Why tarantula spiders are blue or green


This video is called Greenbottle Blue and Sazimai’s Blue Tarantula Comparison.

By Yale-NUS College in the USA:

Scientists discover why tarantulas come in vivid blues and greens

September 24, 2020

Summary: Researchers find support for new hypotheses: that tarantulas‘ vibrant blue colors may be used to communicate between potential mates, while green coloration confers the ability to conceal among foliage. Their research also suggests that tarantulas are not as color-blind as previously believed, and that these arachnids may be able to perceive the bright blue tones on their bodies.

Why are some tarantulas so vividly coloured? Scientists have puzzled over why these large, hairy spiders, active primarily during the evening and at night-time, would sport such vibrant blue and green colouration — especially as they were long thought to be unable to differentiate between colours, let alone possess true colour vision.

In a recent study, researchers from Yale-NUS College and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) find support for new hypotheses: that these vibrant blue colours may be used to communicate between potential mates, while green colouration confers the ability to conceal among foliage. Their research also suggests that tarantulas are not as colour-blind as previously believed, and that these arachnids may be able to perceive the bright blue tones on their bodies. The study was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on 23 September, and is featured on the front cover of the current (30 September 2020) issue.

The research was jointly led by Dr Saoirse Foley from CMU, and Dr Vinod Kumar Saranathan, in collaboration with Dr William Piel, both from the Division of Science at Yale-NUS College. To understand the evolutionary basis of tarantula colouration, they surveyed the bodily expression of various opsins (light-sensitive proteins usually found in animal eyes) in tarantulas. They found, contrary to current assumptions, that most tarantulas have nearly an entire complement of opsins that are normally expressed in day-active spiders with good colour vision, such as the Peacock Spider.

These findings suggest that tarantulas, long thought to be colour-blind, can perceive the bright blue colours of other tarantulas. Using comparative phylogenetic analyses, the team reconstructed the colours of 110 million-year-old tarantula ancestors and found that they were most likely blue. They further found that blue colouration does not correlate with the ability to urticate or stridulate — both common defence mechanisms — suggesting that it did not evolve as a means of deterring predators, but might instead be a means of attracting potential mates.

The team also found that the evolution of green colouration appears to depend on whether the species in question is arboreal (tree-dwelling), suggesting that this colour likely functions in camouflage.

“While the precise function of blueness remains unclear, our results suggest that tarantulas may be able to see these blue displays, so mate choice is a likely potential explanation. We have set an impetus for future projects to include a behavioural element to fully explore these hypotheses, and it is very exciting to consider how further studies will build upon our results,” said Dr Foley.

The team’s survey of the presence of blue and green colouration across tarantulas turned up more interesting results. They found that the blue colouration has been lost more frequently than it is gained across tarantulas. The losses are mainly in species living in the Americas and Oceania, while many of the gains are in the Old World (European, Asian, and African) species. They also found that green colouration has evolved only a few times, but never lost.

“Our finding that blueness was lost multiple times in the New World, while regained in the Old, is very intriguing. This leaves several fascinating avenues for future research, when considering how the ecological pressures in the New and the Old Worlds vary,” said Dr Saranathan. “For instance, one hypothesis would be differences in the light environments of the habitats between the New and the Old World, which can affect how these colours might be perceived, if indeed they can be, as our results suggest.”

Greek students strike against schools coronavirus danger


Greek school students march with a banner stating: ‘Masks are not the only protection – give money for education’

From daily News Line in Britain, 26 September 2020:

SEVERAL hundreds of secondary schools throughout Greece remain shut as school students refused to attend classes considering the Covid-19 government guidelines to be ineffective.

Last Thursday in Athens, over 2,000 school students, along with delegations from university students’ unions, marched to the Vouli (Greek parliament) shouting ‘money for health and education, that’s what could protect us from the pandemic’ and ‘masks are not enough’. Marchers demanded the resignation of the Education Ministry.

The march took place as Covid-19 cases and deaths have more than trebled this month as compared to spring, with Athens hardest hit.

The government have imposed draconian rules, prohibiting meetings of more than nine persons, either indoors or outdoors. Over summer, the government voted in a reactionary Bill restricting marches and demonstrations.

But Greek riot police stayed away from the school students’ march.

Greek hospital doctors were also on the march last Thursday in a mass protest meeting at the Health Ministry building as part of their 24-hour national strike demanding the employment of doctors and staff at state hospitals and mass free Covid-19 tests for all.

But a OENGE (hospital doctors federation) spokesperson announced that Health Ministry officials had told their delegation that no government cash is available for hospitals.

At the port of Piraeus, seafarers on ferries staged a solid 100% 24-hour strike against the Greek government attack on wages and rights. Last June, the government annulled all collective agreements for freight ships and oil tankers.

Seafarers’ unions called the strike against this government action and in defence of their rights.

But the PNO (federation of seafarers trades unions) leaders have refused to call a national strike.

At a mass meeting in the Piraeus docks, the President of the PENEN (deck crews) trade union Antonis Dalakogeorgos called for the unification of all the different protests and for the creation of a ‘common centre of struggle’ to fight the government.

The GSEE (Greek TUC) leaders have obeyed the EU and bosses’ diktats and have refused to even call a protest march.

Delakogeorgos stopped short of calling for a new leadership in the trade union and labour movement to organise the overthrow of the current right-wing government.

More restrictive lockdown set for Israel as coronavirus cases soar.

Serco, incompetent British coronavirus disaster profiteers


This 9 September 2020 video from Britain says about itself:

Professor Anthony Costello slams the test and trace “fiasco”

The government‘s test, track and trace system is in disarray. With rising coronavirus infections and the system failing to get a grip on the pandemic, it’s time for a change.

The privatised system, run by Serco and Sitel has failed. Professor Anthony Costello here explains how and why we need an alternative.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 24 September 2020:

Protesters to demand Serco gets the sack on test and trace contract

CAMPAIGNERS will protest outside the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) tomorrow morning to demand that failing contractor Serco is sacked from its Covid-19 test-and-trace contract.

Dressed in giant beer costumes and proclaiming that Serco “couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery” they will demand that local public-health protection teams are put in charge of the crucial system.

The protest, scheduled to start at 10am, echoes the rising public distrust in the ability of profit-hungry privateers to deliver the efficient test-and-trace system needed to bring down infection rates.

Pascale Robinson, of organisers We Own It, said: “This week, Boris Johnson has introduced tighter restrictions in an attempt to get a handle on the recent spike in Covid cases.

“But sadly, his response is falling well short of what’s needed to get out of this crisis safely.”

Mr Robison said that in order to get out of lockdown, save lives and hug our loved ones, “we desperately need a test, track and trace system that works.

“Unfortunately, what we have instead is an unmitigated disaster, with large parts run by Serco, a company synonymous with bungling and never-ending failure.

“The truth is that Serco couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery. It’s time for [the company] to be kicked out of the track-and-trace system.”

New mosasaur genus discovered


A skeletal mount of the mosasaur Gnathomortis stadtmani at BYU’s Eyring Science Center. Image credit: BYU

From Utah State University in the USA:

Jaws of death: Paleontologist renames giant, prehistoric marine lizard

September 23, 2020

Summary: Paleontologists describe a new genus of mosasaur, Gnathomortis stadtmani, a marine lizard that roamed the oceans of North America toward the end of the Age of Dinosaurs.

Some 92 to 66 million years ago, as the Age of Dinosaurs waned, giant marine lizards called mosasaurs roamed an ocean that covered North America from Utah to Missouri and Texas to the Yukon. The air-breathing predators were streamlined swimmers that devoured almost everything in their path, including fish, turtles, clams and even smaller mosasaurs.

Coloradoan Gary Thompson discovered mosasaur bones near the Delta County town of Cedaredge in 1975, which the teen reported to his high school science teacher. The specimens made their way to Utah’s Brigham Young University, where, in 1999, the creature that left the fossils was named Prognathodon stadtmani.

“I first learned of this discovery while doing background research for my Ph.D.,” says newly arrived Utah State University Eastern paleontologist Joshua Lively, who recently took the reins as curator of the Price campus’ Prehistoric Museum. “Ultimately, parts of this fossil, which were prepared since the original description in 1999, were important enough to become a chapter in my 2019 doctoral dissertation.”

Upon detailed research of the mosasaur’s skeleton and a phylogenetic analysis, Lively determined the BYU specimen is not closely related to other species of the genus Prognathodon and needed to be renamed. He reclassified the mosasaur as Gnathomortis stadtmani and reports his findings in the most recent issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

His research was funded by the Geological Society of America, the Evolving Earth Foundation, the Texas Academy of Science and the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin.

“The new name is derived from Greek and Latin words for ‘jaws of death,'” Lively says. “It was inspired by the incredibly large jaws of this specimen, which measure four feet (1.2 meters) in length.”

An interesting feature of Gnathomortis’ mandibles, he says, is a large depression on their outer surface, similar to that seen in modern lizards, such as the Collared Lizard. The feature is indicative of large jaw muscles that equipped the marine reptile with a formidable biteforce.

“What sets this animal apart from other mosasaurs are features of the quadrate — a bone in the jaw joint that also forms a portion of the ear canal,” says Lively, who returned to the fossil’s Colorado discovery site and determined the age interval of rock, in which the specimen was preserved.

“In Gnathomortis, this bone exhibits a suite of characteristics that are transitional from earlier mosasaurs, like Clidastes, and later mosasaurs, like Prognathodon. We now know Gnathomortis swam in the seas of Colorado between 79 and 81 million years ago, or at least 3.5 million years before any species of Prognathodon.”

He says fossil enthusiasts can view Gnathomortis’ big bite at the BYU Museum of Paleontology in Provo, Utah, and see a cast of the skull at the Pioneer Town Museum in Cedaredge, Colorado. Reconstructions of the full skeleton are on display at the John Wesley Powell River History Museum in Green River, Utah, and in BYU’s Eyring Science Center.

“I’m excited to share this story, which represents years of effort by many citizen scientists and scholars, as I kick off my new position at USU Eastern’s Prehistoric Museum,” Lively says. “It’s a reminder of the power of curiosity and exploration by people of all ages and backgrounds.”

Bezos’ Amazon sells bleach as coronavirus ‘medicine’


This 30 April 2020 video from Canada says about itself:

Amazon workers slam warehouse conditions

Workers for online retail giant Amazon say the company is not protecting staff from the spread of the coronavirus. Five cases of COVID-19 have been reported at the company’s facility north of Calgary.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Industrial bleach is being sold on Amazon through its product pages which consumers are buying under the mistaken belief that it is a “miracle cure” for Covid-19, despite health warnings from the US Food and Drug Administration that drinking the fluid can kill.

The chlorine dioxide solutions are being sold on the Amazon platform under the brand name CD Kit and NatriChlor. …

In comments from Amazon customers under the review section of the pages … users discuss how many drops of bleach they are imbibing and explain they are drinking the chemical which they call MMS to “disinfect ourselves”, a phrase that echoes Donald Trump’s controversial remarks in April that injections of disinfectant could cure Covid-19.

Former NSA chief Keith Alexander has joined Amazon’s board of directors. Alexander was the public face of US surveillance during the Snowden leaks: here.

NASA sends woman to moon, which woman?


This 2018 video says about itself:

Moon 101 | National Geographic

What is the moon made of, and how did it form? Learn about the moon’s violent origins, how its phases shaped the earliest calendars, and how humans first explored Earth’s only natural satellite half a century ago.

NASA PLANNING TO SEND FIRST WOMAN TO THE MOON IN 2024 NASA revealed this week that it plans to send a woman to the moon for the first time in 2024. The Artemis Plan describes the first lunar mission since 1972 aimed at sending a man and the first woman to Earth’s nearest neighbor. “Sending human explorers 250,000 miles to the Moon, then 140 million miles to Mars, requires a bold vision, effective program management, funding for modern systems development and mission operations, and support from all corners of our great nation as well as our partners across the globe,” NASA said in the plan’s introduction. [HuffPost]

So, now the question is: Which woman will be sent to the moon? Some people in the USA might suggest: Ann Coulter, provided it is a one-way ticket.

And which man? Donald Trump, same condition?

COVID-19 disaster news update


This 22 September 2020 video says about itself:

Trump mocks 200,000 dead from coronavirus. John Iadarola and Emma Vigeland break it down on The Damage Report.

THE PLAGUE STATES OF AMERICA: 200,000 DEAD More than 200,000 people have now died from the coronavirus in the United States. The U.S. reached the grim pandemic milestone on Tuesday — amid growing concerns among medical professionals of a potential “perfect storm” for both COVID-19 and influenza infections as temperatures begin to dip in the Western Hemisphere. Doctors have been advising that adults and children older than 6 months get a flu vaccine as soon as possible to reduce the risk of catching the flu and to reduce the severity of symptoms if a person does get infected. [HuffPost]

You can get COVID-19 and flu at the same time – and it can be deadly.

PENTAGON GAVE $1 BILLION IN PANDEMIC AID TO DEFENSE CONTRACTORS In March, when Congress allocated $1 billion dollars from its first coronavirus relief package to go to the U.S. Department of Defense, the expectation was that the funds would be spent on essential medical supplies needed for the department to help combat the deadly disease. At the time ― and even now ― the United States was facing a shortage of critical items like N95 masks. A new Washington Post report, however, reveals the Trump administration gave a majority of the Pentagon’s billion-dollar coronavirus aid package to defense contractors to make things like Army uniforms, body armor and jet engine parts. [HuffPost]

How to politely decline social invitations in the pandemic.

‘Significant concern’ about COVID-19 rise in largely Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in New York City.

Boris Johnson’s early Christmas present to Britain: Six months of coronavirus gloom.

Young tortoises are attracted to faces


This video says about itself:

Differentiating Mediterranean Tortoises

Featuring the Marginated tortoise (Testudo marginata), the Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca) and the Hermann’s tortoises (Testudo hermanni). Chris Leone shows how to properly tell one from the other.

From Queen Mary University of London in England:

Tortoise hatchlings are attracted to faces from birth

September 16, 2020

Tortoises are born with a natural preference for faces, according to new research from scientists at Queen Mary University of London, the University of Trento and the Fondazione Museo Civico Rovereto.

The study provides the first evidence of the tendency for solitary animals to approach face-like shapes at the beginning of life, a preference only previously observed in social species such as human babies, chicks and monkeys.

The researchers tested the reactions of hatchlings from five different species of tortoise to different patterned stimuli, made up of a series of blobs. They found that the tortoises consistently moved to areas with the ‘face-like’ configuration — containing three blobs arranged in an upside-down triangle shape.

The findings suggest that this early behaviour likely evolved in the common ancestors of mammals, reptiles and birds more than 300 million years ago.

Dr Elisabetta Versace, lead author of the study from Queen Mary University of London, said: “Researchers have previously observed this spontaneous attraction to faces in social animals such as humans, monkeys and chicks. Because all these species require parental care, it was thought this early adaptation was important for helping young animals respond to their parents or other members of the same species. However, now we have shown that this behaviour is also found in solitary tortoise hatchlings, suggesting it may have evolved for another reason.”

Tortoises were hatched and kept away from any animal or human faces from birth until the start of the test. Each animal was then placed in the middle of a rectangular space divided into four areas containing either a face-like or control stimuli. The researchers analysed the preference of hatchlings for face-like stimuli by recording the first area the animal entered during the experimental period.

Unlike birds and mammals, tortoises are solitary species — they have no post-hatching parental care and do not form social groups as adults. Previous research has even shown that tortoise hatchlings ignore or avoid members of the same species in early life.

Silvia Damini from the University of Trento, said: “It is possible that this preference for face-like stimuli enhances learning from living animals in both social and solitary species from the early stages of life. In fact, other animals can provide information on important environmental factors, such as the availability of resources.”

Gionata Stancher, Head of the Tortoise Sanctuary Sperimentarea (Fondazione Museo Civico Rovereto, Italy) where the experiments were conducted, said: “Being able to recognise and respond to cues associated with other living animals could help young animals acquire information vital for their survival.”

New spider species discovered in Colombia


This 21 September 2020 video is called New species of spider discovered – Ocrepeira klamt.

From the Universität Bayreuth in Germany:

A new species of spider

September 16, 2020

During a research stay in the highlands of Colombia conducted as part of her doctorate, Charlotte Hopfe, PhD student under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Thomas Scheibel at the Biomaterials research group at the University of Bayreuth, has discovered and zoologically described a new species of spider. The previously unknown arachnids are native to the central cordillera, not far from the Pacific coast, at an altitude of over 3,500 meters above sea-level. In the magazine PLOS ONE, the scientist from Bayreuth presents the spider she has called Ocrepeira klamt.

“I chose the zoological name Ocrepeira klamt in honour of Ulrike Klamt, my German teacher at high school. The enthusiasm with which she pursues her profession and the interest she shows in her students and in literature are an inspiration to me,” says Charlotte Hopfe.

The cordillera in Colombia is famous for its unusually large variety of species. The habitats of these species are distributed at altitudes with very different climatic conditions, vegetation, and ecosystems. The Bayreuth researcher has collected and zoologically determined specimens of more than 100 species of spider in these habitats. In doing so, she was mainly in a region that has only been accessible to researchers since the end of civil war in Colombia in 2016. She discovered the new spider, which differs from related species in the striking structure of its reproductive organs, at altitudes of over 3,500 meters above sea-level. In the identification of this and many other spider specimens, Hopfe received valuable support from researchers at Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia, with which the University of Bayreuth has a research cooperation. Colombia has been identified as a priority country in the internationalization strategy of the University of Bayreuth, which is why it maintains close connections with several Colombian universities.

The study of spiders from regions of such various huge climatic and ecological variety may also offer a chance to find answers to two as yet unexplored questions. It is not yet known whether temperatures, precipitation, or other climatic factors influence the evolution of spiders, or the properties of their silk. For example, is the proportion of species with extremely elastic silk in the lowland rainforest higher than in the semi-desert? And it is also still unclear whether the properties of the silk produced by a species of spider are modified by climatic factors. Would a spider living in the high mountains, such as Ocrepeira klamt, produce the same silk if it were native to a much lower region of the cordillera? The answer to these questions could provide important clues as to the conditions under which unusual spider silks develop.

Along similar lines, it would also be interesting to explore whether there are spider silk proteins which, due to their properties, are even more suitable for certain applications in biomedicine and biotechnology than silk proteins currently known. “The greater the variety of spider silks whose structures and properties we know, the greater the potential to optimize existing biomaterials and to develop new types of biomaterials on the basis of silk proteins,” Hopfe explains.

Charlotte Hopfe’s research was funded by the German Academic Exchange Service and the German Academic Scholarship Foundation.

Coronavirus disaster in Britain, update


This 22 September 2020 video says about itself:

Europe’s COVID-19 crisis surges

Countries across Europe are declaring health emergencies as coronavirus cases rise.

Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker reports from London.

This is how COVID-19 is spreading in the U.K. right now.

UK COULD SEE 50,000 COVID CASES A DAY WITHIN WEEKS Britain could see 50,000 daily cases of COVID-19 by mid-October and 200 deaths a day by mid-November if the current rate of infection is not halted, Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance said at a public briefing. The news comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that a second wave “is coming” to the U.K. Last week, the R0 rate of the virus, which shows whether the pandemic is growing, jumped to between 1.1 and 1.4. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the country would not return to the full lockdown seen in March. [HuffPost]

The U.K.’s doubling coronavirus cases mean Boris Johnson can’t wake up from his COVID-19 nightmare.

Editorial: We need a zero-Covid strategy – the government must be made to change course: here.

Covid deaths to reach more than 200 per day as Britain heads in the ‘wrong direction’: here.

Neoliberal governments letting coronavirus ‘run amok’, charges Diane Abbott, Labour MP.

Labour publishes ‘file of failure’ detailing Tory mismanagement of £3.9bn during Covid crisis: here.

The government is to blame for the second wave. The government’s complacency, recklessness and utter incompetence have brewed a perfect storm for the virus, argues ZARAH SULTANA.

USA: INFAMOUS COVID-19 DENIER ‘WORKS FOR DR. FAUCI’ A public relations official in Dr. Anthony Fauci’s office has been writing under a pseudonym for the right-wing website RedState, where he pushes disinformation about COVID-19, according to an investigation by The Daily Beast. The official is Bill Crews, an employee of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 2007. But he reportedly goes by “streiff” on Twitter and RedState, where he is secretly the managing editor. [HuffPost]