Australian octopus on land

This video says about itself:

Extraordinary Octopus Takes To Land – The Hunt – BBC Earth

23 July 2017

Octopuses are marine animals that live and breath underwater, so at low tide one would expect them to be imprisoned in rock pools. This extraordinary species found in Northern Australia is like no other octopus, and land is no obstacle when hunting for crabs.


New sunfish species discovered

This video says about itself:

20 July 2017

A completely new species of Bali sunfish population in Indonesia.

But when I started my PhD doing population studies on Bali sunfish in Indonesia, I did not expect to discover a completely new species. What started as a side project turned into a four-year treasure hunt, flying thousands of miles to track the evidence with the help of dozens of people. As part of my PhD research, I analyzed more than 150 DNA samples of sunfish. Genetic sequencing revealed four distinct species: Masturus lanceolatus, Mola mola, Mola ramsayi and a fourth that did not fit any known species.

A new species had been hiding in sight for centuries, so we ended up calling it Mola tecta: the deceptive hatter. But back then, in 2013, we did not even know what they were like. All we had were skin samples containing the mysterious DNA. The next step was to try to figure out what these fish might look like. Superficially, all sunfish look the same ie slightly odd. Their bodies are flat and rigid except for their fins. They have no tail; And as they grow larger they usually develop odd punches on the head, chin and nose.

So I started looking for sunfish photos, especially on social networks, looking for something different. I also spent a lot of time establishing a network of people across Australia and New Zealand that could alert me every time a sunfish was found. I finally got a break in 2014. Observers from the fisheries in New Zealand and Australia sent me pictures of sunfish they found in the sea, usually just a fin in the water. But on one occasion they took a small fish on board to free it from a fishing line, and got a brilliant picture of it all along with a genetic sample. This fish had a small structure in its back fin which I had never seen in a sunfish before. Just when I wondered if this was a characteristic of the species, I hit the jackpot when four fish were stranded at one time on the same beach in New Zealand.

See also here.

From the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society:

Hiding in broad daylight: molecular and morphological data reveal a new ocean sunfish species (Tetraodontiformes: Molidae) that has eluded recognition

19 July 2017


The taxonomy of the ocean sunfishes (Molidae) has a complicated history. Currently, three genera and four species are recognized, including two in the genus Mola (M. mola and M. ramsayi).

In 2009, a genetic study revealed a potential third species, Mola species C, in Southeast Australian waters. Concentrating on this region, we obtained samples and morphological data from 27 Mola sp. C specimens, genetically confirmed the existence of this species (mtDNA D-loop and cytochrome c oxidase 1), and established its morphology across a size spectrum of 50–242 cm total length. Mola sp. C is diagnosed by clavus meristics [15–17 fin rays (13–15 principal, 2 minor), 5–7 ossicles, paraxial ossicles separate], clavus morphology (prominent smooth band back-fold, rounded clavus edge with an indent), and body scale morphology (raised conical midpoints, non-branching).

This species does not develop a protruding snout, or swollen dorso- or ventrolateral ridges. Body proportions remain similar with growth. A review of the historic literature revealed that Mola sp. C is a new, hitherto undescribed species, M. tecta, which we describe and diagnose, and that it is the first proposed addition to the genus Mola in 125 years. Its core distribution is likely in the temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere.

Earliest Australians earlier than thought

This video says about itself:

Australian Cave Painting Found To Be One of World’s Oldest

18 June 2012

An archaeologist discovered an aboriginal cave painting in the Australian outback that was created 28,000 years ago.

Bryce Barker, from the University of Southern Queensland, originally made the find last year. Because most rock art is made with mineral paint, it’s difficult to get an accurate measure of age. But Barker’s find at the Nawarla Gabarnmang cave dwelling was created using charcoal, so he was able to employ radiocarbon dating, which gave him the astonishing age of the art—now believed to be one of the oldest in the world.

Spain’s El Castillo still has seniority over Australia’s find by about 12,000 years. But the Australian shelter may have had dwellers—if not decorations—for just as long.

From the University of Washington in the USA:

Artifacts suggest humans arrived in Australia earlier than thought

July 19, 2017

Summary: Archeologists have found and dated artifacts in northern Australia that indicate humans arrived there about 65,000 years ago — more than 10,000 years earlier than previously thought.

When and how the first humans made their way to Australia has been an evolving story.

While it is accepted that humans appeared in Africa some 200,000 years ago, scientists in recent years have placed the approximate date of human settlement in Australia further and further back in time, as part of ongoing questions about the timing, the routes and the means of migration out of Africa.

Now, a team of researchers, including a faculty member and seven students from the University of Washington, has found and dated artifacts in northern Australia that indicate humans arrived there about 65,000 years ago — more than 10,000 years earlier than previously thought. A paper published July 20 in the journal Nature describes dating techniques and artifact finds at Madjedbebe, a longtime site of archaeological research, that could inform other theories about the emergence of early humans and their coexistence with wildlife on the Australian continent.

The new date makes a difference, co-author and UW associate professor of anthropology Ben Marwick said. Against the backdrop of theories that place humans in Australia anywhere between 47,000 and 60,000 years ago, the concept of earlier settlement calls into question the argument that humans caused the extinction of unique megafauna such as giant kangaroos, wombats and tortoises more than 45,000 years ago.

“Previously it was thought that humans arrived and hunted them out or disturbed their habits, leading to extinction, but these dates confirm that people arrived so far before that they wouldn’t be the central cause of the death of megafauna,” Marwick said. “It shifts the idea of humans charging into the landscape and killing off the megafauna. It moves toward a vision of humans moving in and coexisting, which is quite a different view of human evolution.”

Since 1973, digs at Madjedbebe, a rock shelter in Australia’s Northern Territory, have unearthed more than 10,000 stone tools, ochres, plant remains and bones. Following the more recent excavations in 2012 and 2015, a University of Queensland-led research team, which included the UW, evaluated artifacts found in various layers of settlement using radiocarbon dating and optical stimulated luminescence (OSL).

The new research involved extensive cooperation with the local Aboriginal community, Marwick added. The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, representing the Mirarr people, joined much of the excavation and reviewed the findings, Marwick said. Researchers had both a memorandum of understanding and a contract with the community, which gave control to the Mirarr as senior custodians, oversight of the excavation and curation of the finds. The Mirarr were interested in supporting new research into the age of the site and in knowing more about the early human occupants, particularly given environmental threats posed by nearby modern-day mining activities.

Noteworthy among the artifacts found were ochre “crayons” and other pigments, what are believed to be the world’s oldest edge-ground hatchets, and evidence that these early humans ground seeds and processed plants. The pigments indicate the use of paint for symbolic and artistic expression, while the tools may have been used to cut bark or food from trees.

Labs in Australia used OSL to identify the age range, Marwick explained. Radiocarbon dating, which requires a certain level of carbon in a substance, can analyze organic materials up to about 45,000 or 50,000 years old. But OSL is used on minerals to date, say, the last time a sand grain was exposed to sunlight — helpful in determining when an artifact was buried — up to 100,000 years ago or more. That process measured thousands of sand grains individually so as to establish more precise ages.

The UW researchers worked in the geoarchaeology lab on the Seattle campus, testing sediment samples that Marwick helped excavate at Madjedbebe. One graduate student and six undergraduate students studied the properties of hundreds of dirt samples to try to picture the time in which the ancient Australian humans lived.

Using a scanning electron microscope, the students examined the composition of the sediment layers, the size of the grains of dirt and any microscopic plant matter. For another test, the students baked soil samples at various temperatures, then measured the mass of each sample, said UW doctoral student Gayoung Park, another author on the paper. Because organic matter turns into gases at high heat, a loss of mass indicated how much matter was in a given sample. This helped create a picture of the environments across the sedimentary layers of the site. The team found that when these human ancestors arrived, northern Australia was wetter and colder.

“Together, we were working on establishing questions: What kind of environments did these people live in? What was the climate like? Were there any disturbances to the site, and were artifacts mixed up from different ages?” Marwick said. “I’m proud of being able to involve UW students in this research in a really substantial way.”

One of the authors, Mara Page, was a senior double-majoring in archaeology and Earth and space sciences when she joined the project. She analyzed stable carbon isotopes found in sediment, which can reveal the types of plants present in the past and the kinds of environments they lived in. She determined that the vegetation at Madjedbebe remained stable during the time of human occupation, which suggests that there was no major environmental change that might have prompted humans to leave the area.

“I feel that I contributed something important by being able to rule something out of the story we were telling,” Page explained.

By placing the date of Australian settlement at around 65,000 years ago, researchers confirm some of the shifting theories about when the first humans left Africa. A common view is that humans moved into Asia 80,000 years ago, and if they migrated to Australia some to 15,000 years later, it means those ancestors co-existed with another early human in Asia, Homo florensiensis. It also means that these early Australians preceded early Europeans, who are believed to have entered that continent 45,000 years ago. A related question is whether these early human species left Africa at one time, gradually spreading the population through Asia, Europe and Australia, or whether there were multiple waves of migration.

In recent years, new evidence, obtained through DNA testing of a 90-year-old hair sample of an Aboriginal Australian man, suggests Australia was settled as far back as 70,000 years ago.

Marwick believes the Madjedbebe results, because they rely on so many artifacts and intensive analysis of sediment samples, confirm that early humans occupied Australia at least 65,000 years ago and support the theory that Homo sapiens, the species of modern-day humans, evolved in Africa before dispersing to other continents. The findings also suggest Homo sapiens’ predecessors, Neanderthals and Denisovans, overlapped with humans for a long period of time, and suggest a larger role for Australia, and the Eastern Hemisphere in general, in the story of humankind.

Marwick, who advocates for open science, particularly in data collection and the code used to analyze it, noted that the Nature paper is also pushing new frontiers because it combines three strands of reproducibility. Researchers examined a field site that has been excavated in the past; they’ve made available their raw data and code; and they consulted an outside lab for third-party OSL verification.

United States police kill Australian woman veterinarian

This 16 July 2017 video from Australia is called Australian Woman Justine Damond Killed in Police Shooting in Minneapolis.

Another video which used to be on YouTube used to say about itself:

Australian Woman Justine Damond Killed By Police In Minneapolis

The shooting of an Australian woman by US police has raised serious concerns after it was revealed the officers did not have their body cameras turned on.

Justine Damond, aged 40, was shot dead in Minneapolis about 11:30pm local time on Saturday after two officers responded to a report of a possible assault.

Ms Damond, originally from Sydney and also known as Justine Ruszczyk, was a trained veterinarian who worked as a meditation teacher and spiritual healer who worked with people with cancer, depression and alcoholism.

She was engaged to Minneapolis local Don Damond and they were due to marry next month.

Her stepson Zach Damond, 22, said she called police after hearing a noise in the alleyway near their house in the suburb of Fulton.

“At one point an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman,” the police department said.

“Officers were dispatched. When officers responded, an officer-involved shooting occurred, which resulted in one adult female victim who is deceased and which has prompted our callout to the BCA [Bureau of Criminal Apprehension].

“The BCA will now further be conducting this investigation, this officer-involved shooting, from this point forward.”

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said in a statement that she was “heartsick and deeply disturbed by the incident”. “I’m seeking answers to the questions we all have, and will make sure to keep the communication flowing,” she said.

Ms Hodges said she understood the police body cameras and squad camera, which were introduced to the Minneapolis Police Department last year, were not switched on when the shooting occurred.

The two officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure.

A rally organised by local activist Mel Reeves was held at the site of the shooting, while other community members gathered for a vigil in Ms Damond’s neighbourhood.

Local media say neighbours are mystified as to what occurred.

Zach Damond spoke at the vigil calling for more information and transparency from the authorities. “Basically my mum is dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don’t know, and I demand answers,” Mr Damond said.

“I just know that she heard a sound in the alley so she called the police, and the cops showed up.

“And she probably… thought something bad was happening and then the next thing, they take my best friend’s life.

“I’m so done with all this violence, it’s so much bullshit.

“America sucks, these cops need to be trained differently and I need to move out of here.”

A woman named Bethany, another speaker at the vigil who claimed to be a friend of Ms Damond, described her as a “beautiful light”.

“She was a healer. She was loved. She should be alive. She should still be here,” she said.

Communities United Against Police Brutality president Michelle Gross said Ms Damond “lost her life being a good neighbour”.

The [Australian] Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said it was providing consular assistance to the family.

The shooting has reopened a deep rift between community members and the authorities as it comes one year after Minneapolis man Philando Castile was shot and killed by Minneapolis police officer Jeronimo Yanez.

A video from the aftermath of last year’s shooting was livestreamed on Facebook.

It showed a woman interacting with an armed officer as the fatally injured man lay on the footpath.

The local community was left reeling after Mr Yanez was acquitted of all charges exactly one month ago and fired by the City of Saint Anthony.

Leslie Redmond, the vice-president for the Minneapolis NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People), has called for a federal investigation into the latest shooting.

“I am shocked and appalled by the limited amount of information available right now. What are they covering up?” she said.

If black lives don’t matter, then in the long run not any lives matter any more.

Woman killed by Minneapolis police had called to report a rape: here.

After a quarter century of war waged by the US government abroad, including more than 15 years of the “war on terror” that knows no physical boundaries or time limits, police at home have adopted the same “counterinsurgency” tactics and mindset. Officer Harrity’s attorney told the media that it was “reasonable” to assume that the officers thought they were being “ambushed” when Damond approached their car: here.

CITY IN MOURNING In Minneapolis, community members have united to mourn the deaths of Justine Damond, Philando Castile and others victims of police violence. [HuffPost]

Aboriginal Australian genocide, online map

This video says about itself:

Australia: ‘No pride in genocide’ – 50,000 march in Melbourne for ‘Invasion Day

25 january 2017

Some 50,000 people gathered in Melbourne to mark ‘Invasion Day,’ on Thursday, commemorating the colonisation of Australia by the British and the subsequent loss of the continent’s indigenous culture.

By Ben Chacko:

Australia: Map spotlights sites of genocide against aboriginal peoples

Thursday 6th July 2017

AN ONLINE map detailing the genocide of Aboriginal Australians by white settlers was launched yesterday.

The tool, developed by researchers at the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, records more than 150 massacres, specifying the sites where killings took place, how many people were murdered, what weapons were used to kill them and who was responsible.

Professor Lyndall Ryan, who developed the resource, said: “Most massacres took place in secret and were designed not to be discovered, so finding evidence of them is a major challenge.”

She told Australian media that she and her team used “settler diaries, newspaper reports, aboriginal evidence and archives from state and federal repositories” to discover and corroborate claimed incidents.

They defined a massacre as the “indiscriminate killing of six or more undefended people,” and traced such events from settlement in 1788 until 1872.

While other online maps have been launched, Prof Ryan says this is the first that details sources and evidence as well as the only “coherent list of frontier massacres spanning 80 years.” As yet, Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland have been carefully documented but more work is needed on other states.

Prof Ryan said she hopes the research will spur an understanding of the genocide and prompt memorial monuments similar to those erected for Australians killed in wars.

A major summit of indigenous people at Uluru in May called for formal representation of Aboriginal Australians in parliament and work towards a treaty specifying their rights.

The Communist Party of Australia argued yesterday that the new tool should encourage progress towards that goal.

True equality required “acknowledgement of history: basically a policy of genocide has been followed,” the party reasoned in an editorial in its Guardian newspaper. That was followed by “assimilation” — an attempt to “eliminate 60,000 years of culture,” it charged.

Both policies sought to wipe out Aboriginal Australians as a people.

“What is needed is … recognition of aboriginal rights as a national minority in Australia, and above all their right to land so that there is work for young aboriginal men and women.”

The map can be viewed at

Lawyers for the family of Tane Chatfield, a 22-year-old Aboriginal man who died last month at the Tamworth Correctional Centre in New South Wales (NSW), aired allegations on Thursday which cast doubt on the assertions of prison and police authorities that his death was “not suspicious”: here.

London Grenfell Tower disaster, Australian solidarity

Australians Judy and Jenny

From the World Socialist Web Site:

Australian workers and youth speak out on Grenfell Tower tragedy

By our reporters

3 July 2017

The June 14 Grenfell Tower fire in London, which is thought to have killed over a hundred residents, has produced widespread shock and anger by Australian workers and young people.

Many who spoke to WSWS reporters over the weekend denounced the conditions that led to the blaze, including the flammable cladding on the building, and the lack of sprinklers and other basic safety measures.

Some drew parallels with the undermining of building regulations by successive Labor and Liberal-National governments in Australia. Media reports since the Grenfell Tower disaster have warned that flammable Aluminium Composite Panels (ACP) cladding is prevalent in the construction industry.

Government authorities, at the state and federal level, however, have done virtually nothing to identify at-risk buildings, let alone take action to prevent a similar disaster. Like their counterparts in Britain, the major parties represent the interests of the property developers and financial entities that have made billions of dollars from an ongoing property boom.

A limited audit in 2014 found that up to 51 percent of high-rise buildings in central Melbourne had flammable ACP cladding. A leaked report by the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Planning and Environment last year estimated that up to 2,500 high-rise buildings in Metropolitan Sydney were fitted with ACP cladding.

The Lacrosse apartment complex in Melbourne—the scene of a potentially catastrophic fire in 2014—is among the buildings across the country identified as having ACP cladding. Others include the Royal Women’s Hospital and Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Melbourne, and the Foyer Oxford apartment building in Leerdervale, Western Australia, which houses at-risk young people and, possibly, the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, Queensland.

In NSW’s Central Coast, Jenny and Judy voiced their concerns. Both are forced to live on poverty-level Newstart unemployment benefits, despite being in their 60s.

Judy said: “When I saw the fire I was devastated and cried. I kept thinking of all the poor children and their parents killed in a terrible death. They could not be helped. It was disgusting. The council ignored the complaints from the residents about the fire hazard. They don’t care about the people, they just wanted them out.”

Jenny, who was recently kicked off disability benefits despite being partially blind, said the fire was an “attack on the working class.” She added: “It’s no different here. That cladding is used all over the world. How many more people will die before they do anything?”


Chris, 29, works in a dry-cleaning plant. He branded the Grenfell Tower fire as a “crime.” He commented: “I was surprised that a building could explode into flames like that, and spread so quickly. It was obvious then that there would be a lot of people trapped that would die. Even the firefighters were surprised and could do nothing to save the people.

“It was a crime because the council knew cheap inflammable cladding was on the building. I don’t think they cared because the building was home for lower-class struggling people.

“It didn’t surprise me when I heard that the council repeatedly ignored the complaints from residents that the building was a fire trap. They did nothing. They were willing to spend money to make the building look pretty because it was in a wealthy part of the city, but they didn’t want to spend money to protect the residents. They wanted the people out of the area. This was an attack on working people.”


In Melbourne, Georgia, whose family is from Britain, said: “Austerity will continue to kill, to make the poorest people suffer for the gains of the rich. It is disgusting.

“The cladding on these towers is just the tip of the iceberg. It has been used on schools and many other buildings.

“Hopefully the anger over this will be a catalyst for something. Capitalism is a global problem. We have to change things by getting involved. I think we need a revolution.”

David, a retired social worker, said those responsible for the disaster should be “brought to justice.” He said: “It’s always the poor or the disabled that get screwed. Both parties that are responsible for the deregulation should be brought to court. Their legislation caused the death of people. It’s a horrible way to die.”

David denounced the response of the authorities to the tragedy, including demands that residents of other at-risk apartment buildings move out with no permanent alternative accommodation. “I was astounded that all these people from other towers are being told not to live there. But where are you going to put them and how would you like to be taken away from your home that you’re used to, and be put somewhere else?”


Valerie, who lives in housing commission flats in Burnley, Melbourne, spoke out against the conditions facing public housing residents. “On this property everything is broken, including gates and doors,” she commented.

“We need a lot done. When you go to tell them [the housing commission] about it, they tell you to ring maintenance. Two months later they might send someone around! They’re not going to fix things. I’ve been here eight years and all my window sills are rotten. They should spend money on safety.

“Those poor people in London didn’t have any money. I feel so sorry. You aren’t safe anywhere. They just won’t spend money on the poor.”


In Sydney, Sam, who manufactures fire doors, said one of his friends previously lived in the Grenfell Tower. “After the fire happened he was very upset because he could have been living there,” he said. “He is a very good mate of mine, so it makes you feel bad when your workmate is upset.

“Working in the building-products industry, we use the fire code and I know how to deal with fire doors and fire ratings. If they didn’t check it [Grenfell Tower] properly, how did they get permission to build it in the first place?

“This was a big building so it should have been checked. They have electronic equipment that quickly tells you the fire rating of materials. If they weren’t following the instructions then the government should have cancelled their licence.

“It is a crime to play with other people’s lives and they should be punished,” Sam concluded. “If they are let go then it will happen again.”

Bill, an IT worker in Sydney, said: “It made me sick, just thinking about what happened and also what the government did afterwards—nothing. All those people had no place to go, it was absolutely shocking. It’s the rich and the poor. Big corporations making profit at the expense of ordinary people.

“The authorities don’t know, or they don’t want to know, how many people died. Ordinary people are saying it’s over 100 people dead. It’s indifference and a cover-up. This is a lot worse than the recent terrorist attacks in terms of how many people have died, but the response is completely different.”

Bill said he knew of at least one apartment building in Auburn, a working-class suburb in Sydney’s southwest, fitted with ACP cladding. He also recalled the Euro Terraces fire in Bankstown in 2012, which killed a young Chinese woman and seriously injured her friend. “There was no sprinkler system because the building was just under the required height for them,” he said. “They’d also had problems with the fire safety equipment, the building had failed an inspection.”

Bill commented on the broader erosion of building standards: “If you look at all the new buildings going up in Sydney, including in this area, they don’t check for a lot of things, including water-proofing. Property developers are just putting paint on them, and then the people who buy them have huge costs to fix up all the problems. The councils are not checking on that.”