New pterosaur species discovery in Morocco

This 16 October 2020 video, in Vietnamese, is about the discovery of the new pterosaur species Leptostomia begaaensis.

From the University of Portsmouth in England:

Beak bone reveals pterosaur like no other

October 14, 2020

A new species of small pterosaur — similar in size to a turkey — has been discovered, which is unlike any other pterosaur seen before due to its long slender toothless beak.

The fossilised piece of beak was a surprising find and was initially assumed to be part of the fin spine of a fish, but a team of palaeontologists from the universities of Portsmouth and Bath spotted the unusual texture of the bone — seen only in pterosaurs — and realised it was a piece of beak.

Professor David Martill of the University of Portsmouth, who co-authored the study, said: “We’ve never seen anything like this little pterosaur before. The bizarre shape of the beak was so unique, at first the fossils weren’t recognised as a pterosaur.”

Careful searching of the late Cretaceous Kem Kem strata of Morocco, where this particular bone was found, revealed additional fossils of the animal, which led to the team concluding it was a new species with a long, skinny beak, like that of a Kiwi. …

The new species, Leptostomia begaaensis, used its beak to probe dirt and mud for hidden prey, hunting like present-day sandpipers or kiwis to find worms, crustaceans, and perhaps even small hard-shelled clams. …

Dr Nick Longrich, from the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, said: “Leptostomia may actually have been a fairly common pterosaur, but it’s so strange — people have probably been finding bits of this beast for years, but we didn’t know what they were until now.”

Long, slender beaks evolved in many modern birds. Those most similar to Leptostomia are probing birds — like sandpipers, kiwis, curlews, ibises and hoopoes. Some of these birds forage in earth for earthworms while others forage along beaches and tidal flats, feeding on bristle worms, fiddler crabs, and small clams.

“Pterosaur fossils typically preserve in watery settings — seas, lakes, and lagoons — because water carries sediments to bury bones. Pterosaurs flying over water to hunt for fish tend to fall in and die, so they’re common as fossils. Pterosaurs hunting along the margins of the water will preserve more rarely, and many from inland habitats may never preserve as fossils at all.

“There’s a similar pattern in birds. If all we had of birds was their fossils, we’d probably think that birds were mostly aquatic things like penguins, puffins, ducks and albatrosses. Even though they’re a minority of the species, their fossil record is a lot better than for land birds like hummingbirds, hawks, and ostriches.”

Over time, more and more species of pterosaurs with diverse lifestyles have been discovered. That trend, the new pterosaur suggests, is likely to continue.

The paper was published today in Cretaceous Research.

New mosasaur species discovery in Morocco

This 8 October 2020 video is called New species of mosasaur discovered in Morocco, more than 66 MILLION years ago.

From the University of Alberta in Canada:

Paleontologists identify new species of mosasaur

Ancient lizard’s long, crocodile-like snout suggests it carved out a niche in a competitive marine ecosystem

October 7, 2020

A new species of an ancient marine reptile evolved to strike terror into the hearts of the normally safe, fast-swimming fish has been identified by a team of University of Alberta researchers, shedding light on what it took to survive in highly competitive ecosystems.

Gavialimimus almaghribensis, a new type of mosasaur, was catalogued and named by an international research team led by master’s student Catie Strong, who performed the research a year ago as part of an undergrad honours thesis guided by vertebrate paleontologist Michael Caldwell, professor in the Faculty of Science, along with collaborators from the University of Cincinnati and Flinders University.

More than a dozen types of mosasaur — which can reach 17 metres in length and resemble an overgrown komodo dragon — ruled over the marine environment in what is now Morocco at the tail end of the Late Cretaceous period between 72 and 66 million years ago.

What differentiates Strong’s version, however, is that it features a long, narrow snout and interlocking teeth — similar to the crocodilian gharials, a relative of crocodiles and alligators.

Strong said this discovery adds a layer of clarity to a diverse picture seemingly overcrowded with mega-predators all competing for food, space and resources.

“Its long snout reflects that this mosasaur was likely adapted to a specific form of predation, or niche partitioning, within this larger ecosystem.”

Strong explained there is evidence that each species of the giant marine lizard shows adaptations for different prey items or styles of predation.

“For some species, these adaptations can be very prominent, such as the extremely long snout and the interlocking teeth in Gavialimimus, which we hypothesized as helping it to catch rapidly moving prey,” she said.

She added another distinctive species would be Globidens simplex — described last year by the Caldwell lab — which has stout, globular teeth adapted for crushing hard prey like shelled animals.

“Not all of the adaptations in these dozen or so species are this dramatic, and in some cases there may have been some overlap in prey items, but overall there is evidence that there’s been diversification of these species into different niches,” Strong noted.

Alternatively, the main contrasting hypothesis would be a scenario of more direct competition among species. Strong said given the anatomical differences among these mosasaurs, though, the idea of niche partitioning seems more consistent with the anatomy of these various species.

“This does help give another dimension to that diversity and shows how all of these animals living at the same time in the same place were able to branch off and take their own paths through evolution to be able to coexist like that,” she said.

The remains of the G. almaghribensis included a metre-long skull and some isolated bones. There was nothing to explain the cause of death of the specimen, which was uncovered in a phosphate mine in Morocco that is rich in fossils.

Morocco is an incredibly good place to find fossils, especially in these phosphate mines,” Strong said. “Those phosphates themselves reflect sediments that would have been deposited in marine environments, so there are a lot of mosasaurs there.”

Black kites rest in Morocco during migration

This video from Morocco says about itself:

Tens of thousands of Black Kites roosting near Jbel Moussa on 2 March 2020. They waited for the weather to improve to continue their migration towards their breeding grounds in Europe.

Video clips by Rachid El Khamlichi.

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).

Moroccan Amazon worker speaks out

Ex-Amazon worker Ismaila N’Diaye and his wife, Khoukoud

By Will Morrow:

Amazon is a murderer and has to be stopped”

Amazon call center worker in Rabat, Morocco speaks out against company harassment

13 July 2019

The World Socialist Web Site spoke this week to Ismaila N’Diaye, a 32-year-old former Amazon customer service employee at the RBA1 facility located in Rabat, Morocco.

Ismaila contacted the WSWS recently after he read about the experience of injured homeless Amazon worker Shannon Allen in Texas. In the past year, he says, the life of his family has been torn apart by Amazon. His wife, herself a former Amazon employee, suffered a miscarriage last August due to workplace stress from excessive quotas and management pressure, an event that has left them both suffering depression. They have been bankrupted and were forced in January to flee Morocco to escape crushing debts. Since January, they have been living in Istanbul, Turkey.

We have to make sure that what happened to me doesn’t continue to others,” Ismaila said, explaining that this was why he wanted to share his story. “Amazon killed my child. It must be stopped.”

Amazon bases its French-language customer service centers in Africa and the Maghreb in order to exploit cheap labor conditions and local tax concessions. It maintains call centers in Rabat, as well as Tunis, the Tunisian capital, and Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and in Madagascar. The wage for a starting customer service employee at RBA1, which employs around 600 people, is approximately €500 a month, or roughly 40 percent of France’s minimum wage.

Ismaila was born in Senegal and moved to Morocco in 2012. He speaks French and English fluently. When he started working at Amazon in 2015, at the age of 28, he said he was excited by the prospect of working for the largest e-commerce company in the world and believed he could secure a stable career. He was so committed to his job that he won an Amazon employee prize based on customer feedback. After a year, he was transferred to a more specialized division and received a small pay rise.

“The more I got into the job, however, I realized how much there is management harassment and no respect or care for the employees,” he said.

In the workrooms where employees take calls at RAB1, a whiteboard lists the daily quotas for responding to customer queries, including speaking with five customers per hour. “But in practice they are pushing the employees to go up to 100 per day because there are not enough staff,” Ismaila said. The managers do not know how to train or assist the staff, but instead harass workers about their targets. “Your customer satisfaction is down. The number of emails is too low.”

The staff spend eight to 10 hours on the phone and have a water bottle next to them—but are not allowed to go to the bathroom. “If you want to go to the toilet you have to write a message to a ‘Real Time Analyst’, who will come to your desk, and often say they won’t respond to the request.” There is a single one-hour break, but the break area is too small for the employees, so they sit outside in the cold or in the summer heat. “It was just exploitation,” Ismaila said. “Pure exploitation.”

Eventually, last year Ismaila decided to lodge a complaint. “I told HR that the employees are suffering,” he said. “That’s when my problems began. The managers did everything to make work a nightmare for me and my wife.”

It was shortly after, in June, that Ismaila’s wife, Khoukoud, became aware of her pregnancy. Although Amazon’s human resources department and the company nurse were informed of the pregnancy, they provided no medical support or reduction in work requirements. “They continued asking her to do more, to reply to more emails than before,” Ismaila explained. “She was not eating correctly and had low energy.” His wife told the manager that she had always exceeded Amazon’s quota, but now that she is pregnant, she could not continue to do more than what is required of her.

“The manager did not listen. Every day he put pressure on her. He took her into a separate room to inquire about her results. Once it was to inform her that on a 15-minute break, she had taken 16 minutes.”

In August, Khoukoud’s pregnancy became complicated. “We had the right to be recommended to a clinic, to have a doctor see the wife, check the baby, and get the medicine she needed.” If Amazon’s medical team had recommended a hospital visit, the health insurance would have covered the fees up front. “She got no leave from work. They left us totally on our own. They put pressure on her. It was retaliation against anyone who protests. They don’t want you to talk, just to do what they say.”

That month the pregnancy underwent further complications. “Finally, the baby died inside her due to the stress she was under.”

Khoukoud received 30 days leave from Amazon only after the surgery following her miscarriage. She received no money, and the insurance company would not pay back the expensive medical fees for repeated visits until three months later. Over the same period, however, Ismaila had an injury of his own on August 21, and was unable to work.

“I had had an allergic burn reaction to a skin treatment. We were completely collapsed. We were stressed and at home. A doctor from the company came to our door from Amazon—not to check on us, but to try to catch me and make sure I was really sick enough to be at home.”

Not only did they not receive any sick pay, but for the period from August 1-21 that Ismaila did work, he received none of the wages he was owed. The day his co-workers received their paycheck at the end of the month, Ismaila drove to Amazon to ask why he had received nothing. “I was told that if an employee misses 10 days a month, they receive no salary or benefit at all. I said, ‘What is that law?’ It is slavery. I had never heard anything about it before. I posted this on Twitter—an empty payroll. It even said I owed Amazon money.”

“But since there is no law in Morocco, that’s why Amazon goes to invest there,” he said. “That’s why they’re there, in Tunis, in Senegal. They want to exploit more people, use more people, and kill more.”

Last September, management fired Ismaila, claiming he had failed to meet his quotas. In November and December, the situation for the family became more desperate, with rising medical fees and increasing days lost from work without pay. He appealed unsuccessfully against his firing to Amazon’s ethics board and to the Moroccan state’s work inspection board.

“They’re actually together,” he said. “When I went to the government work inspection, there was an Amazon representative in the office as I arrived.”

In January, they decided they had no choice but to leave Morocco and move to Istanbul. “We had a loan with the bank for our car, and my wife had another loan. We had nowhere left to stay. We were bankrupt. We would have gone to jail because we had no way to pay anything. If we return we will be arrested at the airport because we cannot pay our mortgage. Amazon has made a fugitive of me in Morocco.”

“Amazon is a murderer,” he concluded. “It is a danger to the people. It must be stopped. They are killing people’s babies. They are making people mentally ill. They are making us homeless. Then they kick them out after exploiting them for years.”

Jeff Bezos gets $30,000 in 10 seconds. An employee cannot get that even in one year. We are told about Amazon’s progress. But it is not robots or Jeff Bezos doing that. It’s humans—workers. It’s not Jeff Bezos answering the phone, responding to customers, selecting packages. The employees go through all this while he gets richer and richer. Jeff Bezos is a murderer standing on the bones of children.”

“The reason there are billionaires is because they’re getting the part of what is made by a big number of people. These people are monsters. That’s why they’re billionaires.”

He said that he hoped that sharing his story with the World Socialist Web Site would help to expose Amazon’s practices and contribute to organizing a fight back by workers around the world.

“We need an international organization,” he said, commenting on the call by the WSWS for the formation of independent rank-and-file workplace committees to unify the struggles of Amazon workers internationally and link up with other sections of the working class.

“It would be very important for the employees to have something totally independent that will represent the employees internationally. And not only at Amazon, but at a lot of companies. The labor of the people is international and we face the same thing everywhere.”

‘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.