World’s smallest monitor lizard discovery in Australia


This video says about itself:

24 March 2014

Sir David Attenborough narrates a documentary about the life and crimes of Africa’s most notorious raider the monitor lizard. To feed its monster appetite, it will steal from under the noses of humans, lions and crocodiles, but with its criminal lifestyle comes extreme danger. The Nile Monitor is Africa’s largest lizard and most notorious ‘raider’ – its ultimate challenge is to steal the heavily guarded eggs and young of the Nile crocodile – can this expert thief pull it off?

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Newly discovered Dampier peninsula goanna to go on display at WA Museum

The lizard, which grows to a maximum length of 23cm, is the world’s smallest and newest addition to the genus that includes monitors and Komodo dragons

Tuesday 30 December 2014 07.36 GMT

A newly discovered species of reptile, the Dampier peninsula goanna, has gone on display at the Western Australian Museum. The lizard is the world’s smallest addition to the Varanus genus, the family that also includes monitors and Komodo dragons.

The lizard on display, a female named Pokey, may look ordinary to the untrained eye but for scientists she’s an evolutionary marvel.

Unlike her relatives, who are often large and found over a widespread area of Australia, Pokey and her fellow Dampier peninsula goannas are found only on the peninsula north of Broome and Derby in Western Australia’s Kimberley region. The species is quite tiny, growing to a maximum 23cm in length and weighing only 16 grams.

WA Museum’s reptile expert, Dr Paul Doughty, said the discovery of the Dampier peninsula goanna was significant because it is a new species.

Doughty said this goanna diverged from its closest living relative – the short-tailed monitor – about six to seven million years ago, about the same time humans and chimpanzees split off from their common ancestor.

Museum visitors will be able to observe her small head, tiny legs, stretchy body and short tail, which Doughty described as a “funky” shape for a goanna.

See also here.

Birds and African, Asian and European children


This video is called How Kids Save Swifts. It says about itself:

2 December 2014

A short video presenting a valuable initiative of a workshop for school kids in Gdynia (Poland) on building homes for Swifts.

From BirdLife:

Spring Alive springs to action for migratory bird conservation

By Shaun Hurrell, Fri, 05/12/2014 – 08:22

As migratory birds are settling in for winter in Africa, we reflect back on another successful season of Spring Alive. As well as celebrating the arrival of migratory birds, this year children and adults have been acting for their conservation all the way from Eurasia to Africa in this BirdLife educational conservation initiative coordinated by OTOP (BirdLife in Poland).

This year in Europe and Asia, nearly 67,000 children enjoyed welcoming their avian visitors, learned about their conservation, and took photos as they engaged in Spring Alive migration-themed activities. Over 500 events were held; over 1200 teachers used Spring Alive resources in their lessons; and a photo competition captured the magic of migration.

Spring Alive encourages children and adults to take action for the migratory birds they learn about. All across the flyway, Partners and participants have been protecting swift nesting sites, installing and repairing nest boxes, building nest platforms for swallows, monitoring nesting locations of bee-eaters, fitting transmitters to cuckoos, looking after stork nests, promoting stickers to prevent bird collisions with glass, campaigning against illegal hunting, and more.

By posting their first sightings of Barn Swallow, White Stork, Common Cuckoo, Common Swift, and European Bee-eater on the http://www.springalive.net website, children from Europe, Central Asia and Africa create a real-time map of the incredible journeys these birds take every year. As well as by these migratory routes, Eurasian and African schools are also connected with matching initiatives like ‘Spring Twin’.

Winners of the photo competition organised on the Spring Alive flickr page were from Slovenia, Poland and Montenegro. This year, the Spring Alive website was adapted to compliment the increased use of mobile phone for internet browsing in Eurasia and Africa.

Spring Alive is in its 8th year and is getting bigger. For the first time, this year children from Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Tunisia were also able to share in the common wonder of bird migration and conservation as these countries join a total of 54 participating countries in the campaign.

As the African season comes to a close, we wait with anticipation for the results and hope to better the current record of 3.7 million people reached by Spring Alive.

Likewise, we wait in Europe for the return of the birds next year. Migratory birds face threats from climate change including drought and mis-timing of the emergence of insects; agriculture; urbanisation; and hunting. With appreciation and support of local children, hopefully these birds can find enough food and shelter to continue to return year after year.

Spring Alive in Europe & Asia in numbers:

303 outdoor events and 200 indoor events held
1,205 teachers used Spring Alive resources for their lessons
Nearly 67,000 children and over 7,189 adults directly engaged in Spring Alive
649 volunteers were directly involved in Spring Alive activities
1665 seniors took part in Spring Alive activities
54 Partners involved, including 14 from Africa

Spring Alive is an international campaign to encourage children’s interest in nature and the conservation of migratory birds. Spring Alive is organised by OTOP, the BirdLife Partner in Poland, on behalf of the BirdLife Partnership. Wildlife groups, teachers and others who would like to become more involved in Spring Alive should contact the International Manager, Karolina Kalinowska, at karolina.kalinowska@otop.org.pl.

For more information go to: www.springalive.net

Follow Spring Alive on YouTube and flickr.

Human evolution, alcohol and chemistry


This video is called African Animals Getting Drunk From Ripe Marula Fruit.

By Bob Yirka today:

Study shows pre-human ancestors adapted to metabolize ethanol long before humans learned about fermentation

19 hours ago

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers in the U.S. has found evidence to support the notion that our pre-human ancestors were able to metabolize ethanol long before our later ancestors learned to take advantage of fermentation—to create alcoholic beverages. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes how they genetically sequenced proteins from modern primates and used what they found to work backwards to discover just how long ago our ancestors have been able to metabolize ethanol.

Humans have been consuming beverages that make them tipsy, drunk and/or sick for a very long time, of that there is little doubt. But why do we have the ability to metabolize ethanol in the first place? That’s what the team set out to answer. They began by sequencing an enzyme called ADH4—it’s what’s responsible for allowing us to metabolize ethanol. Other have it as well, but not all metabolize ethanol as well as we do. By sequencing ADH4 found in a 28 including 17 that were primates, the team was able to create a family tree of sorts based on ethanol metabolizing ability. The team then tested those sequences for their metabolizing ability by synthesizing nine kinds of the ADH4 enzyme. Doing so showed the researchers that most early primates had very little ability to metabolize ethanol for most of their early history.

Then, about 10 million years ago, some of the ancestors of modern humans suddenly were able to do a much better job of it, while others that diverged and led to apes such as orangutans, did not. This discovery led the team to wonder what might have occurred to cause this to come about. They note that other evidence has shown that around this same time, the planet cooled slightly, making life a little more difficult for our tree dwelling ancestors. They suggest they began climbing down out of the trees to eat the fruit that fell, which gave them a food advantage and a reason for developing the ability to metabolize —otherwise they would have become too drunk from eating the fermenting fruit to defend themselves or live otherwise normal lives. If true, the theory would also offer a major clue as to why our became terrestrial.

Explore further: Study unlocks secret of how fruit flies choose fruit with just the right amount of ethanol

More information: Hominids adapted to metabolize ethanol long before human-directed fermentation, PNAS, Matthew A. Carrigan, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1404167111

Abstract

Paleogenetics is an emerging field that resurrects ancestral proteins from now-extinct organisms to test, in the laboratory, models of protein function based on natural history and Darwinian evolution. Here, we resurrect digestive alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH4) from our primate ancestors to explore the history of primate–ethanol interactions. The evolving catalytic properties of these resurrected enzymes show that our ape ancestors gained a digestive dehydrogenase enzyme capable of metabolizing ethanol near the time that they began using the forest floor, about 10 million y ago. The ADH4 enzyme in our more ancient and arboreal ancestors did not efficiently oxidize ethanol. This change suggests that exposure to dietary sources of ethanol increased in hominids during the early stages of our adaptation to a terrestrial lifestyle. Because fruit collected from the forest floor is expected to contain higher concentrations of fermenting yeast and ethanol than similar fruits hanging on trees, this transition may also be the first time our ancestors were exposed to (and adapted to) substantial amounts of dietary ethanol.

African 20th century liberation movements, film review


This video says about itself:

Concerning Violence – Official Trailer

A film by Goran Hugo Olsson, 2014, Sweden/U.S.A./Denmark/Finland.

By John Green in Britain:

Friday 28th November 2014

Gordon Hugo Olsson’s film on the anti-imperialist liberation movements globally in the ’60s and ’70s fails to connect with contemporary concerns, says JOHN GREEN

Concerning Violence (15)

Directed by Goran Hugo Olsson

3/5

DURING the cold war, radical Swedish filmmakers set out to capture footage from the anti-imperialist liberation movements in Africa first hand.

With their 16mm footage he discovered in the Swedish Television archives, Goran Hugo Olsson draws on his experience in Concerning Violence to create a visual narrative of the continent.

He bases his documentary on the ideas of Frantz Fanon and his explosive book about colonialism The Wretched of the Earth, written over 50 years ago.

While Fanon’s ideas at the time were iconoclastic and became immensely influential among liberation movements worldwide, this film — despite the best of intentions — hardly does them justice.

It begins ominously with a long and monotonously spoken introduction by academic Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak from Columbia University, who reads from a script.

If you haven’t already nodded off, a series of clips follows using unique archival footage from the archives. They include a night-time raid with the MPLA in Angola, interviews with Frelimo guerilla fighters in Mozambique, as well as with Thomas Sankara, Amilcar Cabral and other African revolutionaries.

These are contrasted with self-revealing interviews with dyed–in-the-wool colonialists including General Spinola, former Portuguese colonial warrior and later short-term president of Portugal.

While we well know that colonial attitudes and the horrific exploitation of Africa still continue today and that imperial countries are still waging brutal wars against struggling nations, the assembled footage feels ancient and no longer really relevant to the present.

Between clips of those anti-colonial struggles we are presented with large text bullet points or slogans taken from Fanon’s book, also read out like a Power Point presentation for dummies.

The filmmakers argue that Fanon’s work is still a major tool for understanding and illuminating the neo-colonialism happening now as well as the violence and reactions against it, but that claim is very open to question.

While it is salutary to be reminded of those anti-colonial struggles during the late 1960s and ’70s — and the sacrifices involved that gave the world so much hope and inspiration — it is also sobering to realise what became of them, demonstrating that a struggle is never finished. That’s something I’m sure Fanon would have agreed with.

Rare African desert warbler in western Europe for first time


This video is about an African desert warbler.

The video was recorded in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands, on 21 November 2014, by Adri de Groot.

This north African species had never been seen in Europe, except for a few times in Spain and Italy.

Photos of this bird are here. And here.

This is another video about that desert warbler.

See also here. And here.