other curious features

Ian Sample, science editor

Monday 27 April 2015 16.25 BST

Fossil hunters in Chile have unearthed the remains of a bizarre Jurassic dinosaur that combined a curious mixture of features from different prehistoric animals.

The evolutionary muddle of a beast grew to the size of a small horse and was the most abundant animal to be found 145 million years ago, in what is now the Aysén region of Patagonia.

The discovery ranks as one of the most remarkable dinosaur finds of the past 20 years, and promises to cause plenty of headaches for paleontologists hoping to place the animal in the dinosaur family tree.

“I don’t know how the evolution of dinosaurs produced this kind of animal, what kind of ecological pressures must have been at work,” said Fernando Novas at the Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum in Buenos Aires.

“What’s surprising is that in this locality the most bizarre dinosaur is not the exception, but the rule. It is the most abundant animal we find,” he added.

The first fossilised bones of the beast were discovered in 2004 when a Chilean couple, who are geologists, were studying rocks in the Andes to understand how the mountain range formed. The couple’s son, Diego, was playing nearby when he found a fossilised bone that turned out to belong to the new species.

The discovery prompted the geologists, Manuel Suarez and Rita de la Cruz, to team up with Novas and other scientists and return to the site, called Black Hill, in a breathtaking rocky expanse near General Carrera Lake in southern Chile.

On returning to the site, the researchers found bones from at least a dozen of the strange animals, including four nearly complete and well-preserved skeletons. The skeletons showed that the weird mix of head, neck, shoulder, rib, pelvis, leg and tail bones all belonged to the same creature.

Named Chilesaurus diegosuarezi after 7-year-old Diego, the animal belongs to the theropod group of dinosaurs, which includes the carnivorous tyrannosaurs and velociraptors. But unlike its meat-eating cousins, Chilesaurus had switched diets and become a vegetarian. Meat eaters tend to have sharp teeth and large heads supported by thick necks. Chilesaurus had a horny beak, flatter teeth for chomping plants, a small head and slender neck. “It’s a theropod that turned vegetarian,” said Novas. Details are published in the journal Nature.

Other anatomical peculiarities have surprised paleontologists. Its forelimbs were stocky, like an allosaurus, and instead of sharp claws, it sported two stumpy fingers. Most of the Chilesaurus remains belonged to juveniles, no larger than turkeys, but the team found bones from adults too that suggest the animals reached 3 metres from snout to tail when fully grown.

The remains of the animals were found alongside bones of small prehistoric crocodiles and huge herbivorous cousins of diplodocus. The researchers hope to return to the site next year to uncover more bones, including those of the predators that must have stalked the land long before the Andes had formed.

The curious form of Chilesaurus is an extreme example of mosaic convergent evolution, where different parts of an animal adapt to the environment along the same path taken by other creatures.

Paul Barrett, a dinosaur researcher at the Natural History Museum in London said Chilesaurus ranks as one of the most interesting dinosaur discoveries of the past 20 years.

“It has an unbelievably weird mixture of anatomical features. If you found isolated bones from this one animal in different places you’d probably conclude that the bones came from completely different dinosaur groups, rather than representing one unusual species,” he said.

“Some of the bones look like they belong to an early theropod, others like they belong to a group of weird plant-eating theropods called therizinosauroids and yet others look like they belong to a completely different dinosaur group, the prosauropods. A truly odd mix.”

“It shows that dinosaurs were experimenting with a wide range of body types and that some unexpected features like a vegetarian diet turned up independently again and again in the ‘predatory’ theropod dinosaurs.”

“Its relationships to other dinosaurs are really tricky to pin down because of this mix of features and it wouldn’t surprise me if its position in the dinosaur evolutionary tree changes regularly as more people see the material,” he said.

See also here.

Chernobyl, Ukraine wildlife on camera traps


This video shows images from camera traps of wildlife in the zone around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine. While on the one hand the nuclear radiation has killed and continues to make sick and to kill slowly many birds and other animals, on the other hand human activities disturbing wildlife have stopped, favouring some wildlife.

From Wildlife Extra:

Camera traps reveal Chernobyl’s wildlife

Camera traps set up in the Ukrainian side of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone reveal that the area is home to a rich diversity of wildlife, the BBC have reported.

The 42 cameras were installed in the exclusion zone by The Tree Project in November 2014.  In order to get a true picture the cameras are moved to new, randomly selected, locations at approximately 8 week intervals, which will mean by the end of 2015 the cameras will have been positioned at 84 locations.

TREE is one of three consortia funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Environment Agency (EA) and Radioactive Waste Management Limited (RWM) under the Radioactivity And The Environment (RATE) programme.

“The overall objective of the TREE project is to reduce uncertainty in estimating the risk to humans and wildlife associated with exposure to radioactivity and to reduce unnecessary conservatism in risk calculations,” explains its website.

“This will be achieved through four interlinked science components beginning with improving our understanding of the biogeochemical behaviour of radionuclides in soils through to studying the transgenerational effects of ionising radiation exposure on wildlife. Our studies will combine controlled laboratory experiments with fieldwork; most of which will take place in the Chernobyl Exclusion.”

Four months into the project the team has already captured more than 10,000 images of animals, suggesting the 30km zone, established shortly after the April 1986 disaster when a nuclear reactor exploded, ejecting radioactive material across the surrounding terrain and high into the atmosphere, is thriving in wildlife.

Species captured include Eurasian lynx, raccoon dog, Przewalski’s horse, Eurasian elk and brown bear.

Ants have their own Highway Code, new research


This video is about Formica pratensis ants.

From Wildlife Extra:

Researchers find ants have their own Highway Code in high traffic areas

Researchers in Germany have discovered that ants have a sophisticated code of conduct in high traffic areas and their own rules of the road, according to new research published in Springer’s journal The Science of Nature – Naturwissenschaften.

One of the scientists’ observations is that ants speed up in response to a higher density of traffic on their trails, rather than slowing down as might be expected.

Not surprisingly, when the researchers increased the supply of food by leaving it next to the trail, ants accelerated their speed by 50 per cent. What was unexpected was that this was despite more than double the density of traffic.

When food increases in supply, more forager ants are sent out to carry it back to the nest. With this increase in ant density, the number of encounters between outbound and incoming individuals increases.

Researchers at the University of Halle-Wittenberg in Germany suggest that the encounters provide an opportunity for ants to swap information and to change their behaviour according to conditions.

Rules of ant etiquette were also observed. For example, workers returning to the colony more often moved to the left than to the right to avoid colliding with an oncoming ant.

Rather than segregating strictly into lanes like human traffic, the ants used only a degree of segregation, with inbound ants more frequently using the left side of the trail.

The observations were made of the black-meadow ant, Formica pratensis, a species that lives mainly in open grassland and forages on aphid honeydew as its carbohydrate source.

The colonies studied were situated near favoured foraging sites where the ants protect and cultivate aphid populations. Repeated journeys in these colonies are made more efficient by the use of well-worn trails that can persist for over a decade.

A total of 1,865 individual ants were filmed on a 15cm (6in) section of trail. The video was stopped every 50 frames and the number of ants on each lane was counted. At low and medium densities, ants preferred the central lanes.

Of the total number, 496 ants were also studied for their speed. Encounters between ants included touching antennae or exchanging fluids. The number of encounters increased with density but this did not reduce the traffic flow.

“Even under the highest densities we could achieve, we did not observe any traffic jams,” says Christiane Hönicke, co-author of the study. “The ants increased their pace and were driven off the central lanes of the trail, resulting in a self-organised optimisation of the traffic.”

Dinosaurs, humans, sun and earth, medieval religious dogmas in Spain


This video says about itself:

Dinosaurs, and Creationism Debunked

1 March 2015

To believe that non-avian dinosaurs exist today or have ever existed with mankind is to show the highest level of ignorance in history, archaeology, and paleontology. This is my debunking of a creationist video that says dinosaurs once existed with man and that there is evidence for this in history.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

One in three Spaniards thinks humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs

Today in worrying news, 30 per cent of people in Spain think humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs.

A government-backed study also showed 25 per cent of respondents think the Sun orbits the Earth.

One positive to take from the Social Perception of Science study, from Spain’s Foundation for Science and Technology, is that at least scientific knowledge is improving in the country – in 2006 the proportion of people believing the previous two incorrect assertions was 50 per cent for dinosaurs and 40 per cent for the Sun.

Overall, nine years ago people answered 58 per cent of questions correctly, while now the ratio is 70 per cent.

This video says about itself:

Testing Geocentrism

15 November 2012

… a series on geocentrism, these videos take a wry look at the subject and how it stacks up against basic observations. This part [1] looks at whether the geocentrist explanation of the seasons holds any merit, why Polaris doesn’t move and how basic observations of the inner and outer planets hold up to the ideas of the geocentrist. A simple introduction is given to relevant concepts, providing topic pointers for the viewer who wants to find out more for themselves.

Subtitles: English
Guidance: Contains some mild language within a comedy context.

* I noticed after completing this video that the introduction should have said “Over two thousand years after Aristarchus” not “Nearly one thousand”.

Orchid flowers of Vlieland island, Europe’s earliest


Lesser Twayblade orchid, Neottia cordata

This is a photo of a Lesser wayblade orchid, Neottia cordata, from the Isle of Man.

Translated from the Dutch botanists of Werkgroep Europese Orchideeën:

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

Last weekend, two members of the Working Group on European Orchids (WEO) found on Vlieland the first flowering specimens of the Neottia cordata orchid. After a literature review it turned out that nowhere in Europe the species blooms as early as on the Dutch Wadden Sea islands Vlieland and Terschelling.