Extremely big dinosaur discovery in Argentina

This 22 January 2016 Argentine TV video, in Spanish, is about the recent discovery of the Notocolossus gonzalezparejasi dinosaur.

From Nature:

A gigantic new dinosaur from Argentina and the evolution of the sauropod hind foot

18 January 2016


Titanosauria is an exceptionally diverse, globally-distributed clade of sauropod dinosaurs that includes the largest known land animals. Knowledge of titanosaurian pedal structure is critical to understanding the stance and locomotion of these enormous herbivores and, by extension, gigantic terrestrial vertebrates as a whole. However, completely preserved pedes are extremely rare among Titanosauria, especially as regards the truly giant members of the group.

Here we describe Notocolossus gonzalezparejasi gen. et sp. nov. from the Upper Cretaceous of Mendoza Province, Argentina. With a powerfully-constructed humerus 1.76 m in length, Notocolossus is one of the largest known dinosaurs. Furthermore, the complete pes of the new taxon exhibits a strikingly compact, homogeneous metatarsus—seemingly adapted for bearing extraordinary weight—and truncated unguals, morphologies that are otherwise unknown in Sauropoda. The pes underwent a near-progressive reduction in the number of phalanges along the line to derived titanosaurs, eventually resulting in the reduced hind foot of these sauropods.

A Culture24 top ten of the best dinosaur museums and collections in the UK: here.

Argentine grandmother finds granddaughter, stolen by dictatorship, after 39 years

Clara as a baby, photo used to find her again. Photo by Fundacióm Anahi

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Argentine grandmother finds after 39 years her grandchild back

Today, 15:05

In Argentina, a grandmother after a search of 39 years has been reunited with her granddaughter. The girl was kidnapped during the dictatorship when she was three months old and housed by supporters of the military regime. Her parents were murdered, they were members of a leftist opposition group.

Her grandmother, the 92-year-old Maria Mariana, was one of the founders of the human rights group Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, which searches for missing children. She sought for 39 years incessantly for her granddaughter Clara.


Her search was highlighted because Maria during all those years wrote open letters to Clara. “They tried to convince me that you’ve just been killed like your mother, but I know you’re alive. My dream is to hold you and to recognize myself in your eyes,” wrote the almost blind Maria in her last letter last March.

In her letters she added baby pictures in the hope that Clara would recognize herself. Eventually Clara reacted and it was confirmed by DNA testing that she is the granddaughter of Maria. Clara is the 120th missing child reunited with relatives.

Military regime

In Argentina from 1976 to 1983 a military regime was in power. Opposition members and people with leftist convictions were arrested and disappeared often without trial.

An estimated 30,000 Argentines were murdered and 500 children were stolen from their parents. Their children were given for adoption to supporters of the regime.

See also here.

UPDATE: Amother DNA test says the women are not family.

Helping saffron-cowled blackbirds in Argentina

This is a saffron-cowled blackbird video from Argentina.

From BirdLife:

The chronicles of the Saffron-cowled Blackbird

By Aves Argentinas, Fri, 18/12/2015 – 20:02

“People don’t look after what they do not love, and they don’t love what they do not know” – and this is exactly what we want to change!

From bird lovers and scientists alike, one hears the same comment: “It’s becoming harder and harder to observe the Saffron-cowled Blackbird in the wild”. Habitat loss, increased encroachment of agricultural land, pressures from illegal trapping and high levels of parasitism from another bird (Shiny Cowbird) seem to have condemned this species to certain extinction. Aves Argentinas (BirdLife Argentina) was not willing to stand idly by. They needed to take urgent measures, and so they did.

Introducing the Colony Guardians

For several months, Aves Argentinas had been very concerned about the Saffron-cowled Blackbird, typically found in natural grasslands and in the wetlands of the Argentinian plains. Today, only a few sites of suitable habitat remain.

Adrián Di Giacomo, researcher at CONICET took the lead to start a coordinated project to save these birds, calling on numerous institutions in order to save them. All across the country, various groups began joining the project, some of which had already started working to conserve the species.

The first step was to decide for which conservation measures would be most effective – all the experts gathered in various workshops. Existing research served as fundamental base for the project and it was concluded that having a group of trained volunteers carrying out the measures would work best.

Firstly, the so-called Colony Guardians would watch over the nests and fledglings, drive away predators and parasite species like the Shiny Cowbird and most importantly, deter potential illegal bird traffickers just by being present.

Secondly, they would collect data: for instance, they would record behaviour of the colonies, measurements, weights and take samples. Recording everything that happens around the nests would provide valuable information to protect them.

Mission failed?

The spring of 2015 was a year full of hope and expectations. Aves Argentinas wanted to put hands to work as soon as the colonies appeared. Initially, this eagerness lead them to a problem: the Saffron-cowled Blackbirds didn’t seem to appear anywhere, much less its nests. The walks through rural roads were frustrating and almost no individuals were seen.

They even launched search campaigns for birdwatchers through social media and put up posters wherever they could. But the data simply wasn’t coming in.

This continued until the first sightings began to arrive from the south of Entre Ríos. The knowledge of the area by members of Aves Gualeguaychú was instrumental and soon enough reports of individual nests and colonies began to arrive.

Simultaneously, news arrived from the fields of a producer associated with the Grassland Alliance (Alianza del Pastizal) in the Corrientes province. Here, the first Saffron-cowled Blackbird nest of the province was found.

In total, Aves Argentinas found more than 40 nests. Today, in Entre Ríos we can rely on two Colony Guardians that give their time to protect the birds. On the other hand, camps have been set up in the Corrientes areas to watch over the nests.

The threats: from parasites to poachers

However, not everything was smooth sailing. Most of the nests were suffering from high levels of parasitism from Shiny Cowbirds. The Cowbird lays its eggs in the nest of the Blackbird, and as the parasitic chicks grow faster, they monopolize the food retrieved by the bird’s parents. By doing this, they lower the chances of survival of young Blackbirds and the majority of the chicks do not survive.

On the other hand, Aves Argentinas witnessed many cases of nest predation by lizards, foxes, snakes and other animals that were decimating the colonies.

However, the most unexpected and worrying problem turned out to be the capture of Saffron-cowled Blackbirds for the illegal trafficking and trade of birds. Although scientists were aware that it was an illegally hunted species, they didn’t expect such an uncommon species to be affected so severely.

In the few weeks of field work, the team suffered at least four intrusions from “trappers”. In one of these occasions they were able to register what had happened, but were unable to avoid the capture of several specimens.

Luckily they identified the vehicles and filed a criminal complaint to the Fiscal Unit of Environmental Research (UFIMA). In the rest of the cases the Colony Guardians were able to act in time, managing in one instance to free the captured animals. The strong cooperation of provincial and municipal authorities, as well as of local police forces proved to be essential.

The more the merrier: help us succeed

Of all the nests guarded until now, no more than ten fledglings managed to succeed. It is a number that is too low to avoid the extinction of the species for the time being which means the work must continue.

In 2015 Aves Argentinas worked to raise awareness with residents and landowners, who kindly assisted and showed interest. It’s expected that throughout 2016 this will become a fundamental aspect of their work as their support is essential to save these birds from the brink. The work undertaken by Alianza del Pastizal and by rural societies is also of critical importance.

Aves Argentinas expressed to be very happy with the work achieved this season but they know that the hardest part lies ahead. The Saffron-cowled Blackbird Project (Proyecto Tordo Amarillo) is beginning and we invite you to join them!

Dutch author Judith Herzberg protests against king’s Argentine dictatorship links

Ms Judith Herzberg accepts the P.C. Hooft literature prize in 1997

This photo shows Dutch author Ms Judith Herzberg, when she accepted the P.C. Hooft literature prize for her poetry in 1997.

Ms Herzberg is from a Jewish family, and went into hiding from the nazi occupiers of the Netherlands as a child. Her parents were deported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, but survived; contrary to Anne Frank and her sister Margot.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Judith Herzberg resigns at Resistance Museum in protest against king

Today, 08:08

Poet and playwright Judith Herzberg has resigned from the recommending committee of the Resistance Museum in Amsterdam. Her reason is the opening by King [Willem-Alexander] of the exhibition about political prisoners [in Dachau concentration camp] No numbers but names in April this year.

According to Herzberg, the museum should have asked someone else, because Willem-Alexander‘s father-in-law, Jorge Zorreguieta, is accused to have been involved in the disappearance of political prisoners in Argentina at the time of the Videla [military] regime. Herzberg resigned for that reason in August as a member of the committee of recommendation.

“I do not understand how he had the nerve to open this exhibition in the Resistance Museum,” Herzberg wrote in a letter that came into the hands of NRC Handelsblad daily. “He thought it was “an honour”? Didn’t he realize that this was an insult, especially in the Resistance Museum, to those who lost their lives? Doesn’t he see any parallel with the criminal regime in Argentina, when between 10 000 and 30 000 ‘numbers’ were made to disappear? And why did you ask especially him to open this exhibition? And talk with young people on that occasion? What should young people learn from that?”

Not in the Netherlands

Herzberg was at the time of the opening not in the Netherlands. That King Willem-Alexander had opened the exhibition, she heard later. After some thought, she decided that she did not want to be any longer on the recommendation committee, she says to the NOS.

Herzberg asked the chairman of the Resistance Museum, Hans Blom, to send the letter to the 24 other members of the committee of recommendation. Of these, three or four people responded, Blom told the newspaper. One person agreed with Herzberg. That was professor emeritus and former Director of Human Rights at the UN, Theo van Boven.

Dinosaur age fossil snake discovery

This video says about itself:

Lizards, Snakes and Legs (Evolution)

27 September 2008

David Attenborough explaining how lizards lost their legs.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Ancient snake skull found in Argentina could reveal why the reptiles have no legs

The research challenges the theory that snakes originally became limbless as they began to live in the sea

John von Radowitz

27 November 2015

A fossilised snake skull found in Argentina may have solved the mystery of how the animals lost their legs.

Rather than shed them to become better swimmers as they began to inhabit aquatic environments, the skull, from 90 million years ago, suggests legs became an evolutionary disadvantage as the ancestors of modern snakes wriggled into increasingly narrow burrows in pursuit of prey.

The research challenges the theory that snakes originally became limbless as they began to live in the sea. The secret of the lost limbs was revealed by an examination of the inner ear of Dinilysia patagonica, a two-metre long relative of the modern snake.

Using Computed Tomography (CT), scientists found a distinctive structure in its bony canals and cavities that was also turned out to be present in modern burrowing snakes and lizards.

But the structure, which may assist with the detection of prey and predators, was missing from snakes that live in water or above ground. Lead scientist Dr Hongyu Yi, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said: “How snakes lost their legs has been a mystery to scientists but it seems this happened when their ancestors became adept at burrowing.

“The inner ears of fossils can reveal a remarkable amount of information and are very useful when the exterior of fossils are too damaged or too fragile to examine.”

The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, confirm Dinilysia patagonica as the largest burrowing snake ever known.

Co-author Dr Mark Norell, from the American Museum of Natural History, said: “This discovery would not have been possible a decade ago. CT scanning has revolutionised how we can study ancient animals.

“We hope similar studies can shed light on the evolution of more species, including lizards, crocodiles and turtles.”

A CT scan is an advanced form of X-ray that generates detailed 3D images of organs and skeletal structures.

See also here.

Green-winged macaws back in Argentina after 200 years

This is a green-winged macaw video from Brazil.

By Aves Argentinas in Argentina, Monday, 02/11/2015 – 17:31:

The return of a giant: Green-winged Macaw back in Argentina

After an almost two hundred-year disappearance, the first Green-winged macaws have been released in northeastern Argentina. BirdLife Partner Aves Argentinas describes how they brought this giant of the parrot world back into their former range.

Macaws have been historically persecuted by humans because of their colorful plumage. In the province of Corrientes in northeastern Argentina, there were at least two species: the Glaucous Macaw (Anodorhynchus glaucus), which became globally extinct, and the Green-winged macaw (Ara chloropterus), which also disappeared from the region. The macaws inhabited fields with jungle islands between estuaries, and palm and gallery forests along the waterways.

Today the only Green-winged Macaw populations close to Corrientes are more than 300 kilometers to the north in the states of Mato Grosso do Sul and Parana in Brazil, in the extreme northern Paraguay, and in southeastern Bolivia, and they are not sufficiently protected. The Green-winged Macaw is globally listed in the IUCN Red List as a species of “Least Concern”. In Argentina it is classified as a “critically endangered” species, although there are no recent records and the species is considered extinct.

An opportunity to recover a giant of the parrot world

Because of the precarious state of the Green-winged macaw’s survival in Corrientes, a recovery project was begun. Fortunately, the Ibera Natural Reserve represents a unique opportunity to save this species because the reserve has a large area of protected habitat sufficient to allow forest islands to harbor a stable population of Green-winged macaws.

Additionally, in Ibera there are institutions and experts with experience in working with the restoration of extinct and endangered populations as diverse as the giant anteater, the pampas deer and the collared peccary. Another positive development is the growth of ecotourism in Ibera, where the presence of these birds will attract tourists, which will contribute to the development of local communities. The cultural value of Corrientes still present in artistic expressions and historical accounts has also been preserved.

From captivity to freedom

The project focusses on using captive Green-winged macaws originating from several zoos and breeding centers around the country. These birds form the “Ecological Complex of Aguará,” located in the province of Corrientes, where groups of individuals are consolidated and all health checks are performed to rule out diseases that may be spread in the wild following the release. Before their release, the birds spent several weeks in an acclimation aviary in the Cambyretá area, proving the northern access to the Esteros del Ibera.

In this aviary, the macaws learn to feed on native fruits and develop other skills for their reintegration into the wild. The birds are equipped with a small radio transmitter that allows the tracking of each individual in the field. After their release and as they expand their range, the macaws are monitored by project staff to check their adaptation to the natural environment, reproduction and long-term survival.

The power of many

The Conservation Land Trust financing most of the project thanks to the donation of a European philanthropist, and bringing its previous experience in wildlife reintroduction projects in Ibera.  The CONICET scientists contribute their knowledge on the ecology of these birds and their reintroduction. The Directorate of Natural Resources of Corrientes provides the Center Aguará facilities, where the macaws are kept before being transferred to Ibera.

The Directorate of Parks and Reserves authorizes and supervises the proper implementation of the project on the ground. Several ecological parks, wildlife centers and zoos across the country provide the macaws to be released. Conservation institutions as Aves Argentinas (BirdLife in Argentina) and The World Parrot Trust have supported the project from its beginnings, contributing their skills and experience in the conservation of endangered species.

Finally, several groups of volunteers, including scouts, schools and club birders help to disseminate information on the project, and contribute their observations of animals in the field. Through this initiative, Argentina regains its first extinct species from the ex-situ management of wild bird specimens, and will continue working on their recovery through intensive management.

More information: http://www.proyectoibera.org/guacamayo

Whale in Buenos Aires, Argentina

This video says about itself:

Whale ‘moves in’ to luxury Buenos Aires dockside neighbourhood

3 August 2015

Residents of a luxury dockside neighbourhood in Buenos Aires have welcomed an unexpected new neighbour – a whale.

People from across the city have gathered at the Puerto Madero dockland in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the mammal, swimming between the moored boats.

This 3 August 2015 video is called Argentina: Hundreds gather to watch whale swim in Buenos Aires marina.

From the BBC:

Whale swims into Buenos Aires marina

4 August 2015

Residents of an upmarket neighbourhood in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires welcomed a surprise guest when a whale swam into a city marina.

The creature was seen surfacing amongst the luxury yachts in Puerto Madero, with hundreds lining up for a glimpse.

A local police boat later tried to lure the whale to the Rio de la Plata river, which connects with the Atlantic.

Experts have suggested the animal was most likely a cub separated from its herd.

“Unusual yes, I’ve never seen one in Puerto Madero,” said one resident.

“It’s really sad,” a local bank worker told the Associated Press. “This is not its natural habitat. The poor whale is clearly lost.”

A specialist looking at the numerous images on social media identified it as a minke whale, warning [in] La Nacion (in Spanish) freshwater would damage its health.

But Mariano Sironi, scientific director of the Whale Conservation Institute in Argentina, told AP he thought it was more likely to be a humpback whale.