1300 Japanese little dinosaur eggshell fossils discovered


An egg of Himeoolithus murakamii (left), outlined egg with intact eggshell remains (black area) (middle), and reconstruction of Himeoolithus murakamii and their probable parent dinosaur (right). Photo by University of Tsukuba and Museum of Nature and Human Activities, Hyogo, Japan

This 23 June 2020 Japanese video is about the new dinosaur eggs discovery.

From the University of Tsukuba in Japan:

Tiny Japanese dinosaur eggs help unscramble Cretaceous ecosystem

June 26, 2020

Summary: A research team has excavated over 1300 eggshell fossils from the Lower Cretaceous Ohyamashimo Formation of Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. Over 96% of these fossils, including numerous fragments, four partial and almost complete eggs in an in situ nest, belonged to a new ootaxon the authors named Himeoolithus murakamii, attributed to a small non-avian theropod dinosaur. The remaining eggshell fragments, belonging to five additional small theropod ootaxa, showed notable biodiversity.

When most of us think of dinosaurs, we envision large, lumbering beasts, but these giants shared their ecosystems with much smaller dinosaurs, the smaller skeletons of which were generally less likely to be preserved. The fossilized eggshells of these small dinosaurs can shed light on this lost ecological diversity.

Led by the University of Tsukuba, researchers scoured an exceptional fossil egg site first discovered in 2015 in Hyogo Prefecture, southwestern Japan, and reported their findings in a new study published in Cretaceous Research.

The Kamitaki Egg Quarry, found in a red-brown mudstone layer of the Ohyamashimo Formation, deposited in an Early Cretaceous (about 110 million years old) river flood plain, was carefully and intensively excavated in the winter of 2019, and yielded over 1300 egg fossils. Most were isolated fragments, but there were a few partial and almost complete eggs.

According to lead author Professor Kohei Tanaka, “our taphonomic analysis indicated that the nest we found was in situ, not transported and redeposited, because most of the eggshell fragments were positioned concave-up, not concave-down like we see when eggshells are transported.”

Most of these fossil eggs belong to a new egg genus and species, called Himeoolithus murakamii, and are exceptionally small, with an estimated mass of 9.9 grams — about the size of a modern quail egg. However, biological classification analysis implies that the eggs belonged not to early birds, but to their cousins, the non-avian theropod dinosaurs (the group that includes well-known carnivores like Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor). That puts Himeoolithus murakamii among the smallest non-avian theropod eggs reported to date. These tiny eggs were notably elongated in shape — unusual for similarly small eggs among Cretaceous birds, but typical among larger non-avian theropod eggs.

In addition to the abundant Himeoolithus murakamii eggshells, five more ootaxa (distinct types of egg fossils) were recognized in the Kamitaki locality. All of these ootaxa belonged to small non-avian theropods.

As Professor Tanaka explains, “the high diversity of these small theropod eggs makes this one of the most diverse Early Cretaceous egg localities known. Small theropod skeletal fossils are quite scarce in this area. Therefore, these fossil eggs provide a useful window into the hidden ecological diversity of dinosaurs in the Early Cretaceous of southwestern Japan, as well as into the nesting behavior of small non-avian theropods.”

This music video is called Jonathan Richman – I’m A Little Dinosaur.

Eel conservation helps other biodiversity


This 2011 video from New Zealand says about itself:

Stephanie Bowman feeding eels at Pukaha

Stephanie Bowman is an artist who fell in love with the longfin eel when she visited NZ a few years ago. She then painted some beautiful but informative pictures and put them together with some text to tell the story of Velvet and Elvis – a longfin eel who makes her way back to the Tongan trenches and her elver who comes back to NZ. It is a children’s book which Stephanie hopes will be published before the end of the year.

From Kobe University in Japan:

Protecting eels protects freshwater biodiversity

Eels serve as a surrogate species for the conservation of biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems

June 11, 2020

An international research team has conducted a field survey on two species of eel native to Japan and other organisms that share the same habitat, revealing for the first time in the world that these eels can act as comprehensive surrogate species for biodiversity conservation in freshwater rivers. It is hoped that conducting activities to restore and protect eel populations will contribute greatly to the recovery and conservation of freshwater ecosystems that have suffered a significant loss of biodiversity.

The team consisted of Researcher ITAKURA Hikaru (of Kobe University’s Graduate School of Science, and a JSPS Overseas Research Fellow at the University of Maryland), Specially Appointed Researcher WAKIYA Ryoshiro (of The University of Tokyo), Dr. Matthew Gollock (of The Zoological Society of London) and Associate Professor KAIFU Kenzo (Chuo University).

The results of this research were published in the British scientific journal Scientific Reports on May 29.

Main Points:

  • In a world-first, this research demonstrated that eels have the potential to be a comprehensive surrogate species for freshwater diversity conservation.
  • It is thought that efforts to restore eel populations through river environment restoration and conservation would be beneficial not only for the protection of eels but also for freshwater species as a whole.
  • Showed that two kinds of eel, the Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica) and the giant mottled eel (A. marmorata), can serve as all three categories of surrogate species: umbrella, indicator and flagship (*1).
  • It was revealed that these two species of eel were found in all parts of rivers, from the upper to the lower reaches, making them the most widely distributed among freshwater organisms. In addition, stable isotope analysis (*2) indicated that these eel species are higher-order predators in freshwater ecosystems.
  • The researchers investigated the quantitative relationship between the eels and other diadromous migratory species (indicative of biodiversity), revealing that the presence of eels is a good sign of river-ocean connectivity, and consequently an indicator of freshwater biodiversity.

Research Background

Although freshwater covers only 2.3% of the Earth’s surface, it provides diverse habitats that support a far greater number of species per area than terrestrial or marine ecosystems. However, at the same time, freshwater ecosystems have suffered significant deterioration and loss of biodiversity due to the human populations concentrated around them. As a result far more freshwater species are in danger of extinction than species belonging to other ecosystems. One-third of freshwater species have been classified as ‘Endangered’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List of Threatened Species.

It is challenging to monitor and manage all the species that make up these ecosystems in order to protect biodiversity. For this reason, it is thought that by focusing conservation efforts on one or a few species, we can understand the functions, resource dynamics and structures of the biological communities to which they belong. This knowledge can be used to manage and conserve biodiversity. These surrogate species are classified as umbrella, indicator or flagship species according to conservation goals. So far some large mammal and bird species have been proposed as surrogate species.

The two kinds of eel that were the subject of this study are catadromous, meaning that they are migratory species that spawn in the ocean and grow in rivers and coastal waters. Anguillid eels can be found almost worldwide (except for the polar areas); in the varied aquatic environments of 150 countries, including inner bays, and all parts of rivers from the source to mouth.

In this study, the researchers focused on the eels’ unique life cycle and confirmed that they can serve as umbrella, indicator and flagship species. They propose that eels are a comprehensive surrogate species for the conservation of freshwater biodiversity.

Research Methodology

Eel and other freshwater organisms (fish and large crustaceans such as crab and shrimp) were collected from 78 sites spanning upstream to downstream regions in six rivers in Japan using an electric shocker (three mainland rivers in Kyushu and Honshu, and three rivers on Amami-Oshima island). The Japanese eel is mostly found in the mainland rivers, whereas the giant mottled eel largely inhabits Amami-Oshima’s rivers. In order to determine these two species’ suitability as indicator and umbrella species for biodiversity conservation, the distribution of the sampled eels and freshwater organisms in the rivers was analyzed and their trophic levels in the food web were researched. Furthermore, the researchers also investigated the quantitative relationship between the number of eels and the number of other migratory diadromous species (biodiversity), and the environmental factors affecting this. Japan is a mountainous country and there are many small, fast-flowing rivers. It was predicted that the migratory species that travel between the sea and the rivers during their life cycles would be predominant in freshwater rivers’ ecosystems. Therefore, a large number of migratory species was interpreted as an indicator of biodiversity.

The results from each of the field studies on Japanese eels and giant mottled eels showed that they were the most widely distributed of all freshwater species in river habitats. Japanese eels covered 87% of the study rivers in mainland Japan, whereas the giant mottled eel was found in 94% of the Amami Oshima rivers used in this study. Stable isotope analyses of the muscle tissue of eel and other freshwater organisms were carried out to estimate their trophic levels. The results showed that the mean trophic levels of eel species were greater than three which indicates that they are higher-order predators, and these values were significantly higher than those for other freshwater organisms. These results support the eels’ potential as umbrella species and show that they require a diverse range of lower trophic level animals for food.

This study confirmed the presence of 48 species of freshwater organisms, including fish and crustaceans. As predicted, a total of 80% of these were migratory species (78% in Honshu/Kyushu and 91% on Amami Oshima island). Furthermore, there was a positive correlation between the number of Japanese eels or giant mottled eels and the number of other migratory species. A statistical model was used to investigate various environmental factors that may have an impact on both of these groups. The researchers found a strong negative correlation between the number of eels and other migratory species and the following two points; ‘the distance of the study site from the sea’ and the ‘cumulative height of trans-river structures, such as dams or weirs, that species have to pass in order to get from the sea to the study site’. These factors have an impact on river-ocean connectivity for migratory species. In other words, these results imply that the positive correlation found between the number of eels and the number of other migratory species is probably an indirect relationship through river-ocean connectivity. In areas where river-ocean connectivity is high (i.e., it’s easy for them to swim upstream), there will be greater numbers of eels and other migratory species. Conversely, if river-ocean connectivity is low, there will be fewer of these species. These results show that eels are an indicator of good river-ocean connectivity, and through this they are an indicator of biodiversity.

This research showed that trans-river structures have a negative impact on eels and other migratory species. It has been indicated that eels can climb such structures vertically, if the structures are wet. However, trans-river structures inhibit eel movement, moreover, they have been shown to cause a decline in the numbers of many eel species. In this study, it was shown that even barriers under 1m high could have a negative impact on eel distribution. Previous studies have indicated that the habitat loss caused by these trans-river structures is a leading factor in the decline in eel numbers. Many other studies have reported that the distribution of other migratory species is limited by these structures in a similar way to eels. Eels are an indicator of river-ocean connectivity. It is hoped that improving and maintaining this connectivity for eels will greatly boost the biodiversity of freshwater ecosystems.

In 2016, IUCN decided upon the ‘Promotion of Anguillid eels as flagship species for aquatic conservation’. This designation was based on the widespread decline of eel numbers, the effects of habitat deterioration and destruction, as well as eels’ global distribution and their unique catadromous migration. As shown in this study, eels have the following important aspects that make them suitable as a flagship species; they are widely distributed, higher-order predators that are generally larger than other freshwater organisms, and are easily identifiable.

Looking at eels in terms of their importance ecologically, commercially and culturally, we can conclude that they have provided a diverse ecological service worldwide since ancient times. Eels are found almost all over the world, and have served as a source of food in various lands and eras. They have played roles in food cultures, in literature and art, in legends and belief systems. Therefore, the researchers concluded that eels have the ability to stir up great public awareness worldwide about environmental issues, which is connected to their value as a flagship species.

In conclusion, eels can serve as indicator, umbrella and flagship species, making them a comprehensive surrogate for the conservation of freshwater biodiversity.

Further Developments

This study confirmed the possibility that eels could be used as a surrogate species by using Japanese rivers as a model. These results could be applied to regions where, like in Japan, migratory species dominate freshwater ecosystems, such as islands that are relatively new geologically. On the other hand, continental freshwater ecosystems, for example, have a higher diversity of primary freshwater species that spend their entire lives in freshwater compared to Japan, therefore it is predicted that the impact of river-ocean connectivity on biodiversity would be lower than in the results of this study. However, trans-river structures also inhibit the mobility of primary freshwater species, such as upriver migrations for egg-laying.

Sixteen species of eel have been discovered so far and they are globally distributed. Consequently, eels have the potential to be a surrogate species for freshwater biodiversity conservation worldwide, due to their importance in ecosystems as widely distributed higher-order predators, in addition to their commercial and cultural importance. It is hoped that further research could investigate this possibility in continental rivers and elsewhere.

Glossary

*1. Umbrella, indicator and flagship species:

Umbrella species: Conserving an umbrella species enables the conservation of many other species in that biological community. This method is often applied to species that are widely distributed or are higher-order predators.

Indicator Species: A species that enables factors such as human impact, habitat changes, biodiversity and the resource dynamics of other species to be evaluated.

Flagship species: A species that is used to promote conservation planning and cooperation in the face of environmental issues in a particular area, country or on a global scale, with the aim of achieving successful results. Popular, appealing and familiar species are often chosen for these measures; they are usually higher-order predators (for example, large mammal or bird species) that are in danger of becoming extinct.

*2. Stable isotope analysis:

Isotopes of a chemical element have the same number of protons but a different number of neutrons in each atom. Isotopes that remain unchanged are called stable isotopes. Of the elements in organisms’ compositions, the stable isotopes of nitrogen and carbon are often used when researching food-web structure. Since stable nitrogen isotopes vary depending on the consumed and the consumer, they show the target organism’s trophic level in the food web.

Acknowledgements

This study was conducted with support from the Environmental Research Fund by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, and the Japanese eel research project by the Fisheries Agency of Japan.

Giant Japanese salamanders, video


This 26 May 2020 video says about itself:

The Startling Anatomical Features of this Ancient Salamander

Giant Japanese salamanders are a prehistoric species, dating back 200 million years. They’re highly adaptable, breathe through their skin, and boast not two, but three rows of teeth.

Japanese rice fish, male or female?


This 21 September 2019 video says about itself:

This is my new DIY Japanese Rice Fish mini pond. Japanese Rice Fish are called Medaka here in Japan and they are one of the most common pet fish here.

Rice fish look similar to guppies but they are actually pretty different in the way that these lay eggs whereas guppies are livebearers giving birth to live young. Adding to this, Japanese Rice Fish are super hardy. This doesn’t mean that you should neglect them but it means that they are very tolerant to fluctuating water conditions, they don’t require a filter, an air pump, or a heater.

From Nagoya University in Japan:

The ins and outs of sex change in medaka fish

May 21, 2020

Larval nutrition plays a role in determining the sexual characteristics of Japanese rice fish, also called medaka (Oryzias latipes), report a team of researchers led by Nagoya University. The findings, published in the journal Biology Open, could further understanding of a rare condition in humans and other vertebrates, where they genetically belong to one sex but also have characteristics of the other.

Decades ago, scientists found that medaka fish often undergo sex reversal in the wild. This involves genetically female larvae (meaning they have two X chromosomes) going on to develop male characteristics, or vice versa. This has made medaka fish a model organism for studying environmental sex development and other biological processes they have in common with vertebrates.

Now, Nagoya University reproductive biologist Minoru Tanaka and colleagues in Japan have gained further insight into the factors that affect medaka sex reversal, potentially providing direction for future research into similar conditions in other species.

Scientists had already discovered that environmental factors, such as temperature changes in the brackish and fresh waters where medaka fish live, are likely involved in their sex reversal. Tanaka and his team wanted to know if nutrition also played a role.

They starved medaka larvae for five days. This was enough time to affect their metabolism without killing them. Three to four months later, the team examined the fish and found that 20% of the genetically female medaka had developed testes and characteristically male fins. The same did not occur in larvae that were not starved.

Further tests showed that sex reversal in the fish was associated with reduced fatty acid synthesis and lipid levels. Specifically, starvation suppressed a metabolic pathway that synthesizes an enzyme called CoA, and disrupted a gene called fasn. These disruptions led to reductions in fatty acid synthesis. The scientists also found that a male gene, called dmrt1, was involved in the female-to-male reversal.

“Overall, our findings showed that the sex of medaka fish is affected by both the external environment and internal metabolism,” Tanaka says. “We believe lipids may represent a novel sex regulation system that responds to nutritional conditions.”

The team next plans on identifying other internal factors involved in medaka sex reversal. Future research should try to find the tissues or organs that sense changes in the internal environment and then produce key metabolites to regulate sex differentiation.

Coal tits understand other birds’ language


This 2 February 2015 video from Cornwall in Britain is called Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Nuthatch, Robin and Great Tit – Little Birds Chirping on The Gate.

From Kyoto University in Japan:

How do birds understand ‘foreign’ calls?

Birds may mentally picture what other species are talking about

May 19, 2020

Summary: New research shows that the coal tit (Periparus ater) can eavesdrop and react to the predatory warning calls of the Japanese tit (Parus minor) and evokes a visual image of the predator in their mind.

Fais attention! Serpent!

You may not speak French, but if someone behind you in a forest shouted this, you’d likely understand and become instantly alert.

And according to a new report from Kyoto University’s Hakubi Center for Advanced Research, the same thing happens in birds.

Previous reports have shown that animals with shared predators can eavesdrop on and respond to each other’s calls, indicating that they can partly understand other species. Toshitaka Suzuki, publishing in Current Biology, noticed a similar phenomenon among two different bird species while conducting field studies.

“Many birds have specific alarm calls, warning others about a predator,” explains Suzuki. “I was studying how a specific call of a small bird named the Japanese tit, Parus minor, evokes a visual image of the predator in their minds, in particular, a snake.”

But he then observed that another bird, the coal tit or Periparus ater, also often approached the experimental area during these alarm calls.

“I wondered if these other birds also mentally retrieve ‘snake’ images from these calls. While they are in the same taxonomic group their calls are otherwise vastly different.”

To demonstrate this, Suzuki set up an experiment under controlled conditions to investigate if the coal tits can anticipate and react appropriately even when they have not yet seen the predator in question. Snake-specific warning calls of the Japanese tit were played, and a stick was moved to mimic a snake gliding across the ground or up a tree.

“A variety of bird calls were played, but it was only the snake-specific ones which caused the coal tits to approach and inspect the stick,” states Suzuki. “Additionally, when the stick was moved unlike a snake, such as in a rocking motion, none of the birds approached even when the warning calls were played.”

These results show that the birds likely visualize a snake and react appropriately when they hear the snake-specific call from the other species, supported by visual confirmation. This work therefore represents the first evidence of visual search activity evoked via eavesdropping on another animal’s alarm calls.

Suzuki intends to pursue this study to further explore how birds associate another species’ calls with predators, hoping eventually to provide the basis for a new model for speech acquisition that may even be applicable to humans.

Use empty Olympic Village, Japanese homeless ask


This 17 April 2020 video says about itself:

Japan is expanding its state of emergency as coronavirus spreads throughout the country. The measure will now cover the entire nation instead of just Tokyo, Osaka and other big cities. CBS News correspondent Ramy Inocencio reports from Tokyo.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

A center for homeless people in Tokyo asks whether homeless people in the city can use the Olympic village. The Moyai Support Center for Independent Living says that if the corona outbreak continues, many people will end up in poverty and lose their homes.

The Olympic village was expected to accommodate 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,400 Paralympic participants this summer, but the Games have been postponed to next year. As a result, the buildings are empty.

A petition addressed to the organizers of the Games has been signed more than 52,000 times. The organization of the Games did not want to respond to news agency AP.

About 1,000 people live on the street in the Japanese capital. Another 4000 spend the night in internet cafes.

If the Tokyo homeless people will be allowed to stay in the Olympic village, then they will not be easy prey, like before, for Yakuza gangsters recruiting them for working at the ruined Fukushima nuclear plant, exposing them to death by radioactive radiation.

Coronavirus pandemic in Japan and Britain


This 6 April 2020 video says about itself:

Japan Coronavirus Update 4/6/2020: Emergency Declaration, 4000 Infections, Social Issues

Today I discuss the increasing amount of infections amounting to nearly 4000 cases as of right now. The PM will be declaring a state of emergency and I explain what that means for the people of Japan. The medical apparatus seems to be already straining.

Tokyo Olympic Games athletes village considered for coronavirus patients: here.

As Europe’s COVID-19 death toll nears 50,000, British PM Johnson admitted to hospital. By Robert Stevens, 6 April 2020. There is mounting evidence that fatalities are much higher when deaths outside hospitals are factored in: here.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain:

Monday, April 6, 2020

GMB says: ‘Porters are inundated with bodies, which are now wrapped in sheets’

TWO hospitals serving almost half a million people in London and Surrey have run out of body bags as the coronavirus death toll mounts, according to GMB today.

More than 50 people have died from the coronavirus at the Epsom & St Helier University Trust’s two general hospitals.

Porters have told GMB that they are being “traumatised” by having to wrap bodies in sheets, risking being infected themselves.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain:

Monday, April 6, 2020

Private ambulance driver displaying coronavirus symptoms refused test

A DRIVER employed by a private ambulance operator was refused a coronavirus test despite displaying symptoms because it is too “expensive”, the GMB union said today.

The driver is employed by the HATS Group, which describes itself as “a leading provider of healthcare transport services with a reputation for professionalism and service excellence.”

HATS provides non-emergency patient transport for several NHS Trusts in London, including Croydon Health Services NHS Trust.

Japanese screens in Dutch Rijksmuseum


This 24 March 2020 video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Our curators are working from home, now that the [Rijks]museum is temporarily closed. 🏠

In the second episode of #Rijksmuseumfromhome our Head of Asian Arts Menno Fitski is shining his light on two painted screens of Mount Fuji made by Yoshida Hiroshi. 🗻 🇯🇵

Japanese women’s victory against mandatory high heels


This 9 November 2019 CBS TV video says about itself:

Women declare war on high heels in Japan

There is an outcry on social media after a number of Japanese companies reportedly banned female employees from wearing eyeglasses to work. The controversy is similar to another, concerning female footwear in the workplace. Lucy Craft reports.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

High heels for female staff of Japan Airlines no longer required

Female cabin crew working for Japan Airlines will no longer be required to work on high heel shoes as of April 1. The women are also allowed to wear trousers from now on. The airline is the first major organization in Japan to change the dress code after an activist campaign that received a lot of attention.

The #KuToo movement opposes official beauty standards for women in Japan. With an online petition signed more than 32,000 times, employers are urged not to force women to wear heels while working. KuToo is a play on words with the Japanese words for ‘shoe’ and ‘pain’ and refers to the international #MeToo movement.

According to Yumi Ishikawa, the founder of #KuToo, women in hotels, department stores and banks are also forced to wear high heels while working. She hopes that these industries will follow the example of Japan Airlines. “It is a big step.”

The change in policy will take effect next month, giving nearly 6,000 female workers the choice of clothes and shoes to wear.