Large hawk moth discovery in China


This is a Langia zenzeroides video.

From Xinhua news agency in China:

Hawk moth found in Sichuan is largest ever discovered

2015-05-13 09:35 (GMT+8)

A hawk moth found in a mountainous area in the southwest province of Sichuan is believed to be the largest of its species ever discovered, local experts said Monday.

Zhao Li, head of the Insect Museum of West China in the provincial capital Chengdu, said the hawk moth was discovered by a team from the museum during an expedition to Qingcheng Mountain. The moth’s wingspan is 17.5 centimeters long. Previously, the largest hawk moth found had a wingspan of 15.6 centimeters.

The newly discovered hawk moth belongs to the species of Langia zenzeroides, the largest hawk moth species. Wing spans of L. zenzeroides are generally 12 to 15 centimeters long.

According to Zhao, these moths usually live in northern India, northern Thailand, northern Vietnam, as well as southern and eastern China. They have been known to take up residence in mountainous areas with an altitude of 1,000-2,000 meters in western Sichuan province in April and May.

New bird species discovery in China


This video says about itself:

Sichuan bush warbler – Locustella chengi – Singing in a distinctive voice

2 May 2015

The Sichuan bush warbler was discovered after its insect-like song attracted the notice of researchers. 19 years on, it has finally been relocated and confirmed as a new species

A new bird species has been discovered in central China by an international team of scientists. This shy brown bird, named the Sichuan bush warbler, Locustella chengi, breeds in the mountainous region of the Sichuan Basin at 1000-2300 m elevation. Its winter home is currently unknown. This bird was first noticed whilst singing its distinctive song in May 1992 by two members of the research team, who thought it might be something new. After nearly two decades of searching, they found the bird again. Extensive analyses of the bird’s DNA, physical measurements, plumage colour and vocalisations confirmed their hunch that this is indeed a new bird species to science.

From the BBC:

Song heralds arrival of new bird species

By Mark Kinver, Environment reporter, BBC News

1 May 2015

The distinctive song of a secretive and elusive bird in central China has helped researchers to identify it and deem it to be a new species to science.

Scientists first heard the harsh call of the Sichuan bush warbler in 1987, but they only recently gathered enough data to formally describe it.

The new species, Locustella chengi, has been named after Prof Cheng Tso-hsin, a distinguished Chinese ornithologist.

The details have been published in the Avian Research journal.

“These birds are almost impossible to see when they are not singing,” explained one of the scientists to describe the new species, Per Alstrom from the Swedish Species Information Centre, based at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

“If the species had not been singing when we first heard it back in 1987, we would never have seen it.

“They are incredibly difficult to see because they are so secretive, sneaking around in the dense vegetation, close to or on the ground. But when they are singing, you can hear them from quite a long distance.

He told BBC News: “By being patient or using tapes to attract them, you can see them – although they will stay in the dense habitat.”

Harsh tones

The song of the new species is harsher than that of its closest relative, the russet bush warbler, and consists of a “drawn-out note followed by a shorter note that are repeated in series”.

The team of researchers, from Sweden, China, Vietnam, the UK and US, carried out DNA analysis that showed the two birds were very closely related and were probably separated from a common ancestor about 850,000 years ago.

Prof Alstrom explained that the publication of the paper formally describing the Sichuan bush warbler came after a search lasting almost 30 years.

“I have been trying to find this bird ever since we first heard it back in 1987,” he said. We suspected that it was something different, something new (to science).

“Last year, we had received information from colleagues that both these birds – the unknown species and the Russet Bush warbler – were present on the same mountain.

“We had not found both of them together previously, so we went there specifically to get more information on how they interacted together; whether they occurred in different habitats, etc, to see if they were actually ecologically and reproductively isolated in these areas.”

Although the two species have slight differences in proportions, it is the the birds’ songs that mark a clear distinction.

Prof Alstrom suggested that was probably the result of random processes that had resulted in the two species evolving different vocalisation patterns.

“It is probably a combination of chance factors, such as individuals undergoing vocal “mutation’, and also sexual selection,” he suggested.

“Songs are used to attract females and to deter other males from their territory, so there is probably a factor of strong sexual selection evolution involved in these differences.”

Dinosaur with feathers and bat-like wings discovered


This video says about itself:

A new dinosaur: Flying without feathers

29 April 2015

Birds evolved from dinosaurs – but it wasn’t a smooth transition. Plenty of creatures tried different ways to get into the air – like this newly discovered dinosaur species, Yi qi, unearthed in China. This pigeon-sized creature had elongated fingers that held a membrane wing, more like a bat than a bird. In this Nature Video, we look at what makes this fossil so special, and consider what this dinosaur may have looked like.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Is it a bird? Is it a bat? Meet Yi qi, the dinosaur that is sort of both

Incredible new find from China has both feathers and bat-like wings

Dr Dave Hone

Wednesday 29 April 2015 18.01 BST

Researchers today announced the discovery of a stunning new dinosaur fossil: a glider with wings similar to both birds and bats. It has been named Yi qi (meaning ‘strange wing’) and is a small feathered dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic age fossil beds of China that have yielded a host of important fossils in recent years. Yi qi, like so many other small dinosaurs, is preserved with a full coating of feathers and was a close relative of the lineage that ultimately gave rise to birds.

However, what sets this animal apart from numerous other dinosaurian gliders and proto-birds is the composition of its wings. In addition to some unusual feathers that are positioned on the long arms and fingers, there is a truly gigantic bone on each wrist that extends backwards, and between this bone and the fingers is preserved a membrane-like soft tissue that would have given the animal something of a wing, like that of bats.

Yi qi is not a direct ancestor of birds, and more particularly has nothing to do with the origins of the mammalian bats, but its wings are an excellent example of convergent evolution. At various times a great many animals have evolved a similar arrangement of a large bone in the wrist or hand and a supporting membrane, most obviously in numerous gliding mammal lineages. In addition to the bats that are capable of active powered flight, various passive gliders like flying squirrels, sugar gliders and the so-called “flying lemurs” have all independently evolved some extension that that helps to support a membranous wing. At some level then, this is a quite common feature, but it is a real shock to see it in such a dinosaur.

Professor Xu Xing, lead author of the study from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Beijing said “It definitely evolved a wing that is unique in the context of the transition from dinosaurs to birds.”

There are a number of feathered dinosaurs close to the origins of birds that are thought to have been some form of glider. All were small and light and had extensive feathers that would have formed the flight surface and allowed them to move effectively through the air. Yi qi is from a very odd group of small dinosaurs called scansoriopterygids, who are known from only two other specimens and little is known about their biology or lifestyle, so there is not much to go on. However, it is clearly remarkable that such an animal that had numerous other relatives with large feathers on their arms and would apparently “experiment” with different forms of flight at various times (not least ultimately producing birds) would take such a dramatically different route towards gliding, even if it was one commonly explored by other [sic] mammals.

The evolutionary implications are therefore quite incredible. There have already been suggestions that perhaps powered flight evolved multiple times in the dinosaurs and early birds, with perhaps several different groups making the final jump from gliding to a more active form of movement in the air. Given how few and far between the scansoriopterygids are as fossils, this implies that they never really got going as a group – certainly they are much more restricted in both time and space than their near relatives, so at first approximation the bat-bird combination of Yi qi did not lead to a major new radiation of dinosaurs.

However, quite how the animal may have flown is most unclear. The incomplete preservation of the wings and the uncertain position of the long wrist bone means that it could have had a very broad wing or a narrow one, and the flattened nature of the skeleton makes it hard to tell if this animal might have had the muscles and joints needed for powered flight. Professor Xu notes that “We don’t know if Yi qi was flapping, or gliding, or both”, but it does seem clear that the small size of the animal and large surface area of the wings and feathers would have permitted some form of aerial locomotion.

Dr Mike Habib of the University of Southern California, who was not involved in the study, said “All told, this is an unexpected, exciting specimen that changes our views on the evolution of flight in dinosaurs. It appears that multiple types of wing surfaces evolved within the relatives of birds, making the origins of avian flight potentially more complicated than previously thought.” That alone makes the origins of birds, already an area of intense study, a little more complicated and rather intriguing. The pathway to both birds and powered flight from small feathered dinosaurs, though with a few bumps and oddities on the way shows a relatively consistent progression but Yi qi adds a new twist with one evolutionary branch taking a dramatically different route into the air.

Xu et al., 2015. A bizarre Jurassic maniraptoran theropod with preserved evidence of membranous wings. Nature. DOI: 10.1038

Rare Chinese sturgeons released in Yangtze river


This National Geographic video says about itself:

The “Underwater Panda”

23 July 2009

Zeb Hogan traverses Asia in search of the the giant Chinese sturgeon and the world’s largest trout that’s known to eat mice and ducks.

From Wildlife Extra:

Captive bred rare sturgeon released into the wild in China

Researchers in China have released 3,000 captive-bred Chinese sturgeons, a rare fish that dates back to the dinosaurs, into the country’s longest river, the Yangtze, to save the species from extinction reports the Global Times.

Estimates by experts say that due to development in and around rivers, heavy boat traffic and water pollution, the number of wild Chinese sturgeons which migrate to Gezhouba, Hubei Province, to breed has fallen from about 1,000 in 1982 to about 50.

In this latest release, staff at the Chinese Sturgeons Research Institute transferred 500 fish born in 2011 and with a body length of 80cm, and 2,500 fish born in 2013, which had reached about 40cm in length from their holding pens to the river.

According to Gao Yong, the Deputy Head of the Research Institute, they are also employing advanced methods to track the two age groups simultaneously to monitor their progress and see which group fares best.

This was the Institute’s 57th release of the rare fish, which scientists have nicknamed ‘aquatic pandas‘, as they are highly endangered and are listed as a ‘wild creature under State protection’. They have not been detected reproducing naturally in the Yangtze River for more than two years.

Giant panda news update


This video is called Life of Giant Pandas – Full Documentary.

From Associated Press today:

China’s latest survey finds increase in wild giant pandas

BEIJING — Wild giant pandas in China are doing well.

The latest census by China’s State Forestry Administration shows the panda population has grown by 268 to a total of 1,864 since the last survey ending in 2003.

Nearly three quarters of the pandas live in the southwestern province of Sichuan. The remaining pandas have been found in the neighboring Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.

“The rise in the population of wild giant pandas is a victory for conservation and definitely one to celebrate,” said Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation for World Wildlife Fund.

Hemley credited efforts by the Chinese government for the increase. The survey shows 1,246 wild giant pandas live within nature reserves. There are 67 panda reserves in China, an increase of 27 since the last survey.

“The survey result demonstrates the effectiveness of nature reserves in boosting wild giant panda numbers,” said Xiaohai Liu, executive program director for WWF-China.

But the survey also points to economic development as a main threat to the rare animal. It says 319 hydropower stations and 1,339 kilometers (832 miles) of roads have been built in the giant panda’s habitat.

WWF said it is the first time that large-scale infrastructure projects such as mining and railroads get referenced in the survey. Traditional threats such as poaching are on the decline, WWF noted.

China began surveying its giant pandas in the 1970s. The latest census began in 2011 and took three years to complete.

The number of giant pandas in captivity grew by 211, more than double the previous survey figure, according to the census released Saturday.

Siberian tigers returning to China


This video says about itself:

First image record of a tiger family in inland China!

18 February 2015

This gives us great hope for tiger recovery in inland China!

WWF camera trap captured a video of a tiger family – a female tiger with 2 naughty sub adults – in Wangqing Nature Reserve. Wangqing Forestry Bureau is the first in-field working site of WWF-China on tiger conservation. WWF has been working there for 7 years on prey recovery, anti-poaching and local community development.

This gives us great hope for tiger recovery in inland China!

© Jilin Wangqing National Nature Reserve / WWF

See also here.

US historians against Japanese government whitewashing war crimes


This video says about itself:

Rape of Nanking Part I Atrocities in Asia Nanjing Massacre

Rape of Nanking – Nanjing Massacre. Japanse Atrocities in Asia. Part I of 2. This documentary, by Rhawn Joseph is based on 20 years research and consists entirely of archival photos and film-clips. This film begins with an overview of Japan and China at the beginning of the 20th Century, explains the mind-set of the Japanese and their God, Hirohito, and then continues with the invasion of China, the crimes committed by the Japanese (during the Fall) on the road to Nanjing, Nanjing Massacre, the rape of the Philippines, Unit 731, the Baatan death camps, Japanese denials, and the dropping of the A-bomb on Japan.

This video is the sequel.

By Ben McGrath:

US historians criticize Tokyo’s efforts to whitewash war crimes

16 February 2015

A group of 19 American historians have condemned efforts by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to whitewash the historical record following his recent attempts to pressure a McGraw-Hill, a US publishing company, to change textbook passages concerning the Japanese military’s terrible abuse of “comfort women” during the 1930s and 1940s.

In a February 5 statement entitled “Standing with Historians of Japan,” the American academics not only criticized the Japanese government’s attempts to whitewash history but opposed any attempt by other governments to censor the past. As the title also makes clear, the historians lent support to their Japanese colleagues who have worked to investigate the truth regarding “comfort women,” or women who were coerced into “comfort stations” as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers.

Among those who signed the statement were Patrick Manning, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh who is being considered for the chair of the American Historical Association, and Hebert Ziegler, of Hawaii University and one of the authors of McGraw-Hill’s textbook that Abe criticized.

At the end of last year, the Japanese Consulate General in New York met with representatives of McGraw-Hill, to call for its textbook to be amended. The company refused. At the end of January, Abe declared that he was “shocked” by what he had read in the books and called for greater efforts to “correct” such accounts.

The statement by the American academics reads, “As historians, we express our dismay at recent attempts by the Japanese government to suppress statements in history textbooks both in Japan and elsewhere about the euphemistically named ‘comfort women,’ who suffered under a brutal system of sexual exploitation in the service of the Japanese imperial army during World War II. We therefore oppose the efforts of states or special interests to pressure publishers or historians to alter the results of their research for political purposes.”

The historians’ statement also expressed support for Japanese historians like Yoshimi Yoshiaki, a professor at Chuo University in Japan. It continued, “The careful research of historian Yoshimi Yoshiaki in Japanese government archives and the testimonial of survivors throughout Asia have rendered beyond dispute the essential features of a system that amounted to state-sponsored sexual slavery.”

Yoshiaki is a professor of modern history and author of the book, “Comfort Women,” first published in Japanese in 1995 and then in English in 2002. Yoshiaki began researching the sexual enslavement of comfort women in 1992 when victims were first beginning to come forward. He made extensive use of documents from the 1930s, found in the Ministry of Defense’s library (then known as the Defense Agency). This type of information is invaluable as many papers were destroyed in Japan during the closing days of World War II, including many that were evidence of war crimes.

While Yoshiaki made use of these documents to show the military’s role in setting up the brothels, he also stated in 2007 in the New York Times, “There are things that are never written in official documents. That they [comfort women] were forcibly recruited—that’s the kind of thing that would have never been written in the first place.”

The number of women forced into military-run “comfort stations” is estimated to have been approximately 200,000, with many of them coming from Korea, China, the Philippines, and other Asian countries occupied by Japan. Girls, often in their teens, endured horrendous conditions in the Japanese military brothels. Many committed suicide.

While some women were directly forced into sexual slavery, others were duped and then held against their will. In Korea, for example, the Japanese military relied on Korean middlemen to round up girls, often with phony promises of good jobs in factories or other work. These girls often came from poor families.

Right-wing Japanese nationalists often claim that the “comfort women” were already prostitutes and willingly worked at the comfort stations. While there is some evidence that this might be true in the early stages, as Japan’s imperialist war drive expanded, the practices of coercing and intimidating young women into becoming “comfort women” increased.

“The Japanese military itself newly built this system, took the initiative to create this system, maintained it and expanded it, and violated human rights as a result,” Yoshiaki said in 2007 comments to the New York Times. “That’s a critical difference [from prostitution].”

Abe’s attempt to revise the historical record on “comfort women” is just one aspect of a broader agenda. The government has also set aside more than a half billion dollars for a diplomatic and propaganda offensive to “restore Japan’s honor.” It recently announced the establishment of “Japan Houses” around the world to promote the country’s image and to whitewash past war crimes.

The first “Japan Houses” will be set up in London, Los Angeles, and Sao Paulo by the end of 2016, but the plan does not end there. “We are half-satisfied. By mobilizing all means, we must strengthen Japan’s information strategy…so that in a real sense, we can have (others) properly understand what is good about Japan,” said Yoshiaki Harada, a lawmaker with Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Japan also recently provided $5 million to Columbia University for a Japan studies position. It was the first time Tokyo has made such a grant in more than four decades. “There is a fear that Japan is losing out in an information war with South Korea and China and that we must catch up,” said Kan Kimura of Kobe University.

This concerted ideological campaign is part of the Abe government’s remilitarization of Japan and preparation for war. It is aimed at whipping up patriotic sentiment at home to dragoon a new generation of youth to go off to war, while blunting criticism abroad not only of past crimes, but the Japanese government’s current military build-up.

All of this has been encouraged by the United States as part of its “pivot to Asia,” designed to undermine China economically and militarily encircle it. While it is fully supportive of the “pivot,” the Abe government is also seeking to remilitarize to prosecute the economic and strategic interests of Japanese imperialism, even if they conflict with those of the US.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye delivered a speech last Sunday marking a key anniversary in Korea’s independence movement from Japan. Park renewed calls for Tokyo, which colonized Korea from 1910 to 1945, to admit to its past war crimes and issue apologies: here.