African penguin news on World Oceans Day


This video from South Africa says about itself:

African Penguins colony at Boulders Beach, Table Mountain National Park filmed by Paul and Linsey Brown in September 2012.

Recorded on Panasonic HX-WA10 Palmcorder; Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30 Compact Camera and GoPro HD2. Edited using Final Cut Pro X.

From BirdLife:

Hello Friend,

Today, on World Oceans Day, we wanted to share some exciting news about the release of five rehabilitated ‘Endangered’ African Penguins from a safe area in Plettenburg Bay this Saturday, 10th June.

BirdLife, with BirdLife South Africa and other organisations, is leading on an ambitious plan to start a new mainland penguin breeding colony in Plettenberg Bay. It was decided that rehabilitated penguins should be released from Plettenberg Bay as a part of this process.

Please will you help us protect penguins by making a donation?

Adult and juvenile penguins are often seen in the waters around Plettenberg Bay, but are occasionally found injured, sick or moulting where they are vulnerable to predators. Over the last four months, the Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre has rescued five penguins: two with injuries, one with avian malaria and two who were moulting. The penguins have recovered well and are ready to be returned to the ocean.

They will be released at Lookout Beach in Plettenberg Bay this Saturday to celebrate World Oceans Day. This area has been chosen for its plentiful stocks of sardines and anchovies, which is perfect for these birds.

We are still working hard to protect all penguin species – and would be so grateful if you would support us by protecting a penguin now. With your help we can continue creating positive stories like this for penguins across the Southern Hemisphere.

This work is only possible with the support of people like you. Thank you.

Best wishes,

Maggie Balaskas
Penguins Campaign Coordinator, BirdLife International

South African hominin younger than thought


Where Homo naledi was found

From Science News:

A narrow, sometimes treacherous path took Rising Star cave explorers from the surface to the Lesedi Chamber in South Africa. Homo naledi fossils excavated there come from at least three individuals, including an adult male that the investigators named Neo. An adjacent, belowground passageway connects to the Dinaledi Chamber, where H. naledi fossils were first unearthed.

Homo naledi may have lived at around same time as early humans

New dating puts famed hominid in South Africa as recently as 236,000 years ago

By Bruce Bower

4:00am, May 9, 2017

Fossils of a humanlike species with some puzzlingly ancient skeletal quirks are surprisingly young, its discoverers say. It now appears that this hominid, dubbed Homo naledi, inhabited southern Africa close to 300,000 years ago, around the dawn of Homo sapiens.

H. naledi achieved worldwide acclaim in 2015 as a possibly pivotal player in the evolution of the human genus, Homo. Retrieved from an underground chamber in South Africa, fossils of this species were thought to be anywhere from 900,000 to at least 1.8 million years old (SN: 8/6/16, p. 12). A younger age for H. naledi resolves one mystery about these cave fossils. It doesn’t, however, answer questions about how long ago the species first appeared and when it died out.

What is now known is that H. naledi bodies somehow ended up in Dinaledi Chamber, part of South Africa’s Rising Star cave system, between 236,000 and 335,000 years ago, an international team reports in one of three papers published May 9 in eLife. Paleoanthropologist Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg headed the team. Geoscientist Paul Dirks of James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, directed the dating effort.

In the first paper, two methods of measuring the concentration of natural uranium and other radioactive elements, and damage caused by those elements over time, provided key age estimates for three H. naledi teeth. A thin sheet of rock deposited by flowing water just above the fossils was also dated.

In a second new paper, Berger’s group — led by paleoanthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin–Madison — describes 131 newly discovered H. naledi fossils from a second underground cave, dubbed Lesedi Chamber, within the Rising Star cave system. The finds come from at least three individuals and include an adult male’s partial skeleton comparable in completeness to Lucy’s famous, 3.2-million-year-old remains from East Africa. Both of these specimens consist of about 40 percent of the skeleton. The researchers named the Lesedi partial skeleton “Neo,” which means gift in Sesotho, a language spoken in South Africa.

Berger and his colleagues say the Lesedi discoveries support their controversial suggestion that H. naledi deliberately put bodies of the dead in Rising Star’s underground chambers (SN: 5/14/16, p. 12). The team says there are no signs that either predatory animals or streams carried H. naledi corpses into the caves.

Individuals from both underground chambers display the same distinctive pattern of skeletal features, signs that they all belong to H. naledi, not to Homo erectus or any other previously identified Homo species, the investigators contend. These features include relatively small, orange-sized brains and curved fingers like those of Homo species that lived around 2 million years ago, as well as wrists, hands, legs, feet and body sizes comparable to those of Neandertals and humans.

Although the Dinaledi finds are unexpectedly young, H. naledi’s ancient-looking characteristics suggest that the hominid originated near the root of the Homo genus, 2 million years ago or more, Berger and colleagues propose in the third new paper. That would make the South African species a possible ancestor or close relative of H. erectus, which dates to around that time. The oldest Homo fossils date to 2.8 million years ago in East Africa (SN: 4/4/15, p. 8).

Another possibility, Berger’s group says, is that H. naledi originated a few hundred thousand years ago and is most closely related to early H. sapiens or other Homo species that may have inhabited southern Africa at that time. A relatively late origin for H. naledi would suggest it evolved from larger-brained ancestors, the researchers say. That would be unusual: Scientists have long held that the brain only became larger as Homo species evolved.

But that proposed scenario has some parallels to Indonesia’s Homo floresiensis, better known as the hobbit. These hominids, whose remains date to between about 100,000 and 60,000 years ago (SN: 4/30/16, p. 7), had chimp-sized brains, short statures and, like H. naledi, some skull features resembling early Homo species. Hobbits either evolved smaller brains or retained small brains after splitting from a much older Homo species in Africa.

Unlike H. naledi, hobbits lived on an island where a lack of competition with other Homo species may have assisted their survival. It’s unclear how H. naledi survived in Africa alongside larger-brained Homo species, perhaps even H. sapiens. Occasional interbreeding in southern Africa — similar to what occurred later among H. sapiens, Neandertals and Denisovans in Eurasia (SN: 10/15/16, p. 22) — may have benefited H. naledi, Berger’s team suspects.

H. naledi DNA would help clarify the species’ evolutionary status. But attempts to extract DNA from Dinaledi fossils have so far failed. Researchers have yet to test Lesedi fossils for DNA or to try to generate age estimates for the new finds.

“My intuition is that Homo naledi points to a diversity of African Homo species that once lived south of the equator” in Africa, Hawks says. It’s unlikely Homo evolution proceeded in a straight line, from one species to the next, in a specific part of subequatorial Africa, he proposes.

Paleoanthropologists familiar with the new reports interpret the findings differently.

An “astonishingly young” age for a Homo species with several ancient-looking features suggests H. naledi was the sole survivor of an array of much older, closely related species, proposes Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London. H. naledi probably made some of the many stone tools found at southern African sites dating to around 300,000 years ago that have not yielded hominid fossils, he adds. But despite Berger’s claims, Stringer doubts a creature with a brain size close to that of a gorilla disposed of its dead deep within a pitch-black, hard-to-navigate cave system, especially since the controlled use of fire for torches was probably also needed.

Berger’s team plans to excavate near openings to the Rising Star cave system where stone tools and signs of fire use may turn up.

However complex H. naledi’s behavior may have been, ancient aspects of its anatomy rule it out as an ancestor of H. sapiens, says Donald Johanson of Arizona State University in Tempe. Johanson, codiscoverer of Lucy, argues that H. sapiens originated in East Africa. Researchers generally place that evolutionary turning point, wherever it occurred, at between 200,000 and 300,000 years ago. “The Rising Star Cave hominids, much like the hobbits, evolved in isolation and have no relevance to the origins of humankind,” Johanson says.

Still, even a largely isolated H. naledi population may have occasionally interbred with other Homo species in southern Africa, says Fred Smith of Illinois State University in Normal. Later Homo evolution “is far more complex than has generally been thought,” he says.

Berger and his colleagues second that point.

Newly obtained dating of the fossil hominin species Homo naledi, which was first discovered in 2015, significantly alters its position in the overall pattern of human evolution. Furthermore, it raises significant questions regarding the pattern of human evolution more generally: here.

South African Mandela’s comrade Ahmed Kathrada, RIP


This video from the commemoration in South Africa after the death of Nelson Mandela says about itself:

Mandela‘s fellow inmate gives emotional speech

15 December 2013

Fighting back tears, Ahmed Kathrada, who was jailed with Mandela on the Robben Island and is a family friend, said the last time he saw Mandela was when the anti-apartheid hero was fighting for his life in hospital. Kathrada said he met Mandela 67 years ago, and was saddened to see that he had become a “shadow of his former self”, but spoke highly of his campaign against racial segregation.

Today, veteran anti-apartheid fighter Ahmed Kathrada himself has died. See also here.

This video from South Africa says about itself:

Zenani Mandela pays tribute to Ahmed Kathrada

28 March 2017

South African boy discovers dinosaur tooth


This video from South Africa says about itself:

Dinosaur find in Knysna

6 February 2017

Ben Ingel, a learner at Oakhill School, found the tooth of a 120 million year-old dinosaur.

Video Elaine King, Knysna-Plettt Herald.

Read more here.

From eNCA.com in South Africa:

Grade 8 pupil discovers tooth of dinosaur in Knysna

Wednesday 8 February 2017 – 5:33am

JOHANNESBURG – Knysna has landed itself prominently on the archaeological map.

Thirteen-year-old Grade 8 pupil, Benjamin Ingel discovered a tooth there — and it very likely comes from a dinosaur.

Ingel reportedly found the tooth while walking near Knysna lagoon. He brought it home to show his family.

Ingel’s grandfather, Vernon Rice, approached some experts to verify the authenticity of the find. Geologists Rob Muir and Roger Schoon agreed to come to his house to have a look.

Rice said: “They took one look and I could see from their faces we had something.”

Palaeontologist Robert Gess at the Albany Museum in Grahamstown invited Ben and his grandfather to the museum to allow palaeontologists to examine the specimen more closely.

Wits University palaeontologist Jonah Choiniere, who has seen photographs of the tooth, believes that it is about 140 million years old and belonged to a carnivorous theropod.

Choiniere believes the dinosaur weighed between 500kg and a ton.

“This was a meat-eater of considerable size; his head would bump on the ceiling of my house,” said palaeontologist Dr Billy de Klerk, who has also seen the tooth.

“These teeth are so rare that in a span of 30 years I have only seen 15 decent teeth,” De Klerk added.

Ingel is prepared to donate the tooth to a museum after he shows it to his friends at school.

Probably, the teeth belongerd to an individual of the Allosaurus family.

Martin Luther King speech newly discovered


This video from the USA says about itself:

17 January 2017

In a Democracy Now! and Pacifica Radio Archives exclusive, we air a newly discovered recording of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On December 7, 1964, days before he received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, King gave a major address in London on segregation, the fight for civil rights and his support for Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. The speech was recorded by Saul Bernstein, who was working as the European correspondent for Pacifica Radio. Bernstein’s recording was recently discovered by Brian DeShazor, director of the Pacifica Radio Archives.

This video is the sequel.

Young kudu born at Christmas in South Africa


This December 2016 video from South Africa says about itself:

A kudu gives birth at Christmas

Puff adder snakes mating on South African road


This video from South Africa says about itself:

29 December 2016

This is the extremely rare moment of a pair of puff adders mating in the road.

Lourens Erasmus captured this scene on his most recent safari adventure.

Seeing a snake while on a safari is something that most people fight about, they want to see one, but then when they do, they suddenly get really scared. Well, if one gets a fright when seeing one snake, imagine two in the middle of the road! Not even mentioning that a puff adder is an extremely venomous snake.

What a sighting to capture on film! It was so incredible that he went straight away to LatestSightings.com and uploaded it to the partner program.

When 2 male snakes fight, it looks extremely similar, however this is slightly more calm, which makes snake experts believe that these are a male and female snake performing the mating ritual.