Lapwings stop Brazilian football match

This 12 November video is about a flock of birds, invading a football pitch in Brazil, stopping the match.

This was an under-20 Copa do Brasil game between São Paulo and Joinville.

The birds were southern lapwings.

Brazilian Atlantic forest wildlife film at Rotterdam festival

This video is the trailer of the film Brazil, a natural history: Fragile Forest.

At the Wildlife Film Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, are not only films from Africa, but also this film.

The organisers write about it:

This enigmatic forest once stretched along the coast of Brazil for thousands of kilometres. Now there is only 7% left. Yet it is still home for many remarkable animals. Muriqui are the largest monkeys in South America. These very rare, highly social creatures greet each other with hugs – the closer the friendship, the more intense the hugs.

Great dusky swifts fly through the tumbling waters of the mighty Iguaçu Falls to build their nests on the slippery rock faces behind the curtains of water.

Coatis are curious looking creatures with their long flexible noses and banded tails, making them quite comical. But appearances can be deceptive; coatis are efficient hunters. They are also very social, living in all-female gangs that are composed of sisters, mothers and aunts. The females support one another in their day-to-day lives, keeping a watch out for predators.

Blue manakins are also social, but in a completely different way. In the depths of the forest, the males of these startlingly colourful birds work as a team to court a female. Like miniature circus performers they jump and bounce on a branch, one after the other, to excite their audience. Only the lead artist gets to carry out the last act.

New nectar-feeding bat species discovered in Brazil

This video says about itself:

Green Ambassador Brazil Bat Research

11 May 2007

With the University of Campo Grande the Green Ambassadors researched the biodiversity of bats in the Pantanal, Brazil. Where over 700 plant species depend on bats for pollination.

The video is in Portuguese, but its subtitles can be switched to English or other languages.

From Wildlife Extra:

New bat species discovered

A new species of nectar-feeding bat from Brazil has been unexpectedly discovered during a study into the whole genus of Lonchophylla.

The scientists Drs. Ricardo Moratelli and Daniela Dias examined both wild and museum specemins of L. mordax, when they realised, rather than looking at one species they were looking at two different species.

Called L. inexpectata, the new species has considerably paler ventral (abdominal) fur and some of their measurements were inconsistent with L. mordax, including differences in the skull and the teeth morphology.

The scientific description of the new species is here.

First four-legged snake fossil discovery

This video says about itself:

Tetrapodophis amplectus – A four-legged snake from the Early Cretaceous of Gondwana

24 July 2015

Tetrapodophis amplectus appears to be a four-legged snake from the Early Cretaceous of Gondwana. Dr. Dave Martill, from the University of Portsmouth, says that this discovery could help scientists to understand how snakes lost their legs.

From the BBC:

Four-legged snake ancestor ‘dug burrows’

By Jonathan Webb Science reporter, BBC News

24 July 2015

A 113-million-year-old fossil from Brazil is the first four-legged snake that scientists have ever seen.

Several other fossil snakes have been found with hind limbs, but the new find is estimated to be a direct ancestor of modern snakes.

Its delicate arms and legs were not used for walking, but probably helped the creature to grab its prey.

The fossil shows adaptations for burrowing, not swimming, strengthening the idea that snakes evolved on land.

That debate is a long-running one among palaeontologists, and researchers say wiggle room is running out for the idea that snakes developed from marine reptiles.

“This is the most primitive fossil snake known, and it’s pretty clearly not aquatic,” said Dr Nick Longrich from the University of Bath, one of the authors of the new study published in Science magazine.

Speaking to Science in Action on the BBC World Service, Dr Longrich explained that the creature’s tail wasn’t paddle-shaped for swimming and it had no sign of fins; meanwhile its long trunk and short snout were typical of a burrower.

“It’s pretty straight-up adapted for burrowing,” he said.

When Dr Longrich first saw photos of the 19.5cm fossil, now christened Tetrapodophis amplectus, he was “really blown away” because he was expecting an ambiguous, in-between species.

Instead, he saw “a lot of very advanced snake features” including its hooked teeth, flexible jaw and spine – and even snake-like scales.

“And there’s the gut contents – it’s swallowed another vertebrate. It was preying on other animals, which is a snake feature.

“It was pretty unambiguously a snake. It’s just got little arms and little legs.”

Deadly embrace?

At 4mm and 7mm long respectively, those arms and legs are little indeed. But Dr Longrich was surprised to discover that they were far from being “vestigial” evolutionary leftovers, dangling uselessly.

“They’re actually very highly specialised – they have very long, skinny fingers and toes, with little claws on the end. What we think [these animals] are doing is they’ve stopped using them for walking and they’re using them for grasping their prey.”

That comparatively feeble grasp, which may have also been applied during mating, is where the species gets its name. Tetrapodophis, the fossil’s new genus, means four-footed snake, but amplectus is Latin for “embrace”.

“It would sort of embrace or hug its prey with its forelimbs and hindlimbs. So it’s the huggy snake,” Dr Longrich said.

In order to try to pinpoint the huggy snake’s place in history, the team constructed a family tree using known information about the physical and genetic make-up of living and ancient snakes, plus some related reptiles.

That analysis positioned T. amplectus as a branch – the earliest branch – on the the very same tree that gave rise to modern snakes.

Neglected no more

Remarkably, this significant specimen languished in a private collection for decades, before a museum in Solnhofen, Germany, acquired and exhibited it under the label “unknown fossil”.

It was there that Dr Dave Martill, another of the paper’s authors, stumbled upon it while leading a student field trip. He told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 they were principally visiting to see the museum’s famous Archaeopteryx fossil.

“All of a sudden my jaw absolutely dropped, when I saw this little fossil like a piece of string,” said Dr Martill, from the University of Portsmouth.

As he peered closer, he managed to spot the four tiny legs – and immediately asked the museum for permission to study the creature.

Dr Bruno Simoes, who studies the evolution of snake vision at the Natural History Museum in London, told the BBC he was impressed by the new find because the snake’s limbs are so well preserved, and appear so well developed.

“It’s quite a surprise, especially because it’s so close to the crown group – basically, the current snakes,” he said.

“It gives us a good idea of what the ancestral snake was like.”

Dr Simoes suggested that alongside several other recent findings, this new fossil evidence had clinched the argument for snakes evolving on land.

“All [the latest findings] suggest that the ancestor of all snakes was a terrestrial animal… which lived partially underground.”

Nut-bashing capuchin monkeys and human evolution

This 2013 video is called Brown capuchin monkeys breaking nuts – One Life – BBC.

From National Geographic:

Nut-Bashing Monkeys Offer Window Into Human Evolution

Brazil’s bearded capuchins know how much force is needed to crack open a nut—a surprisingly human-like skill, a new study says.

By Liz Langley

PUBLISHED July 18, 2015

Give me a hammer, and I’d probably end up bashing my thumb with it. When it comes to tool use, dexterity counts.

So when Saturday’s Weird Animal Question of the Week heard about the famous nut-crushing monkeys of Brazil, we took the prerogative to ask: “How can these monkeys crack nuts so accurately?”

First off, these bearded capuchins open tough palm nuts by putting them on “anvils,” including logs and boulders, and hammering at them, according to research by National Geographic explorer Dorothy Fragaszy of the University of Georgia at Athens.

Fragaszy and colleagues already knew the monkeys are choosy about their nut-cracking tools, for instance by selecting rocks that are heavier than themselves. (Related: “Hercules Monkeys Lift Stones to Crack Nuts.”)

But she didn’t know how the capuchins can skillfully get to their snack without smashing it to smithereens—until now. New observations in the southeastern state of Piauí, Brazil (map) reveal that the animals carefully regulate the force they use in nut-cracking.

After each strike, the monkeys evaluate the condition of the nut and then tailor the force of the next blow accordingly. (See National Geographic‘s monkey pictures.)

That’s called dexterity, “a very surprising skill we never expected to find in a non-human animal,” says Madhur Mangalam, also of the University of Georgia at Athens. (Read about how clever crows use one tool to acquire another.)

“We thought they’d try to break the nut with as much force as they can,” adds Mangalam, who’s a co-author with Fragaszy on a recent study published in the journal Current Biology.

Monkey Practice, Monkey Do

The monkeys’ impressive skill also offers some insight into the evolution of human tool use, the scientists say.

Take stone knapping, or using one stone to strike another in order to shape it into an arrowhead or other useful object—a strategy used by many early humans.

“A novice knapper sort of bangs one stone against another and produces nothing very much that’s usable,” Fragaszy says. (Read how a wrong discovery led to the discovery of the oldest stone tools.)

A skilled knapper, on the other hand, controls the force of the stone “hammer”—much like capuchins.

Our ancestors’ nut-cracking skills likely “allowed us to have a more complex skill of stone knapping,” Mangalam adds. (See “Human Ancestors May Have Used Tools Half-Million Years Earlier Than Thought.”)

Another thing the monkeys have in common with people: They both have to learn their expertise.

Capuchins take a couple of years to learn nut-cracking, which takes a lot of practice and playing with tools nuts and stones in different ways to get it right, Mangalam says.

Practice makes perfect—sounds anything but nutty to us.

New small frog species discovery on Brazilian mountaintops

This 2007 video from Brazil is about a Brachycephalus pernix frog, a relative of the recently discovered species.

This is another 2007 video about Brachycephalus pernix.

And this 2013 Brazilian video is about Brachycephalus tridactylus, another relative.

And this 2012 Brazilian video is about Brachycephalus nodoterga.

And this December 2014 video, recorded in Brazil, is about Brachycephalus pitanga.

This March 2014 video is about the skeleton of Brachycephalus ephipium.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Seven new species of miniature frogs discovered in cloud forests of Brazil

Tiny frogs smaller in size than bumblebees have evolved with fewer fingers and toes to reduce their size to adapt to life on isolated mountaintops

Karl Mathiesen

Thursday 4 June 2015 17.08 BST

Seven new species of miniature frog, smaller than bumblebees, have been discovered clinging to survival on isolated mountaintops in Brazil.

The largest of the new discoveries has a maximum adult length of just 13mm. The frogs, which are among the smallest land vertebrates, have evolved with fewer fingers and toes in order to reduce their size.

Miniaturisation allows the frogs to emerge from their eggs as fully-formed, albeit tiny, adults. This means they do not go through a tadpole stage and can survive far from standing water. Highly efficient absorption allows them to stay hydrated by soaking water from damp ground through the skin on their bellies.

Marcio Pie, a professor at the Universidade Federal do Paraná, led a team of researchers on a five-year exploration of the mountainous cloud forests on the southern Atlantic coast of Brazil. They published their study in the journal PeerJ on Thursday.

“Although getting to many of the field sites is exhausting, there was always the feeling of anticipation and curiosity about what new species could look like”, said Pie.

The frogs are all species from the Brachycephalus genus, which are often tiny in size.

They live on ‘sky islands’, areas of high forest on mountains surrounded by lower altitude rainforest. The tiny frogs are highly adapted to their conditions and sometimes restricted to a single mountain. There they have evolved in isolation over millennia – much like the unique species on separate Galapagos islands that so fascinated Charles Darwin.

Pie said this extreme endemism makes them exceptionally vulnerable to changes in their habitat. Their major threats are illegal logging and changes to cloud forests caused by climate change. None of the newly-described species are in reserves and many live relatively close to cities where the forest can be more easily impacted.

“The really big concern is climate change because the cloud forest depends on the delicate balance between the water that comes form the ocean and the topography. If there’s some sort of warming it’s possible that that sort of really humid forest will disappear and with that all the endemic species, not only our frogs but other types of organisms,” he said.

The study increases the number of recognised species in the genus by 50% to a total of 21.

Luiz Ribeiro, a research associate to the Mater Natura Institute for Environmental Studies, said the new discoveries suggested there were many more to find. “This is only the beginning, especially given the fact that we have already found additional species that we are in the process of formally describing.”

The find comes against a background of catastrophic amphibian decline worldwide caused by a chytrid fungus. At least 200 species of frog have been driven to extinction or declined because of the disease the fungus causes. Pie said the frogs may be protected from chytrid by their ability to survive away from the water sources where the fungus is often found.