Endangered North American butterfly fights back against climate change


This video is called The Endangered Quino Checkerspot Butterfly.

From Wildlife Extra:

Endangered butterfly fights back against climate change

April 2014: The endangered Quino Checkerspot butterfly, found in Mexico and California, is defying climate change by adapting both its habitat and diet, a study has revealed.

The butterfly suffered dramatic population collapses during the last century along the southern edge of its range in Baja California as a result of climate change and agricultural and urban development.

But rather than heading toward extinction the butterfly has adapted to the changing climate by shifting to a higher altitude and changing its host plant to a completely new species.

Other species have been seen changing either habitat or diet to cope with a changing climate but the Quino Checkerspot may be amongst the first butterfly species to change both.

Professor Camille Parmesan from Plymouth University, explained:

“Quino today is one of the happy ‘surprises’, having managed to adapt to climate change by shifting its centre of abundance to higher elevation and onto a plant species that was not previously known to be a host.”

See also here. And here. And here.

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New North American bird migration Internet site


This video from the USA says about itself:

For thousands of years and countless generations, migratory birds have flown the same long-distance paths between their breeding and feeding grounds. Understanding the routes these birds take, called flyways, helps conservation efforts and gives scientists better knowledge of global changes, both natural and man-made. QUEST heads out to the Pacific Flyway with California biologists to track the rhythm of migration.

From Wildlife Extra:

Ninety years of valuable migration data about North American birds is now available online

Over a million records telling the tale of nearly a century of North American bird migrations have been rescued from obscurity and are being transcribed by an international network of more than 2,000 volunteers, making the records available for the first time online for use by researchers and the public.

The records, which span the years from 1880 to 1970, provide information on what areas of the country birds were spotted, and when they arrived or departed in spring and autumn. The information is of use identifying how birds’ ranges and migration patterns have changed over time.

The one-millionth transcription was that of a house wren seen in Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico, on September 11, 1904 and it joined all the other records now part of the United States Geological Survey North American Bird Phenology Program database.

Phenology is the study of the seasonal timing of natural biological phenomena, such as leafing and flowering of plants, maturation of agricultural crops, emergence of insects, and migration of birds. Many of these events are sensitive to climatic variation and change, and are simple to observe and record.

“This 90-year span of archival data provides baseline information about the first arrivals and last departures of North American migratory birds,” according to Jessica Zelt, the USGS North American Bird Phenology Program Coordinator. “When combined with contemporary data, researchers have the unique opportunity to look at changes in seasonal timing in relation to climate and climate change over a 130-year period, unprecedented in its length of time for recorded migratory data.”

The records contain many stories, from the emergence of introduced European species such as the European starling and house sparrow, to the decimation of species such as the Carolina parakeet and passenger pigeon.

This citizen science programme has welcomed participants of all backgrounds from around the world to help transcribe the data. Volunteers have come from locations as varied as Gunma in Japan, Istanbul and Brussels, although the majority reside throughout North America.

“Just last month, a participant wrote me to say she had transcribed a card by Tracy Irwin Storer, a name she recognised because he had authored her college biology textbook,” said Zelt. “One of the aspects that is so exciting about this programme is that it provides participants with a link to ornithological history.”

Original records were created by many famous ornithologists, biologists, botanists and naturalists, such as Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac, Roger Tory Peterson, who wrote A Field Guide to the Birds, and Clarence Birdseye, the creator of the famous frozen foods.

“We feel that the world is changing and these bird records are providing us with the measuring tape to document that change,” said Sam Droege, a USGS wildlife biologist. “This is something anyone can get involved in exploring since we are making all the records open to the public.”

Anyone interested in participating in this innovative project can volunteer by registering online to transcribe these records for the database.

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Syrian Armenians threatened by opposition paramilitaries


This video from California in the USA is called Valley Armenians demand action! In Syria rebel forces attack Armenians.

By Patrick J. McDonnell in the Los Angeles Times in the USA:

Ethnic Armenians tell of flight from Kasab, their town in Syria

‘We knew we would be butchered if we stayed,’ says one man who made it to safety in Lebanon as rebels advanced from Turkey, a situation with historic parallels.

April 9, 2014, 5:30 a.m.

BEIRUT — They fled Kasab at daybreak, amid the clamor of artillery and word that Islamist rebels were advancing toward them from Turkey.

About 2,500 residents, most of them ethnic Armenians, gathered documents and what few possessions they could carry. They piled into cars and minibuses that carried them 40 miles down mountain roads to the government-held city of Latakia. Only some elderly remained behind, residents said.

“We escaped with the clothes on our back,” said one of those who eventually made it to Lebanon.

Many had heard reports of atrocities committed in August by other rebels elsewhere in Latakia province. Armenian Christians have lived in Kasab since the days of the Ottoman Empire, but they feared for their lives if they remained.

“We knew we would be butchered if we stayed,” said George, 45, a displaced Kasab resident now living in Beirut’s Bourj Hammoud neighborhood. He was among a number of Armenian exiles who asked that their surnames not be used for security reasons.

Coming close to the centennial of the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, last month’s wholesale flight of Armenian Christians drew global attention. Kasab is among the last remaining Armenian-populated towns that survived a genocide that began in 1915, in the waning days of the empire.

Armenians worldwide have come to Kasab’s defense, drawing attention to the historic parallels.

“What happened to Kasab is a continuation of the genocide which was in 1915 carefully planned and executed against Armenians,” said His Holiness Aram I, Beirut-based pontiff of the Armenian church and spiritual leader of the Armenian diaspora.

Since Kasab’s fall to Syrian rebels March 21, activists have headed to the region in a bid to provide assistance.

“The preservation of this village and its people is of utmost importance to the Armenian people,” said Garo Ghazarian, an Encino-based attorney and chairman of the Armenian Bar Assn., who traveled to Beirut on a fact-finding trip about Kasab.

Turkish officials deny mass extermination of Armenians, which the U.S. House of Representatives and several nations have labeled genocide. Turkey says the millions of deaths in the early 20th century were the result of war, displacement, disease and other factors.

While Armenian activists try to avert Kasab’s destruction and press for residents’ safe return, pro-government Syrian forces are fighting to recapture Kasab. Meanwhile, a virtual battle has ensued.

Armenian groups have marshaled a massive Web campaign to denounce what they call Turkish-backed abuses in Kasab, but pro-opposition media activists have said that rebels in Kasab have gone out of their way to evacuate civilians and respect property rights.

On Tuesday, lawmakers from California, home to several hundred thousand people of Armenian heritage, spoke on Capitol Hill of the dangers facing Armenians and other Christians in Syria.

Given the widespread devastation during more than three years of war that has killed thousands of people, displaced millions and destroyed scores of towns in Syria, sparing Kasab from ruin will probably be a difficult task.

Uncertainty hangs over the newest residents of Beirut’s Bourj Hammoud neighborhood, a cluttered, animated district of narrow streets and multi-story apartment buildings that is a signature Armenian diaspora community.

Like so many other displaced Syrians, the Kasab exiles don’t know when, or if, they will go home. Even before the rebel onslaught, the war had wiped out the lucrative tourism business in Kasab, once a popular summer retreat because of its altitude and relatively cool weather. Many had already returned to the business of their ancestors: tending fruit orchards.

“We all went back to farming,” said Rafi, 44.

Some Kasab exiles call for an international solution that will force a rebel withdrawal or even create a demilitarized zone. But prospects for such a deal appear dim amid the geopolitical crosscurrents of the Syrian war.

Turkey is a close U.S. ally and the eastern bulwark of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Washington, like Ankara, seeks the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has provided assistance to anti-Assad rebels.

A more likely scenario — a protracted government offensive to recapture the town — could leave Kasab in ruins. Government and opposition forces have been fighting in territory outside the town.

Kasab exiles say their ancestral homes are occupied by rebels, including elements of the Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabat al Nusra, or Al Nusra Front, whose ranks include non-Syrian fighters. A Moroccan fighter and former inmate at the U.S. lockup on Guantanamo Bay was among those killed in the Kasab area in recent fighting, various websites reported.

“I telephoned my house and someone answered, ‘We are Jabat al Nusra,’” recalled Maral, 40, still stunned at the turmoil that has torn apart her once tranquil family life. “They are helping themselves to our food, to our homes.”

The day of the attack, she noted, was Mother’s Day in Syria. Many had prepared pastries and other treats.

She and others bemoan their current predicament: dependence on the generosity of relatives and friends, the inability to enroll children in schools, the absence of homes where most resided all their lives — all of the unfortunate realities of life as a refugee, now so familiar to multitudes of Syrians. That they are better off than many Syrian refugees living in tents and abandoned buildings is of little consolation.

“People have been very kind to us, they are sharing everything,” said Maral, a mother of three. “But Kasab is our home, not here. We all dream about Kasab. We dream about what we left behind.”

See also (in French): here.

Climate change-fueled droughts are about to make Syria even more hellish: here.

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Homophobe becomes Mozilla boss


This video from the USA is called Mozilla Firefox Fallout: Brendan Eich‘s Proposition 8 Support Sparks Backlash From Employees, OkCupid.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

OkCupid boycotts Firefox after ‘homophobic’ CEO appointment

Wednesday 2nd April 2014

Brendan Eich donated money to anti-gay rights group Proposition 8

A popular dating website began yesterday a boycott to a homophobic internet browser.

Free online dating group OkCupid has launched a boycotting campaign against Mozilla Firefox after the internet browser company appointed anti-gay rights supporter Brendan Eich as its new CEO.

Users attempting to access the website through Firefox were met with a landing page requesting they opt for another browser.

“If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8 per cent of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal,” read the statement.

Mr Eich openly donated $1,000 (£600) to the Proposition 8 campaign, which put forward the view that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

OkCupid — which had over 10 million unique hits only last month — said its very nature was “creating love.”

To those wanting to undermine love, they wish “nothing but failure.”

Mozilla has released a statement denying homophobia but omitting its CEO’s political agenda.

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Ice Age fossils discovery in Los Angeles


This video from the USA says about itself:

20 Sep 2010

A utility company preparing to build a new substation southeast of Los Angeles has stumbled on a trove of fossils dating back 1.4 million years. The cache contains nearly 1,500 fossils, including an ancestor of the saber-toothed tiger.

From USA Today:

Ice Age fossils discovered in L.A. subway construction

10:07 a.m. EST March 7, 2014

An exploratory dig for Los Angeles’ subway extension project has uncovered Ice Age fossils.

The discoveries so far have included geoducks (large clams), sand dollars and digger pine tree cones and seeds, and a rock that “appears to have a sea lion skull within it that is perhaps two million years or more old,” according to the Metro Rail’s blog.

The expansion of L.A.’s purple line is near the La Brea Tar Pits, where many fossils have been found.

The exploratory shaft for the subway route is now 65 feet deep, according to Metro.

“We expect that we’re going to find large deposits of late Ice Age vertebrate remains,” said Aisling Farrell, collections manager at Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, in an interview with KABC-TV in Los Angeles.

Metro is working with the museum to identify and preserve the fossils, according to Metro.

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Blind mice blind no more?


This music video is called 3D Animation: Three Blind Mice, English Nursery Rhyme for children, with lyrics.

From the New Scientist:

Blind mice see the light after simple drug therapy

19 February 2014 by Colin Barras

If it’s beyond repair, you find something else to do its job. This could soon apply to rods and cones, the light-sensitive cells in our eyes that can wither with age, causing blindness. A drug has been found that coaxes neighbours of ailing cells to do their work for them.

In 2012, Richard Kramer at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered that injecting a certain chemical into the eyes of blind mice made normally light-insensitive ganglion cells respond to light. These cells ferry optical signals from the rods and cones to the brain, so the mice regained some ability to see light.

But it only worked with ultraviolet light. Now, Kramer’s team has found a different drug that does the same with visible light. Just 6 hours after they were injected, blind mice could learn to respond to light in the same way as sighted mice – although Kramer says he doesn’t know whether they regained vision or just light sensitivity.

Selective effect

When the researchers studied the drug’s impact on retinal cells in more detail, they realised it had had no effect on healthy cells. “That’s what’s particularly remarkable and hopeful about this,” says Kramer. “It’s possible that if you put this drug in a partially damaged eye it would restore vision to the damaged regions and leave the healthy areas unaffected – although we haven’t done the experiments to test that.”

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Fossil whale discovery in California


This video says about itself:

The jaws of the Leviathan: by Nature Video

28 June 2010

The fossilized skull and jaw of a giant, 12–13 million-year-old sperm whale have been discovered off the coast of Peru. The creature, whose discovery is reported in this week’s Nature, belongs to a previously unknown genus of sperm whale and has been named in honour of Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick.

The fossil was found in ocean layers where the giant shark has also been recorded and the authors suggest that these two giant, raptorial predators could have lived in the same area, feeding on large, marine vertebrates, such as baleen whales.

From the Daily Breeze in California, USA:

‘Priceless’ fossil find on Palos Verdes Peninsula could be 12-million-year-old sperm whale

By Donna Littlejohn, The Daily Breeze

Posted: 01/30/14, 7:03 PM PST

For decades it sat in a garden on the Chadwick School campus — a 700-pound Altamira shale boulder with a fossil partially exposed.

What that fossil turned out to be surprised most everyone.

Paleontologists from the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum suspect the find could be nothing short of a new, prehistoric sperm whale species from the Palos Verdes Peninsula, which once was underwater.

The fossil is thought to be about 12 million years old, said Howell Thomas, senior paleontologist for the museum.

“I expect it to be something new,” said Thomas, who visited the private school campus about a year ago to inspect the find.

“It’s pretty remarkable and scientifically significant,” said Chadwick science teacher Martin Byhower, who contacted the museum last year with a request for help in identifying that fossil and several other embedded marine fossils used in landscaping on the campus. The other shale rocks contained fossil remnants of ribs and vertebrae from whales but did not qualify as any kind of significant discovery, Thomas said.

“I looked at them and said ‘That’s this, this is that — and this (the skull) needs to come to the museum,’” Thomas said.

“I looked at it and said, ‘Ah! That’s a sperm whale skull and it’s really small,’ which makes it even more important. Juveniles are rare.”

Animals in the wild grow up quickly, he said, making it unlikely that the small size points to a juvenile. More likely, he said, the fossil appears to be from a small adult species of sperm whale that hasn’t previously been identified by scientists.

The museum will collect the piece on Wednesday and take it back to its laboratories for what will be a year’s work of further excavation and study, Thomas said.

Using state-of-the-art tools, the ancient and delicate fossil material will be painstakingly separated from the shale rock that covers perhaps 75 percent of the skull.

As part of the research, the museum will attempt to locate another small sperm whale fossil also reportedly found on the Palos Verdes Peninsula but not on Chadwick property, to compare the two, Thomas said.

The embedded skull appears to have been on the private school campus for nearly 80 years, most likely uncovered during earlier construction projects.

Byhower said it’s been moved a few times during his 30 years of teaching at the school.

Fellow science teacher and Chadwick alumni Nick Herzik said the find is “priceless.”

“I probably sat on this a million times” as a student,” he said.

For Byhower, learning more about the fossils was a way to encourage his students’ natural curiosity about the world around them.

“I just want kids to observe and wonder about the world. I want them to persist until they get the answers” to the mysteries that surround them, Byhower said.

The museum and school have been in negotiations for the past year, Thomas said, to finalize an agreement to have the rock and fossil transported and donated. In exchange, the school will receive a cast model of the fossil when it is finished.

The museum will document its work and likely write a paper for publication when the examinations are complete.

There is “no guarantee” that the find will result in identifying a new species, Thomas said.

“But I expect it will be,” he said.

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No werewolf in the Netherlands


This music video from California in the USA is called Jerry Garcia Band Performs “Werewolves of LondonHalloween ’92 Oakland.

These werewolves exist only in the song. And they don’t seem to exist in te Netherlands either.

Translated from dichtbij.nl in the Netherlands:

‘Werewolf’ in Zeeheldenbuurt probably fantasy

Nicolai Brannan, editor

24 January 2014

Leiden – The story of, maybe, a werewolf in the Zeeheldenbuurt neighbourhood in Leiden is probably made ​​up. Police have said this to the Leidsch Dagblad newspaper. Earlier this week there was a report ​​to the police that a person dressed as a werewolf scared ​​children.

The police assumes that the story was invented by a child with an active imagination.

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How young white-fronted geese learn to migrate, new research


This video from California in the USA says about itself:

16 Jan 2012

Greater White-fronted Geese at Colusa National Wildlife Refuge forage in the tules, welcoming another flock of geese as they greet the morning sun.

Translated from Vroege Vogels TV in the Netherlands:

How do geese learn how to fly?

Young white-fronted geese follow their parents on their migration from the breeding grounds. This is well-known. But do the young birds also decide themselves when they will land to feed? And, when flying, do they always keep in the immediate vicinity of their parents? When do they leave their parents and go their own way?

Transmitters

To find answers to these questions white-fronted geese in the river region in North Brabant are caught in an old fashioned way. Then researchers affix small transmitters to the geese. In this way, they hope to get more insights about the migratory and family behaviour of the birds.

Hibernation

In the winter months, white-fronted geese stay in Netherlands: especially in Friesland, the rivers region, Zeeland and West Flanders in Belgium (the Zwin and the East Coast polders areas). They often occur in mixed groups with greylag geese, bean geese and barnacle geese.

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