Barbary macaques in Morocco, new research


This May 2016 video says about itself:

Morocco: Barbary macaques under threat | Global 3000

There are only about 8,000 Barbary macaques remaining in northern Africa. In many places they’re captured as house pets or tourist attractions, and their habitat is shrinking. An NGO is carrying out an information campaign to protect them.

From the University of Lincoln in England:

A monkey’s balancing act

How species in the wild are managing the risks and rewards of sharing space with humans

November 25, 2019

Summary: Endangered monkeys living in the wild are intelligently adapting their lifestyle to fit with their human neighbors, learning to avoid manmade risks and exploiting increased contact with people, new research has revealed.

The study, which looks specifically at the behaviour of an endangered monkey species, reveals that even in national parks where human presence is reduced and regulated, the animals carry out careful calculations and modify their natural behaviour to balance the pros and cons of living in close proximity to humans.

It reveals the negative impact that consuming human foods can have on the physical health of the monkeys, and highlights the need for new and sustainable conservation programmes to save the growing number of endangered species in their natural habitats.

Barbary macaques are an endangered species of monkeys restricted to the forests of Morocco and Algeria, with an introduced population also living on the Rock of Gibraltar. The wild population in North Africa has dramatically declined in the last decades.

The new study, led by Dr Bonaventura Majolo from the University of Lincoln, UK, involved a detailed examination of the effects of human activity on wild Barbary macaques in Ifrane National Park in Morocco.

Dr Majolo said: “When we observe animals in the wild we often talk about a ‘landscape of fear’. This term refers to the decisions that animals make when they choose whether or not to avoid an area where the risk of predation is highest; weighing up the risk of attack against the possible rewards to be found there.

“Our study shows that macaques make many behavioural adjustments in response to varying levels of risk and reward, and that the way the macaques respond to human activity is very similar to the way in which they respond to predation risk. We see evidence here that the macaques are capable of great behavioural flexibility as they navigate the problems and the opportunities that sharing space with humans presents.”

The researchers followed five groups of Barbary macaques and observed their behaviour and habitat selection over the course of a year. Their findings reveal the true extent of human activity on the monkeys’ habitats and choices.

The researchers observed the macaques making significant adjustments to their behaviour and navigating their environment strategically in relation to human activity. They appear to balance food acquisition and risk avoidance — for example they minimise risk by avoiding areas used by local shepherds and their dogs (which are now among the monkeys’ most dangerous predators), and exploit opportunities to receive high-calorie human food by spending time close to roads.

Although being fed by humans may appear to be beneficial for the monkeys, food provisioning in fact has negative impacts on the macaques — increasing their stress levels, heightening the probability of road injury and death, and having a detrimental impact on their health.

The monkeys’ behaviour also shows seasonal trends in correlation with human activities. The macaques avoid herding routes during summer months, when herding activity by the local shepherds is at its peak, and they are more likely to use areas close to roads in the autumn and winter months, when natural food sources are low and the benefits of receiving high calorie human food may exceed the risk of being injured or even killed by road traffic.

The study reveals that the ‘home range’ of each observed macaque group (the area where a group of monkeys spend most of their time) included some kind of human structure, from roads and paths to picnic areas and farms. They also found that all of the study group’s home ranges overlapped with at least one other, which the researchers conclude could be a result of declining availability of suitable habitats and food sources, or of direct competition over profitable areas close to roads and safe sleeping sites.

Their findings are published in the scientific journal Animal Conservation.

James Waterman, first author of the paper and a PhD student at Liverpool John Moores University, said: “Even in a national park, the effect of human disturbance on animal life can be considerable, and as our landscapes become increasingly human dominated, many wildlife species must cope with new ecological pressures. The impact of habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, expanding human infrastructure, hunting and poaching quickly and dramatically alters habitats, forcing wildlife to adjust, move to more suitable areas (if these are available), or ultimately face the threat of extinction.

“This study highlights that it is more important than ever to develop conservation programs that take into account the requirements of all involved, including, but not limited to the wildlife that is ultimately at risk. Programs that fail to do so rarely produce lasting, positive change.”

Dr Majolo concludes: “The good news is that we see certain species, like these monkeys, adapting in impressive and intelligent ways to increasing levels of human activity. The bad news is that this flexibility may only take them so far as habitats continue to shrink, and contact with humans becomes harder to avoid. We have a responsibility to try to understand the limits of this flexibility and find sustainable solutions for human-wildlife co-existence before that point is reached, and we risk losing them for good.”

Moroccan rapper L’Gnawi arrested fror criticizing government


This 29 October 2019 musical video from Morocco is the song Aâcha Chaâb by rapper L’Gnawi.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Moroccan rapper Mohamed Gnawi was arrested two days after a video appeared in which he expressed his criticism of the Moroccan government.

In the song Aâcha Chaâb, which means ‘long live the people‘, Gnawi says, eg, that the government “drugs people ” so that they do not revolt. He also sings that Morocco will become an “empty country” in 2020 because everyone leaves and that the king “fools everyone”. The video has been viewed more than 700,000 times since Friday.

834,435, when I last looked today.

“Everyone thinks it’s a suspicious coincidence that he was arrested two days after that song,” says correspondent Samira Jadir. “He was already in the sights of the police. I think they were already planning to arrest him, but were only looking for a good opportunity.”

Jadir thinks that the many views played a role. “You can say a lot in Morocco, but as soon as the authorities see that you are being followed a lot, you are a danger to society in their eyes”.

From L’Express in Morocco, 2 November 2019:

The song recently released online is a “cry from the heart of a youth left on the margins”. In the video, we see the trio of rappers denouncing social injustice, repression, and abuse of power.

Ancient trilobites’ social life, new research


This June 2017 video from the USA says about itself:

Trilobites are famous not just because they were so beautifully functional, or because they happened to preserve so well. They’re known the world over because they were everywhere!

From the CNRS in France:

Arthropods formed orderly lines 480 million years ago

October 17, 2019

Researchers studied fossilized Moroccan Ampyx trilobites, which lived 480 million years ago and showed that the trilobites had probably been buried in their positions — all oriented in the same direction. Scientists deduced that these Ampyx processions may illustrate a kind of collective behavior adopted in response to cyclic environmental disturbances.

Though our understanding of the anatomy of the earliest animals is growing ever more precise, we know next to nothing about their behaviour. Did group behaviour arise recently or is it primeval? To answer this question, researchers from the CNRS, the University of Poitiers, UBO, Claude Bernard Lyon 1 University*, Cadi Ayyad University (Marrakech, Morocco), and the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) studied fossilized Moroccan Ampyx trilobites, which lived 480 million years ago. They showed that the trilobites had probably been buried in their positions — all oriented in the same direction, in orderly lines, maintaining close contact with each other through their long spines — during storms.

By comparing this observation with the behaviour of living animals such as North American spiny lobsters, the scientists deduced that these Ampyx processions may illustrate a similar kind of collective behaviour — adopted in response to cyclic environmental disturbances like storms or to chemical signals associated with reproduction.

This example would seem to suggest that group behaviour is of ancient origin and, from an early date, likely conferred an evolutionary advantage on the first animals, allowing them to survive environmental stress and improve their reproductive chances.

*- From the Laboratoire de Géologie de Lyon: Terre, Planètes, Environnement (CNRS / ENS de Lyon / Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1), the Laboratoire Géosciences Océan (CNRS / Université Bretagne Occidentale / Université Bretagne Sud), and the Institute of Chemistry of Materials and Media of Poitiers (IC2MP (CNRS / Université de Poitiers).

‘Morocco stops helping Trump-Saudi war on Yemen’


This 12 May 2015 video says about itself:

One day before a five-day humanitarian cease-fire is supposed to take effect in Yemen, a Moroccan war plane is shot down near the Saudi border.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Morocco withdraws from the military coalition that is fighting in Yemen under the leadership of Saudi Arabia. This is reported by anonymous government sources to news agency AP. They also say that the ambassador in Riyadh has been recalled. In recent times the relationship between the kingdoms has been strained, including about the course of the war in Yemen and the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Further details are not known. …

Last month, the Moroccan foreign minister already said that Rabat then had another role within the coalition.

He also suggested that the government frowned upon the recent visits of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed to other Arab countries. Mohammed bin Salman was under heavy pressure at the time of his travels, because of the strong suspicions about his involvement in the killing of Khashoggi.

A government official says to AP that Morocco has refused to receive the crown prince. The reason for this was the busy agenda of the Moroccan king.

Moroccan bald ibis update


This 3 August 2018 video, recorded in Morocco, says about itself:

Join Birdspot (Catherine Hamilton) retracing the historical footsteps of the Northern Bald Ibis in the Atlas Mountains and follow her visiting the ibises breeding places in Souss Massa National Park where, under careful management, the colonies have been growing steadily for several years and now, new breakaway colonies are forming

Northern Bald Ibis: To highlight both this bird’s long-term decline and its recent hopeful increase, Zeiss ambassador and artist Catherine Hamilton visited Morocco to paint the birds at their ocean-cliff nests.

I was privileged to see these beautiful threatened birds in Morocco.

Moroccan Eocene mammal discovery


This video says about itself:

8 PREHISTORIC ANIMALS FACTS for kids – SURPRISE TOYS Amebelodon Arsinoitherium Megacerops

23 jul. 2016

Hi guys, I’m Dan and today I will show you 8 PREHISTORIC ANIMALS for kids. I will also tell you some interesting facts about them. These animals include strange looking Deinotherium and Daeodon. There are also the terrifying Andrewsarchus and Arsinoitherium.

From ScienceDaily:

Ancient Moroccan dental remains elucidate history of long-lost African fauna

June 28, 2018

Long before rhinoceros, giraffes, hippos, and antelopes roamed the African savannah, a group of large and highly specialized mammals known as embrithopods inhabited the continent. The most well known is Arsinoitherium, an animal that looked much like a rhinoceros but was in fact more closely related to elephants, sea cows, and hyraxes. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on June 28 offer a glimpse into this ancient past with the discovery of the earliest and most ancient embrithopod yet described.

The approximately 55-million-year-old fossilized dental remains found in the first lower Eocene levels of the Ouled Abdoun phosphate basin in Morocco represent two new species in the genus Stylolophus, the researchers report. The earliest embrithopods were previously known from 48-million-year-old fossils collected in Africa and Turkey.

“The embrithopods were large and strange extinct mammals that belonged, together with hyraxes and elephants, to the early megaherbivorous mammalian fauna that inhabited the island Africa, well before the arrival about 23 million years ago of the Eurasian ungulate lineages such as the artiodactyls, including giraffes, buffalos, hippopotamus, and antelopes, and the perissodactyls, including zebras and rhinoceros“, says Emmanuel Gheerbrant of CNRS-MNHN in Paris, France. “They belong to the old endemic African fauna.”

Gheerbrant said that the origins of embrithopods had been uncertain, with two known co-existing families: one in Africa and the other in Turkey and Romania. It’s been unclear what the exact relationships of the embrithopods were with respect to sea cows and elephants.

The new phylogenetic study of the two species of Stylolophus found in Morocco confirms that they are basal embrithopods. It also shows that the extinct Embrithopod order is ancient, predating the divergence of the sea cows and elephants.

“Comparative anatomy of the new Moroccan species shows that the highly specialized embrithopod teeth derived from the ancestral dental morphology of all paenungulates, a clade including elephants, sea cows, and hyraxes, with the W-crested molars seen in some of the oldest hyracoids”, the group including hyraxes, Gheerbrant says. “The specialized design of the teeth with two transverse ridges, known in the most advanced forms such as Arsinoitherium, is a convergence of the embrithopods and the extant group of tethytheres, including manatees and elephants, towards leaf eating, which was favored by the ancient herbivorous niches available on the African island.”

The new species S. minor — which was unusually small at about the size of a sheep — is also the first to show the presence in embrithopods of enlarged and anteriorly inclined incisors, in the form of incipient tusks, as seen in the early ancestors of the group including elephants.

The early age and primitive state of Stylolophus, together with the high-level relationships (paenungulate and afrotherian), all support an African origin of the order Embrithopoda, the researchers say. The findings suggest that the Paleoamasiidae family found in Turkey arrived on the Eurasian shores of the Tethys Ocean (an ocean during much of the Mesozoic Era and the Paleogene period located between the ancient continents of Gondwana and Laurasia), after an early dispersal of an African ancestor resembling Stylolophus across the sea.

The researchers say that they’ll continue to search for paleontological evidence elucidating the evolutionary history and relationships of African ungulate-like mammals and insectivore-like afrotherian mammals, including golden moles, elephant shrews, tenrecs, aardvarks, and hyraxes. They’ll also continue the search for the enigmatic early roots of all placental mammals in Africa, going back even further in time to the Cretaceous Period.