Jaguarundi cats, video


This 19 May 2020 video says about itself:

This week in the latest of the wild cats of the Amazon, we’re talking about the jaguarundi. These cats may look like they’re in the weasel family, but they’re not!

Special thanks to the San Miguelito Jaguar Conservation Ranch and WWF-Peru for sharing this footage with us. …

And shout out to our writer and biologist Romi Castagnino, who hosted, produced and shot this video!

Spectacled bear on camera trap in Peru


This 10 March 2020 video says about itself:

What is a spectacled bear? Candid Animal Cam takes us to the Andes

Special thanks to WWF-Peru for sharing this footage with us, and to the San Miguelito Jaguar Conservation Ranch for additional footage.

And shout out to our writer and biologist Romi Castagnino, who hosted, produced and shot this video!

Ancient pre-Inca Pachacamac sculpture was coloured


This 2011 video is about the Pachacamac Idol.

From PLOS:

Pachacamac Idol of ancient Peru was symbolically painted

Chemical analysis of the statue reveals its age and original polychromatic design

January 15, 2020

The Pachacamac Idol of ancient Peru was a multicolored and emblematic sacred icon worshipped for almost 700 hundred years before Spanish conquest, according to a study published January 15, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Marcela Sepúlveda of the University of Tarapacá, Chile and colleagues.

The Pachacamac Idol is a symbolically carved wooden statue known from the Pachacamac archaeological complex, the principal coastal Inca sanctuary 31 km south of Lima, Peru during the 15th-16th centuries. The idol was reportedly damaged in 1533 during Spanish conquest of the region, and details of its originality and antiquity have been unclear. Also unexplored has been the question of whether the idol was symbolically colored, a common practice in Old World Antiquity.

In this study, Sepúlveda and colleagues obtained a wood sample from the Pachacamac Idol for chemical analysis. Through carbon-dating, they were able to determine that the wood was cut and likely carved approximately 760-876 AD, during the Middle Horizon, suggesting the statue was worshipped for almost 700 years before Spanish conquest. Their analysis also identified chemical traces of three pigments that would have conferred red, yellow, and white coloration to the idol.

This nondestructive analysis not only confirms that the idol was painted, but also that it was polychromatic, displaying at least three colors and perhaps others not detected in this study. The fact that the red pigment used was cinnabar, a material not found in the local region, demonstrates economic and symbolic implications for the coloration of the statue. The authors point out that coloration is a rarely discussed factor in the symbolic, economic, and experiential importance of religious symbols of the pre-Columbian periods, and that more studies on the subject could illuminate unknown details of cultural practices of the Andean past in South America.

The authors add: “Here, polychromy of the so-called Pachacamac Idol is demonstrated, including the presence of cinnabar.”

New praying mantis species discovered in Peru


This 17 October 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Dr. Gavin Svenson, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s Director of Research & Collections and Curator of Invertebrate Zoology, discovered a new species of praying mantis on an insect survey expedition in the Amazon Rainforest. The mantis, named Vespamantoida wherleyi, is brightly colored and mimics wasps in an effort to ward off predators—a combination that has never been seen before. The discovery and analysis have had widespread implications for the Mantoididae family.

From the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in the USA:

Scientists discover new species of wasp-mimicking praying mantis

Peruvian mantis represents the first known example of a praying mantis species conspicuously mimicking a wasp

October 17, 2019

Cleveland Museum of Natural History Director of Research & Collections and Curator of Invertebrate Zoology Dr. Gavin Svenson and former Case Western Reserve University graduate student, Henrique Rodrigues, have discovered a new species of praying mantis, described as the first known mantis species to conspicuously mimic a wasp. In addition, the new species joins one previously described species within a newly erected genus Vespamantoida. The results of the team’s findings were published today in the online journal PeerJ.

The new species, named Vespamantoida wherleyi, was discovered near the Amazon River in Peru in 2013 during a general entomological survey of the field site. The male specimen was attracted to a light trap, and its bright coloration and wasp-like shape and behavior immediately caught the team’s eye.

“Typically, the majority of species differentiation is discovered and confirmed within a lab or collection setting,” explains Dr. Svenson. “To have that rare eureka moment where you know you have found something new in the field is incredibly exciting.”

The mantis exhibited a bright red-orange coloration, as well as the body structure, erratic locomotion patterns, and even antennae behavior typically associated with most wasp species. This apparent style of mimicry, known as Batesian mimicry, is a strategy in which a mostly harmless organism adopts the appearance, and occasionally the behaviors, of an organism known to pose a greater threat to would-be predators.

“In nature, when you are intentionally conspicuous, you are advertising something,” says Dr. Svenson. “When you are a species that can be easily taken as prey, you advertise because you want predators to think that you are poisonous, or could injure them, or any combination of unpleasant factors that tell the predator to think twice before pursuing you.”

In the mantis world, mimicry of vegetation is a fundamental strategy, but wasp mimicry in adults is unique, and limited to just one family, of which Vespamantoida is now a part. Until the discovery of V. wherleyi, however, mantis mimicry strategies were theorized to aid the mantis primarily in hiding from predators, and occasionally in luring prey. The conspicuous appearance and behavior of V. wherleyi represent a novel form of defensive mimicry whereby the mantis imitates a harmful organism’s natural defense signals to warn predators away. It is a strategy that is unique among known mantises.

“There are about 2,500 species of mantises described,” says Dr. Svenson. “I’d put a bet on there being about 5,000. So, I think we’re just halfway there. I think the most interesting thing about this family of mantises is the fact that most of the adults do mimic wasps, and that is quite unique for praying mantises. I think the next natural thing is to study the evolutionary biology of the lineage. If wasp mimicry is successful in this lineage, why has it not evolved in the other lineages as well? Why have no other species within the family evolved brightly colored wasp mimicry? We’re just not sure.”

How burrowing owls help desert plants


This 2014 video says about itself:

We are on the vast plains of Venezuela. Burrowing owls are fond of lizards, rats and frogs, but they’ll hunt just about anything as long as it’s not too big.

From Science News today:

Burrowing birds create pockets of rich plant life in a desert landscape

Mounds of sand dug out by nest-digging birds are microhabitats where seeds can germinate

In the rain-starved deserts of coastal Peru, tiny patches surprisingly rich in plant life dot the landscape. Burrowing birds may be responsible, scientists say.

Mounds of sand shoveled out by nest-digging burrowing owls and miner birds harbor more seedlings and exclusive plant varieties compared with surrounding undisturbed soils, researchers from the National University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru report in the October Journal of Arid Environments. Although the mounds hold fewer seeds, the structures may provide a sheltered and moist germination environment at the start of the growing season — unlike adjacent crusty soils carpeted with cyanobacteria, lichen, moss and algae.

“The ability of seeds to germinate in the desert is a daunting task,” says Jayne Belnap, a U.S. Geological Survey ecologist based in Moab, Utah, who wasn’t involved in the study, “especially if you have a crust.”

That crust inhibits seed growth in two ways. Seeds stranded on top are exposed to the harsh environment, and may not be able to sprout at all. And the crust itself can act as a barrier for water to reach buried seeds, and for seedlings to emerge.

But when burrowing birds break the crust and dig up sand, seeds can mix into the sand, and water may pool between the tossed sand and crust, the researchers say. That allows seeds to become buried and accumulate moisture needed to germinate.

While it’s known that burrowing mammals can break compacted soils and create nutrient-rich hot spots ideal for plant establishment, this study is the first to document similar ecosystem engineering done by dryland birds.

In 2016, Maria Cristina Rengifo-Faiffer, an ecologist now at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, collected soils in the National Reserve of Lachay in Peru. The area lies in a part of the Atacama Desert (SN: 2/27/18) where lomas, or mist oases, exist. It rarely rains there and most plants rely on three months of winter fog to complete their life cycle.

Samples came from 61 mounds dug up by three bird species — burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), coastal miner (Geositta peruviana) and greyish miner (G. maritima) — as well as from adjacent undisturbed areas. She watered the soil and allowed seeds to sprout in a greenhouse, using that as a proxy for how many viable seeds there were in the soils.

The bird mounds, on average, held 1,015 seeds per square meter, while the same-sized soil crust areas housed 2,740 seeds, Rengifo-Faiffer and ecologist Cesar Arana found.

But a catalog of natural germination out in the desert found that the bird-tossed soil was much more fertile than the crust: On average, 213 seedlings sprouted out of the bird mounds compared with 176 that emerged from adjacent crusty soils.

The team also found that five plant species appear exclusively in the bird-disturbed areas, including Amaranthaceae and Malvaceae species. These “microhabitats” created by burrowing birds are important to maintain plant diversity, Rengifo-Faiffer says.

“To me, that’s the coolest part of this study,” Belnap says. “You’re facilitating the presence of other species by having this burrowing happen.”

Contrary to the long-held belief that plants in the natural world are always in competition, new research has found that in harsh environments mature plants help smaller ones — and thrive as a result: here.

United States sport stars protest against racism


This 23 March 2019 video from the USA is called Gwendolyn Berry Hammer Throw Skills.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio:

US American sports people protest again during national anthem

American athletes have again protested against abuses in their country. What started three years ago with a kneeling protest by American Football player Colin Kaepernick against police violence in America, was followed by two athletes at the Pan-American Games in Lima [in Peru] last weekend.

On Friday, fencer Race Imboden knelt when the American national anthem was played after receiving a gold medal. The next day, Gwendolyn Berry, who won gold in the hammer throw, raised her fist when the national anthem was heard.

United States gold medal winner Gwendolyn Berry raises her fist in protest, C.Cruz/AP photo

Ex-athlete Carl Lewis backs equal pay in sports and attacks ‘racist’ Donald Trump. Olympic legend supports US women’s [soccer] team lawsuit. Calls US president ‘prejudiced, and misogynistic’: here.

This 11 August 2019 video says about itself:

Race Imboden takes a knee and joins tradition of US athlete protests

United States gold medal-winning fencer Race Imboden may face sanctions for taking a knee during the medal ceremony at the 2019 Pan-American Games. Imboden’s gesture preceded a similar protest on Saturday by American hammer thrower Gwen Berry, who raised her fist at the end of the national anthem after winning gold.

US athletes have a long history of staging such protests, dating back to the 1960s civil rights movement, but they have grown in recent years following NFL player Colin Kaepernick‘s decision to start taking a knee during the national anthem in 2016.

US Olympics body may sanction athletes for Trump protests. Athletes are facing possible sanctions for protesting Donald Trump at the Pan American Games. Gwen Berry and Race Imboden tried to draw attention to social issues in the US that they feel are spiraling out of control: here.

The NOS article continues:

The protests are remarkable, thinks sports journalist Maarten Kolsloot, given the success of the two American athletes. “Berry is a record holder and Imboden has already been world champion”, he says in the NOS Radio 1 News. “So they really send a signal.”

That signal is extra strong, Kolsloot thinks, because today it is exactly two years ago that a young woman was killed in a car attack in Charlottesville. In that American city, extreme right-wing demonstrators and counter-protesters stood opposite each other. A man deliberately drove into the counter-protesters; one was killed and dozens injured.

“Long list of problems”

On Twitter, Imboden, who is also a DJ and model, wrote that he protests for “a long list of problems, on which racism, gun control, mistreatment of immigrants are at the top”. He also called on others to follow his example.

“Imboden is next to footballer Megan Rapinoe one of the few white athletes participating in the protest,” says Kolsloot. “But precisely because fencing is a fairly white, elitist sport, Imboden indicated it was important to participate.”

The action of the two athletes is daring, since participants in the Pan-American Games must sign a document stating that political statements are out of the question. “Moreover, Trump reacted with disapproval when Kaepernick was the first to kneel during the national anthem three years ago,” says Kolsloot. “He thought demonstrating athletes should be fired and called them sons of bitches.”

It cost Kaepernick dear: because of the fuss he ended up without a club and was forced to leave the sport.

Trump has not yet responded to the action by Berry and Imboden. …

A spokesperson for the American Olympic committee reacted strongly to the action by the two athletes. “They are both big contenders for going to the Tokyo Games in 2020”, says Kolsloot, “but it is unclear whether the protest will have an impact on that.” Berry is said to have had a meeting with the Committee, but what came out of it is unknown.

Kolsloot considers it unlikely that the two will be suspended for a long time. “Both athletes are medal candidates, with even the chance of gold. Moreover, the protests will only get bigger. It is waiting for the next kneeling athlete.”

Protesting US athletes get suspended sentence: here.

South American bears need water


This 2016 video says about itself:

The Andean bear, also known as the spectacled bear, is sometimes called the Paddington bear, after the fictional bear in children’s books written by Michael Bond. The spectacled bear is the only bear species in South America, and its numbers are dwindling. In Peru, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World, has set aside land as a rescue center for the bears.

From San Diego Zoo Global in the USA:

Bear necessities: New study highlights importance of water resources for Andean bears

January 15, 2019

A new study is shedding light on the importance of one critical resource for Andean bears living in the dry mountain forests of Peru: water. The study — a collaboration between the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and San Diego Zoo Global, with assistance from the Spectacled Bear Conservation Society-Peru — found that Andean bears focus much of their tree-rubbing behavior on shrubs and trees that are located on trails near water holes. Bears typically bite, claw and rub their body parts on trees, which is believed to be an important form of communication with other bears in the region. The discovery that this behavior occurs near water holes could have implications for future conservation programs.

“It may seem obvious that water holes would be an important resource for Andean bears living in tropical dry forests — however, these results suggest that water holes are significant not just as sources of drinking water, but also as important sites where bears communicate with one another,” said Russ Van Horn, Ph.D., San Diego Zoo Global scientist. “Because water holes are often the focus of activity by humans and their livestock, conservation planners will need to balance the interests of people and Andean bears in future programs.”

A paper detailing results of the study, recently published in the journal Ursus, reported that while Andean bears didn’t show a particular preference for tree-rubbing species, the locations of rubbed trees and shrubs were concentrated on trails near water holes. In the tropical dry forests of Peru, water is a relatively rare, albeit critical resource. Consequently, since livestock in the area also make use of water resources, conflicts may result between humans and bears.

This study is part of a larger effort by San Diego Zoo Global researchers and local partners to better understand Andean bear behavior and ecology. Andean bears are considered an umbrella species in the region, meaning that conservation programs aimed at protecting Andean bears will indirectly benefit other species in the Andes Mountains.

Andean bears are listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. They are native to the Andean countries of South America, and are sometimes known as spectacled bears because of white or light fur around their eyes. San Diego Zoo Global has been working with local partners to research and protect Andean bears in Peru. Andean bear habitat is being lost at a rate of about 2 to 4 percent per year as it is destroyed for mining operations, farming and timber harvest. The construction of new roads also fragments bear habitat. In addition, climate change is altering the bear’s habitat in unpredictable ways. Andean bears now primarily live in dense mountain forests, making the species difficult to study. The dry tropical forest where this study occurred is more open than other kinds of Peruvian forests, making field research easier.