Ancient primate fossil discovery in India


This 2014 video Lecture 16 Early Primate Evolution.

From the University of Southern California in the USA:

Newfound primate teeth take a big bite out of the evolutionary tree of life

The new species of primate from India is distantly related to the lemurs of Madagascar

February 28, 2017

Summary:

Fossil hunters have found part of an ancient primate jawbone related to lemurs — the primitive primate group distantly connected to monkeys, apes and humans, a researcher reports. Scientists named the new species Ramadapis sahnii and said that it existed 11 to 14 million years ago. It is a member of the ancient Sivaladapidae primate family, consumed leaves and was about the size of a house cat.

Fossil hunters have found part of an ancient primate jawbone related to lemurs — the primitive primate group distantly connected to monkeys, apes and humans, a USC researcher said.

Biren Patel, an associate professor of clinical cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, has been digging for fossils in a paleontologically rich area of Kashmir in northern India for six years. Although paleontologists have scoured this region for a century, relics of small extinct primates were rarely found or studied.

Scientists named the new species Ramadapis sahnii and said that it existed 11 to 14 million years ago. It is a member of the ancient Sivaladapidae primate family, consumed leaves and was about the size of a house cat, said Patel, co-author of the new study in the Journal of Human Evolution.

“Among the primates, the most common ones in the Kashmir region are from a genus called Sivapithecus, which were ancestral forms of orangutans,” Patel said. “The fossil we found is from a different group on the primate family tree — one that is poorly known in Asia. We are filling an ecological and biogeographical gap that wasn’t really well documented. Every little step adds to the understanding of our human family tree because we’re also primates.”

The last primate found in the area was 38 years ago. So, in addition to being a new species, this is the first primate fossil found in the area in decades.

“In the past, people were interested in searching for big things — things they could show off to other people,” Patel said. “A lot of the small fossils were not on their radar.”

The inch-and-a-quarter partial mandible belongs to a primate weighing less than 11 pounds that had outlived its other adapidae cousins found in North America, Europe and Africa by millions of years.

“New primates are always a hot topic, and this one is the first of its kind from its area in Asia, which has significant consequences for understanding primate evolution in the Old World,” said Michael Habib, an assistant professor of clinical cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine who was not involved in the study.

The question that remains is how the ecosystem in northern India supported this species when its relatives elsewhere were disappearing or had already gone extinct. Future fieldwork and recovering more fossil primates will help answer this question.

“People want to know about human origins, but to fully understand human origins, you need to understand all of primate origins, including the lemurs and these Sivaladapids,” Patel said. “Lemurs and sivaladapids are sister groups to what we are — the anthropoids — and we are all primates.”

Researchers from Hunter College of the City University of New York, New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, Arizona State University, Stony Brook University and Panjab University also contributed to this study, which was supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the Institute of Human Origins and funding from some of the involved universities.

United States racist murders Indian ‘in Trump’s war on Iran’


This 26 February 2017 video from the USA is called Hundreds march in support of Olathe shooting victims, attend prayer vigil.

From the BBC today:

Olathe, Kansas, shooting suspect ‘said he killed Iranians

A man arrested last week for shooting two Indians at a Kansas bar allegedly told a barmaid he had just opened fire on some “Iranian people“.

Adam Purinton, 51, fled the scene of the attack at a pub in Olathe and went to a restaurant where he confided in a staff member, police say.

He was arraigned in court on Monday with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder.

The accused wore a safety smock to prevent him from harming himself.

Police say he shot and killed Srinivas Kuchibholta at a pub on Wednesday evening.

In a 911 call, a bartender, Sam Suida, told the police dispatcher a man had come into the bar and said he’d done something “really bad” and that he was on the run.

“He asked if he could stay with me and my husband, and he wouldn’t tell me what he did,” she says on a recording of the call.

“I kept asking him, and he said that he would tell me if I agreed to let him stay with me.

“Well, I finally got him to tell me and he said, like, that he shot and killed two Iranian people in Olathe.” …

Witnesses said the suspect shouted “get out of my country” before shots rang out.

Mr Madasani told the BBC the gunman had demanded to know if they were in the country legally.

The suspect is being held in the Johnson County Jail on a bond of $2m (£1.6m).

His next court appearance is on 9 March.

White House adviser: Trump won’t ‘overly discuss’ hate crimes by whites for fear he’ll ’cause a fire’: here.

Young snakes born in India


This 17 January 2017 video says about itself:

Venomous Red-Tailed Viper Snake giving birth to 12 babies in India – National Geographic

New frog species discovery in India


This video from India says about itself:

Euphlyctis karaavali: CR Naik

25 December 2016

Video clip of Karaavali skittering frog. This is part of supplementary video clip of the article published in Asian Herpetological Research 2016, 7(4): 229–241; DOI: 10.16373/j.cnki.ahr.160020

From BirdLife:

The frog we thought was a kingfisher

By Tim Knight, 24 Jan 2017

A coastal survey in western India has spawned the discovery of a new species hiding in plain sight.

Tadpoles turning into frogs are nothing new, but when a bird is miraculously transformed into an amphibian – and a previously unknown one at that – it’s time to sit up and take notice. In a bizarre turn of events that gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘metamorphosis’, a frog whose call was initially mistaken for the more familiar sound made by a white-throated kingfisher has just been confirmed as a new species.

It was citizen science that first shed light on the true identity of the Karaavali skittering frog, named after the region where it was first recorded. In the local Kannada language widely spoken in the state of Karnataka, Karaavali is the name for India’s west coast.

A local forester, C R Naik, was monitoring the biodiversity around his coastal village in order to document the bird, snake and frog species in the vicinity. Having realised that the kingfisher-like call was actually being emitted by a frog, he had the presence of mind to record it on his mobile phone. During subsequent fieldwork in the Western Ghats he played back the recording to a team of scientists, including several herpetologists, who naturally assumed that they were listening to a bird.

Leap of the imagination

Among them was Seshadri K S, winner of a 2010 Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) award who is currently studying for a PhD at the National University of Singapore. Intrigued by Naik’s claim that the call belonged to a frog and not, in fact, to the commonly heard White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon gularis, Seshadri resolved to visit the coastal site and investigate the mystery for himself. Sure enough, a few hours of nocturnal detective work amid flooded paddy fields in the company of Naik revealed that the forester’s story was not an elaborate hoax. Subsequent analysis of the call helped to confirm that the species was indeed new to science.

“Often, such scientific discoveries happen because there are foot soldiers like Mr Naik working hard in the field”, Seshadri observed. “Him being a forest official and making observations on nature makes this discovery special. We hope this discovery will inspire the staff of the forest departments and research is encouraged. By joining hands with researchers, Naik has come to the forefront of biodiversity conservation. Such efforts will [help to put] biological research in India on a par with [the rest] of the world.”

In a wonderful example of the results that can be achieved when enthusiastic and knowledgeable citizens join forces with experts, Naik is among the co-authors of a paper recently published in the December 2016 issue of Asian Herpetological Research, which brought the Karaavali skittering frog discovery to the attention of the wider scientific community.

Public engagement

Dr Gururaj K V, a renowned frog researcher and another co-author of the recent paper, who performed the bioacoustics analysis of the call, is a strong advocate of the need to engage the general public in scientific pursuits and was therefore particularly gratified that citizen science had played such a key role in the discovery: “We were certain that the call was of a bird and [that] he was taking us for a ride; however, Mr Naik was adamant. We conceded that the call ought to be explored more and asked Naik to make a video next time he heard it. He immediately got to work and sent us short video clips and said this was a new species of frog.”

Naik himself was equally elated: “I am so happy that a new frog [has been] discovered from my native place and I am doubly delighted to be part of this discovery. I am thankful for the entire team of scientists who took trusted in me. This discovery has motivated me and I will continue making observations, not only about frogs, but in other [areas of] natural history. Such observations can help in creating awareness among citizens about nature.”

The newly discovered species is already threatened by nearby infrastructure development in the shape of highway construction and conversion of agricultural land. The paper’s authors highlight the fact that the frog appears to be restricted to just three districts in the coastal plains of Karnataka, and recommend that it should be officially classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

See also here.

New bird habitat discovery in India


This 2013 video from India is called Papikonda Wildlife Sanctuary – East Godavari.

From BirdLife:

New vital bird habitat identified in India

By Alex Dale, 18 Nov 2016

To date, more than 12,000 Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) have been identified by BirdLife – making it the largest list of globally-important biodiverse sites in the world. And as we continue to perform vital research in remote, rugged areas, the number of identified IBAs will only continue to grow. The latest to be recognised is Papikonda National Park, a 1,012 sq km region of deep forested valleys and steep hills nestled in the Eastern Ghats, a mountain range that stretches across India’s eastern coast.

The IBA was identified during a Conservation Leadership Programme-funded study of mammals in the Eastern Ghats. The area’s tropical forests are a biodiversity hotspot, hosting many endangered plants and animals, but unfortunately it was unsafe for many years to conduct research in the area … However, this threat has recently decreased and the area is once again accessible for research.

The primary purpose of the study, which was undertaken by the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), was to assess the effects that landscape change and habitat degradation are having on the mammals that live in the region. However, during the course of the project, ATREE also conducted a week-long intensive bird study alongside the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS, BirdLife in India). Numerous globally-threatened birds were spotted during this exercise, including Pale-capped Pigeon Columba punicea(VU), Yellow-throated bulbul Pycnonotus xantholaemus (VU), Black-bellied Tern Sterna acuticauda (EN) and Malabar Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros coronatus (NT). Also, the Critically Endangered Forest Owlet Heteroglaux blewetti was spotted near the park’s northern border. From this, the researchers were able to provide a site assessment of the national park and declare it an IBA. However, this fledgling IBA is already in danger, with the most ominous threats including the expansion of nearby commerical plantations, forest fires, hunting, mining and the ongoing construction of Indira Sagar Multipurpose Dam across the Godavari River, which runs close to the park’s eastern border.

Conservationists – the CLP is now accepting grant applications for 2017. The deadline for applications is 28th November.

Ancient Indian primates discovered


This video is called 54 Million Year Old Fossils Point To India As Key In Primate Evolution.

From Science News:

Fossils hint at India’s crucial role in primate evolution

Limb bones may reveal what common ancestor looked like

By Bruce Bower

9:00am, September 8, 2016

Remarkably preserved bones of rat-sized creatures excavated in an Indian coal mine may come from close relatives of the first primatelike animals, researchers say.

A set of 25 arm, leg, ankle and foot fossils, dating to roughly 54.5 million years ago, raises India’s profile as a possible hotbed of early primate evolution, say evolutionary biologist Rachel Dunn of Des Moines University in Iowa and her colleagues. Bones from Vastan coal mine in Gujarat, India’s westernmost state, indicate that these tiny tree-dwellers resembled the first primates from as early as 65 million years ago, the scientists report in the October Journal of Human Evolution.

These discoveries add to previously reported jaws, teeth and limb bones of four ancient primate species found in the same mine. “The Vastan primates probably approximate a common primate ancestor better than any fossils found previously,” says paleontologist and study coauthor Kenneth Rose of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The Vastan animals were about the size of living gray mouse lemurs and dwarf lemurs, weighing roughly 150 to 300 grams (roughly half a pound), the investigators estimate. Dunn’s group has posted 3-D scans of the fossils to Morphosource.org (SN: 3/19/16, p. 28) so other researchers can download and study the material.

Most Vastan individuals possessed a basic climbing ability unlike the more specialized builds of members of the two ancient primate groups that gave rise to present-day primates, the researchers say. One of those groups, omomyids, consisted of relatives of tarsiers, monkeys and apes. The other group, adapoids, included relatives of lemurs, lorises and bushbabies. The Indian primates were tree-dwellers but could not leap from branch to branch like lemurs or ascend trees with the slow-but-sure grips of lorises, the new report concludes.

Vastan primates probably descended from a common ancestor of omomyids and adapoids, the researchers propose. India was a drifting landmass headed north toward a collision with mainland Asia when the Vastan primates were alive. Isolated on a huge chunk of land, the Indian primates evolved relatively slowly, retaining a great number of ancestral skeletal traits, Rose suspects.

“It’s possible that India played an important role in primate evolution,” says evolutionary anthropologist Doug Boyer of Duke University. A team led by Boyer reported in 2010 that a roughly 65-million-year-old fossil found in southern India might be a close relative of the common ancestor of primates, tree shrews and flying lemurs (which glide rather than fly and are not true lemurs).

One possibility is that primates and their close relatives evolved in isolation on the island continent of India between around 65 million and 55 million years ago, Boyer suggests. Primates then spread around the world once India joined Asia by about 50 million years ago.

That’s a controversial idea. An increasing number of scientists suspect primates originated in Asia. Chinese primate fossils dating to 56 million to 55 million years ago are slightly older than the Vastan primates (SN: 6/29/13, p. 14; SN: 1/3/04, p. 4). The Chinese finds show signs of having been omomyids.

And in at least one respect, Boyer says, some of the new Vastan fossils may be more specialized than their discoverers claim. Vastan ankle bones, for instance, look enough like those of modern lemurs to raise doubts that the Indian primates were direct descendants of primate precursors, he holds.

Dunn, however, regards the overall anatomy of the Vastan fossils as “the most direct evidence we have” that ancestors of early primates lacked lemurs’ leaping abilities, contrary to what some researchers have argued.