Falkland Islands wolves mystery solved

Old Falkland wolf family tree

From Wildlife Extra:

Mystery solved – Where did Falkland Islands wolves come from?

Ancient DNA solves 320-year-old mystery

March 2013. University of Adelaide researchers have found the answer to one of natural history’s most intriguing puzzles – the origins of the now extinct Falkland Islands wolf and how it came to be the only land-based mammal on the isolated islands – 460km from the nearest land, Argentina.
Previous theories have suggested the wolf somehow rafted on ice or vegetation, crossed via a now-submerged land bridge or was even semi-domesticated and transported by early South American humans.

Darwin questions

The 320-year-old mystery was first recorded by early British explorers in 1690 and raised again by Charles Darwin following his encounter with the famously tame species on his Beagle voyage in 1834.

New stuffed specimen found in New Zealand

Researchers from the University’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) extracted tiny pieces of tissue from the skull of a specimen collected personally by Darwin. They also used samples from a previously unknown specimen, which was recently re-discovered as a stuffed exhibit in the attic of Otago Museum in New Zealand.

16,000 years ago

The findings concluded that, unlike earlier theories, the Falkland Islands wolf (Dusicyon australis) only became isolated about 16,000 years ago around the peak of the last glacial period.

“Previous studies used ancient DNA from museum specimens to suggest that the Falkland Islands wolf diverged genetically from its closest living relative, the South American maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) around seven million years ago. As a result, they estimated that the wolf colonised the islands about 330,000 years ago by unknown means,” says Associate Professor Jeremy Austin, Deputy Director of ACAD and co-lead author with Dr Julien Soubrier.

“Critically, however, these early studies hadn’t included an extinct relative from the mainland, the fox-like Dusicyon avus. We extracted ancient DNA from six specimens of D. avus collected across Argentina and Chile, and made comparisons with a wide group of extinct and living species in the same family.”

ACAD’s analyses showed that D. avus was the closest relative of the Falkland Islands wolf and they separated only 16,000 years ago – but the question of how the island colonisation came about remained. The absence of other mammals argued against any land bridge connection to the mainland.

Eureka moment

“The Eureka moment was finding evidence of submarine terraces off the coast of Argentina,” says study leader Professor Alan Cooper. “They recorded the dramatically lowered sea levels during the Last Glacial Maximum (around 25-18,000 years ago).”

“At that time, there was a shallow and narrow (around 20km) strait between the islands and the mainland, allowing the Falkland Islands wolf to cross when the sea was frozen over, probably while pursuing marine prey like seals or penguins. Other small mammals like rats weren’t able to cross the ice.”

The study was published in Nature Communications.

Rupert Murdoch’s Falklands warmongering

Rupert Murdoch's phone hacking scandals, cartoon

By John Haylett in Britain:

Colonial knee jerk responses

Friday 04 January 2013

Just when things are going badly for David Cameron over his defence of Britain’s colonial grip on the Falklands, Rupert Murdoch’s Sun comes in to make things worse.

The Sun‘s strident “Hands off” full-page advertisement in an English-language Buenos Aires paper will not convince a single Argentinian that the islands, known throughout Latin America as the Malvinas, are a rightful British possession.

The fact that Murdoch’s rag surpassed itself in the excesses of gutter journalism through its stomach-turning “Gotcha!” headline to celebrate the needless slaughter of 323 naval conscripts by the sinking of the cruiser General Belgrano will not be lost on the people of Argentina.

This won’t concern Murdoch or his creature at the helm of the Sun.

News International titles have already demonstrated amply their estrangement from normal standards of decency and the Sun‘s advertising ploy is designed for domestic consumption not as a serious contribution to discussion.

In contrast to the Sun‘s exercise in self-publicity, Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner‘s advertisement in two British dailies was a factual and moderate statement inviting discussions between London and Buenos Aires.

Fernandez de Kirchner noted that the UN general assembly passed in 1965, without a single dissenting voice, a resolution depicting the islands as colonial possessions and urging Britain and Argentina to negotiate decolonisation.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

The Argentinian president is not a reincarnation of the fascist armed forces junta that sought to win popular support in 1982 through military adventurism, landing troops on the islands.

She is a serious politician who has helped to rescue her country from self-induced immiseration through submission to neoliberal policies.

Fernandez de Kirchner has stood up successfully to vulture investment funds such as NML Capital, which failed in its speculative efforts to impound an Argentinian frigate in Ghana as a means of blackmailing her government into paying defaulted sovereign debts in full.

Argentina has won the backing of all of its neighbours for its stance over the Falklands – unlike in 1982 when Chile‘s military dictatorship, led by Augusto Pinochet, collaborated with Margaret Thatcher‘s government.

Just as Fernandez de Kirchner has no intention of replicating history, the British Prime Minister would be well advised to do likewise.

It is now clear that Ronald Reagan wobbled before putting US intelligence resources behind his close British Tory ally Margaret Thatcher 30 years ago.

Washington is nowhere near as powerful now as it was then.

It is engaged in efforts to retain influence in the western hemisphere, where the election of a succession of progressive anti-imperialist governments has enhanced regional unity and reduced US capacity to intervene directly in individual states.

Defeat for Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the US presidential election in November was a setback for political forces whose approach has not moved on since the Monroe doctrine was formulated in 1823.

Dissatisfaction with Barack Obama’s failure to build bridges with Cuba and Venezuela should blind no-one to the gulf between the US approach under his presidency and what it could have been under Romney.

It’s nearly two years ago since US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the Argentinian president in response to a request for US mediation.

Clinton did not touch on mediation, but she said openly: “We would like to see Argentina and the United Kingdom sit down and resolve the issues between them across the table in a peaceful, productive way.”

She added: “We will continue to encourage exactly the kind of discussion across the table that needs to take place.”

Cameron’s wooden reiteration of Gordon Brown’s jaded formulas about “self-determination” for the islanders being the key issue will convince no-one.

There is no Falkland Islander nation. The current population of the islands consists of 3,000 settlers from Britain living 8,000 miles away from their native land.

The idea of a self-determination referendum being held among these settlers, all but a tiny handful of whom were born in Britain, is preposterous and will leave international opinion cold, as will Cameron’s patronising advice that Fernandez de Kirchner should “listen” to its result.

Two events have coloured British government since the 1965 UN general assembly vote – the 1982 war and the more recent discovery of likely oil and gas reserves in the North Falkland Basin, north of the islands.

After Afghanistan and Iraq, it is difficult to believe that any British government could get away with a proposal for military action in defence of 3,000 British citizens’ right to fly the union flag 8,000 miles away, especially since the widespread suspicion would be that war was being waged at the behest of British-based oil transnational corporations.

Economic exploration of the mineral wealth around the Falklands can only be carried out with regional co-operation not by confrontation with Argentina and its regional allies.

Cameron’s “100 per cent backing” for the right of Falkland Islanders to “stay with the United Kingdom” may play well with members of his party who believe, or wish, that Queen Victoria was still on the throne.

But it does no service to anyone involved. The British government should swallow its imperial pride and agree to negotiate a mutually beneficial solution to the problems posed by this relic of empire.

The example of the Chagos Islands shows the government cares nothing for ‘self-determination’ in the Falklands: here.

Reagan tried to stop Falklands war

This is a video of British musician Robert Wyatt, singing Shipbuilding, against the Falklands war, on the Old Grey Whistle Test, on BBC TV.

By Tony Patey in Britain:

Reagan bid to halt Falklands revealed

Friday 28 December 2012

New light was shed yesterday on the so-called special relationship between B-movie actor turned world leader Ronald Reagan and chemist turned warlord Maggie Thatcher during the 1982 Falklands war.

Public records released under the 30-year rule reveal that Reagan showed a rare ray of insight by making a last-ditch appeal to Thatcher, who had sent a full-scale task force right round the globe to retake the islands following the Argentinian invasion.

In an 11.30pm telephone call to 10 Downing Street on Monday May 31 1982 the then US president urged Thatcher to abandon her campaign and to hand over the islands to international peacekeepers.

Official files released by the National Archives at Kew show that as British troops closed in on final victory Reagan begged Thatcher not to completely humiliate the Argentinians.

Reagan, whose country officially remained neutral, told the Tory leader: “The best chance for peace was before complete Argentine humiliation. As the UK now had the upper hand militarily, it should strike a deal now.”

Thatcher rejected his approach and ordered soldiers to fight until the occupying forces had been totally defeated.

Over the next two weeks more than 100 British troops died and around 150 mainly conscript Argentinian soldiers were killed.

Reagan, who had questioned whether the Falklands was really worth a war, faced a strategic dilemma during the conflict.

The US had a longstanding alliance with Britain, but by 1982 the far-right military junta in Argentina had become a cold war ally in Latin America as Washington sought to snuff out left-wing social movements.

The newly released files also revealed criticism of then dean of St Paul’s Rev Alan Webster for introducing notes of concern for Argentinian, as well as British, casualties in a thanksgiving service on July 26 1982 following the war’s end.

Argentinian deaths during the 74-day conflict reached 649, while 255 were killed among the British forces.

Three Falkland Islanders also died in the fighting.

The biggest single death toll came on May 2 1982 when a British nuclear-powered submarine sunk the light cruiser General Belgrano over 200 miles from the islands with the loss of 323 of its 1,090-strong crew.

Talking about Margaret Thatcher:

Red-faced Thatcher paid for son’s rescue

Friday 28 December 2012

An embarrassed Margaret Thatcher hurriedly repaid thousands of pounds of public cash used to save her playboy son from the Sahara desert, declassified files have revealed.

The penny-pinching former prime minister was busy wrecking the economy in January 1982 when her only son Mark disappeared while taking part in the Paris to Dakar rally.

Mr Thatcher and his French co-driver were found by the Algerian military after a six-day search.

The Algerian government footed the majority of the bill, but Britain was originally set to stump up £1,190.95 with Ms Thatcher contributing just £583.14.

But the “Iron Lady” scribbled a cheque to cover for her son’s racy lifestyle to head off a feared taxpayer rebellion.

Months later Ms Thatcher had to cough up for one final bill of £15.16 – for landing charges incurred by aircraft carrying her husband and son.

Thatcher memoirs detail PM’s anger at foreign secretary over Falklands. Previously unpublished memoirs reveal that Thatcher thought Frances Pym was combining with the Americans in attempt to outmanoeuvre her: here.

Newly released White House tape transcripts reveal how Ronald Reagan sought to mollify an angry Margaret Thatcher after the US invaded Grenada, part of the Commonwealth, without giving her advance warning: here.

Good black-browed albatross news

This video, recorded on South Georgia, is called Black-browed albatross chicks.

From BirdLife:

Black-browed Albatross shows population increase

Tue, July 24, 2012

A new report indicates a healthy increase in the numbers of Black-browed Albatrosses breeding in the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas). The report, submitted to the Environment Committee of the Falkland Islands Government, indicated that recent and historical survey results show an increase in this threatened species.

Black-browed Albatross is currently classified as Endangered by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List. Over two-thirds of the global population breed in the Falkland Islands, so the status of the Falklands population has significant bearing on the global conservation status of the species.

Within the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas) different methods have been used independently to census the Black-browed Albatross population. Ian, and more recently, Georgina Strange have conducted aerial photographic surveys of colonies in the Falkland Islands since 1964, with archipelago-wide surveys in 1986, 2005 and 2010. Members of Falklands Conservation have carried out ground and boat-based surveys of the Falklands population in 2000, 2005 and 2010. Up until and including the 2005 census results, these initiatives reported contrasting population trends. The aerial based surveys indicated an increase in the population between the mid 1980s and 2005 and the ground based surveys a decline between 1995 and 2005.

However, the aerial and ground based surveys conducted in 2010 both reveal an increase in the population between 2005 and 2010 of at least 4% per annum. The positive trends from both of these surveys is further supported by favourable survival and breeding data from an ongoing study carried out by scientists at New Island (one of the twelve breeding sites in the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas)), and an additional aerial photographic survey carried out later in the 2010 breeding season. The breeding population estimate obtained from the 2010 ground-based survey was larger than the estimate for 2000. Furthermore, the 2010 ground-based estimates for the two largest colonies in the Falklands (at Steeple Jason and Beauchêne islands) were similar to those derived from surveys carried out in the 1980s.
Dr Cleo Small from RSPB/BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme said: “When 17 out of the world’s 22 species of albatross are listed as threatened with extinction, it is hugely encouraging that Black-browed Albatross colonies in the Falkland Islands are now known to be increasing. There is still some way to go – with the UK Overseas Territories other major population on South Georgia continuing to decline. But this result gives us great hope for turning around the fortunes of other albatrosses. Bycatch in fisheries is their main threat, and efforts are underway in many longline and trawl fleets worldwide to reduce the numbers killed. If we can keep this up, there is real hope that the black-browed albatross will set a trend for the future.”

Dr Anton Wolfaardt, ACAP (Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels) officer for the UK South Atlantic Overseas Territories and author of the report said: “The exact reasons for the increase are not entirely clear, but efforts to reduce seabird bycatch, and beneficial feeding conditions, are likely to have contributed.” On the basis of the reported results, and the fact that the Falklands population comprises approximately 70% of the global total, the report recommends that consideration should be given to downlisting the species from Endangered. The report has been submitted to BirdLife International for use in the Red List assessment process. The report also recommends that efforts to further improve seabird bycatch mitigation should continue, both to buffer the local population against possible future changes, and to improve the conservation status of other populations and species.

Cameron’s new Falklands war?

For the British Conservative government, it seems that war in Afghanistan, war in Libya, war against peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators in Bahrain with British weapons, and maybe soon war against Iran are not bloodshed enough.

This music video from Britain, about Thatcher’s Falklands war, is Robert Wyatt’s song Shipbuilding.

The Falklands War inspired a wealth of protest songs: here.

By Paddy McGuffin in England:

PM beats the war drum on Falklands

Monday 02 April 2012

David Cameron was accused of spewing the same old colonialist rhetoric over his comments on the 30th anniversary of the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands today.

The Prime Minister marked the anniversary by reaffirming Britain’s determination to uphold the islanders’ right to determine their own future and paying tribute to the task force sent by then prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

The conflict cost the lives of 649 Argentinian and 255 British troops.

There has been marked by an escalation in tensions between Britain and Argentina in the run-up to the anniversary. The recent discovery of oil in the region has further exacerbated the situation.

Earlier this year Britain sent destroyer HMS Dauntless to the region in what was seen as a clear act of provocation by Argentina.

A number of Latin American countries have refused Britain access to their ports in solidarity with Argentina.

In a statement to mark today’s anniversary, Mr Cameron was adamant that Britain would not compromise on the issue of self-determination.

But Stop the War Coalition convener Lindsey German said: “This is another example of the British government’s continued commitment to colonialist politics. The truth is the Malvinas should be, as most people in Argentina and Latin America believe, Argentinian.

“They have already taken us to one war which killed hundreds of people. Thatcher fought that war to boost her popularity. This country is already embroiled in Afghanistan, has failed in Iraq, Libya is obviously a disaster and now they are talking about Syria and Iran.”

Argentina Insists, UK Resists Talks on Malvinas/Falklands: here.

BUENOS AIRES, Apr 5, 2012 (IPS) – Former combatants in Argentina who took part in the 1982 Malvinas/Falkland Islands war are waging their final battle: they are trying to get the Supreme Court to classify the brutal mistreatment to which they were subjected by their officers as crimes against humanity: here.

Turkey readies Syrian buffer zone plan: here.

Turkey is leading calls for a military attack on Syria on behalf of the United States: here.

Israel repeats military threat against Iran: here.

Recent studies link conservatism to low intelligence and “low-effort thinking”: here.