South American amphibian saving human lives?


This February 2017 video, recorded in Costa Rica, is about wildlife, especially the Caecilia volcani species of caecilian amphibians.

From the University of Surrey in England:

A South American amphibian could potentially hold the key to curing cirrhosis

December 6, 2017

The unique liver function of a South American amphibian, Siphonops annulatus, could pave the way to finding a cure to the devastating liver condition cirrhosis, a new study published in the Journal of Anatomy reports.

Researchers from the University of Surrey (UK), the Federal University of São Paulo and the Butantan Institute in Brazil used an innovative 3D liver cell examination to explore the liver function of this snake-like amphibian. During an in-depth examination, it was found that the liver of Siphonops annulatus produces blood cells throughout its lifetime and breaks down the protein collagen.

According to Dr Robson Gutierre, a morphologist and leading author of this study, the South American amphibian has very unique liver cells, known as melanomacrophages, which can remove and break down collagen as part of its natural function. In the same species, melanomacrophages also naturally engulf basophils, helping to minimise unwanted inflammation and reduce the scar tissue which can lead to cirrhosis.

Cirrhosis occurs in response to damage to the liver. Chronic alcoholism, hepatitis or other harmful substances can promote the response of self-repair in the liver, mainly represented as a high production of collagen and scar formation (fibrosis). As cirrhosis progresses, liver functions such as detoxification and cleaning of blood, among others, become difficult.

Several treatment strategies for cirrhosis have been tried throughout the world, such as delaying or removing the underlying stimulus that causes scars to form. Other treatments have looked at the degradation and/or removal of collagen.

Co-author Dr Augusto Coppi, lecturer in Veterinary Anatomy and Stereologist at the University of Surrey, said: “The liver function of this amphibian, Siphonops annulatus, may provide us with a unique opportunity to solve one of the most devastating illnesses of the liver.

“We do need further in-depth investigations into how this discovery could be translated into humans, but it may have the potential to alter how we view and treat this disease. We are constantly amazed by nature, and this particular and not-well-studied species of amphibian could help us find a way to stop or even reverse liver cirrhosis.”

Dr Robson Gutierre from the Federal University of São Paulo said: “The ability this species has to break down its natural defences could also provide insight into immunity tolerance, a mechanism by which the liver can minimise unwanted inflammations. Immunity tolerance can be studied in this species because they produce pro-inflammatory cells in the hematopoietic liver throughout its whole life, without developing chronic inflammations.”

Liver cirrhosis must be diagnosed early and the cause treated, but damage is rarely reversed. In the late stages, cirrhosis is life threatening. Every year more than 4,000 people in the UK die from cirrhosis and an estimated 700 people have to have a liver transplant each year to survive.

Researchers will continue to explore how this could be translated into humans.

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886 American snake species, new research


This 2013 video says about itself:

Our encounter with the South American Aquatic Coral Snake, also known as “Micrurus Ssrinamensis” in the Madidi Jungle National Park, Amazon Basin, Bolivia.

Don’t always go with the red to yellow, kill a fellow / red to black friend of Jack rhyme. That is true only for snakes found in North America, in South America Coral Snakes can have different patterns.

The Coral native to this region can be identified by the pattern of a black triad surrounding two yellow bands with red separating each triad. Also the bands should go all around the body.

The Aquatic Coral Snake (Micrurus surinamensis) is found throughout the Amazon including the Guianas, Brazil, Bolivia, Suriname. It is also called the coral “venenosa” in Bolivia, and the “boichumbeguacu” in Brazil. This species is one of the most famous South American coral snakes, and one of the biggest too (80 to 100 cm).

The Surinamensis is a very good swimmer, and spends most of its life in slow-moving bodies of water that have dense vegetation.

Coral Snakes are usually red with black bands bordered by white (or yellow) at intervals, yet not all Coral Snakes are tricolor. The eyes of the venomous tricolor Corals are very small, in contrast with the larger eyes of the nonpoisonous tricolor false corals. Coral snakes are generally not very aggressive snakes, but it would, however, be very dangerous to step on one inadvertently, especially with bare feet.

The venom of all coral snakes is strongly neurotoxic, it affects the nervous system and can cause respiratory paralysis and suffocation. These venoms are among the most potent found in snakes, yet the venom yield per animal is less than that of most vipers or pit vipers. In Mexico Coral Snakes are known as the “20-minute snakes,” for the victim is supposed to be dead 20 minutes after being bitten by one. Corals being burrowing snakes though, few accidents are actually caused by them.

From the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Germany:

150 years of snake collections: Data bank proves rich snake diversity in the neotropics

November 24, 2017

An international team made up of scientists from Brazil, Australia, USA, Ecuador, Germany and Sweden has published the results of an extensive database constructed for snakes of the American tropics. This database is made up of museum collections from the past 150 years and demonstrates that some Neotropical regions, such as the Cerrado in central Brazil, contain a disproportionately high diversity. Furthermore, some other diverse regions are disproportionally under sampled, such as the Amazon. For the first time all factors, such as distribution patterns, collection records and frequency of occurrence are recorded from a total of 147,515 contributions to 886 snake species. Thus, the database covers 74 per cent of all snake species from 27 countries. The database, which has been so far unique in this form, will serve as a solid basis for conservation concepts, to biodiversity and evolution models in the future, as well as to design research agendas. The study was recently published in the journal “Global Ecology and Biogeography”.

About 10,500 species of reptiles (animals such as lizards and snakes) are found around the world and about 150 to 200 new species are also discovered every year. Snakes make up about 34 percent of this group of animals. “We assume that there are still many snake species that we still do not know. However, the identification of areas poorly-sampled, where probably new species can be found, must come from data and mapping of the known species” explains leading author Dr. Thaís Guedes from the University of Gothenburg and adds: “We realize that the very rich Amazonian area is, for example, one of the least explored areas.

Most of the area is of high inaccessibility, the low investments in local research sum to relative shortage of experts to explore this huge area explain this result. Besides that, the centers of research, as scientific collections, are limited to the geographic area of major cities and universities.”

The international group of scientists have collected data about snake collections of the Neotropics — South and Central America, the West Indies and the southern part of Mexico and Florida — to record the diversity of snake species, their distribution, as well as their threats. The result is a unique database with 147,515 entries for 886 snake species from 12 families. Senior author of the study Alexandre Antonelli from the University of Gothenburg is pleased: “We have published one of the largest and most detailed surveys on the distribution of snakes — one of the most species-rich reptile groups in the world! What an achievement!”

The huge dataset is the result of a merger of a public database, which was examined by experts in the course of this study and the collection data of various international taxonomists.

Another of the study’s authors, Dr. Martin Jansen from the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, says: “The review by taxonomic experts has greatly enhanced the data. One could say that the data bank now has a kind of quality mark, something like ‘taxonomically verified’. This is very important, as biodiversity models often lack this in-deepth taxonomic expertise.”

The results from this most comprehensive and novel database also highlight the necessity to better sample, explore, and protect areas of high diversity, as well as rare species. “Our database provides the ideal basis, and it can now be used by other scientists (without taxonomic expertise) as a solid basis for subsequent models, for example, on evolutionary patterns or climate change effects”, explains Guedes.

American yellow warbler migration, new discovery


This video is about a yellow warbler nest in North America.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Yellow Warbler Beats the Odds, Reveals 2,300-Mile Journey

Student researchers from the Cornell Lab were dumbfounded and then ecstatic this summer when they captured a Yellow Warbler that had been banded just two months earlier in Colombia. It was the first of its species to be banded in South America and recovered in North America. Read this story about long odds and new insights, thanks to a pretty yellow bird that made the journey to tell the tale.

Grasshopper sparrow video


This video says about itself:

Grasshopper Sparrow

24 May 2017

Footage courtesy of Benjamin M. Clock, Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

These birds live in the Americas.

American migratory birds, new study


This video from the USA says about itself:

12 April 2013

Original documentary about the annual migration of billions of songbirds across the Gulf of Mexico and into North America. Features HD footage of hundreds of colorful songbirds.

Try watching in HD: 720 or 1080p full screen (with fast connections). 1080p is the very highest quality for this movie and looks great!

It seems like the video loads with the player in the middle of the movie, so you have to move it back to the start.

GULF CROSSING: STORY OF SPRING

In the spring hundreds of bird species move from the tropics into North America. As they make their way they eventually face the great barrier of the Gulf of Mexico. This arm of the Atlantic ocean is more than 900 miles wide, and more than 600 miles across from north to south.

While some birds skirt the edge of the water, the overwhelming majority-more than 200 species, and hundreds of millions of individuals-cross the unbroken plain of the gulf in a single flight of 20 or more hours.

Gulf Crossing is a record of trans-gulf migration on America’s southern coast: the expectation of arrival, the surprise each day of what birds appear, and the habitats they are found in. The experience is expanded by a scientific perspective on the phenomenon of migration, describing its geographic shape, the coastal habitats birds rely on, physiological cycles in birds, and the effect of weather patterns on bird flight.

Bird migration along the gulf coast is one of the most exciting and powerful natural experiences you can have. Millions of birds from hundreds of species are passing overhead each day, and you never know what’s going to show up. But despite the hundreds of nature documentaries that are made each year, the story of trans-gulf migration has never really been told before.

Gulf Crossing is an attempt to document this remarkable and moving natural phenomenon. The six episodes provide a comprehensive exploration of the Gulf crossing, from Spring to Fall, covering migration along the Upper Texas Coast, the arrival and breeding of birds in the north, and Fall migration in north Florida.

I hope this documentary will increase awareness and appreciation of America’s immense but vanishing natural heritage.

Gulf Crossing is free to use in any classroom or group setting. For more info on use, see the Creative Commons License. If you are interested in downloading the file to show to groups, please contact me.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA today:

eBird Data Reveal Crucial Role for Wintering Grounds

After merging bird observations from eBird along with projections for land use and climate change, a new Cornell Lab study finds that loss of habitat on the wintering grounds may be the greatest threat faced by 21 species of eastern forest birds that winter in Central America in the coming decades. These flycatchers, warblers, and vireos spend nearly 60% of the year on their wintering grounds. The study is the first to measure the impact of climate and land-use change throughout the birds’ entire life cycle, including breeding, wintering, and migration. Read more.

South American blue dragonflies, new study


This 201 video fgrom Brazil is called Zenithoptera lanei male and female. By Ruy Penalva.

From Science News:

The blue wings of this dragonfly may be surprisingly alive

Adults go to great lengths to shine blue

By Susan Milius

7:00am, June 30, 2017

An adult insect wing is basically dead.

So what in the world were tiny respiratory channels doing in a wing membrane of a morpho dragonfly?

Rhainer Guillermo Ferreira was so jolted by a scanning electron microscope image showing what looked like skinny, branching tracheal tubes in a morpho wing that he called in another entomologist for a second opinion. Guillermo Ferreira, then at Kiel University in Germany, showed the image to a colleague who also was “shocked,” he remembers. A third entomologist was called in. Shock all around.

The shimmering, bluest-of-skies wings of male Zenithoptera dragonflies might be unexpectedly and fully alive, Guillermo Ferreira says. That bold idea will take some testing. So for now, he and colleagues report the unusual tracheal respiratory system, the first in any insect wing as far as they know, in the May Biology Letters.

Wings of insects start as living tissue, but as the creatures take their adult form, cells die between the strut work of supporting wing veins. The dried-out zones can go cellophane-clear or cover themselves in color, bordered by the vein network like the glass pieces in a cathedral window. The veins, as they’re called, have their own respiratory tubes, nerves and such. But entomologists thought the rest of an insect wing would be no more alive and in need of oxygen than toenail clippings.

Living, breathing wings might help explain how South America’s four or five species of morpho dragonflies make such complicated blue color, says Guillermo Ferreira, now at the Federal University of São Carlos in Brazil. Blue pigment, rare in nature, is nowhere on these wings. Instead, the wings, perhaps powered by abundant oxygen, create a living layer cake of light-manipulating doodads.

In the tough inner layers, male Z. lanei wings form nanoscale spheres sandwiched between blankets of black pigment–filled nanolayers. This setup can enhance reflections of blue light and muddle other wavelengths. On top are two more light-trick layers, each made of wax crystals. The uppermost crystals, Guillermo Ferreira found, are shaped “like little leaves.”

Better blues might help a male intimidate rivals for breeding territory around the edges of their palm tree swamp homeland. Male dragonflies don’t just dart and bluff. Guillermo Ferreira often sees a male “rushing toward the rival, grabbing the wings, biting the wings and then sometimes biting the head.”

In spite of the world-class color nanogadgetry, males aren’t known for courtship displays, he says. “The female just flies in, and he just grabs her.”