New tarantula species discovery in Angola


This 9 February 2019 video says about itself:

Let’s call it “The Mega Horned Baboon Tarantula” – what do you think?
Ceratogyrus attonitifer is a new species described by the arachnologist Ian Engelbrecht. This baboon tarantula is native to the country of Angola and has an astonishing horn – something we’ve never seen before, covering almost the entire opisthosoma of the baboon tarantula spider.

It’s remarkable – watch the video, enjoy its beauty and let’s hope for more pictures and videos of this new baboon tarantula species soon!

From ScienceDaily:

New tarantula species from Angola distinct with a one-of-a-kind ‘horn’ on its back

February 12, 2019

A new to science species of tarantula with a peculiar horn-like protuberance sticking out of its back was recently identified from Angola, a largely underexplored country located at the intersection of several Afrotropical ecoregions.

Collected as part of the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project, which aims to uncover the undersampled biodiversity in the entire Okavango catchment of Angola, Namibia and Botswana, thereby paving the way for sustainable conservation in the area, the new arachnid is described in a paper published in the open-access journal African Invertebrates by the team of Drs John Midgley and Ian Engelbrecht.

Although the new spider (Ceratogyrus attonitifer sp.n.) belongs to a group known as horned baboon spiders, the peculiar protuberance is not present in all of these species. Moreover, in the other species — where it is — the structure is completely sclerotised, whereas the Angolan specimens demonstrate a soft and characteristically longer ‘horn’. The function of the curious structure remains unknown.

The new tarantula’s extraordinary morphology has also prompted its species name: C. attonitifer, which is derived from the Latin root attonit- (“astonishment” or “fascination”), and the suffix -fer (“bearer of” or “carrier”). It refers to the astonishment of the authors upon the discovery of the remarkable species.

“No other spider in the world possesses a similar foveal protuberance,” comment the authors of the paper.

During a series of surveys between 2015 and 2016, the researchers collected several female specimens from the miombo forests of central Angola. To find them, the team would normally spend the day locating burrows, often hidden among grass tufts, but sometimes found in open sand, and excavate specimens during the night. Interestingly, whenever the researchers placed an object in the burrow, the spiders were quick and eager to attack it.

The indigenous people in the region provided additional information about the biology and lifestyle of the baboon spider. While undescribed and unknown to the experts until very recently, the arachnid has long been going by the name “chandachuly” among the local tribes. Thanks to their reports, information about the animal’s behaviour could also be noted. The tarantula tends to prey on insects and the females can be seen enlarging already existing burrows rather than digging their own. Also, the venom of the newly described species is said to not be dangerous to humans, even though there have been some fatalities caused by infected bites gone untreated due to poor medical access.

In conclusion, the researchers note that the discovery of the novel baboon spider from Angola does not only extend substantially the known distributional range of the genus, but can also serve as further evidence of the hugely unreported endemic fauna of the country:

“The general paucity of biodiversity data for Angola is clearly illustrated by this example with theraphosid spiders, highlighting the importance of collecting specimens in biodiversity frontiers.”

Apart from the described species, the survey produced specimens of two other potentially new to science species and range expansions for other genera. However, the available material is so far insufficient to formally diagnose and describe them.

Small primate species discovered in Angola


This 2011 video from Tanzania says about itself:

Andrew Perkin and Johan Karlsson conducting a galago [Galagoides] survey in Zanzibar.

From Sci-News.com:

Galagoides kumbirensis: New Species of Dwarf Galago Discovered in Angola

Apr 10, 2017 by Enrico de Lazaro

An international group of primatologists has discovered a new primate, Galagoides kumbirensis (Angolan dwarf galago), with features not been seen by science before.

Galagos, also known as bushbabies, are small, woolly, long-tailed primates that are widespread over sub-Saharan Africa, and make up the family Galagidae.

Over the last half century, their number of species recognized has slowly climbed from 6 to 19 species (including the new one).

The newly-discovered species, the Angolan dwarf galago, belongs to the genus Galagoides (dwarf galagos, or dwarf bushbabies).

“This new species is a very exciting discovery,” said Dr. Russell Mittermeier of Conservation International.

“It is only the fifth new primate described from the African mainland since 2000 and only the second species of galago. What is more, it is from Angola, where there has been very little primate research to date.”

The Angolan dwarf galago is a small gray-brown galago with a darker, long-haired tail.

It is the largest known dwarf galago: the typical head-and-body length for this species is from 6.7 to 7.9 inches (17-20 cm), and the tail varies from 6.7 to 9.5 inches (17-24 cm) long.

This new species is described in a paper published online recently in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

“Muzzle slightly up-turned, pink below and dark above, merging into dark eye-rings with a conspicuous white nose stripe between the eyes,” the authors wrote in the paper.

“The remainder of the face gray, suffused with brown, and set off from white cheeks, chin, and neck.”

“Inner ears white towards the base and yellowish towards margins. Ears gray above with two light spots where the ears join the crown. Crown, dorsum forelimbs, thighs, and flanks gray with a brown wash.”

“Ventrum, surface of forelimbs and hindlimbs creamy yellow. Yellow strongest where the light ventrum merges into the darker dorsum.”

“Tail darker towards the tip and slightly longer than the body. Tail held curled when at rest.”

The morphology and calls of the Angolan dwarf galago are so unique that there was no need to resort to genetic techniques to verify it further.

“When we first encountered the new species in Kumbira Forest in north-western Angola, we heard a distinctive ‘crescendo’ call similar to that of a tiny galago, but upon seeing one, we were struck by its remarkably large size,” said lead author Magdalena Svensson, a researcher with the Nocturnal Primate Research Group at Oxford Brookes University.

“Until now, call types have been the most reliable way to distinguish galago species, and to find one that did not match what we expected was very exciting.”

“The uncovering of this species is characteristic of the return of real biology,” said co-author Prof. Judith Masters, from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa.

“Although DNA has yielded new and sometimes highly contestable specimens, in the case of this new galago, the differences are obvious for all to see.”

Saving lions in Angola


This November 2013 video says about itself:

GoPro: Lions – The New Endangered Species?

The GoPro production crew journeys to Africa to explore the danger and beauty of Kevin Richardson’s passions for lions and their future.

From Wildlife Extra:

Angola signs historic agreement to protect its lions

The African lion has been awarded new protection in Angola with the signing of a significant conservation agreement between the government of Angola and Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organisation.

Angola’s Minister of the Environment, Fátima Jardim, presided over the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Panthera’s Senior Lion Program Director, Dr Paul Funston, and the Director General of the Angolan Ministry of the Environment’s National Institute of Biodiversity and Conservation Areas, Dr Helidoro Abambres.

Through this agreement, both parties have committed to collaboratively undertake conservation initiatives to map the presence of lions in Angola and assess the size and condition of the country’s existing lion populations.

“This is a huge milestone for the lions of Angola,” says Dr Funston. “The KAZA (Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area) region is home to one of Africa’s largest lion populations and is therefore crucial in our work to save the lion.

“This MOU signifies a new beginning for conservation in Angola and a significant step forward in Panthera’s ongoing work in KAZA.”

Supported by the Angolan Ministry of Environment, Panthera will begin by conducting a comprehensive lion population survey in the 84,000 sq km of the KAZA in southeast Angola, and implementing conservation training for local scientists.

Stretching across Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Botswana, KAZA comprises the largest transboundary conservation region in the world.

Nearly a century ago, as many as 200,000 lions roamed Africa; today surveys estimate that approximately 20,000 remain across the entire continent.

Highly threatened by conflict with local people, poaching for the illegal wildlife trade, habitat loss and fragmentation and the illegal bushmeat trade, lions are precariously teetering on the brink of extinction.

Through Project Leonardo, Panthera aims to bring lion populations back to a minimum of 30,000 lions by mitigating these threats.

Cuckoo Chris back in England, with news on bird migration


This video from England says about itself:

21 August 2013

Discover more about the story of cuckoos on Dartmoor and hear about an exciting project that will be tracking their migration to Africa.

From the BBC:

Chris Packham cuckoo reveals migration secrets

A cuckoo wearing a solar-powered satellite-tracked tag is the first to provide UK scientists with migration data for three years running.

Having flown more than 45,000 miles Chris, named after wildlife presenter Chris Packham, revealed overwintering in Angola for the first time.

The four-year-old returned to the Norfolk/Suffolk border on Friday, said the British Trust for Ornithology.

Mr Packham said the data was vital to help understand the cuckoos’ decline.

“We live in an age where technology is allowing us to learn so much more and this is undeniably exciting,” said Mr Packham, “but we also live in an age where species like that cuckoo are in dangerous decline.

“The information that scientists at the BTO have received from Chris’ tag is vital in helping to understand what might be behind these declines.”

First tagged in Santon Downham in 2011, the data has revealed many East Anglian cuckoos are migrating south-west through Britain and across Europe, which was an unknown migration route.

Chris, one of 12 tagged cuckoos, has revealed a “pioneering insight” into cuckoo wintering grounds, migration routes and speed of travel, said experts.

Chris Hewson, lead scientist for the project at the Norfolk-based BTO, said recent analysis had shown the birds were “fattening up for their migration in the region before taking flight”, suggesting their success “depends on the feeding habitats”.

“Improving these habitats could extend their life on the migration route, which in turn could help slow the decline of the species,” he said.

Although the longest-serving cuckoo in the BTO’s tagging programme, Chris was beaten back to the UK by Skinner, named after Norfolk wildlife expert Chris Skinner, who returned to the county on Monday.

Experts predict Chris will spend just six to eight weeks in East Anglia before making the 5,000 mile return flight to Africa.

The  satellite-tagged Cuckoo named Chris after wildlife presenter Chris Packham, seems to be missing in action the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) reported last week: here.

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US religious fundamentalists, Dutch nazis against Nelson Mandela


This video says about itself:

Nelson Mandela first interview 1961

Nelson Mandela‘s first interview in 1961 for ITN … . A young Mandela flushes out his strategy for reclaiming fundamental rights for black South Africans from his hideout before his arrest.

Nelson Mandela died. Billions of people all over the world sincerely mourn and honour this freedom fighter.

However, a minority of the tears now is not so sincere. Like in the case of British Conservatives who used to call Nelson Mandela a “terrorist”, and to call for him to be hanged, while he was alive. Or in the case of the Spanish conservative ruling party, which used to prefer dictator Franco to Mandela while Mandela was alive, but who now shed crocodile tears as well.

On the extreme Right side of the political spectrum, some show their anti-Mandela bigotry even now.

The Westboro Baptist Church in the USA is infamous for its homophobia and its anti-Semitism.

Now, they are planning to disrupt the ex-president of South Africa’s funeral with an anti-Mandela protest. They say they thank God for killing Mandela. They claim that is because Nelson Mandela divorced and remarried. Extremely probably, they hate Mandela too for abolishing the anti-LGBTQ laws of the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Plus they will hate Mandela for the usual far Right “reasons”, for supposedly being a “communist terrorist” etc.

We, the Baptist Convention of South Africa, as represented by its leadership, have noted with utmost disdain the insensitive, unbaptistic and unchristian statements issued by the Westboro Baptist Church in USA, about out former President, Dr Nelson Mandela: here.

Dutch neo-nazi party Nederlandse Volksunie (NVU) on 6 December 2013 put an article on their Facebook page (no, I will not link to them) by Geert Wilders admirer Joost Niemoller. The article claims that Mandela changed a South Africa where things supposedly went well under the Apartheid regime, to a “hell on earth”.

Constant Kusters, Nederlandse Volksunie fuehrer, proposes in the election platforms of his party for the 2014 Dutch local elections, to remove the name Nelson Mandela from streets, bridges etc. named after the South African freedom fighter in various towns in the Netherlands.

The NVU was founded in 1971, “with as key purpose to rehabilitate convicted WW-II war [nazi] criminals“, as Wikipedia says.

Soon after that, a Dutch football club played a European cup match in a big stadium in Portugal. The dictatorship in Portugal then waged bloody colonial wars in Angola and its other colonies. In Angola, Africans had to work on Portuguese coffee plantations in conditions very akin to slavery. In the Netherlands and other countries, anti-racists and anti-colonialists campaigned for a boycott of coffee from these plantations in Angola.

During the football match, millions of TV spectators saw big signs, saying in Dutch: “Importeer en drink Angola koffie” [Import and drink coffee from Angola]. The Portuguese regime had put these signs around the football pitch; tipped off to do so by their Nederlandse Volksunie sympathizers.

Present NVU fuehrer Constant Kusters was still a non-political toddler when this happened. However, he is continuing his party’s racist policies on southern Africa which date from the NVU’s earliest days.

Al Sharpton Rips Historical US Policy Towards Nelson Mandela: here.

12 Mandela Quotes That Won’t Be In the Corporate Media Obituaries: here.

World leaders continued to heap praise on anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela over the weekend. But it was at grass-roots level that true affection for the revolutionary leader was being expressed: here.

Latin American solidarity activists paid heartfelt tributes to South African liberator Nelson Mandela at the weekend: here.

Fred Phelps dies: here.

Mosasaur fossil discovery in Angola


The fossilized skeleton of a mosasaur with the bones of three other species of mosasaur in its gut. The marine monster likely scavenged upon carcasses brought to the west coast of Africa by trade winds. Credit: Michael Polcyn

From LiveScience:

DENVER — The mosasaur, a fearsome marine reptile that stalked the Cretaceous seas, scavenged its own kin, a new fossil find reveals.

A fossilized mosasaur found in Angola contains the partial remains of three other mosasaurs in its stomach, researchers reported here Tuesday (Oct. 29) at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America.

“These are three different species of mosasaur inside the belly of a fourth species of mosasaur,” said study researcher Louis Jacobs, a vertebrate paleontologist at Southern Methodist University in Texas. [T-Rex of the Seas: A Mosasaur Gallery]

The find isn’t the first example of mosasaurs digesting mosasaurs, but it illuminates an ancient ecosystem surprisingly similar to ones seen in parts of the ocean today.

A lean, mean, eating machine

Mosasaurs were at the top of the marine food chain from about 98 million years ago to the end of the Cretaceous 66 million years ago, when they went extinct. As is the case for modern whales, the first mosasaur ancestors were land-dwellers. They looked not unlike today’s monitor lizards, said study researcher Michael Polcyn, also a vertebrate paleontologist at Southern Methodist University.

“By the time they’re in the water maybe 10 million years, they’ve fully adapted to the marine environment — so a downturned tail with a dorsal fluke and fins — and they were really making their living like a toothed whale,” Polcyn told LiveScience.

In other words, mosasaurs were as fearsome predators as today’s orcas, but with reptilian, fishlike bodies that could grow to more than 30 feet (9 meters) in length.

A rich ecosystem

The mosasaur with a belly full of other mosasaurs was found at a site called Bentiaba in southern Angola. The fossils are embedded in sandstone cliffs and badlands along the Atlantic coast. During the Cretaceous, this area was just offshore from Africa.

“The incredible richness of the site continues to amaze us,” Polcyn said. “Each year we return, there is another significant discovery.”

The researchers first discovered the hungry, hungry mosasaur, a species called (Prognathodon kianda), in 2006, but weren’t able to excavate it until 2010. That’s when they realized the fossil record also recorded the mosasaur’s last meal.

The mosasaurs inside the belly are clearly digested, with their tooth enamel eaten away by stomach acid. One is small and eaten whole, but the other two are incomplete, mostly represented by skulls and vertebrae — “not the most nutritious and tasty stuff that you would eat,” Jacobs said. The evidence points to the large mosasaur as a scavenger, snacking on the corpses of dead mosasaurs brought to the area by the currents.

Mosasaur jaw and teeth. What big teeth you have! The jaw of the mosasaur Prognathodon kianda. Credit: Michael Polcyn

The mosasaurs are only part of the story. Paleontologists digging at the site have already uncovered seven mosasaur species, two plesiosaurs, nine sharks and rays, four kinds of turtles and many fish. Virtually all the bones show evidence of scavenging by sharks.

The ecosystem likely owed its richness to the trade winds, prevailing winds that blow between 15 degrees and 30 degrees North and South latitude. At the time, this stretch of coast fell squarely under the influence of these winds, Polcyn said. The winds drive ocean currents that cause upwelling, the circulation of nutrient-rich bottom waters up to the ocean’s surface. Such upwelling zones have robust food chains, starting from plankton and ending with large predators. The currents also would have pushed floating carcasses toward shore, Polcyn said.

Rich upwelling zones are common in the oceans today, including a spot off of Monterey, Calif., known for its sea otters and other fauna; a stretch of sea off the Atacama Desert in western South America; and the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem off the coast of Namibia.

The Benguela ecosystem is fueled by the same atmospheric processes that drove the mid-Cretaceous hotspot of life, Polcyn said. The continent of Africa has moved and rotated just slightly over the intervening millions of years, shifting the relative location of the upwelling.

The mosasaur specimen with a full belly is still being prepared by fossil technicians. Researchers have also uncovered other ancient beasts with creatures in their gut at the site, Polcyn said, and they plan to analyze those finds further.

Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.