Snakebite antivenom discovery in American opossums


This video from the USA says about itself:

Virginia Opossum Family

12 July 2012

A short video clip of a Virginia Opossum family in wildlife rehabilitation at Evelyn’s Wildlife Refuge, Virginia Beach, VA. The mother Opossum came into care with an eye injury and front feet injuries.

From the East County Magazine in the USA:

SNAKEBITE ANTIVENOM SOURCE FOUND IN OPOSSUMS

By Miriam Raftery

April 5, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – Opossums aren’t typically thought of as a powerhouse in the animal kingdom. The term “playing possum” after all refers to one way opossums react to predators –by playing dead. But it turns out that opossums have a peptide that gives them a natural immunity to snakebites and other toxins – and now scientists are working to harness it to create anti-venoms.

Scientists have isolated the peptide, and in lab tests with mice exposed to venom, those opossum peptides proved effective against Western diamondback rattlers and Russell’s vipers from Pakistan. The results offer hope that a universal antivenom could be developed to counter the poisonous effects of snakebites from multiple species, National Geographic reports.

That’s big news, since worldwide, about 421,000 poisonous snake bites occur each year, and 20,000 deaths result, according to International Society on Toxicology. Human testing is next on the horizon.

Moreover, Newswise reporters, scientists found they could reproduce the peptide from E-coli bacteria, meaning it can be replicated cheaply and easily—no opossums need to be harmed in the process. Unlike standard snakebite anti-venoms, this one has thus far produced no serious side effects such as wheezing, rash or rapid heartbeat.

The anti-venom may even prove effective against other forms of toxins, since opossums also have a natural resistance to poisonous scorpions and some forms of toxic plants as well.

The results were presented in late March at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Denver.

The opossum, which resembles a large rat, is a marsupial tracing its origins back 65 million years, around the time dinosaurs went extinct. But only now have we learned a key secret to its survival against threats that kill many other animals.

So the next time you see a lowly opossum hanging by its tail from a fence or waddling across a road, remember – this ancient animal just may hold the key to saving your life if you’re ever bitten by a snake.

Why diving gannets don’t break their necks


This video says about itself:

7 March 2015

How can seabirds dive into the water at 55 MPH without breaking their necks? Studying actual birds, 3D printed replicas, and simple weighted models entering water, researchers at Virginia Tech and the Smithsonian Institution found that northern gannets dive just slowly enough to prevent their necks from buckling. More information here. (Video courtesy Sunny Jung, Virginia Tech, et al.)

See also here.

New Dutch beetle species discovery


This video from the USA is called A Red Palm Weevil in Virginia Beach.

On 28 July 2014, Dries Mulder found a beetle in Haaften in the Netherlands.

It turned out to be a red palm weevil. That species had never been seen in the Netherlands before.

Hurricane Arthur threatens USA, what will birds do?


This video from the USA says about itself:

31 August 2011

These tiny baby birds were found by caring citizens in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. They were brought to Evelyn’s Wildlife Refuge, a non- profit wildlife rehabilitator in Virginia Beach, VA. They are expected to make a full recovery and be released back into the wild.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

How Do Birds Deal With Hurricanes Like Arthur?

Posted on Thursday, July 03, 2014 by eNature

Hurricane Arthur is working its way up the East Coast, threatening the beach vacationers from Florida to Maine with bad rain, highs winds and big surf.

While Arthur’s wind, rain and storm surge will certainly affect many people, some folks are also wondering about the effects the hurricane may have on birds.

Numbers are hard to come by, but it’s clear that many birds are killed outright by hurricanes. This is especially true of seabirds, which have nowhere in which to seek shelter from these storms. Beaches may be littered with seabird carcasses following major storm events. Most Atlantic hurricanes occur in late summer and early fall—and fall storms coincide with bird migration and may disrupt migration patterns severely.

Many birds get caught up in storm systems and are blown far off course, often landing in inhospitable places or simply arriving too battered and weakened to survive. Others, while not killed or displaced by storms, may starve to death because they are unable to forage while the weather is poor. The number of birds that die as a result of a major hurricanes may run into the hundreds of thousands.

Healthy bird populations are able to withstand such losses and have done so for eons. However, hurricanes can have severe impacts on endangered species, many of which occur on tropical islands, often among the places hardest hit by hurricanes. For example, Hurricane Hugo in 1989 killed half of the wild Puerto Rican Parrots existing at that time. The Cozumel Thrasher, found only on Mexico’s Isla Cozumel, was pushed to the edge of extinction by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. Hurricane Iniki may have wiped out the last survivors of as many as three bird species when it hit Hawaii in 1992.

Apart from the direct, physical effects hurricanes may have on birds, they also can have detrimental effects on bird habitats. Cavity-nesting species can be especially hard hit because the trees in which they nest often are blown down or snapped off at the cavity. Hurricane Hugo, which hit the Carolinas in 1989, destroyed most of the area’s nest trees of the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker; one forest lost 87 percent of its nest trees and 67 percent of its woodpeckers. Only through the installation of artificial nest boxes have these populations been restored to pre-storm levels.

Although birds blown out of their normal haunts by storms often don’t survive, bird-watchers by the hundreds may flock to see them. Usually, such sightings involve seabirds blown inland and appearing on lakes and reservoirs. First state records of many species have been obtained in this way. Some birders even head into hurricanes to see lost birds.* Others raptly study weather maps to try to predict where hurricane-swept birds will wind up. A few years back, during Isabel, birders were staked out in an organized fashion around New York’s Cayuga Lake to see what showed up. Land birds blown out to sea typically perish unnoticed.

It’s important to remember that the long-term effects of hurricanes on birds aren’t necessarily negative. Every disturbance event is bad for some species but good for others. For instance, hurricanes create gaps in forests, creating habitat for species that require a brushy understory. Birds blown off course occasionally establish entirely new populations; such events may be responsible for much, if not most, colonization of remote islands by birds. Furthermore, hurricanes have been around for a long time and are part of the system in which birds evolved. It is only when they have impacts on species already pushed to the brink by humans, or if hurricane activity is increased by global climate change, that there is cause for concern.

*Epitaph for a hurricane-chasing birder (not original):

Here he lies
A little wet
But he got
His lifelist met.

Have you noticed changes in bird or other animal populations in the wake of hurricanes or other disturbances?

We’re always interested to hearing (or read) your experiences and stories.

Where do the birds go for protection during severe weather such as blizzards, hurricanes, and tornadoes? Here.

What You Need to Know About Hurricane Arthur, the July Fourth Party-Crasher: here.

Girl expelled from party by bigots


Clare Schlaudt's dress

Translated from Dutch daily SP!TS today, about Virginia in the USA:

Glittery dress deprives girl of her high school gala

The 17-year-old Clare Schlaudt has been expelled from a school dance, because the glittery dress which she wore could cause ‘impure thoughts’ among the boys present. …

Schlaudt did not understand that all. As the dress fitted exactly within the dance’s theme “Twilight in Paris“, and was consistent with the only dress code rule; dresses were supposed to cover the hips. Yet, shortly after she arrived she was told that she could go home again. The dress had been characterized as ‘offensive’ by some fathers present.

The teenager thinks that not one of the boys present, but especially one of the fathers thought the dress a little too tempting. “It’s ridiculous that I have become the victim of a 45-year-old pervert who cannot control his lust for a girl with somewhat large buttocks in a glittery dress,” Schlaudt writes indignantly in a blog post.

See also here.

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Blaming rape victims in the USA


This video, from Wales, says about itself:

Is it possible that a woman who drinks, dances and flirts, ALL in a short skirt, is doing it for her own enjoyment? Rape. Sexual assault. Let’s STOP blaming the victim.

For more information and support visit http://www.stopblame.org or call the helpline on 0808 80 10 800.

If a woman gets raped in the United Arab Emirates, then she may get arrested. If a woman gets raped in Afghanistan, then she may be jailed. If a girl gets raped in the Maldives, then authorities may have her whipped. If a woman soldier gets raped in the United States armed forces, then she may be persecuted. In Somalia, police may rape a woman, and then jail her.

The problem is more widespread.

By Rebecca Leber in the USA:

Until Last Week, The Official Policy Of One Virginia City Was To Assume All Rape Victims Were Lying

August 13, 2013 at 11:18 am

Until last week, Norfolk, Virginia police classified sexual assault claims to be “unfounded” — or not valid — by default. According to the Virginian-Pilot, a 22-year-old woman’s case prompted Norfolk police chief Mike Goldsmith to update the policy so that officers must now assume rape victims are telling the truth.

The woman reported the attack immediately to police, only to be told, “If we find out that you’re lying, this will be a felony charge.” Before giving her a medical examination, officers subjected the woman to interrogations during which they said things like, “You’re telling us a different story than you told … the other detectives,” and “This only happened hours ago. Why can’t you remember?” Having had enough, the woman cut off the interview.

The police eventually arrested and charged the attacker for multiple other sexual assaults and felonies, and Goldsmith apologized for mishandling the woman’s initial allegations. Now that Goldsmith has updated the policy for handling sexual assault cases, the department will also undergo training for post-traumatic stress disorder and rape trauma.

Many other areas have this same problem. In light of a Baltimore investigation on the city’s high number of unfounded cases, the Police Executive Research Forum noted, “Unwarranted ‘unfounding’ of cases can result in offenders remaining free — and in victims losing trust in the justice system.” This classification also leads to lower reports of rape, because “unfounded” cases are not included in crime stats.

For law enforcement to assume that rape victims are usually lying is a gross misunderstanding of the number of false rape accusations. Only two to eight percent of reported rapes are false reports, and even fewer ever include a specific false accusation. In fact, the real problem is that most rapes go unreported.

Nearly one in four young men in Scotland still blame rape victims for drinking or dressing “provocatively,” alarming new research found today: here.