British Conservatives ban Ecuadorian cycling star


This June 2019 video says about itself:

Richard Carapaz: Giro d’Italia 2019. Best of. Song: Prismo – Stronger (Raiko Remix)

This video is about Carapaz wins and attacks on his winning Giro 2019.

After his victory in this tour of Italy, the first-ever Ecuadorian victory in a big cycling tour, Richard Carapaz wanted to participate with his Movistar team in the Tour of Britain this month.

However, the Conservative Boris Johnson government in Britain decided otherwise.

The British government, as far as Ecuadorians are concerned, prefer to deal with right-wing president Lenin Moreno, with whom they colluded to violate the political asylum of Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Moreno won the presidential election claiming he would continue the left-wing policies of his predecessor; but then, flip-flopped towards Donald Trump and Boris Johnson.

Eleven new frog species discovered in Ecuador


This 23 March 2017 video says about itself:

Researchers described a new endangered frog species: Pristimantis ecuadorensis (Ecuadorian rainfrog or Cutín de Ecuador). The species lives on the western slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes, provinces of Cotopaxi and Pichincha, at elevations between 1450–1480 m, and it is related to the Neotropical rainfrog, Pristimantis ornatissimus.

And now, more relatives of that species have been discovered.

From ScienceDaily:

Eleven new species of rain frogs discovered in the tropical Andes

August 2, 2019

Summary: Eleven new frog species were recently discovered in the tropical Andes. This is the largest number of frog species described in a single article from the western hemisphere in over a decade.

Eleven new to science species of rain frogs are described by two scientists from the Museum of Zoology of the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador in the open-access journal ZooKeys. Discovered in the Ecuadorian Andes, the species are characterized in detail on the basis of genetic, morphological, bioacoustic, and ecological features.

On the one hand, the publication is remarkable because of the large number of new species of frogs. Regarding vertebrate animals, most studies only list between one and five new to science species, because of the difficulty of their collection and the copious amount of work involved in the description of each. To put it into perspective, the last time a single article dealt with a similar number of newly discovered frogs from the western hemisphere was in 2007, when Spanish scientist Ignacio de la Riva described twelve species from Bolivia.

On the other hand, the new paper by Nadia Paez and Dr Santiago Ron is astounding due to the fact that it comes as part of the undergraduate thesis of Nadia Paez, a former Biology student at the Pontifical Catholic University, where she was supervised by Professor Santiago Ron. Normally, such a publication would be the result of the efforts of a large team of senior scientists. Currently, Nadia Paez is a PhD student in the Department of Zoology at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

Unfortunately, amongst the findings of concern is that most of the newly described frog species are listed as either Data Deficient or Threatened with extinction, according to the criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). All of the studied amphibians appear to have very restricted geographic ranges, spanning less than 2,500 km2. To make matters worse, their habitats are being destroyed by human activities, especially cattle raising, agriculture, and mining.

Amongst the newly described species, there is the peculiar Multicolored Rain Frog, where the name refers to its outstanding color variation. Individuals vary from bright yellow to dark brown. Initially, the studied specimens were assumed to belong to at least two separate species. However, genetic data demonstrated that they represented a single, even if highly variable, species.

The rest of the previously unknown frogs were either named after scientists, who have made significant contributions in their fields, or given the names of the places they were discovered, in order to highlight places of conservation priority.

New frog species discoveries in Ecuador


This 7 March 2017 video says about itself:

In the Pui Pui Protected Forest, Peruvian Andes, researchers discovered a new species of terrestrial-breeding frog. The species was named Pristimantis attenboroughi, Attenborough’s Rubber Frog, in honour of Sir David Attenborough.

Now, two yeas later, more relatives of that frog species.

From the University of Central Florida in the USA:

New frog species discovered

July 18, 2019

Summary: An international team of researchers have identified and described two new frog species.

UCF student Veronica Urgiles has helped describe two new frog species discovered in Ecuador, and she named one of them after one of her professors.

Urgiles and an international team of researchers just published their findings in the journal ZooKeys.

“Frogs are by far my favorite”, said Urgiles, who is pursuing a master’s degree in biology. “So, getting to describe and name two of them is terrific. I have been looking at these frogs for years now, so going over the whole process of observing them in their habitats and then analyzing them and comparing them under the microscope, to finally naming them is a long, but very satisfying journey.”

Urgiles, a 2017 Fulbright scholar and the lead author, said she chose to attend UCF for its integration of genetics and genomics in biodiversity research and the emphasis on real-world application. She works with Assistant Professor Anna Savage who specializes in species diversity based on molecular analyses.

“One of the things that I found most interesting about these guys is that they don’t have metamorphosis like a regular frog, but instead they develop entirely inside eggs that adult females deposit in the ground,” Urgiles said. “They really don’t need water bodies for their development. Both of the new frog species inhabit high elevation ecosystems in the mountain range over 8,000 feet, so even though we are right there in the equator, it’s very cold and windy most of the year.”

The team of researchers has been studying frogs in Ecuador the past few years. In 2017, Urgiles found the first new species and named it Pristimantis quintanai, after one of her biology professors — Pedro Quintana-Ascencio. She and Savage found the second species — Pristimantis cajanuma — in 2018. Both were found in the Paramo and montane forest of the southern Ecuadorean Andes.

The frogs are tiny, measuring .8 inch. Pristimantis quintanai females are brown and black and Pristimantis cajanuma are green and black, both easily blending into the foliage. They have a distinct call that is sharp and continuous, sounding like tik-tik-tik-tik.

Urgiles examined DNA samples collected by the international team back in Savage’s lab at UCF, generated genetic sequences, and constructed the phylogenetic analysis. Other team members also worked the morphological diagnosis and comparisons with other frogs and an acoustic analysis of the frogs’ calls.

“In these analyses, we use all of the genetic similarities and differences we find to build phylogenetic trees, and when we find that a ‘branch’ on the ‘tree’ has strong support and contains all of the individuals that share the same morphological characteristics, then we have good evidence to describe it as a new species,” says Savage, whose expertise includes describing species diversity based on molecular analyses. “We used this method, along with vocalization and location data, to conclude that the two species we describe are distinct from any other species that have ever been characterized.”

The work is critical because of the vast diversity that has yet to be discovered in the tropical Andes of South America, Urgiles says. In 2018, 13 new species of frogs were documented in the tropical Andes of Ecuador and so far in 2019 five new frogs have been documented.

There are potentially thousands of new plants and animals in the area that may hold the key to other discoveries. It’s important to know what is there, to better understand the threats to habitat loss and disease so conservation methods can be established to protect the resources.

Researchers have developed the ‘FrogPhone’, a novel device which allows scientists to call up a frog survey site and monitor them in the wild. The FrogPhone is the world’s first solar-powered remote survey device that relays environmental data to the observer via text messages, whilst conducting real-time remote acoustic surveys over the phone. These findings are presented in the British Ecological Society Journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution today: here.

Ecuadorian workers strike for Assange’s freedom, Galapagos


Protesters in Ecuador [Credit: Twitter @KolectiVOZ]

By Andrea Lobo:

National strike against Ecuadorian government demands Assange’s freedom

17 July 2019

Workers, peasants and youth in Ecuador began a five-day strike Monday against the draconian policies of the Lenín Moreno administration, which is seeking to strengthen its ties to Washington and its military-intelligence apparatus.

The strike constitutes the first major industrial action in the world demanding the freedom of Julian Assange. The demand is presented in the framework of growing opposition to the attacks against social and democratic rights associated with the Moreno administration’s totally servile policy toward US imperialism.

While the corporate media outlets … have sought to bury the issue during the strike itself, one of the few specific issues that the official call for the strike protests is the “rendition of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, to the United States, placing his life in danger.”

This refers to the withdrawal of Assange’s asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he was seeking refuge from US efforts to capture him and process him under espionage charges potentially carrying the death penalty, for publishing hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and other files exposing US and NATO war crimes, mass spying and diplomatic conspiracies around the world.

As millions of workers enter into the class struggle globally to oppose deepened social austerity, attacks on living standards, imperialist wars and the move toward dictatorship, the banner and example being raised by Ecuadorian workers for the liberation of the persecuted journalist needs to be embraced by every fight for social equality and against imperialism.

Beyond the immediate treachery of the Ecuadorian ruling class, the persecution of Assange and whistleblower Chelsea Manning is a crucial battle for workers as Washington and its partners use their vengeful campaign as a spearhead to silence all opposition and future exposures of war crimes, mass repression and dictatorship in every continent—imperialism’s only response to the deepening crisis of global capitalism.

The organizers of the strike include the Peasants National Movement (FECAOL), the main Workers Union Federation (FUT), dozens of activist organizations grouped in the National Citizens’ Assembly (ANC), and Social Compromise, the new party of ex-president Rafael Correa. They claim this is the broadest strike in 14 years.

On Tuesday, the main day of planned demonstrations, protesters set up dozens of roadblocks—from the coastal highways of Manabí, Guayas and El Oro, surrounding the port city of Guayaquil, to the capital of Quito, east on the PanAmerican Highway to Colombia and south to the Morona Santiago province and Perú along the Andean range—that brought the country to a virtual standstill.

Most of the signs of protesters were hand-made and focused on firings, social cuts and the role of the “International Misery Fund,” as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is labelled, in the cities, and on land, water rights and mining concessions in the rural areas. Ecuadorian migrants in Bolivia, Spain, the United States and other countries carried out rallies in support of the strike.

About 11,800 public employees, mostly in the health care sector, were fired during Moreno’s first year in office as part of the austerity conditions of a $4.2 billion loan approved by the IMF in March.

Another issue raised in the strike call is “the rejection of the handing over of the Galapagos for the interests of North American imperialism”, referring to a recent agreement with the Pentagon to use the Ecuadorian archipelago, designated by the UN as a biosphere reserve and World Heritage Site, as an air base. …

Nonetheless, the continued prominence of Assange’s defense in demonstrations reflects the profound social anger toward a historical watershed in the domination of imperialism over Ecuador and Latin America as a whole.

When the Moreno administration opened the doors of its embassy in April to a British snatch-squad to arrest Assange, in the process violating international asylum laws and protections in the Ecuadorian constitution, up to 20,000 protesters marched through Quito under banners of “world disgrace” to demand the freedom of the WikiLeaks founder. The protest was met with batons, attack dogs, and tear gas by the riot police.

Moreno has since responded to the ongoing popular outrage over the handing over of Assange to imperialism by continuing to criminalize WikiLeaks, attack democratic rights and cover up his government’s corruption.

In April, Moreno absurdly charged Assange, in spite of the regime of isolation he was being subjected to, with hacking the Ecuadorian president’s communications and leaking documents exposing his family’s involvement in laundering millions of kickbacks and his lavish personal lifestyle. Furthermore, without any formal charges or evidence, the Moreno administration arrested Assange’s friend Ola Bini, a Swedish programmer living in Quito, for 70 days, based on vague allegations that he was involved in the corruption scandal.

Now, on Monday, CNN made a slanderous report based on documents provided by the Moreno government and collected by a Spanish firm hired by the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Again without presenting any actual evidence and despite consistent denials by WikiLeaks, it claims that Assange collaborated with the Russian government in leaking Democratic Party e-mails during the 2016 elections.

Last month, the International Committee of the Fourth International and the World Socialist Web Site launched a global campaign “to politically arouse and mobilize the international working class—the overwhelming majority of the population and the most powerful social force on the planet—in defense of Julian Assange and, in fact, the democratic and social rights of all workers.”

As demonstrated by the protests and recent strike in Ecuador, the only social basis for the defense of Assange, freedom of speech and all democratic rights is the international working class. All seriously committed with this struggle should sign up to build the Global Defense Committee.

Indian auto workers speak out in defence of Assange and Manning: here.

USA: A federal court ruling last Tuesday dismissing a Democratic National Committee (DNC) civil suit against Julian Assange “with prejudice” was a devastating indictment of the US ruling elite’s campaign to destroy the WikiLeaks founder. It exposed as a fraud the entire “Russiagate” conspiracy theory peddled by the Democratic Party, the corporate media and the intelligence agencies for the past three years: here.

A state delegates’ meeting of the New South Wales Greens last weekend passed a motion condemning “the Australian government’s failure to defend” persecuted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and calling for him to be “brought home and given the support and services he needs.” The motion reflects an emerging groundswell of opposition to the US-led persecution of Assange and the Australian government’s refusal to uphold his rights as a citizen and journalist. It is undoubtedly also a response to anger at the protracted silence of the Greens over Assange’s plight, and the organisation’s failure to mount any campaign in his defence: here.

Ecuador has been rocked by a nationwide strike and widespread protests following the announcement Tuesday by the right-wing government of Lenín Moreno of an austerity package involving $1.4 billion in annual cuts. The specific measure that unleashed the demonstrations was the elimination of gas subsidies, which went into effect at midnight Wednesday and increased gas prices from $1.85 to $2.30 per gallon and diesel prices from $1.03 to $2.27 per gallon. Since Wednesday, transportation workers have been on strike. They have been joined by workers and students across the country, who have set up roadblocks and held demonstrations. The price hike is particularly incendiary in a country whose main product is petroleum, which accounts for 30 percent of exports: here.

Galápagos wildlife threatened by Donald Trump militarism


This 30 June 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Pentagon Wants To Use Galapagos Islands As Base For Spy Planes

The US Department of Defense has repeatedly shown that they don’t care about the environment at all. They are one of the largest polluters on the planet and one of the largest consumers of fossil fuels. But their latest idea that is gaining traction is to pave parts of the protected Galapagos Islands to create a homebase for spy planes. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins explains what’s happening and how this could destroy one of the most ecologically diverse areas of the planet.

Read more here.

Another, 17 June 2019, video used to say about itself:

Galápagos Islands: outcry after Ecuador allows US military to use airstrip

The Galápagos Islands are at the centre of political row in Ecuador after the government agreed to allow US anti-narcotics planes to use [and expand] an airstrip on the archipelago which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Dozens of people demonstrated outside the main government office in Quito on Monday to protest against a plan they described as a threat to the world heritage site’s unique environment – and an attack on Ecuador’s sovereignty.

The Galápagos Islands, 563 miles west of the South American continent, are renowned for their unique plants and wildlife. Unesco describes the archipelago – visited by a quarter of a million tourists every year – as a “living museum and a showcase for evolution”.

Ecuador’s defense minister, Oswaldo Jarrín, provoked patriotic and environmental outrage last week when he said last week that US aircraft would be able to use the airbase on San Cristóbal Island, and described the islands as a “natural aircraft carrier”.

Former [leftist] Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa [who had strengthened pro-environment measures on the Galápagos Islands] tweeted: “Galápagos is NOT an ‘aircraft carrier’ for gringo use. It is an Ecuadorean province, world heritage site, homeland.”

Correa – once a close ally but now a bitter enemy of his successor, Lenín Moreno –

Moreno during his election campaign had promised to continue the leftist policies of Correa. But now he prefers to be a poodle of Donald Trump.

accused the government of capitulating to US pressure. Correa closed a US military base in Manta in 2008, changing the constitution to ban foreign military bases on Ecuadorean soil and in 2014 ordered all US defence department staff to leave the country.

But Ecuador’s foreign minister, José Valencia, tweeted that Jarrín’s remarks had been intentionally distorted. “There is not nor will there be a foreign military base”, Norman Wray, president of the Galápagos government council, said in a statement last week. But the islands’ governor did admit to a deal with the US to improve [expand] the runway at the San Cristóbal airport while allowing the “refueling of two planes monitoring illegal activities in the extensive marine reserve”. …

Last week, lawmakers in Quito voted to summon Jarrín and the environment minister, Marcelo Mata, to explain the scope of the cooperation with the US on the islands, which are considered one of the last near pristine wildernesses on the planet. Opposition MP Brenda Flor said the archipelago should be considered a “living and unique laboratory which we must protect”.

This 2017 video is called Wildlife of the Galápagos Islands.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Ecuadorian government gives Pentagon a base in the Galapagos

18 June 2019

The Ecuadorian government of President Lenin Moreno has reached an agreement with the Pentagon to allow the US military to use the Galapagos island of San Cristobal as a military base.

Made public last week, the agreement has provoked popular outrage in Ecuador, where it is rightly reviled as a grotesque violation of the country’s national sovereignty and constitution, as well as a threat to one of the most treasured and sensitive environmental sites on the planet.

San Cristobal, where the US military is to be based, is the island where Charles Darwin first went ashore from the HMS Beagle in 1835. Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the site of continuing seismic and volcanic activity and extremely isolated—620 miles off Ecuador’s coast—the island gave rise to unique forms of animal life. These include the land iguana, the giant tortoise and the many types of finch, which
provided the inspiration for Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and a biosphere reserve, the island will now become a launching pad for the predatory and lethal operations of US militarism throughout Latin America. The base will pose a direct threat to the lives and freedom of the people of the region, as well the environmental integrity of one of the most priceless areas of biodiversity on the planet.

Nothing could express more nakedly the slavish subservience to imperialism and the outright criminality of Latin America’s capitalist ruling classes.

Touting the deal with the Pentagon, Ecuador’s defense minister, the retired general Oswaldo Jarrín, declared: “Galapagos is for Ecuador our aircraft carrier, it is our natural carrier, because it assures us permanence, replenishment, interception facilities and it is 1,000 kilometers from our coasts.”

Since 2008, Ecuador’s constitution has proclaimed the country “a territory of peace” and that the “establishment of foreign military bases or foreign facilities for military purposes shall not be allowed.” A year later, the country expelled US military personnel from their air base in Manta on the Pacific coast, from which it had conducted surveillance flights on the pretext of fighting drug trafficking.

Ecuador’s defense minister extolled the Pentagon’s prowess, declaring, “what the base [Manta] did in its time, can be done now by just one airplane, because of the advanced technology that you have only with the capacity of a power like the United States.”

The plane he is referring to is a Boeing 707, Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), with a range of over 4,500 nautical miles. Flying at 30,000 feet, it is capable of monitoring an area covering 120,000 square miles. From its base in the Galapagos, this powerful aircraft will be capable of helping to prepare an invasion of Venezuela, spying on the people of Ecuador itself or even tracking the northward flow of Central America migrants. It will be accompanied by a Lockheed Orion P3, an aircraft developed during the Cold War to track Soviet nuclear submarines.

The US base has immense geo-strategic significance. Washington had sought to establish bases there since 1911, three years before the completion of the Panama Canal. During World War II, the US military established a base on Baltra, a small island in the Galapagos archipelago, where it stationed 2,500 troops as well as warplanes and naval assets for the purpose of guarding the Pacific access to the canal against Japan and Germany.

Today, the Pentagon is basing US military spy planes in the eastern Pacific in the context of an escalating trade war and military buildup aimed at preventing China’s rise as an economic and geo-strategic competitor.

Ecuador is a significant battlefield in this intensifying “great power” conflict, with Washington pointing to Chinese investment and Ecuador’s $6 billion in debt to China as symptomatic of Beijing’s intolerable interference in Yankee imperialism’s “backyard”.

The government of President Moreno has done its utmost to submit to Washington’s demands. The terms of the agreements reached along these lines—signed, sealed and delivered during a visit to Quito a year ago by US Vice President Mike Pence—have become clear.

First and foremost, the Moreno government threw open the doors of its London embassy last April, inviting in a British police snatch squad to drag Julian Assange out of the diplomatic facility where he had been granted political asylum in 2012.

Moreno and his henchmen claimed that the British had offered guarantees that the WikiLeaks co-founder would not be extradited to a country where he would face torture, the death penalty or life in prison. As a result of their betrayal, he is now held in the UK’s Belmarsh maximum security prison under conditions tantamount to torture and the UK home minister has signed an extradition request from the US, where the journalist is facing 18 criminal counts, including under the Espionage Act—which carries the death penalty—for exposing the war crimes and criminal conspiracies of US imperialism.

Meanwhile, Ola Bini, a Swedish programmer and friend of Assange residing in Ecuador, has been jailed without charges for two months. Ecuadorian authorities have indicated that they are going to turn him over to US interrogators.

The trampling on the right to asylum, democratic principles and international law in the Assange case has been accompanied by a radical realignment of Quito’s foreign policy with that of US imperialism, with Moreno becoming one of the most enthusiastic supporters of
Washington’s regime change operation in Venezuela.

At home, the Moreno government has carried out a relentless assault on the jobs and living standards of Ecuadorian workers, faithfully implementing the austerity measures demanded under the agreement it reached with the IMF.

Both these attacks and the betrayal of Assange have provoked protests that have been met with police repression.

The stampede to the right by the Moreno government in Ecuador is part of the broader fate of the so-called “Pink Tide”, i.e., the rule by various populist, nationalist bourgeois parties in Latin America. This has seen the ousting of the Workers Party and the coming to power of the fascistic President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, the replacement of the Peronist Kirchner … by the right-wing multimillionaire Mauricio Macri in Argentina in 2015 …

In Ecuador, this political process is personified by the current president. Lenin Moreno came into politics as part of a generation of radicalized students who protested against US imperialism’s domination of Latin America and the fascist-military dictatorships that it spawned. He began his career as a member of the MIR (Movement of the Revolutionary Left) …

Moreno has long since shed his youthful radicalism, becoming a ruthless political enforcer for imperialism and the Ecuadorian ruling oligarchy.

As the former vice-president, Moreno was the hand-picked successor of President Rafael Correa, a self-proclaimed supporter of the Bolivarian Revolution [in Venezuela]. … Moreno turned viciously against his former political partner and implemented the policies that have shifted Ecuador violently to the right.

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.

Ecuadorians protest against arrest of Julian Assange


Ecuadorians in London 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.”