Unique Australian spider silk


This 2018 video about food is called Spider Web Cake with Chocolate Ganache.

From the University of Melbourne:

Tapping secrets of Aussie spider’s unique silk

Silk so robust potential new genetic material touted

October 19, 2020

Summary: The basket-web spider, which is found only in Australia, has revealed it not only weaves a unique lobster pot web but that its silk has elasticity and a gluing substance, that creates a high degree of robustness.

An international collaboration has provided the first insights into a new type of silk produced by the very unusual Australian basket-web spider, which uses it to build a lobster pot web that protects its eggs and trap prey.

The basket-web spider weaves a silk that is uniquely rigid and so robust that the basket-web doesn’t need help from surrounding vegetation to maintain its structure.

“As far as we know, no other spider builds a web like this,” said Professor Mark Elgar from the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne.

“This silk retains its rigidity, allowing a rather exquisite silken basket or deadly ant trap.”

The collaboration between the University of Melbourne and the University of Bayreuth with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation is likely to draw a lot of interest.

Entomologist William J Rainbow discovered the basket-spider in 1900 but made no mention of the nature of its silk, perhaps because he had only seen drawings of the web and imagined it to be more sack-like.

The recent study, just published in Scientific Reports, as Dimensional stability of a remarkable spider foraging web achieved by synergistic arrangement of silk fiber,” has found that the silk used to construct the basket web is similar to the silk that many species of spiders use to wrap around their eggs, to protect them from the elements and enemies.

“Our discovery may provide insights into the evolution of foraging webs,” said Professor Elgar. “It is widely thought that silk foraging webs, including the magnificent orb-webs, evolved from the habit of producing silk to protect egg cases. Perhaps the basket-web is an extension of the protective egg case and represents a rare contemporary example of an evolutionary ancestral process.”

The basket-web spider is found only in Australia. Its basket is approximately 11mm in diameter and 14 mm deep and has crosslinked threads of varying diameters. The nature of the silk was revealed by the Australian Synchrotron, a national facility of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation in south east Melbourne.

Professor Thomas Scheibel from the University of Bayreuth said the rigidity of the silk appears to come from the synergistic arrangement of microfibres and submicron fibres.

“Nature has created a complex structure that, at first glance, resembles industrially produced composites,” said Professor Scheibel who headed the research from Germany.

“Further investigations have, however, shown that they are chemically different components and their respective properties together result in the thread’s extreme elasticity and toughness, thus creating a high degree of robustness. With today’s composite materials, on the other hand, it is mainly the fibres embedded in the matrix that establish the particular properties required, such as high stability.”

While more work needs to be done to understand the molecular details of the silk, Professor Scheibel said there is potential interest in a new genetic material that can be produced in a scalable manner.

“The interesting feature is the high lateral stiffness as well as the gluing substances, which could be useful in several types of applications but it will be some time before this becomes a possibility.”

Professor Elgar said “More generally the basket web, and the properties of its silk, highlight the importance of continuing to investigate obscure, unfamiliar species.

“There is increasing recognition that solutions to many of the complex challenges and puzzles we face today can be found from biological systems.

“This so-called ‘Bioinspiration’ draws on some 3.8 billion years of natural selection honing biological forms, processes and systems. The potential insights from that diversity of life, about which we still know rather little, is staggering.”

Killing migratory birds in olive groves stopped


This 10-hour video is about birds singing in an olive grove.

By Iván Ramírez, Senior Head of Conservation of BirdLife, 2 October 2020:

I am convinced that most of the rather complex and long-standing planetary problems of our age can be solved by looking onto our food plates. Let me explain why.

Europe produces a lot of olive oil, and when I say a lot I mean 70% of the world’s market. We use it to cook of course, but also in hand and body lotions, as a food preservative, and even fuel…to some extent, we could say that olive oil runs through our European veins. But olive oil is much more than a commodity, it is also inherently linked to our culture, to our landscapes and to our way of life. I am pretty sure that I am not alone when I say that to me, thinking about olives and olive oil means thinking of warm sunsets, of quiet slopes where sheep or goats thrive, and of blue skies dotted with bee-eaters, black-winged kites and imperial eagles.

The problem… as always…is that human greed often destroys those images.

It all started in Andalucia, Spain, in 2018 with a picture and a small, quite hidden, report. The report was the first to link intensive olive oil production, mechanical night-harvesting and wild bird deaths. The figures were shocking: more than 100 dead birds per hectare, but then an extrapolation formula was applied to the entire Andalusian olive grove, yielding the horrendous figure of 2.6 million dead birds per year.

The images of dozens of dead Blackcaps Silvia atricapilla, Thrushes Turdus philomelos or Chaffinches Fringilla coelebs among freshly picked olives did the rest. Soon enough bird lovers, environmentalists, foodies and consumers around the world turned on their supermarkets, on their politicians and farmers, and on us at BirdLife International demanding answers and solutions. There was also a smaller but significant movement, and that was of those who advocated for an immediate and radical boycott of olive oil products… something that, far from favoring sustainable agriculture, would mean a death sentence to hundreds of small farmers already struggling with COVID related crisis and globalization.

Complex as it was, the BirdLife family quickly understood migrant birds could not bear another threat on top of their already dangerous migratory routes. Our partners SEO / BirdLife (Spain) and SPEA (Portugal) worked with us to convey a simple message:

The impact is real and needs to be tackled. Yes, but not all olive oil comes from intensive agriculture nor is mechanically collected at night. Plus, we are working alongside the olive producers to find synergies and promote sustainable olive production. Want to see an example, check the extraordinary work done by EU-funded project LIFE Olivares vivos.

Three years later, our efforts and international coordination have managed to turn this story around. Both Spain and Portugal analyzed the real impact of this method (with observed mortality ranging from 30 to 100 birds per hectare).

Then in March 2020, following evidence and our international pressure, the nocturnal harvesting of olives in olive groves was banned throughout the Spanish and Portuguese fields. This has been a massive success for the conservation and sustainable food movements.

Let me say this loud and clear: Buying and using European olive oil is safe for our birds.

As a European and a fan of olive oil, I can’t help but celebrate this excellent news.

As a biologist, so often used to recounting the hardships related to the loss of European biodiversity, I am exultant to be able to share this news with all of you.

As Director of Conservation for BirdLife International, I have to tell you that we still have important things to accomplish. The threat of intensive agriculture, whether olive groves or not, continues to be the destruction of biodiversity and birds. Years and years of ill given EU funds favoring production over biodiversity have degraded our fields and reinforced the deeply flawed concept of quantity over quality. This is undoubtedly the final battle, the battle for which we continue to ask for your support every day, because we are convinced that what we have on our plate must be not only tasty for us humans, but fair to all the living creatures that live with us.

Vegan food on the rise in China


This 5 June 2020 video says about itself:

Not Impossible: China’s Vegan Meat Culture Goes Back 1,000 Years

Vegan meat is all the rage these days. Brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible all have their version of a fake beef patty. But did you know plant-based meat has been part of Chinese cuisine for over a thousand years?

We went to Lily’s Vegan Pantry, which has been selling traditional Chinese mock meat for 25 years, to learn more about veganism in Chinese cuisine. We also talked to the founder of a Chinese company that specializes in faux pork products to understand how the Asian market differs from the West.

From Reuters news agency, 15 September 2020:

Chinese firms bet on plant-based meat as COVID-19 fuels healthy eating trend

BEIJING: A small but growing coterie of Chinese companies are betting on a bright future for plant-based meat products as consumers take their health more seriously in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though still a niche business compared to China’s giant meat supply chain, vegetarian alternatives to meat are gaining ground following health scares like COVID-19 and African swine fever, analysts and industry insiders said.

US-based Beyond Meat said last week it had signed a deal to open a production facility near Shanghai and earlier this year launched a partnership with Starbucks for its plant-based meat products to be sold by the cafe giant in China.

Beijing-based start-up Zhenmeat, whose products include plant-based meatballs, beef patty, steak, pork loin, crayfish and dumplings, is one of many small Chinese companies entering the market. Its “meatballs” are now available on a trial basis at a Beijing store of Chinese hotpot chain Hope Tree.

“Now after COVID-19 consumers are more concerned about health and restaurant brands are responding to this,” Zhenmeat founder and CEO Vince Lu told Reuters in an interview, adding that sales were “up considerably” since June.

Many curious customers at the Beijing Hope Tree restaurant said the meatballs – made from a base of pea and soy protein – tasted like tofu.

“Actually you can tell that it isn’t meat but the feel of it in your mouth is very similar to beef. And I guess that plant-based meat is a little healthier than beef,” said Audrey Jiang, 30.

China Market Research Group Director Ben Cavender said the key to the future of the plant-based meat market was the taste.

“When we interview consumers the vast majority say they’re open to trying these products once,” he said.

“But the big question is how do they like it? Do they see how they can fit it into their diet on daily basis, whether that’s cooking at home or at restaurants? But if they do like it they’ll keep buying.”

Zhenmeat’s Lu said there was a lot of competition in the market but the real competitor was the meat industry itself.

“The most important thing is that our true competitors are not those global giants who have already achieved great success such as Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods,” he said.

“Our true competitor is the whole livestock sector. It’s the animal protein industry.”

More child poverty, hunger in conservative-ruled Britain


Demonstration outside parliament in London, England demanding an end to child poverty which is continuing to rise under the Tory government

From daily News Line in Britain, 5 September 2020:

Child poverty & food bank use rises

A SURVEY of UK social workers by the Child Poverty Action Group, Child Welfare Inequalities Project and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, found that 94% of those asked believed the severity and prevalence of child poverty had recently increased.

‘At least 80 per cent of the children open to my team are in part impacted by poverty – both in-work and out-of-work poverty,’ one social worker told researchers, while another added that food banks are ‘now seen as essential’ by many families.

Cuts to local support services, including child and adolescent mental health services, youth services and children’s centres, mean that social workers are dealing with more severe issues due to a lack of preventative services, the report states.

‘Respondents overwhelmingly told us that the lack of support services in local communities had a negative impact on the families they work with, and led to situations escalating in severity as there was little scope for preventative work,’ it adds.

One of the 129 social workers involved in the research said: ‘The loss of helpful services at a lower level has driven the rise in referrals to and intervention from statutory services like mine.’

Another added: ‘There are less resources for early intervention such as support groups for parents, leading to a higher level of children becoming subject to child protection plans and care proceedings. Waiting lists for children to see a mental health professional are very long, leading to issues becoming more entrenched and difficult to address.’

‘It is no coincidence that we have more young people at risk of exploitation when virtually all the youth centres have closed and there are very few youth workers left. Vulnerable young people need youth workers, not social workers, most of the time,’ said a third social worker.

At the same time, recent research by the YMCA England and Wales found that youth services had suffered £1bn worth of cuts in less than a decade – while 34 per cent of children’s centres have closed since 2010.

The report also highlights changes to the social security system, including the introduction of Universal Credit, the two-child limit and the benefits cap, as issues blocking social workers’ ability to effectively support families.

Some 79 per cent of those asked said these changes affected more than half of families on their caseload, while 92 per cent said low income is an issue faced by families they work with.

‘Common experiences ranged from the practical challenges of families not being able to afford travel to appointments, or those posed by insecure work which makes it difficult to arrange or attend appointments, through to the emotional barriers arising from the stress experienced by parents facing financial strain trying to meet their children’s needs with insufficient financial resources,’ the report states.

One social worker involved in the study said: ‘As a social worker I feel disempowered to support families, as we cannot support when the issues are caused at a societal level: we can signpost families to support services, but that does not remedy not having enough money via benefits or a landlord who is not prepared to rent to those in receipt of benefits.’

The organisations involved in the report have renewed calls for a cross-party poverty strategy and ‘the provision of adequate funding to local government and other support services for children and families’.

Lead author Professor Paul Bywaters said the study was conducted before the coronavirus pandemic, and warned that those families already living in poverty would ‘bear the brunt’ of the crisis.

He said: ‘Child Poverty Action Group, Child Welfare Inequalities Project, and Association of Directors of Children’s Services are extremely concerned that the financial situation facing both families and local authorities has deteriorated rapidly in recent months and it is children and families on the lowest incomes who are bearing the brunt of the pandemic, which has laid bare the inequalities in our society.’

It’s no surprise, according to youth workers who belong to trade union Unison, that during the Covid-19 pandemic, youth workers have leapt into action to make sure their vital work is still accessible to the young people they support. For youth workers, Covid-19 is just another challenge

Youth workers are renowned for their capacity to find creative solutions to unpredictable challenges. For Unison members, Covid-19 has been a time to get creative.

Unison member Tony Rawlings is one of them. As a youth worker in Slough, he leads a team of five who focus on street work and young people likely to be involved in gangs.

As he described it: ‘We tend to work with young people whom others struggle to work with. We try to find out what’s going on with young people in the area and where the issues are – before the police get there.

‘We’ll work with young people to work on the issue before it gets to criminalising them.’

During Covid-19, his team have worked relentlessly. When lockdown came in, they continued to go out and work on the streets.

‘We’ve been out day and night with no rest at all. It’s been emotionally draining for me and the team, but the team have been amazing.’

Tony himself caught the virus early on in lockdown and says that the team did really well just carrying on. The challenges presented by the pandemic have turned into opportunities for trust-building for the team and the young people they work with.

Tony said: ‘Some of the young people we work with are really difficult to work with. We’ve been supporting lots of families by dropping off food packages.

‘Providing the food and being there when nobody else is has built a huge relationship with young people’s families. When everyone else has deserted them, we were there knocking on the door.’

Chair of Unison’s youth and community work committee Robin Konieczny has been pleasantly surprised by the changes that lockdown has brought about for the young people he works with in Norfolk.

‘One of our groups of young people has decided to start writing to people in care homes. It started off with them sending a card and getting a reply. Now they’ve written to over 600 residents in care homes. Young people also helped us design the social distancing and stay safe campaigns …

For Robin, adapting to the pandemic just feels like another part of the job. ‘As youth workers, we try to make best of the circumstances and the situation we’re in.

‘If I’ve got young people there who can’t engage in a physical activity because of disabilities, then I’ve got to adapt then and there. It’s a mindset, and the pandemic has just been another example of ‘‘how can we do things differently?”’

Youth workers are resilient and hard-working, and the pandemic has evidenced this. Yet the government seems uninterested in rewarding them.

Or as Robin put it: ‘We’re facing a government that basically has no interest in young people.’

Brazilian poultry COVID-19 infected


This 1 June 2020 video says about itself:

Gravediggers in Brazil cannot keep up with Covid-19 deaths as virus spreads in favelas

An escalating death toll and soaring infection rates have made Brazil one of the most virus-affected countries in the world.

Its president Jair Bolsonaro was out and about yesterday without a mask, hugging supporters, despite the rising numbers.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Coronavirus has been found on a sample of chicken wings imported from Brazil, authorities in the Chinese city of Shenzhen report. Residents of the city are advised to exercise caution when purchasing frozen food products.

The virus was found on the meat. It was previously found by China on boxes of Ecuadorian frozen shrimp.

Belgian slaughterhouse COVID-19 scandal


This April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Perdue slaughterhouse workers PROTEST during CORONAVIRUS pandemic

Last month, Perdue slaughterhouse workers staged a walkout at a facility in Georgia because they did not feed “safe” during the coronavirus pandemic.

In this video, vegan psychologist Clare Mann talks about the cycle of violence within slaughterhouses and factory farms.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

More than 200 employees of the Westvlees slaughterhouse in Staden, Belgium, have to be quarantined after a coronavirus outbreak among the workers. Eighteen employees have now been tested positive for the virus. The 200 tested staff members work in the same department. A total of 850 people work at the slaughterhouse, where 1.4 million pigs are slaughtered annually.

Earlier, relatively many infections were also found at a number of Dutch and German slaughterhouses. Employees at a slaughterhouse in Helmond continued to work with coronavirus complaints, for fear of losing their job, NOS reported last Sunday.

New truffle fungus species discovered


This September 2020 video says about itself:

Why Can’t We Farm These Foods Yet?

There are some foods [like truffles] that are so popular that they are at risk of going extinct. What are they and why is it so difficult to harvest them?

From Oregon State University in the USA:

A 40-year journey leads to a new truffle species

August 4, 2020

As a first-year graduate student studying truffle ecology at Oregon State University, Dan Luoma attended a scientific meeting in 1981 on Orcas Island in Washington. Having recently learned how to search for truffles, he went out one day of the meeting looking for the prized fungi and found a collection.

He brought them back to Oregon State and showed them to his mentor James Trappe, who confirmed the collection was of an undescribed species. Trappe added it to the university’s collection. Then it sat there.

Almost four decades later, with the help of new scientific technologies, Trappe and several other scientists confirmed that the truffle is unique. They recently published their findings
in the journal Fungal Systematics and Evolution recognizing it as a new species. Fittingly, it’s named Tuber luomae after Luoma, who retired this year after 40 years at Oregon State.

“This truffle in 1981 was among the first truffles I ever found,” Luoma said. “To have it named in my honor the year I retired completes the circle for me. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate retirement.”

Some truffle species are highly prized for culinary purposes because of their distinct flavor. These species, which are black, white or brown, are hard to find and exist in limited geographic areas, meaning they command high prices.

Oregon and the Pacific Northwest are home to several of those prized species, making the region one of the world’s hot spots for truffle hunting. The species discovered by Luoma, though, is a red truffle, which doesn’t have the distinct flavor sought by chefs and cooks.

While the culinary use of truffles and the thrill of searching for them gets a lot of attention, they and other fungi are important for the health of forests. They provide nutrients to plants and can also help plants withstand drought.

Luoma studied the ecology of truffles and fungi while earning his doctorate from Oregon State in 1988 and until earlier this year worked as a researcher at the university.

Several graduate students who worked with him during his early years planned to name the truffle species he found on Orcas Island in honor of Luoma, but they graduated before doing so.

Then about 10 years ago Trappe, now Luoma’s colleague, searched the Oregon State truffle collections, the largest in the world with about 50,000 collections, looking for truffles similar to the one Luoma found on Orcas Island. Trappe found three.

Joyce Eberhart, a truffle researcher at Oregon State and Luoma’s wife, and Greg Bonito, an assistant professor at Michigan State University, studied the DNA of those three and determined they were the same species as the Orcas Island truffle.

Those three were all found in Oregon — one each in Benton (found in 1962), Clackamas (1995) and Jackson (2012) counties. While the Benton County specimen was found before Luoma dug up the Orcas Island one, it was never fully described until Trappe noticed the similarities between the two. Now the known distribution of the new species extends from southwestern Oregon to northwestern Washington.

Carolina Piña Páez, a doctoral student at Oregon State who also does truffle research, provided the final piece by documenting the microscopic structures inside the truffle with photos, confirming that the spores and outer layers were that of a unique species.

Trappe, who has studied truffles for more than 60 years and has discovered 230 new truffle species, still gets excited about a new species, such as this one named after Luoma.

“Many dozens of professional and amateur mycologists have sought truffles in western Oregon for over 100 years, but only these four collections of Luoma’s truffle have been found. Each of those seems to be quite local in distribution, indicating that it’s a very rare fungus,” Trappe said.

Slaughterhouse bosses force COVID-19 infected workers to work


This 2016 video from the USA says about itself:

The Lingering Pain Of Working In A Slaughterhouse

Working in a meat-packing factory is a tough, dangerous job. Sharp knives, fast production lines and long hours take a toll on the workers that bring us our steaks, chicken breasts and pork chops. After years working the line, many live in pain for the rest of their lives.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Employees of slaughterhouse Van Rooi: we had to work while infected with coronabirus

Employees of slaughterhouse Van Rooi Meat from Helmond tell the NOS that they have been working with coronavirus complaints for the past two months. They dare not report that they have symptoms or are ill, for fear of losing their jobs.

A number of employees state that they have been instructed to lie. They say that a corporation executive instructed them to if asked if they are sick to tick “no” on health statements, which must be completed daily. Some of them voluntarily filled in the health declaration, for fear that they would never return to work if they had complaints.

In the findings of the NOS, the GGD and the Safety Region see reason to immediately announce new measures to the company. This weekend, Van Rooi Meat was informed by letter that unannounced inspections of the health statements will take place.

Director Marc van Rooi denies to the NOS that the staff have been instructed to lie. “To my knowledge, this has not happened. And if we hear about it, we will take measures. We have only one interest and that is to keep the factory corona-free.”

Van Rooi Meat is the second-largest slaughterhouse in the Netherlands. It employs 1700 people, the company has a turnover of 650 million euros and made a profit of 35 million euros last year.

At the end of May, the company had to close for two weeks when a large part of the staff was infected with the coronavirus. This was revealed by two samples of the GGD, in which employees were tested.

Sample manipulated

According to the whistleblowers, the corporation manipulated the first of those two samples. Migrant workers in shared housing were not allowed to work for the company on that day. This was done so that employees who live together did not all have to be quarantined in case of a positive result.

According to an employee, the sample was preceded by an internal survey, so that the company already knew who they should add shouldn’t call.

The GGD says in a response to the NOS that the company was caught at the time. “The sample turned out to be unrepresentative and that bothered us,” says Ellis Jeurissen, director of GGD Brabant-Zuidoost. “But we called the company to account and then carried out a second sample.”

In June, the company was allowed to open again in phases. One of the measures was that all employees have to fill in a health declaration every morning at the gate. If you say you have complaints, you have to go home. Employees want to prevent this for fear of their jobs. “If I had said the truth, I probably wouldn’t be able to return,” said one of them. …

Also, other measures within the slaughterhouse, such as keeping a distance of 1.5 meters and putting on mouth masks, only take place just before an inspection, according to employees. The GGD announced those checks in advance. According to Jeurissen of the GGD, this happened “on the basis of trust”. …

The GGD acknowledges that the statements of employees show that little is actually known about the health situation at the company. According to a spokesperson, since no one has been tested positive since 15 June who claims to work at Van Rooi Meat, the GGD is not sure whether employees of the company are being tested at all.

It is also not known to the GGD how many employees on health statements say they have complaints. That information is not shared by Van Rooi Meat for privacy reasons.

Accountability

In recent weeks, the NOS spoke several times by telephone and in person with a total of eight employees of Van Rooi Meat from Helmond. In all cases it concerns labor migrants from several European countries. Their names are known to the NOS.

The employees who have spoken for this article have been promised anonymity because they are at high risk of being fired if it is known that they have spoken to journalists.

Foxes ate Ice Age humans´ leftovers


This video from California in the USA says about itself:

Recently, a convergence of views has led to the notion that the study of animal domestication may tell us something not only about our relationship with domesticated species since perhaps at least the Pleistocene, but also about our own evolution as a species in the more distant past. This symposium brings together scientists from a variety of research backgrounds to examine these views and to elucidate further the possible role of domestication in human evolution.

Robert Wayne (UCLA) begins with a discussion about The Transformation of Wolf to Dog: History, Traits, and Genetics, followed by Anna Kukekova (Univ of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) on Fox Domestication and Genetics of Complex Behaviors, and Robert Franciscus (Univ of Iowa) on Craniofacial Feminization in Canine and Human Evolution. Recorded on 10/10/2014.

From PLOS:

Foxes have been eating humans’ leftovers for 42,000 years

Ancient fox diets might be good indicators of human impact on past ecosystems

July 22, 2020

The diets of ancient foxes were influenced by humans, and these small carnivores might be tracers of human activity over time, according to a study published July 22, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Chris Baumann of the University of Tübingen, Germany and colleagues.

Foxes love leftovers. In the wild, foxes regularly feed on scraps left behind by larger predators like bears and wolves, but the closer foxes live to human civilization, the more of their diet is made up of foods that humans leave behind. In this study, Baumann and colleagues hypothesized that if this commensal relationship goes back to ancient times, then foxes might be useful indicators of human impact in the past.

The authors compared ratios of Carbon and Nitrogen isotopes between the remains of various herbivores, large carnivores, and red and Arctic foxes from several archaeological sites in southwest Germany dating to the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. At sites older than 42,000 years, when Neanderthals sparsely occupied the region, fox diets were similar to their local large carnivores. But in the younger sites, as Homo sapiens became common in the area, foxes developed a more unique diet consisting largely of reindeer, which are too big for foxes to hunt but which are known to have been important game for ancient humans of the time.

These results suggest that during the Upper Palaeolithic, these foxes made a shift from feeding on scraps left by local large predators to eating food left behind by humans. This indicates that foxes’ reliance on human food goes back a good 42,000 years. The authors propose that, with further studies investigating this fox-human relationship, ancient fox diets may be useful indicators of human impact on ecosystems over time.

The authors add: “Dietary reconstructions of ice-age foxes have shown that early modern humans had an influence on the local ecosystem as early as 40,000 years ago. The more humans populated a particular region, the more the foxes adapted to them.”

Stingless bee honey is healthy, new research


This August 2018 video is called Stingless bee honey harvest 🐝

From the University of Queensland in Australia:

Science sweetens stingless bee species honey health claims

July 22, 2020

Summary: Examination of honey from five different stingless bee species across Neotropical and Indo-Australian regions has enabled for the first time the identification of the unusual disaccharide trehalulose as a major component representing between 13 and 44 g per 100 g of each of these honeys. The previously unrecognized abundance of trehalulose in stingless bee honeys is concrete evidence that supports some of the reported health attributes of this product.

Science has validated Indigenous wisdom by identifying a rare, healthy sugar in native stingless bee honey that is not found in any other food.

University of Queensland organic chemist Associate Professor Mary Fletcher said Indigenous peoples had long known that native stingless bee honey had special health properties.

“We tested honey from two Australian native stingless bee species, two in Malaysia and one in Brazil and found that up to 85 per cent of their sugar is trehalulose, not maltose as previously thought,” she said.

Dr Fletcher said trehalulose was a rare sugar with a low glycaemic index (GI), and not found as a major component in any other foods.

“Traditionally it has been thought that stingless bee honey was good for diabetes and now we know why — having a lower GI means it takes longer for the sugar to be absorbed into the bloodstream, so there is not a spike in glucose that you get from other sugars,” Dr Fletcher said.

“Interestingly trehalulose is also acariogenic, which means it doesn’t cause tooth decay.”

Dr Fletcher said the findings would strengthen the stingless bee honey market and create new opportunities.

“Stingless bee honey sells now for around AUD $200 per kilogram, which is up there with the price of Manuka and Royal Jelly honey,” she said.

“The high commercial value also makes it a risk for substitution, where people could sell other honey as stingless bee honey, or dilute the product.

“But due to this research, we can test for this novel sugar, which will help industry to set a food standard for stingless bee honey.

“People have patented ways of making trehalulose synthetically with enzymes and bacteria, but our research shows stingless bee honey can be used as a wholefood on its own or in other food to get the same health benefits.”

The work of Dr Fletcher and the research team has led to a new project funded by AgriFutures Australia and supported by the Australian Native Bee Association.

Working with Dr Natasha Hungerford from UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation and Dr Tobias Smith from the School of Biological Sciences the new project will investigate storage and collection, to optimise the trehalulose content of Australian stingless bee honey.

Stingless bees (Meliponini) occur in most tropical and sub-tropical regions, with more than 500 species across Neotropical, Afrotropical and Indo-Australian regions.

Like the well-known Apis mellifera honeybees, stingless bees live in permanent colonies made up of a single queen and workers, who collect pollen and nectar to feed larvae within the colony.

Dr Fletcher said keeping native stingless bees was gaining in popularity in Australia, for their role as pollinators as well as for their unique honey.

As well as having health benefits, stingless bee honey is valued for its flavour and is in high demand from chefs.