Lys Assia, first Eurovision song contest winner, RIP


This music video says about itself:

Eurovision 1956 Switzerland / Lys AssiaRefrain

The first Eurovision Winner ever! Switzerland and Lys Assia!!

Dutch NOS TV reported on 24 March 2018 that Ms Assia had died. Her real name was Rosa Mina Schärer. She was 94 years old.

In 2011 and 2012, when she was already in her late eighties, they tried again to represent Switzerland at the Eurovision song contest, but was not selected.

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Boiling lobsters alive banned in Switzerland


This video says about itself:

11 January 2018

The Guardian has reported that as of March 1 in Switzerland “the practice of plunging live lobsters into boiling water, which is common in restaurants, is no longer permitted.” The new ban is part of a wider overhaul of Swiss animal protection laws. As David Foster Wallace points out in “Consider the Lobster” when the animals are boiled alive they flail and cling to the pot trying to escape.

Will these new laws in Switzerland also ban eating cat and dogs, still legal now?

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Switzerland forbids boiling lobsters alive, should we also do that?

From the aquarium into a pan of boiling water with claws handcuffed. It will no longer be possible in Switzerland in two months; then it will be illegal to boil lobsters alive. From now on, they must first be anesthetized by means of a power surge. …

The Party for the Animals has been working for years for a lobster-boiling ban in the Netherlands. MP Wassenberg says that several studies have shown that lobsters can feel pain. “This is a reason for Switzerland to forbid the live boiling of lobsters without prior anesthetic. The Party for the Animals has been calling for such a ban for years, but motions for that could not count on sufficient support.”

European Commissioner Andriukaitis argued earlier in a response to questions from the party that the live boiling of crustaceans and the placing of seawater crustaceans into fresh water is painful and can cause stress. Afterwards, Wassenberg asked during the budget debate in the House of Representatives whether the minister wants to take measures against it.

Electric eels solving energy problems


This 2017 video is called Electric eel immobilized a huge crocodile.

By Maria Temming:

Electric eels provide a zap of inspiration for a new kind of power source

Battery-like devices mimic how a charge builds up in the animal’s cells

1:22pm, December 13, 2017

New power sources bear a shocking resemblance to the electricity-making organs inside electric eels.

These artificial electric eel organs are made up of water-based polymer mixes called hydrogels. Such soft, flexible battery-like devices, described online October 13 in Nature, could power soft robots or next-gen wearable and implantable tech.

“It’s a very smart approach” to building potentially biocompatible, environmentally friendly energy sources and “has a bright future for commercialization”, says Jian Xu, an engineer at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge not involved in the work.

This new type of power source is modeled after rows of cells called electrocytes in the electric organ that runs along an electric eel’s body. When an eel zaps its prey, positively charged potassium and sodium atoms inside and between these cells flow toward the eel’s head, making each electrocyte’s front end positive and tail end negative. This setup creates a voltage of about 150 millivolts across each cell. The voltages of these electrocytes add up, like a lineup of AAA batteries powering a flashlight, explains Michael Mayer, a biophysicist at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. Collectively, an eel’s electrocytes can generate hundreds of volts.

In an effort to create a power source for future implantable technologies, a team of researchers developed an electric eel-inspired device that produced 110 volts from gels filled with water, called hydrogels. Their results show potential for a soft power source to draw on a biological system’s chemical energy: here.

Swiss Triassic reptile, new study


Eusaurosphargis dalsassoi, new specimen PIMUZ A/III 4380. Credit: Beat Scheffold; Palaeontological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich, Switzerland

From the University of Zurich in Switzerland:

Ancient Swiss reptile shows its bizarre scale armor for the first time

June 30, 2017

Grisons, 241 million years ago — Instead of amidst high mountains, a small reptile suns itself on an island beach in a warm shallow sea, where many fish and marine reptiles frolic. This is the story told by an excellently preserved new discovery of the reptile Eusaurosphargis dalsassoi studied by paleontologists from the University of Zurich.

About 20 centimeters in length, the Swiss reptile was small and juvenile, but its skin was already strongly armored with variously formed smooth, jagged or even thorny osteoderms. Its skeleton indicates a life on land, even though the animal was found together with fish and marine reptiles in the 241 million year old calcareous deposits of the Prosanto Formation near Ducanfurgga at an altitude of 2,740 meters south of Davos in the canton Grisons, Switzerland. The Swiss-British team of researchers led by Torsten Scheyer, paleontologist at the University of Zurich, and James Neenan from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History therefore assumes that it was washed off a nearby island into the sea basin and became embedded in the finely layered marine sediments after death.

Skeleton and appearance reconstructed

14 years ago, the species Eusaurosphargis dalsassoi was described using a partially preserved, completely disarticulated sample from the vicinity of the Swiss-Italian UNESCO World Heritage Site Monte San Giorgio. The new find from the Grisons Mountains, on the other hand, is very well-preserved, allowing researchers to reconstruct the skeleton and outward appearance of the animal for the first time.

In the process, they discovered something astonishing: Externally, Eusaurosphargis dalsassoi looks very similar to girdled lizards (Cordylidae), a group of small, scaled reptiles (Lepidosauria) that usually live in the dry regions of southern Africa. Some of the more strongly armored girdled lizard species could have served as the basis of mythical dragon legends due to their appearance. “This is a case of convergent development as the extinct species is not closely related to today’s African lizards”, Scheyer explains.

Related to Helveticosaurus

An exact examination of the phylogenetic relationships rather confirms that its closest relatives are marine reptiles such as ichthyosaurs (Ichthyosauria or “fish lizards”), sauropterygians (Sauropterygia “lizard flippers”) or even Helveticosaurus, a marine reptile that is unique to Switzerland, all of which have been found at Monte San Giorgio. The skeleton of Eusaurosphargis, however, shows neither a streamlined body structure, nor arms and legs that have transformed into flippers, as well as no tail fin, which would indicate a life at sea.

Discovery initially identified as fish remains

The astonishing fossil was originally discovered 15 years ago by amateur paleontologist and fossil preparator Christian Obrist during systematic fossil excavations of the University of Zurich under the leadership of Heinz Furrer, which were sponsored by the Natural History Museum of the Grisons in Chur and by the Grisons canton. It took more than a decade for the scientific value of the exceptional discovery to gradually be recognized as a result of elaborate preparation. The fossil was namely initially identified as simple fish remains. “The excavations at Ducanfurgga are still in progress today and will hopefully reveal other spectacular discoveries in the future,” Furrer says.

See also here.

Female dragonflies fake death to avoid unwanted mating


This video from England says about itself:

Common Hawker Dragonfly (Aeshna juncea)

13 February 2015

Common Hawker Dragonfly, filmed in the New Forest, Hampshire, UK. One of the rarest species in the New Forest, occurring only sporadically in a few isolated locations. Video includes male and female of the species, plus a mating pair.

From New Scientist:

27 April 2017

Female dragonflies fake sudden death to avoid male advances

By Sandrine Ceurstemont

Female dragonflies use an extreme tactic to get rid of unwanted suitors: they drop out the sky and then pretend to be dead.

Rassim Khelifa from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, witnessed the behaviour for the first time in the moorland hawker dragonfly (Aeshna juncea). While collecting their larvae in the Swiss Alps, he watched a female crash-dive to the ground while being pursued by a male.

The female then lay motionless on her back. Her suitor soon flew away, and the female took off once the coast was clear.

“I was surprised,” says Khelifa, who had never previously seen this in 10 years of studying dragonflies.

Female moorland hawkers are vulnerable to harassment when they lay their eggs since, unlike some other dragonflies, they aren’t guarded by their male mates. A single sexual encounter with another male is enough to fertilise all eggs and copulating again could damage their reproductive tract.

Khelifa found that the females often retreat to dense vegetation near ponds at this time, probably to hide. And they often act dramatically when they emerge.

High-speed plunge

He observed 27 out of 31 females plummeting and playing dead to avoid males, with 21 of these ploys successful. Plunging at high speed is risky though, and according to Adolfo Cordero-Rivera at the University of Vigo in Spain, it may be a strategy that they use only in areas with lots of dragonflies. “Females may only behave in this way if male harassment is intense,” he says.

Few animals have been caught feigning death to trick suitors. The behaviour has been seen in a species of spider (the males use it to improve their chances of mating), two species of robber fly and a type of mantis.

Playing dead to avoid predators, however, is more common and has been observed in dragonflies. “It’s likely that females expanded its use to overcome male coercion,” says Khelifa.

Khelifa is interested in finding out whether the behaviour is unique to species that lay eggs alone or whether it is more widespread. Using extreme tactics to resolve sexual conflict isn’t unique to moorland hawkers: in their damselfly relatives, for example, females eat their partner.