Canadian Cold War homophobia, apology at last


This video says about itself:

Homophobia remains pervasive in Canadian sports

9 May 2015

New study suggests anti-gay attitudes are deterring young people from being active in some athletic fields.

Click here for the full story.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Canadian apologies for homophobia in Cold War years

Today, 10:57

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau has apologized to the LGBT community in his country for the hostile treatment of homosexuals in the government during the Cold War.

The prime minister focused mainly on civil servants, soldiers and police officers who were harassed or sacked between the end of the Second World War and the early 90s because of their sexual orientation. …

So, the governmental homophobia continued even when the Soviet Union did not exist any more.

From 1950, government employees who were thought to be gay were monitored and questioned on the orders of the Canadian government. In 40 years, thousands of them have been fired or intimidated so that they left themselves. The witch hunt – in the words of Trudeau – followed from the assumption that gays were more sensitive than others for blackmail by the enemies of Canada. …

Interest groups for LGBT rights have long requested rehabilitation of those involved and have now responded with relief to Trudeau’s apologies.

Unfortunately, quite some of the victims are dead by now.

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Grizzly bears need overpasses to cross roads


This video from Canada says about itself:

13 June 2014

As you travel through Banff National Park animals are travelling too — over your roof and under your wheels. Wildlife crossing structures and highway fencing in Banff National Park have reduced large animal deaths by more than 80%. So which animals adopted crossing structures first? Who prefers overpasses versus underpasses? Find out here through the lens of a remote camera that captured five years of wildlife movement on an overpass in Banff National Park near Redearth Creek.

From the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus in Canada:

Family-friendly overpasses are needed to help grizzly bears, study suggests

Design of wildlife road crossings is crucial for protecting grizzlies

November 27, 2017

Researchers have determined how female grizzly bears keep their cubs safe while crossing the Trans-Canada Highway.

Adam Ford, Canada Research Chair in Wildlife Restoration Ecology at UBC‘s Okanagan campus, along with Montana State University‘s Tony Clevenger, studied the travel patterns of grizzlies in Banff National Park between 1997 and 2014. In most cases, a mother bear travelling with cubs opted to use a wildlife overpass instead of a tunnel to cross the highway.

“We used data from Canada’s longest and most detailed study of road-wildlife interactions,” explains Ford, an assistant professor of biology. “We found that grizzly bear females and cubs preferred to use overpasses to cross the highway.”

During the 17-year study period, bears not travelling in these family groups used both underpasses and overpasses. “You can’t just build a tunnel under a highway and expect to conserve bears,” says Ford. “Our work shows that the design of structures used to get bears across the road matters for reconnecting grizzly bear populations.”

The study looked at five different wildlife crossing structure designs distributed across 44 sites along a 100-km stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway. The structures are purpose-built bridges or tunnels to facilitate the safe movement of animals across roads. Tracking and motion-triggered cameras were used to monitor grizzly bear movement and Ford says all grizzly bears selected larger and more open structures like overpasses and open-span bridges, compared to tunnels and box culverts.

“Since adult females and cubs drive population growth, this research tells us that overpasses are needed to protect bears in roaded areas,” says Ford.

The study also documents the most cost-effective means to design highway mitigation. A common concern in conservation is how to allocate funding to bring the most effective gains for biodiversity. The researchers estimated the cost-effectiveness of structure designs and were surprised by the result.

“When we look at the population as a whole, there were a lot of passages made by males in box culverts, which is the cheapest type of structure to build,” explains Clevenger, stressing that a diversity of wildlife crossing structure designs along a highway is essential.

“It’s important to reduce the chances of adult males encountering cubs since the males will kill young bears,” Clevenger adds. “Creating both ‘bachelor’ and ‘family’-friendly designs will further help bear populations grow.”

This peer-reviewed study was published online this week in the Wildlife Society Bulletin.

Bowhead whale behaviour, new study


This 22 November 2017 video is called Bowhead whales come to Cumberland Sound in Canadian Arctic to exfoliate.

From the University of British Columbia in Canada:

Bowhead whales come to Cumberland Sound in Nunavut to exfoliate

November 22, 2017

Aerial drone footage of bowhead whales in Canada’s Arctic has revealed that the large mammals molt and use rocks to rub off dead skin.

The footage provides one answer to the mystery of why whales return to Cumberland Sound, Nunavut, every summer, and helps explain some unusual behavior that has been noted historically by Inuit and commercial whalers living and working in the area.

“This was an incidental observation,” said Sarah Fortune, a PhD student at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and lead author of a new study based on the findings. “We were there to document their prey and feeding behavior, but we noticed some strange behavior near the shore.”

Fortune and her colleagues — William Koski, a whale biologist with LGL Limited, and local Inuit hunters and fishers from Pangnirtung — watched from a boat as the whales turned on their sides and waved their flippers and tails in the air. It was clear the whales weren’t there just to feed.

When the researchers sent drones up to record the animals from above, they saw large boulders underwater and realized that the whales were rubbing against rocks to remove dead skin.

“We now know that Cumberland Sound serves as a habitat for feeding and molting,” said Fortune. “Very little is known about molting in any of the large whale species.”

The warmer coastal waters of summer might help facilitate molting, Fortune says. Ocean temperatures are expected to rise, and the change could have implications for the timing, duration and energy needed for molting, as well as the whales’ diets.

As oceans change, relatively large-bodied, fatty Arctic crustaceans known as zooplankton the preferred prey of bowhead whales could move to new habitats further north while smaller-bodied, temperate species that are lower in energy are likely to dominate the waters. Scientists don’t know how whales will adapt to the changing environment.

Fortune hopes to conduct further studies to determine whether bowhead whales molt primarily during summer months, and throughout their range.

Bowhead whales are the longest-living marine mammals on the planet, with lifespans up to 200 years.

White-tailed deer mating in Canada


This 16 November 2017 video from Canada is called White-tailed deer mating.

Stopping cats from attacking birds


This video from Britain says about itself:

Save the Birds #PeckishCat

9 December 2013

Up to 55 million birds are killed by cats every year in the UK. So whether you are a cat lover or just want to protect your garden birds from cats, you can do your bit to help as well as having a little fun with our #PeckishCat video.

From BirdLife:

17 May 2017

Five neat tricks to keep your cat from attacking birds

In Canada, as in many countries, domestic cats are a major cause of garden bird mortality. But with a little adjustment, it’s possible to create an environment that is safer and healthier for felines and finches alike. BirdLife Partner Nature Canada’s Cats & Birds campaign shows you how.

By Alex Dale

For cat owners, is there a more comforting sound in the entire world than the satisfying ‘ker-chunk’ of the cat flap?

After hours of worrying what Tiddles has been up to while she roams around the neighbourhood, that reassuring clack-clack indicates that your beloved has finally returned to the warmth and safety of your home. But sometimes, she doesn’t return alone. Sometimes, to the horror of the owner, Tiddles bears in her teeth an unwanted gift – a dead (or worse, half-dead) garden bird.

Cats are born predators, so there’s no point in chastising them for doing something that comes naturally for them. Instead, owners have to accept that they are responsible for bringing a domesticated animal into their home and feeding it, and thus they are responsible for its actions.

Putting a bell on your cat’s collar is a simple and well-known way to limit the mischief your pet gets up to while it frolics outside, but Nature Canada (BirdLife Partner) suggests that cat owners should consider going further still, and wean their cats away from roaming around outdoors unsupervised altogether.

Sacrilege?  To many cat owners, putting limits on their pets’ freedom will seem exactly that. But, as Nature Canada’s Cats & Birds campaign is keen to impress on the Canadian public, reigning in your cat doesn’t just saves birds’ lives – it also helps keep your pet safe and healthy, too. “We partner with organizations such as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies,” says Project Manager Sarah Cooper, “precisely because they’ve been recommending keeping cats from roaming unsupervised for years, purely for the well-being of the cats.”

The Cats & Birds initiative was set up to increase public awareness of the risks to cats and birds of the common practice of allowing cats to roam unsupervised. Outdoor cats are exposed to disease, vehicle collisions and scraps with other cats and wildlife, not to mention the risk of getting lost. Cats are more often abandoned by their owners, and there are twice as many cats as dogs in Canada’s shelters. While an estimated 30% of dogs are reclaimed by owners, the same can be said of less than 5% of cats. More than 17,000 cats were euthanized in Canada in 2015 because they could not find homes.

And that’s just the toll in the shelters. In 2012 alone, more than 1,300 dead cats were collected from the streets of Toronto, Ontario. That’s why author Margaret Atwood, (former co-chair of BirdLife’s Rare Birds Committee) published a graphic novel series in tandem with Nature Canada’s campaign. Atwood describes Angel Catbird as a “walking, talking carnivore’s dilemma” whose conflict – “do I save this baby robin, or do I eat it?” — illuminates both sides of the issue.’

All things considered, preventing your cat from going outside unsupervised seems a win-win situation – saving the lives of both birds and, potentially, Tiddles. But cats are notorious free spirits. Can they ever be convinced to embrace the indoor life? The answer is yes, and Nature Canada has five tips to help you get started.

507-million-year-old fossil arthropod discovery


This video from the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada says about itself:

4 July 2012

Associate Curator, Jean-Bernard Caron presents an overview of the fossil collection from the Burgess Shale, B.C., highlighting a number of specimens.

From the University of Toronto in Canada:

Paleontologists identify new 507-million-year-old sea creature with can opener-like pincers

Discovery points to origin of millipedes, crabs and insects among other species

April 26, 2017

Summary: Paleontologists have uncovered a new fossil species that sheds light on the origin of mandibulates, the most abundant and diverse group of organisms on Earth, to which belong familiar animals such as flies, ants, crayfish and centipedes. Named Tokummia katalepsis by the researchers, the creature documents for the first time the anatomy of early mandibulates, a sub-group of arthropods with specialized appendages known as mandibles, used to grasp, crush and cut their food.

Paleontologists at the University of Toronto (U of T) and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) have uncovered a new fossil species that sheds light on the origin of mandibulates, the most abundant and diverse group of organisms on Earth, to which belong familiar animals such as flies, ants, crayfish and centipedes. The finding was announced in a study published today in Nature.

The creature, named Tokummia katalepsis by the researchers, is a new and exceptionally well-preserved fossilized arthropod — a ubiquitous group of invertebrate animals with segmented limbs and hardened exoskeletons. Tokummia documents for the first time in detail the anatomy of early “mandibulates,” a hyperdiverse sub-group of arthropods which possess a pair of specialized appendages known as mandibles, used to grasp, crush and cut their food. Mandibulates include millions of species and represent one of the greatest evolutionary and ecological success stories of life on Earth.

“In spite of their colossal diversity today, the origin of mandibulates had largely remained a mystery,” said Cédric Aria, lead author of the study and recent graduate of the PhD program in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at U of T, now working as a post-doctoral researcher at the Nanjing Institute for Geology and Palaeontology, in China. “Before now we’ve had only sparse hints at what the first arthropods with mandibles could have looked like, and no idea of what could have been the other key characteristics that triggered the unrivaled diversification of that group.”

Tokummia lived in a tropical sea teeming with life and was among the largest Cambrian predators, exceeding 10 cm in length fully extended. An occasional swimmer, the researchers conclude its robust anterior legs made it a preferred bottom-dweller, as lobsters or mantis shrimps today. Specimens come from 507 million-year-old sedimentary rocks near Marble Canyon in Kootenay national park, British Columbia. Most specimens at the basis of this study were collected during extensive ROM-led fieldwork activities in 2014.

“This spectacular new predator, one of the largest and best preserved soft-bodied arthropods from Marble Canyon, joins the ranks of many unusual marine creatures that lived during the Cambrian Explosion, a period of rapid evolutionary change starting about half a billion years ago when most major animal groups first emerged in the fossil record,” said co-author Jean-Bernard Caron, senior curator of invertebrate paleontology at the ROM and an associate professor in the Departments of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Earth Sciences at U of T.

Analysis of several fossil specimens, following careful mechanical preparation and photographic work at the ROM, showed that Tokummia sported broad serrated mandibles as well as large but specialized anterior claws, called maxillipeds, which are typical features of modern mandibulates.

“The pincers of Tokummia are large, yet also delicate and complex, reminding us of the shape of a can opener, with their couple of terminal teeth on one claw, and the other claw being curved towards them,” said Aria. “But we think they might have been too fragile to be handling shelly animals, and might have been better adapted to the capture of sizable soft prey items, perhaps hiding away in mud. Once torn apart by the spiny limb bases under the trunk, the mandibles would have served as a revolutionary tool to cut the flesh into small, easily digestible pieces.”

The body of Tokummia is made of more than 50 small segments covered by a broad two-piece shell-like structure called a bivalved carapace. Importantly, the animal bears subdivided limb bases with tiny projections called endites, which can be found in the larvae of certain crustaceans and are now thought to have been critical innovations for the evolution of the various legs of mandibulates, and even for the mandibles themselves.

The many-segmented body is otherwise reminiscent of myriapods, a group that includes centipedes, millipedes, and their relatives. “Tokummia also lacks the typical second antenna found in crustaceans, which illustrates a very surprising convergence with such terrestrial mandibulates,” said Aria.

The study also resolves the affinities of other emblematic fossils from Canada’s Burgess Shale more than a hundred years after their discovery. “Our study suggests that a number of other Burgess Shale fossils such as Branchiocaris, Canadaspis and Odaraia form with Tokummia a group of crustacean-like arthropods that we can now place at the base of all mandibulates,” said Aria.

The animal was named after Tokumm Creek, which flows through Marble Canyon in northern Kootenay National Park, and the Greek for “seizing.” The Marble Canyon fossil deposit was first discovered in 2012 during prospection work led by the Royal Ontario Museum and is part of the Burgess Shale fossil deposit, which extends to the north into Yoho National Park in the Canadian Rockies. All specimens are held in the collections of the Royal Ontario Museum on behalf of Parks Canada.

The Burgess Shale fossil sites are located within Yoho and Kootenay national parks in British Columbia. The Burgess Shale was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. Parks Canada is proud to protect these globally significant paleontological sites, and to work with leading scientific researchers to expand knowledge and understanding of this key period of earth history. New information from ongoing scientific research is continually incorporated into Parks Canada’s Burgess Shale education and interpretation programs, which include guided hikes to these outstanding fossil sites.