Artist draws birds in Kenya


This 2e015 video is about Dutch artist Erik van Ommen drawing birds in Lolldaiga Hills, Kenya.

Advertisements

Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge’s under-2-hours world marathon record


This 12 October 2019 Kenyan TV video, recorded in Vienna, Austria, says about itself:

Breaking history as #EliudKipchoge, world’s greatest marathoner, becomes the first human to run a marathon in under 2 hours.

Kipchoge finished in 1:59:40.

African bats studied with satellite tags


This 2016 video says about itself:

Yellow Winged Bat (Lavia frons)

The beautiful Yellow Winged Bat. Common across East and West Africa in woodlands.

From the University of Helsinki in Finland:

Tiny GPS backpacks uncover the secret life of desert bats

August 16, 2019

A new study from the University of Helsinki using miniaturized satellite-based tags revealed that during drier periods desert bats must fly further and longer to fulfil their nightly needs. According to researchers this signals their struggle in facing dry periods.

Wildlife tracking has revolutionized the study of animal movement and their behavior. Yet, tracking small, flying animals such as desert bats remained challenging. Now a new generation of miniaturized satellite-based tags is allowing unique insights into the life of these mysterious mammals.

Researchers used 1 g GPS devices to reconstruct the movements of yellow-winged bats, one of two false vampire bats occurring in Africa and one of the few desert bats large enough to carrying this innovative technology. “GPS tags have seen up to now a limited use with insectivorous bats due to weight constraints and low success in data collection — we achieved great results in tracking such a light species,” says Irene Conenna, a PhD candidate at the University of Helsinki and the lead author of the study.

Future under the changing climate?

“Bats are some of the most successful desert mammals. Powered flight allows them to efficiently track scarce resources and their nocturnal lifestyle buffers them from the baking sun. However, they still struggle to find enough resources during the drier periods of the year,” says Ricardo Rocha, one of the co-authors of the paper.

The study was conducted in Sibiloi National Park, Northern Kenya, along the shores of Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake. Researchers placed GPS loggers in 29 bats, 15 in the rainy season and 14 in the dry and, for one week. Their whereabouts were recorded every 30 to 60 minutes every night. This revealed that during dry periods bats used larger home ranges and had extended activity periods, potentially to compensate for a shortage in food resources.

Bats comprise roughly one fifth of all mammal species and deserts are home to over 150 bat species. They display wide variation in morphology, foraging behavior, and habitat use, making them an excellent indicator group for assessing how species respond to changes in their habitats. “The responses exhibited by bats offer important insights into the responses of other taxonomic groups,” explains Conenna. “These new miniaturized satellite-based tags now allow us to better understand how increased aridity affects bats foraging efficiency, leading us one step forward to understanding limits in aridity tolerance and impacts of climate change,” adds Conenna.

Deserts around the world are getting warmer and as they warm desert creatures need to cope with even harsher conditions. “Understanding how animals cope with seasonal changes is key to understand how they might react to the challenges in the horizon. New technological devices, such as miniaturized satellite-based loggers, go a long way to help us in this task”, adds Mar Cabeza, senior author of the study, University of Helsinki.

Masai Mara animals’ friendships, new research


This 2016 video says about itself:

Masai Mara – safari adventure in a wildlife paradise – Predators, big herds and wildebeest migration

The Masai Mara is one of the best-known nature reserves in Africa. The area is famous particularly for the concentration of predators. The film shows the life of a mother cheetah with her cubs and a pride of lions. But also the migration of large herds of wildebeests and zebras with the crossing of the Mara River attracts visitors in its spell.

From the University of Liverpool in England:

Animal friendships ‘change with the weather’ in the Masai Mara

July 31, 2019

When it comes to choosing which other species to hang out with, wild animals quite literally change their minds with the weather, a new University of Liverpool study reveals.

The findings, which are published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, could help conservationists better predict the risk of extinction faced by endangered species.

“In the wild, a species always exists as part of a community of other species, which affect its survival. These interactions are crucial when it comes to predicting extinction risk: if we focus only on single species in isolation we may get it very wrong,” explains the leader of the research team, Dr Jakob Bro-Jørgensen.

In this study the researchers aimed to uncover if species alter their preference for different social partners when their environment changes — a central question to forecast how current environmental changes caused by humans are likely to affect animal populations and communities.

Over a year, they followed the distribution in space and time of a dozen species inhabiting the Masai Mara plains in East Africa, including buffaloes, giraffes, zebras, antelopes, ostriches and warthogs, to see how the strength of social attraction within individual species pairs changed between the wet and dry season.

All of the savannah herbivore species underwent seasonal changes when it came to their social groupings, with rainfall affecting half of all the possible species pairs.

The researchers suggest that this could be due to a number of reasons, including species migration, climate adaption and feeding preferences. For example, the presence of migrating wildebeest during the dry season may provide a welcome social partner for some, like zebra, but be avoided by others, like buffalo, while arid-adapted species, such as gazelles, ostrich and warthog, may group together during the dry season but separate during the wet season.

“Our study shows that the dramatic changes that humans are causing to the environment at present, be it through climate change, overhunting or habitat fragmentation, will likely create indirect consequences by changing the dynamics of ecological communities,” says Dr Bro-Jørgensen.

“This can cause unexpected declines in species if critical bonds with other species are broken. A particular concern is when animals find themselves in novel conditions outside the range which they have been shaped by evolution to cope with,” he adds.

Following on from this study, the researchers now plan to investigate how predation and feeding strategies interact to drive the formation of mixed-species groups.

African cichlid fish evolution, new research


This 2015 video from Malawi in Africa is called Chizumulu Island – Lake Malawi Cichlids – HD Underwater Footage.

From the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München in Germany:

Paleontology: New light on cichlid evolution in Africa

July 25, 2019

Summary: Researchers have developed an integrative approach to the classification of fossil cichlids and have identified the oldest known member of the tribe Oreochromini.

Cichlids (Cichlidae) are a group of small to medium-sized fish that are ubiquitous in freshwater habitats in the tropics. They are particularly notable in exhibiting a wide range of morphological and behavioral specializations, such as various modes of parental care, including mouthbrooding. Some species (mainly members of the genus Tilapia) have achieved fame as culinary delicacies and are of considerable economic significance. Cichlids have undergone rapid diversification in Africa, which is home to at least 1100 species. This process has been especially prominent in the Great Lakes in East Africa’s Rift Valley (Lakes Tanganyika, Malawi and Victoria), where it is referred to as the East African Radiation.

Cichlid diversification in East Africa has become a central paradigm in evolutionary biology. As a consequence, dating the onset of the process and understanding the mechanisms that drive it are issues of great interest to evolutionary biologists and paleobiologists,” says LMU paleontologist Professor Bettina Reichenbacher, who is also member of the GeoBio-Center at LMU. Fossils from the area provide the sole source of direct evidence that would allow one to determine the timing and trace the course of lineage diversification within the group. However, the search for cichlid fossils has proven to be both arduous and extremely time- consuming. Indeed, only about 20 fossil species of cichlids from Africa have yet been formally described.

In a study that appears in the online journal Scientific Reports, a team of researchers led by Bettina Reichenbacher now describes a new fossil cichlid, which the authors assign to the new genus Oreochromimos.

Holotype specimen of the 12.5-million-year-old fossil cichlid Oreochromimos kabchorensis. The new species is the oldest known member of the Oreochromini, a lineage that is now represented all over Africa. (Photo: M. Schellenberger/SNSB-BSPG)

The name derives from the fact that the specimens, which the team discovered in Central Kenya, show similarities to members of the Tribe Oreochromini (hence the element ‘mimos’, meaning ‘mimic’, in the genus name), which are widely distributed in Africa today. “Determining whether or not the fossils could be assigned to any of the extant cichlid lineages was particularly challenging,” says Stefanie Penk, first author of the study and a doctoral student in Reichenbacher’s group. The difficulties are rooted in the great diversity of the modern cichlid fauna in Africa, and the fact that even distantly related species may be morphologically very similar to each other. “The architecture of the skeleton in cichlids is pretty conservative. All of them have a similar basic form, which undergoes very little change during speciation,” Reichenbacher explains. In collaboration with Dr. Ulrich K. Schliewen, co-author of the new paper, Curator of Fishes at the Bavarian State Collection for Zoology in Munich (SNSB-ZSM) and also a member of the GeoBio-Center at LMU, the team adopted the ‘best-fit approach’ to the classification of the fossil specimens. This requires comparison of the fossil material with all the relevant modern lineages of cichlids. In light of their contemporary diversity, that might seem an impossible task. But thanks to Schliewen’s knowledge — and the range of comparative material represented in the collection under his care — the strategy succeeded.

A unique glimpse of the past

Reichenbacher and colleagues recovered the Oreochromimos material from a fossil-fish Lagerstätte in Kenya’s Tugen Hills, which lie within the Eastern Branch of the East African Rift System. This site provides a unique window into the region’s past. The volcanic and sedimentary rocks deposited here date back 5-20 million years. They were overlain by younger material and subsequently uplifted to altitudes of as much as 2000 m by tectonic forces. As a result, the fossil-bearing rocks exposed in the Tugen Hills are either inaccessible to exploration or have been lost to erosion in other parts of Africa. Consequently, the strata here contain a unique assemblage of fossils. Undoubtedly the best known finds so far excavated are the 6-million-year-old remains of a hominin species, which has been named Orrorin tugenensis (orrorin means ‘original man’ in the local language). But cichlid fossils are also among the paleontological treasures preserved in these sedimentary formations — and they are at the heart of Reichenbacher’s Kenya Project, which began in 2011. The material collected so far was recovered in cooperation with Kenya’s Egerton University, and is now on loan to LMU’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences for further study.

The Oreochromimos specimens are about 12.5 million years old, which makes this genus the oldest known fossil representative of the Tribe Oreochromini. It therefore qualifies as the oldest fossil clade yet assigned to the Haplotilapiini, the lineage which gave rise not only to most of the species that constitute the present-day diversity of African cichlids, but also to the East African Cichlid Radiation in the Great Lakes of the Rift Valley. With their use of an innovative approach to comparative systematics, the authors of the new study have provided a basis for the taxonomic assignment of future finds of fossil cichlid material. “With the aid of this dataset, it will be possible to classify fossil cichlids much more reliably than before and thus to shed new light on their evolutionary history,” says Bettina Reichenbacher.

Serengeti in Africa, new BBC series


This 1 July 2019 video says about itself:

Serengeti: First Look Trailer | New John Boyega Series | BBC Earth

Lion, cheetahs, elephants, hyenas and baboons: we follow the stories of some of the most iconic characters of the Serengeti in this new dramatised natural history spectacular, narrated by John Boyega.

Coming July 4th on BBC One.