Mexican blind cave fish, new research

This video is called Astyanax mexicanus.


Blind Cave Fish Traded Eyesight for Energy

Sep 14, 2015 04:55 PM ET // by Danny Clemens

At first glance, the blind cave fish is an example of evolution seemingly moving backward.

Over time, a handful of Mexican tetra (Astyanax mexicanus) living at deep depths have gradually lost not only their eyesight, but also their eyes, while their surface-dwelling counterparts have maintained their vision. Dubbed the “blind cave fish”, the eyeless creature also lost much of its pigmentation, growing to sport a body of fleshy pink scales.

According to new research out of Sweden’s Lund University, however, the blind cave fish’s lost vision is actually a major step forward in adapting the fish to its new environment.

Researchers conclude that a highly developed visual system can suck up to 15% of an animal’s “total energy budget”. For a fish living at deep, dark depths with an irregular food supply, that expenditure simply isn’t worth it.

“This is a tremendously high cost! Over evolution, this morph lost both eyes and visual cortex, without a doubt because of the unsustainable energy cost of maintaining a sensory system that no longer had any significance”, study lead author Damian Moran explains in a news release.

Instead, the blind cave fish has come to rely upon a finely tuned sense of smell and a keen sensitivity to changes in water pressure.

Scientists revealed last year that the fish has also ditched its circadian rhythm as an energy-saving measure.

“These cave fish are living in an environment without light, without the circadian presence of food or predators, they’ve got nothing to get ready for, so it looks like they’ve just chopped away this increase in anticipation for the day,” Plant and Food Research New Zealand scientist Dr. Damian Moran explained when his research was published.

The reduction of traits over time is known as “regressive evolution”, according to a 2007 study from New York University.

Sisi regime kills Egyptian, Mexican terrorists … oops, tourists

This 14 September 2015 video says about itself:

Egypt Police Kill Tourists: At least five Mexicans taken to Cairo hospital.

From the BBC today:

Mexican tourists killed by Egyptian security forces

10 minutes ago

Security forces in Egypt have mistakenly killed 12 people, including Mexican tourists, during an anti-terror operation, the interior ministry says.

Maybe Tony Blair, extremely well-paid adviser to the Sisi dictatorship in Egypt, has advised the Egyptian regime to have a very broad definition of who is a ‘terrorist’? After all, the words ‘terrorist’ and ‘tourist’ both have the letters t, r and i. [sarcasm off]

The tourists were travelling in four vehicles that entered a restricted zone in the Wahat area of the Western Desert, a ministry statement said.

Ten Mexicans and Egyptians were also injured and are being treated in a local hospital.

The ministry said it had formed a team to investigate the incident.

Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto condemned the incident and said he had “demanded an exhaustive investigation by the Egyptian government”.

The Mexican foreign ministry confirmed that at least two of its nationals had been killed and said it was working to confirm the identities of the other victims.

In a statement, it said Mexico’s ambassador in Egypt, Jorge Alvarez Fuentes, had visited the local hospital and spoken to five Mexicans who were in a stable condition.

‘Mistakenly dealt with’

The statement (in Arabic) from Egypt’s interior ministry said the four vehicles the tourists were travelling in were “mistakenly dealt with” during a joint military police and armed forces operation.

It said the incident happened on Sunday in an area that “was off limits to foreign tourists”, but it did not give an exact location.

The group of tourists was preparing to camp out in the vast Western Desert when they came under fire.

According to the interior ministry’s statement, the security forces were pursuing Islamic militants in the desert, and targeted the four vehicles which were away from the main road with an Apache helicopter, which shot and hit the four vehicles.

The tour company transporting the tourists “did not have permits and did not inform authorities”, tourism ministry spokesman Rasha Azaz told the Associated Press news agency.

But a local source – who claims to have spoken to one of the drivers for the tour group – told the BBC that they had liaised with the authorities and even had a police escort.

The vast Western Desert area is popular with foreign sightseers, but is also attractive to militants, reports the BBC’s Orla Guerin in Cairo.

Last month, a Croatian engineer was beheaded there by the so-called Islamic State (IS).

The area – which borders Libya – is a gateway to the long border and weapons are available on the other side, our correspondent adds.

ISIS terrorists are now in Libya (and Egypt) because of NATO’s ‘humanitarian’ war on Libya, as the Tunisian government has remarked. And they are able to get some undeserved support from some people in Egypt because the Sisi dictatorship is not an attractive alternative.

UPDATE: surviving tourists say that the Egyptian air force attacked them with aircraft and helicopters.

An Egyptian government Apache helicopter gunship targeted a convoy of vehicles carrying foreign tourists in Egypt’s Western Desert on Sunday, destroying four vehicles and killing 12 people, including at least eight Mexican nationals. At least one American citizen may also have been among those killed in the incident, according to the US State Department: here.

Soviet filmmaker Eisenstein, new film about him

This video says about itself:

Eisenstein In Guanajuato – Official Trailer

8 February 2015

A film by Peter Greenaway, 2015, Netherlands/Mexico/Finland/Belgium, 105′

On 27 July 2015, I went to see the film Eisenstein In Guanajuato.

In this film, movie director Peter Greenaway reconstructs the stay of his famous Soviet colleague Sergei Eisenstein in Mexico in 1931. Eisenstein then made recordings, intended for a film on Mexico and the Mexican revolution, entitled ¡Que viva México!

In his reconstruction, Greenaway had to consider that some of the facts in this part of Eisenstein’s life are known. Some others are not certain, but maybe, with some fantasy (Greenaway made a feature film, not a documentary), might be deduced from known facts. And many other things about Eisenstein’s Mexican episode are completely unknown.

Greenaway’s film ‘plays fast, loose and salaciously with the facts’, according to film critic David Robinson.

Robinson points out, inter alia, that Eisenstein was a workaholic, while Greenaway depicts him as hardly ever leaving his hotel bedroom. Eisenstein did not drink alcohol, while Greenaway depicts him as drunk.

The central theme in Greenaway’s film is that Eisenstein was a virgin, until his initiation into gay sex in Guanajuato at 33 years of age. Very improbable, according to Robinson.

Was Eisenstein gay? Maybe, we don’t know for sure.

However, there are so many and such obvious inaccuracies in Eisenstein In Guanajuato that, rather than being results of Greenaway’s supposed ignorance or sloppiness, one may suspect that Greenaway included them on purpose to indicate the film is not about the historical Eisenstein, but about an Eisenstein of his own post-modernist imagination.

In post-modernism there is no historical truth.

Eisenstein as a film role in Greenaway’s work speaks about lots of famous filmmakers and other artists he supposedly had met. A list so long that it looks a bit incredible. Is this not really a list of Peter Greenaway’s favourites in film history and art history?

One can see that Eisenstein In Guanajuato is by someone who was originally a visual artist, and an admirer of the imagery of Eisenstein’s films. Greenaway’s imagery in this film is good. So is the acting. However, Greenaway undeservedly makes the issues in Eisenstein’s films, Russian revolution and society, Mexican revolution and society, etc. play a very second fiddle to aesthetics.

At least one review of this film has a historical inaccuracy of its own: Variety magazine in the USA writes that Lenin underwrote Eisenstein’s expenses while in Mexico. Lenin had died in 1924. While the Variety article also spells ‘Guadajuato’ which should have been Guanajuato.

Save jaguars in Mexico

This 2014 video is called The jaguar [full documentary].

From Wildlife Extra:

Mexico signs historic agreement to protect jaguars

The Mexican government has signed an historic agreemant with global wild cat conservation organisation, Panthera, to work towards the protection of jaguars.

Senator Gabriela Cuevas, President of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Mexican Senate, led a group of senators in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Panthera’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Alan Rabinowitz.

Panthera will work with the Senate, academia, and non-governmental organisations in Mexico to raise awareness of the importance of conserving jaguars in the country and assist in the implementation of science-based conservation actions.

The jaguar is an historic icon in Mexico, but their range throughout the country has been reduced in recent years by over 50% leaving them in danger of extinction through habitat destruction, which has led to a decline in their prey. They have also been victims of poaching.

The Mexican government will formulate an official recovery plan for jaguars and Panthera will develop a plan to work alongside existing jaguar conservation activities in the country, and to implement similar measures as those that are currently employed in 13 other Latin American countries which are part of Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative (JCI).

At the signing, Senator Cuevas said: “The jaguar is a symbol of the culture and history of Mexico. It is the most representative American feline and is emblematic of biodiversity and conservation of species.

“Rarely are such diverse causes intertwined with so many issues, ranging from foreign affairs and protection of the environment, to climate change, education and agriculture.”

Alan Rabinowitz said: “We are thrilled to join forces with the Senate and to contribute to the protection and conservation of the jaguar and the corridors between their populations in Mexico.

“Mexico is the northern border for the distribution of jaguars and maintaining connectivity between populations of jaguars is vital for the survival of the jaguar and the biodiversity that lives within these areas.

“We hope to collaborate with Mexican biologists, legislators, academics, government agencies, and non-governmental organisations dedicated to conservation, and to complement and enhance their efforts to promote the protection of this majestic feline.”

Jaguars currently inhabit 18 countries in Latin America, from Mexico through Central and South America to Argentina, and occasionally in the United States.

Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative (JCI) comprises nearly six million square kilometers through a mosaic of environments within these countries.

The JCI seeks to connect and protect jaguar populations, especially those that live and move through landscapes dominated by humans, helping to maintain genetic diversity and thus increase the long-term survival of this species.

Panthera researchers are exploring possibilities to establish a long-term study in the states of Guerrero, Michoacan and Colima, in order to have a more precise understanding of the distribution of jaguars and their prey. Mexico’s signing represents Panthera’s eighth jaguar conservation agreement with Latin American countries.

Russian gray whale Varvara, longest mammal migration

This video from the USa is called Gray Whale Migration.


Longest mammal migration ever recorded measures in at 14,000 miles

Melissa Breyer

April 16, 2015

And the remarkable journey is raising questions about the status of a critically endangered whale species.

In a study using satellite-monitored tags to track three western gray whales, a team of U.S. and Russian researchers recorded a stunning round-trip trek of 14,000 miles. The trio traveled from their primary feeding ground off of Sakhalin Island in Russia across the Pacific Ocean and down the west coast of California to Baja, Mexico and back home again.

One of the whales, dubbed Varvara by the scientists, visited the three major breeding areas for eastern gray whales, which are found off North America.

For a long time it was believed that western gray whales had gone extinct, but a small group was discovered in Russia off Sakhalin Island; they now number around 150 individuals and have been monitored by scientists from Russia and the U.S. since the 1990s. Meanwhile, populations of eastern gray whales were also in a tight spot, but conservation efforts have brought them back – today they are believed to have a population of some 18,000.

But here’s why Varvara’s visit to the eastern gray whales is interesting. Not all experts believe that the two species are in fact distinct, separate species. A number of scientists have proposed that western and eastern gray whale populations are not isolated and that the gray whales found in Russian waters are a part of an eastern population that is restoring its former range.

“The fact that endangered western gray whales have such a long range and interact with eastern gray whales was a surprise and leaves a lot of questions up in the air,” said Bruce Mate, director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “Past studies have indicated genetic differentiation between the species, but this suggests we may need to take a closer look.”

“The ability of the whales to navigate across open water over tremendously long distances is impressive and suggests that some western gray whales might actually be eastern grays,” Mate said. “But that doesn’t mean that there may not be some true western gray whales remaining.

He adds, “If so, then the number of true western gray whales is even smaller than we previously thought.”

Does this spell doom for the western whales? Protecting them has proven challenging. Five western grays have perished in Japanese fishing nets within the last 10 years and their feeding grounds off Japan and Russia include fishing areas, shipping corridors, and oil and gas production – as well as future sites oil sites. But with this new research, hopefully fresh data and visibility will inspire some momentum in conservation efforts. With so few of these wandering giants left, and maybe even fewer than we thought, the time is now.

Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, new book

This video says about itself:

7 May 2012

Leonora Carrington (born April 6, 1917 in Clayton Green, South Lancaster, Lancashire, England) is a British-born artist, a surrealist painter and while living in Mexico, a novelist.

Her father was a wealthy industrialist, her mother was Irish. She also had an Irish nanny, Mary Cavanaugh, who told her Gaelic tales. Leonora had three brothers. Places she lived as a child included a house called Crooksey Hall.

Educated by governesses, tutors and nuns, she was expelled from many schools for her rebellious behavior until her family sent her to Florence where she attended Mrs. Penrose’s Academy of Art. Her father was opposed to an artist’s career for her, but her mother encouraged her.

By Paul Simon in Britain:

Gripping tale of woman artist’s fights and flights

Thursday 19th March 2015

Leonora by Elena Poniatowska (Serpent’s Tail, £12.99)

RENOWNED Mexican novelist Elena Poniatowska has crafted a mightily expansive and breathlessly fictionalised biography — a “free approximation” as she terms it — of Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, whose story is one of a constant but very individualised fight and flight rebellions against the expectations of her upper-class family.

Carrington died in 2011 and in this work, translated by Amanda Hopkinson, Poniatowska has ensured that the woman behind the paintings can be fully appreciated and understood.

The daughter of the owner of Imperial Chemical, Carrington was expelled from an endless number of educational institutions for insubordination but was still on the conveyor belt of presentation at court and a soulless marriage before fleeing to Paris and freedom.

There she took up with Max Ernst, Andre Breton, Peggy Guggenheim and others who made up the artistically fissiparous but financially astute Surrealists.

The book pivots around her love affair with the intoxicating, disloyal and rather weak Ernst as they escaped Paris for the south, before he was arrested as an alien in the weeks before France fell to the nazis.

There is a vivid description of the distraught and raging Carrington being smuggled out of the country and into Francoist Spain, where she suffered a breakdown and subsequent imprisonment and medical torture in a Santander asylum.

Well-connected friends helped her resume her life and painting, but without Ernst.

He’d been released and found a new love, firstly in New York and then in Mexico where Carrington spent the rest of her life, and where the author built up a long-term and observant friendship with her.

So this is first and foremost a book about one woman’s constant need for flight and exile in the face of circumstances beyond her control.

It is also a testament to her resistance to, and curious intoxication with, the controlling presence of men — her father, Ernst and her posh-boy patron Edward James included. Carrington emerges as a fragile but determined survivor, eclectically alighting on new ideas — everything from Jung to the Kabbalah but without really engaging in the material realities around her.

She was certainly vehemently anti-nazi when directly threatened but, as with most of the bitchy Surrealists, she failed to recognise the broader class struggles taking place whether in Spain in the 1930s or later in Mexico as the government brutally attacked protesters in the run-up to the 1968 Olympics.

Yet her utter need for freedom, gloriously expressed in her paintings, makes her a vital and influential artistic figure.

“The names most often associated with surrealism, the avant-garde cultural movement born in the 1920s, include Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, Hans Arp, Marcel Duchamp and Yves Tanguy, among others. Surprise, surprise, they’re all men. Thankfully, Sotheby’s is now hoping to illuminate the many women artists who deserve equal recognition.” (Read more here)

Monarch butterfly news

This video is called Monarch Mania! Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle.


Monarch butterfly population rises a little, but still perilously low

Jeremy Hance

January 28, 2015

The world’s migrating monarch butterfly population has bounced back slightly from its record low last year, but the new numbers are still the second smallest on record. According to WWF-Mexico and the Mexican government, butterflies covered 2.79 acres (1.13 hectares) in nine colonies this year in the Mexican forests where the insects overwinter. This is a 69 percent increase from last year’s nadir of just 1.65 acres (0.67 hectares), however, the new numbers remain hugely concerning.

“The population increase is welcome news, but the monarch must reach a much larger population size to be able to bounce back from ups and downs,” said researcher Tierra Curry with the Center for Biological Diversity, adding that “this much-loved butterfly still needs Endangered Species Act protection to ensure that it’s around for future generations.”

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it would consider adding the vanishing insect under the country’s Endangered Species Act. Currently, the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is not at risk of extinction, but its migration is. Monarch butterflies in the Eastern U.S. are famous for their epic migration spanning some 1,900 to 4,500 kilometers (1,200 to 2,800 miles) from Canada to the mountains of central Mexico every year. Each migration takes several monarch generations to complete, often three to four.

In the 1990s—when scientists first started counting the area filled by migrating monarch butterflies in Mexico—the overwintering habitat never dipped below 13 acres (five hectares). The largest population covered 44.95 acres (18.19 hectares) in 1993. But the trend over the last decade has been one of extensive decline, with various rises and falls.

A decade ago, conservationists were largely concerned with deforestation and illegal logging in Mexico’s overwintering forests. However, due to work by indigenous groups, locals, and the Mexican government that threat has been largely neutralized, at least for the time being. Today the biggest threat is the loss of food and habitat across the U.S. and Canada due to herbicides and increasingly intensified agriculture.

According to WWF, herbicide use in the U.S. for soy and corn killed off 58 percent of the country’s milkweed from 1999 to 2010, resulting in a monarch decline of 81 percent. The development of genetically modified crops has exacerbated the situation as these crops are resistant to the popular herbicide, Roundup. However, Roundup and other herbicides containing glyphosate decimate milkweed populations. Monarch butterfly caterpillars feed solely on milkweed, meaning the species requires a road of milkweed from Canada through Eastern and Central U.S. down to Mexico in order to survive. But agriculture policy in the last couple decades, especially in the U.S., has resulted in a massively fragmented milkweed route.

“The 2.79 acres occupied by monarchs this winter should serve as additional motivation for the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the United States to translate the commitment they made in Mexico in February 2014, to concrete and immediate actions,” said Omar Vidal, Director General of WWF-Mexico. “It is crucial that we restore and protect the habitat of this iconic species in all three countries, but above all that we limit the use of herbicide and land conversion in the United States and maintain efforts to avoid deforestation in Mexico.”

Conservationists say that planting milkweed in gardens may benefit the monarch, however gardeners must plant the right variety of milkweed and make sure the milkweed hasn’t been coated with a popular insecticide in the neonicotinoid family. Research has shown that neonicotinoids may harm pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.

Monarch butterflies aren’t the only pollinators in trouble, many of the world’s pollinators have undergone drastic declines in recent decades. Experts point to possible impacts such as pesticides, habitat loss, and disease.

For monarch butterflies, loss of migration means more disease: here.

Monsanto’s Roundup system threatens extinction of monarch butterflies – report.