Galapagos wildlife paradise becoming Trump military base?


This 2017 video says about itself:

From weird pink iguanas and painted insects; to mysterious new species; here are the STRANGEST Creatures of the Galapagos Islands!

Galapagos Penguin

Native to the islands, this is the only penguin known to exist north of the equator in the wild. It’s one of the world’s smallest species of penguin at about 19 inches long and weighing some 5.5 pounds. And due to its low population it’s also considered one of the rarest penguin species. Including other factors, the birds have many predators, including introduced species like dogs and rats. When they’re in the water, sharks and sea lions target the penguins.

Marine Iguanas

Charles Darwin was not impressed with their looks and called them ‘imps of darkness’. They’re better known as marine iguanas that are found only on the Galapagos Islands … and are the only sea-going lizard currently known. Some of their marine adaptations include the ability to dive for more than 60 feet, and stay submerged for an hour. Marine iguanas normally subsist on seaweed. But when food gets low, experts say they can somehow shorten their own bones to make them smaller, and more energy efficient. Their dark coloration serves a couple of purposes. While it allows them to blend in with their environment, it also helps them quickly absorb heat after swimming in the cold waters.

Blue-Footed Booby

It’s pretty easy to guess where this marine bird gets its name. While those feet look strange, they do serve a vital purpose when it comes to perpetuating the species. Males will strut around females, lifting their feet up and down in an unusual mating ritual. The guys with the brightest feet indicate greater fertility, and will usually win the ladies. Because the color fades with age, females mate with the younger males. The blue coloration is a result of a pigment the birds absorb from their diet of fresh fish. Unlike some of the critters on the list, these birds are not found only in the Galapagos … but experts say that about half of their global population breeds there.

Galapagos Pink Land Iguanas

There’s only one place in the world … and only one location in the Galapagos where you can see these uniquely colored lizards. In fact, the pinkish hue almost makes you wonder if this isn’t yet another one of those digitally created beasts … either that, or the reptile seems to have had its dark skin scraped off, leaving it pink and raw. But that is their natural coloration. If you want to see one in the pink flesh, they’re found in the Volcan Wolf region of the Galapagos, on Isabela Island. While this iguana is a species unto itself, experts say only around 100 of them known to exist.

And before getting to the number one critter, here’s an honorable mention. We found an interesting story about the Great Frigatebird which nests in the Galapagos. It’s not unlike the Magnificent Frigatebird which we mentioned earlier. In this species, the males also have a red sac at the throat which is inflated to attract a mate. We’re including it because this particular animal was involved with an unusual experiment to see if birds could actually sleep while flying. And while that has been suspected for some time, scientists now have proof of the phenomenon. The brainwaves of Great Frigatebirds were monitored for 10 days. Researchers found that the birds could in fact be half asleep, but kept one eye open (literally) to watch out for potential threats. The stats revealed that the bird subjects would sleep for just over 40 minutes while they flew on autopilot. But when on land, they will sleep for up to 12 hours a day. Experts say it’s an example of ‘unihemispheric sleep’ — where one half of the brain shuts down while the other half remains alert.

Galapagos Tortoises

The world’s largest species of tortoise can weigh more than 900 pounds. That enormous size has helped make them so iconic, that the Galapagos Islands were actually named after these reptiles (not the other way around). They’re among the longest-lived vertebrates, with life spans documented up to around 170 years. Their population underwent a great decline from when they were first found in the 16th century. At that time their population numbered around 250,000 individuals. By the 1970s, only 3,000 existed. Today, there’s around 25,000, but the species is classified as vulnerable. Besides the Galapagos, giant tortoises only exist on the archipelago of Aldabra in the Indian Ocean.

When Lenin Moreno ran in the 2017 presidential election in Ecuador, he promised to continue the left-wing policies of his left-wing predecessor Rafael Correa. Correa, eg, had strengthened conservation policies for the Galapagos islands. However, once elected, Moreno became a stooge of the Donald Trump administration in the USA. Moreno annulled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s Ecuadorean citizenship and asylum in the London embassy of Ecuador to pave the way for persecution of Assange by Trump in the USA.

Now, it looks like Moreno is handing over the Galapagos islands to the Trump regime.

This 13 June 2019 video says about itself:

U.S. surveillance planes will operate from the Galapagos as the United States are funding an extension of the San Cristobal Island airport in the Ecuadorean archipelago.

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Ecuadorians protest against arrest of Julian Assange


Ecuadorians protest against Assange arrest

From daily News Line in Britain:

Saturday, 13 April 2019

ASSANGE ECUADOR PROTESTS

ECUADORIANS have taken to the streets in the capital Quito against the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the country’s embassy in London.

The arrest came after Quito suddenly revoked his seven-year asylum and handed him over to British authorities. Police were invited into the embassy by Ecuador’s ambassador on Thursday, dragging Assange out of the building, where he had been holed up for years in fear of extradition to the US.

Protesters gathered outside Ecuador’s foreign ministry building on Thursday, chanting against President Lenin Moreno and calling for Assange’s release. ”As Ecuadorian citizens we support Julian Assange, a man who has given his life to the truth, a man who has sacrificed himself and his family to tell the truth to the world. It was a source of pride that he was Ecuadorian’, said a protester.

Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador’s former president Rafael Correa, after he took refuge in the country’s embassy in 2012. President Moreno, however, revoked the asylum and allowed police to arrest him. Moreno on Thursday called Assange a ‘spoiled brat’ and ‘miserable hacker’, saying that his country ‘will be more careful in giving asylum to people who are really worth it’.

Shortly after the arrest, Correa took to Twitter and slammed his successor for ‘betraying’ a higher order. ‘Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget,’ said Correa.

Correa also described Moreno’s decision as a ‘scoundrelly, cowardly and heinous’ act which is the ‘fruit of servility, vileness and vengeance’.

‘The greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history, Lenin Moreno, allowed the British police to enter our embassy in London to arrest Assange. Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget. — Rafael Correa (@MashiRafael) April 11, 2019’

‘From now on worldwide the scoundrel and betrayal can be summarized in two words: Lenin Moreno,’ said Correa. Ecuador’s Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said authorities had also arrested a ‘collaborator’ of Assange in Quito’s airport as he prepared to board a flight for Japan. Citing a senior Ecuadorian official, the Washington Times identified the person as Ola Bini, a Swedish software developer, who was living in Quito.

British veterans urge government to ‘respect the rights of journalists and whistleblowers’. Veterans For Peace says it is opposed to the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States: here.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor of WikiLeaks, right, and barrister Jennifer Robinson speak to the media outside Westminster magistrates court where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was appearing in London

Australian journalists’ union condemns Assange’s extradition to the United States: here.

New treefrog species discovery in Ecuadorian Andes


Variation in life of Hyloscirtus hillisi sp. n. from Reserva Biológica El Quimi. A QCAZ 68649 (adult female, holotype, SVL = 65.78 mm) B QCAZ 68646 (subadult female, SVL = 48.55 mm) C not collected

From ScienceDaily:

Extraordinary treefrog discovered in the Andes of Ecuador

January 3, 2019

Summary: A dazzling new species of treefrog was discovered at a remote tabletop mountain in the Ecuadorian Andes. The new species has an extraordinary characteristic, the presence of claw-like appendages at the base of the thumbs.

A new treefrog species was discovered during a two-week expedition to a remote tabletop mountain at Cordillera del Cóndor, a largely unexplored range in the eastern Andes.

“To reach the tabletop, we walked two days along a steep terrain. Then, between sweat and exhaustion, we arrived to the tabletop where we found a dwarf forest. The rivers had blackwater and the frogs were sitting along them, on branches of brown shrubs similar in color to the frogs’ own. The frogs were difficult to find, because they blended with their background,” Alex Achig, one of the field biologists who discovered the new species comments on the hardships of the expedition.

Curiously, the frog has an extraordinary, enlarged claw-like structure located at the base of the thumb. Its function is unknown, but it could be that it is used either as a defence against predators or as a weapon in fights between competing males.

Having conducted analyses of genetic and morphologic data, scientists Santiago R. Ron, Marcel Caminer, Andrea Varela, and Diego Almeida from the Catholic University of Ecuador concluded that the frog represented a previously unknown species. It was recently described in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

The species name, Hyloscirtus hillisi, honors Dr. David Hillis, a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, who discovered three closely related frog species in the same genus in the 1980s, while conducting a series of field trips to the Andes of southern Ecuador. Throughout his career, Dr. Hillis has made significant contributions to the knowledge of Andean amphibians and reptiles.

Despite being newly described, Hyloscirtus hillisi is already at risk of extinction. It has a small distribution range near a large-scale mining operation carried out by a Chinese company. Habitat destruction in the region has been recently documented by the NGO Amazon Conservation.

Ancient dolphin species discovery in Ecuador


This video says about itself:

21 December 2017

A well-preserved juvenile skull recently discovered in Ecuador belongs to a new species of ancient dolphin, which researchers are calling Urkudelphis chawpipacha. The fossil was discovered near Montañita in Santa Elena Province, a tropical region of Ecuador, and is believed to be between 24 to 26 million years old.

From PLOS:

Ancient dolphin species Urkudelphis chawpipacha discovered in Ecuador

Small dolphin skull may have belonged to river dolphin ancestor from the Oligocene

December 22, 2017

Summary: An extinct dolphin species likely from the Oligocene has been discovered. The fossil is one of the few fossil dolphins from the equator, and is a reminder that Oligocene cetaceans may have ranged widely in tropical waters.

A new dolphin species likely from the Oligocene was discovered and described in Ecuador, according to a study published December 20, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Yoshihiro Tanaka from the Osaka Museum of Natural History, Japan, and colleagues.

Many marine fossils described in previous research have been from long-recognized temperate regions such as South Carolina, off the coast of Oregon, Hokkaido and New Zealand. Few equatorial and polar fossils are currently known.

While in the tropical region of Santa Elena Province, Ecuador, the authors of this study found a small dolphin skull, which they identified as representing a new species, Urkudelphis chawpipacha, based on facial features. The dolphin skull had a bone crest front and center on its face, above the eye sockets. This species stands apart from other Oligocene dolphins with its shorter and wider frontal bones located near the top of the head and the parallel-sided posterior part of its jaw. The authors also conducted a phylogenetic analysis which revealed that the new species may be the ancestor of the nearly-extinct Platanistoidea, or river dolphin, and may have lived during the Oligocene era.

The fossil is one of the few fossil dolphins from the equator, and is a reminder that Oligocene cetaceans may have ranged widely in tropical waters.

This study was supported by an UPSE project IN-P5-2016-1 for equipment at UPSE, and YT thanks support of a trip to Ecuador. This work has also been supported by the Agencia Estatal de Investigación (AEI) from Spain and the European Regional Development Fund of the European Union (CGL2016-76431-P) and the project CGL2015-68333 (MINECO/FEDER, UE).

Why Galapagos cormorants are flightless


This video from the USA says about itself:

How did the Galapagos cormorant lose half its wings? | UCLA Health Newsroom

UCLA geneticist Alejandro Burga explains how genetic mutations during evolution shortened the Galapagos cormorant‘s wings, leaving it the only one of the 40 cormorant species that’s unable to fly. The changes affect the same genes linked to a human bone disorder characterized by stunted arms and legs. The UCLA discovery may led to new treatments for people with skeletal ciliopathies.

From the University of California – Los Angeles Health Sciences in the USA:

How the Galapagos cormorant lost its ability to fly

Changes to same genes that clipped the bird’s wings also cause human bone disorders

June 1, 2017

Summary: Changes to the genes that shortened the Galapagos cormorant’s wings are the same genes that go awry in a group of human bone disorders characterized by stunted arms and legs, suggests new research. The findings shed light on the genetic mechanisms underlying the evolution of limb size and could eventually lead to new treatments for people with skeletal ciliopathies.

The flightless cormorant is one of a diverse array of animals that live on the Galapagos Islands, which piqued Charles Darwin’s scientific curiosity in the 1830s. He hypothesized that altered evolutionary pressures may have contributed to the loss of the ability to fly in birds like the Galapagos cormorant.

In a new study unraveling the cormorant’s DNA, UCLA scientists discovered genetic changes that transpired during the past 2 million years and contributed to the bird’s inability to fly. Interestingly, when these same genes go awry in humans, they cause bone-development disorders called skeletal ciliopathies.

Published June 2 in the journal Science, the findings shed light on the genetic mechanisms underlying the evolution of limb size and could eventually lead to new treatments for people with skeletal ciliopathies.

“A number of these iconic, salient evolutionary changes occurred in the Galapagos,” said senior author Leonid Kruglyak, chair of human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Darwin, just by looking at these changes, inferred the process of evolution by natural selection. We now have sophisticated genetic tools to reexamine these classic examples and uncover what happened at the molecular level.”

The Galapagos cormorant, with its short, scraggly wings, is the only one of 40 cormorant species that cannot fly. It is also the largest of the cormorants, and a strong swimmer that dives for its meals of fish.

Researchers, including Darwin, have proposed two evolutionary paths for the loss of flight. In some cases, changes that lead to flightlessness may help birds survive because they enhance their ability to do something else, like swimming — so-called positive selection.

Alternatively, the birds may have lost their ability to fly simply because they didn’t need to migrate or escape from predators. When flying isn’t essential for survival, the mutations that hinder flight can gradually accumulate in the gene pool.

“These two scenarios aren’t mutually exclusive,” said Kruglyak, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “You can start down the path because of passive loss of flight but then also have positive selection to keep reducing wings.”

A trip to the Galapagos Islands launched Kruglyak’s interest in the cormorants. Together with first author Alejandro Burga, a postdoctoral fellow in Kruglyak’s lab, they contacted Patricia Parker, a professor of zoological studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She had obtained Galapagos cormorant DNA samples for a previous study and agreed to collaborate on this project.

The researchers sequenced the genomes of flightless cormorants and three other cormorant species to zero in on genetic changes possibly linked to flight. They next used a program capable of determining whether the genetic changes they identified were likely to affect protein structure and function.

Their analyses led them to a gene called CUX1, which was previously linked to shortened wings in chickens. The scientists noticed that Galapagos cormorants possessed a different version of CUX1 than its flying relatives.

“We saw a mutation in this gene that we’ve never seen in other animals,” Burga said. The team confirmed that the changes to the CUX1 gene altered the protein’s function, likely affecting wing size.

The team also found that the flightless cormorants have an abnormally high number of genetic mutations affecting cilia — small, hair-like structures that protrude from cells and regulate everything from normal development to reproduction.

Cilia play a critical role in bone growth. People born with skeletal ciliopathies have shorter limbs, narrowed chests and stunted rib cages — as do the Galapagos cormorants. The UCLA results suggest that CUX1 controls many aspects of cilia, some of which influence bone growth.

Future studies, Kruglyak said, will explore whether other flightless birds, like the ostrich and kiwi, share mutations with the Galapagos cormorant, and whether these genes can help biologists better understand evolution and limb development.

“Loss of flight is something that has taken place in birds frequently,” Kruglyak said. “There’s a pretty rich field trying to understand how all these changes happen and whether common trajectories exist between species.”

New frog species discovered in Ecuador


This video says about itself:

25 May 2017

In the Amazonian lowlands of Ecuador, scientists discovered a new glassfrog. Hyalinobatrachium yaku is differentiated from all other species by having small, middorsal, dark green spots on the head and dorsum, a transparent pericardium, and a tonal call that lasts 0.27–0.4 s. H. yaku is closely related to Hyalinobatrachium pellucidum.

From ScienceDaily:

New species of frog from the Neotropics carries its heart on its skin

May 29, 2017

Summary: In the Neotropics, there is a whole group of so-called glassfrogs that amaze with their transparent skin covering their bellies and showing their organs underneath. A recently discovered new species from Amazonian Ecuador, however, goes a step further to fully expose its heart thanks to the transparent skin stretching all over its chest as well as tummy.

In the Neotropics, there is a whole group of so-called glassfrogs that amaze with their transparent skin covering their bellies and showing their organs underneath. A recently discovered new species from Amazonian Ecuador, however, goes a step further to fully expose its heart thanks to the transparent skin stretching all over its chest as well as tummy.

The new amphibian is described by a team of scientists led by Dr. Juan M. Guayasamin, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador, in the open access journal ZooKeys.

It can also be distinguished by the relatively large dark green spots at the back of its head and the foremost part of the body. Additionally, the species has a characteristic long call.

The new frog is named Hyalinobatrachium yaku, where the species name (yaku) translates to ‘water’ in the local language Kichwa. Water and, more specifically, slow-flowing streams are crucial for the reproduction of all known glassfrogs.

The reproductive behaviour is also quite unusual in this species. Males are often reported to call from the underside of leaves and look after the egg clutches.

Having identified individuals of the new species at three localities, the researchers note some behavioural differences between the populations. Two of them, spotted in the riverine vegetation of an intact forest in Kallana, have been calling from the underside of leaves a few metres above slow-flowing, relatively narrow and shallow streams. Another frog of the species has been observed in an area covered by secondary forests in the Ecuadorian village of Ahuano. Similarly, the amphibian was found on the underside of a leaf one metre above a slow-flowing, narrow and shallow stream.

However, at the third locality — a disturbed secondary forest in San José de Payamino — the studied frogs have been perching on leaves of small shrubs, ferns, and grasses some 30 to 150 cm above the ground. Surprisingly, each of them has been at a distance greater than 30 metres from the nearest stream.

The researchers note that, given the geographic distance of approximately 110 km between the localities where the new species has been found, it is likely that the new species has a broader distribution, including areas in neighbouring Peru.

The uncertainty about its distributional range comes from a number of reasons. Firstly, the species’ tiny size of about 2 cm makes it tough to spot from underneath the leaves. Then, even if specimens of the species have been previously collected, they would be almost impossible to identify from museum collection, as many of the characteristic traits, such as the dark green marks, are getting lost after preservation. This is why the conservation status of the species has been listed as Data Deficient, according to the IUCN Red List criteria.

Nevertheless, the scientists identify the major threats to the species, including oil extraction in the region and the related water pollution, road development, habitat degradation and isolation.

“Glassfrogs presumably require continuous tracts of forest to interact with nearby populations, and roads potentially act as barriers to dispersal for transient individuals,” explain the authors.

Ecuadorean farmers against DynCorp mercenaries


This video from Britain says about itself:

More US militants to help Saudi Arabia’s massacre in Yemen

24 March 2016

The first batch of mercenaries from the private US military firm DynCorp has arrived in the Yemeni city of Aden to replace paid militants from another American company.

Under a USD-3-billion contract between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and DynCorp, mercenaries from the company are to be deployed to Yemen, where UAE forces are fighting against the Yemeni army and Popular Committees on Saudi orders, Khabar News Agency quoted an official with Yemeni Defense Ministry as saying.

DynCorp International is a USA-based private military contractor. Begun as an aviation company, the company also provides flight operations support, training and mentoring, international … Wikipedia

Headquarters: McLean, Virginia, United States, CEO: James E. Geisler, Founded: 1946, Parent organization: Cerberus Capital Management.

Subsidiaries: DYNCORP INTERNATIONAL OF NIGERIA LLC. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the first group of the mercenaries recently arrived in the port city of Aden to replace those of Blackwater, a notorious American group now renamed Academi. He added that the new militants included special naval forces, who entered the port of Ras Omran southwest of Aden. DynCorp is a rival of Blackwater, which hires mercenaries and sends them to fight in foreign countries on paid missions.

Blackwater had decided to withdraw from Bab-el-Mandeb region after the Yemeni forces inflicted heavy losses on them. The UAE was forced to bring in the new mercenaries from DynCorp for the same reason. Yemen has been under military attack by Saudi Arabia since late March last year. At least 8,400 people have been killed so far in the aggression and 16,015 others sustained injuries. The strikes have also taken a heavy toll on the impoverished country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Ecuador small farmers’ day in US court over crop spraying comes closer

Wednesday 5th April 2017

MORE than 2,000 Ecuadorean small farmers began a joint legal action against US military contractor DynCorp on Monday, claiming that it unlawfully invaded Ecuador in 2000 and sprayed farms with toxic chemicals.

International Rights Advocates (IRA), representing the farmers before a jury at Washington District Court, hailed the trial as a positive step.

The group has been trying to take DynCorp to court since 2001 in the face of numerous attempts by the transnational to dismiss the case.

“This is an historic case — a finding against DynCorp will bring justice to the Ecuadorean farmers, who have been waiting a long time to have their day in court,” said IRA executive director Terry Collingsworth.

“A jury will finally get the chance to hear the evidence that DynCorp aerially sprayed a toxic poison that was designed to kill hardy coca plants on thousands of Ecuadorean farms and killed their crops, their animals and caused untold misery for the farmers and their families.”

For the Ecuadorean farmers and their supporters, the trial is long overdue.

Former president Bill Clinton awarded $1 billion in military aid to then Colombian president Andres Pastrana, launching Plan Colombia.

The military campaign was allegedly intended to combat drug traffickers but was directed against the Farc liberation movement and poor rural communities seen as supporting the left-wing guerillas.

DynCorp was hired as part of Plan Colombia to carry out aerial spraying of Colombian farms with glyphosate to eliminate coca crops.

The plaintiffs claim, however, that DynCorp illegally entered northern Ecuador, spraying and causing serious damage to local crops, animals and residents’ health.