Hawaiian crows use tools


This video says about itself:

Tool-time with Hawaiian crows | Science News

14 September 2016

Hawaiian crows have just joined the short list of birds demonstrated to have a widespread, natural capacity for using tools, such as a stick for probing.

GOOD STICKWORK A Hawaiian crow manipulates a twig in its beak to wiggle out a meaty tidbit hidden in a log. Crows dissatisfied with sticks that researchers set out for snagging food sometimes flew into the shrubbery and selected their own tools for the task.

From Science News:

Hawaiian crows ace tool-user test

Second corvid species shows knack for deftly groping with sticks to snag food

by Susan Milius

2:59pm, September 14, 2016

A second kind of crow, native to Hawaii, joins the famous New Caledonian crows as proven natural tool-users.

Tested in big aviaries, Hawaiian crows (Corvus hawaiiensis) frequently picked up a little stick and deftly worked it around to nudge out hard-to-reach tidbits of meat that researchers had pushed into holes in a log, scientists report September 14 in Nature.

“A goosebump moment,” says study coauthor Christian Rutz of his first sight of Hawaiian crows tackling the test. Their nimble handling is “not some little fluke where a bird picks up a stick and pokes it in a hole,” he says. Anecdotes of such flukes abound, especially for crows.  What’s rare are demonstrations that most able-bodied adults in a species show a capacity for tool use in chores important for life in the wild. Because Hawaiian crows are extinct in the wild, Rutz and his colleagues had the bittersweet ability to test literally all adult members of the species. Youngsters too developed tool skills on their own.

Rutz, of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, has worked with New Caledonian crows, which routinely shape and wield food-snagging tools. These birds, like the Hawaiian crows, are native to remote tropical islands. So is the Galapagos woodpecker finch, one of the handful of other bird species proven expert in tool use. Remote islands may favor the evolution of such capacities, Rutz muses. There are no true woodpeckers to compete with birds for treats in crevices there. And few predators lurk to pounce on a bird distracted with its head practically in a hole.

Tyrannosaurus rex Trix in Dutch Naturalis museum


This 9 September 2016 video shows Tyrannosaurus rexTrix‘ after her arrival in Naturalis museum in Leiden in the Netherlands.

Female superb lyrebirds, new discoveries


This video from Australia says about itself:

Superb Lyrebird, Courtship Song and Dance

12 November 2015

[Male] Superb Lyrebird singing and dancing with mate, just amazing creature.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology eNews from the USA, September 2016:

Discovery: Female Superb Lyrebirds Are Great Mimics

At long last the female Superb Lyrebird is emerging from the considerable shadow cast by her male counterpart. Though he is justly recognized for his terrific ability to mimic other bird species and ambient sounds, a two-year study by Cornell Lab researcher Anastasia Dalziell and colleagues finds the female is also a skilled mimic—you just have to know when to listen.

Read about the discovery.

Yellow-rumped warblers, three species, not one?


This video from the USA says about itself:

18 July 2011

Yellow-rumped warbler (eastern, myrtle) singing in the Maine boreal forest. © 2011 Garth McElroy

But is the myrtle warbler in this video really a yellow-rumped warbler?

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA, September 2016:

Familiar Songbird May Be At Least Three Different Species

Affectionately known to bird watchers as “butterbutts,” Yellow-rumped Warblers are at the center of another discussion over what defines a species. In 1973, the Myrtle and Audubon’s warbler species were lumped into one to create the yellow-rumped. But ornithologists may have had it right the first time. Read about what the DNA evidence suggests.

Ancient Indian primates discovered


This video is called 54 Million Year Old Fossils Point To India As Key In Primate Evolution.

From Science News:

Fossils hint at India’s crucial role in primate evolution

Limb bones may reveal what common ancestor looked like

By Bruce Bower

9:00am, September 8, 2016

Remarkably preserved bones of rat-sized creatures excavated in an Indian coal mine may come from close relatives of the first primatelike animals, researchers say.

A set of 25 arm, leg, ankle and foot fossils, dating to roughly 54.5 million years ago, raises India’s profile as a possible hotbed of early primate evolution, say evolutionary biologist Rachel Dunn of Des Moines University in Iowa and her colleagues. Bones from Vastan coal mine in Gujarat, India’s westernmost state, indicate that these tiny tree-dwellers resembled the first primates from as early as 65 million years ago, the scientists report in the October Journal of Human Evolution.

These discoveries add to previously reported jaws, teeth and limb bones of four ancient primate species found in the same mine. “The Vastan primates probably approximate a common primate ancestor better than any fossils found previously,” says paleontologist and study coauthor Kenneth Rose of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The Vastan animals were about the size of living gray mouse lemurs and dwarf lemurs, weighing roughly 150 to 300 grams (roughly half a pound), the investigators estimate. Dunn’s group has posted 3-D scans of the fossils to Morphosource.org (SN: 3/19/16, p. 28) so other researchers can download and study the material.

Most Vastan individuals possessed a basic climbing ability unlike the more specialized builds of members of the two ancient primate groups that gave rise to present-day primates, the researchers say. One of those groups, omomyids, consisted of relatives of tarsiers, monkeys and apes. The other group, adapoids, included relatives of lemurs, lorises and bushbabies. The Indian primates were tree-dwellers but could not leap from branch to branch like lemurs or ascend trees with the slow-but-sure grips of lorises, the new report concludes.

Vastan primates probably descended from a common ancestor of omomyids and adapoids, the researchers propose. India was a drifting landmass headed north toward a collision with mainland Asia when the Vastan primates were alive. Isolated on a huge chunk of land, the Indian primates evolved relatively slowly, retaining a great number of ancestral skeletal traits, Rose suspects.

“It’s possible that India played an important role in primate evolution,” says evolutionary anthropologist Doug Boyer of Duke University. A team led by Boyer reported in 2010 that a roughly 65-million-year-old fossil found in southern India might be a close relative of the common ancestor of primates, tree shrews and flying lemurs (which glide rather than fly and are not true lemurs).

One possibility is that primates and their close relatives evolved in isolation on the island continent of India between around 65 million and 55 million years ago, Boyer suggests. Primates then spread around the world once India joined Asia by about 50 million years ago.

That’s a controversial idea. An increasing number of scientists suspect primates originated in Asia. Chinese primate fossils dating to 56 million to 55 million years ago are slightly older than the Vastan primates (SN: 6/29/13, p. 14; SN: 1/3/04, p. 4). The Chinese finds show signs of having been omomyids.

And in at least one respect, Boyer says, some of the new Vastan fossils may be more specialized than their discoverers claim. Vastan ankle bones, for instance, look enough like those of modern lemurs to raise doubts that the Indian primates were direct descendants of primate precursors, he holds.

Dunn, however, regards the overall anatomy of the Vastan fossils as “the most direct evidence we have” that ancestors of early primates lacked lemurs’ leaping abilities, contrary to what some researchers have argued.

Small Cretaceous pterosaurs discovered


This video says about itself:

25 July 2014

Pterosaurs (/ˈtɛrɵsɔr/, from the Greek πτερόσαυρος, pterosauros, meaning “winged lizard”) were flying reptiles of the clade or order Pterosauria. They existed from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period (228 to 66 million years ago).

Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight. Their wings were formed by a membrane of skin, muscle, and other tissues stretching from the ankles to a dramatically lengthened fourth finger. Early species had long, fully toothed jaws and long tails, while later forms had a highly reduced tail, and some lacked teeth. Many sported furry coats made up of hair-like filaments known as pycnofibers, which covered their bodies and parts of their wings. Pterosaurs spanned a wide range of adult sizes, from the very small Nemicolopterus to the largest known flying creatures of all time, including Quetzalcoatlus and Hatzegopteryx.

From Science News:

Pterosaurs weren’t all super-sized in the Late Cretaceous

Some of the flying reptiles were smaller than a bald eagle

By Meghan Rosen

7:00am, September 12, 2016

Pterosaurs didn’t have to be gargantuan to survive in the Late Cretaceous.

Fragmentary fossils of a roughly 77-million-year-old pterosaur found in British Columbia suggest it had a wingspan of just 1.5 meters, about a quarter that of a bald eagle.

Bald eagles have wingspans of about two meters. So, the newly discovered pterosaus were smaller than bald eagles; but not four times smaller.

The ancient flier is the smallest pterosaur discovered during this time period — by a lot, report paleontologist Elizabeth Martin-Silverstone of the University of Southampton in England and colleagues August 30 in Royal Society Open Science.

Dozens of larger pterosaurs, some with wings spanning more than 10 meters (nearly the length of a school bus), have been unearthed. But until now, scientists had found only two small-scale versions, with wingspans 2.5 to 3 meters long, from the period stretching from 66 million to 100 million years ago.

Some scientists blamed competition with birds for the scarcity of little flying reptiles. Researchers have proposed that, “the only way pterosaurs could survive was by evolving completely crazy massive sizes,” Martin-Silverstone says.

The new find, she says, may mean that, “pterosaurs were doing better than we thought.”

Tyrannosaurus rex discoverers interviewed


This 24 August 2016 video from Montana in the USA shows an interview with [Dutch born amateur paleontologist] Michele and Blaine Lunstad and ‘Dino Cowboy’ Clayton Phipps; about their discovery of Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ‘Trix‘ in May 2013. Recently, Trix arrived in Naturalis museum in Leiden in the Netherlands.