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An Extinct Bird Evolves Back into Existence

Orange is the new black, 50 is the new 40 and “Re-evolved” is the new extinct. At least, that’s the case with the Aldabra white-throated rail – a flightless bird that went extinct 136,000 years ago but has followed the same evolutionary path and reappeared just a little while later. Is there hope for the dodo?

“Aldabra has undergone at least one major, total inundation event during an Upper Pleistocene (Tarantian age) sea-level high-stand, resulting in the loss of all terrestrial fauna. A flightless Dryolimnas has been identified from two temporally separated Aldabran fossil localities, deposited before and after the inundation event, providing irrefutable evidence that a member of Rallidae colonized the atoll, most likely from Madagascar, and became flightless independently on each occasion.”

Aldabra white-throated rail (Credit: Charles J. Sharp – Wikipedia)

According to a new study published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, fossils show that the white-throated rail (Dryolimnas cuvieri) existed solely on the Aldabra atoll, the world’s second-largest coral atoll. The fossils indicate that it was once capable of flight, which is how it got to the atoll from the Seychelles Islands and Madagascar. Those ancestors eventually evolved out of their need for flight due to a lack of predators. Unfortunately, the one other thing a non-flying, non-swimming bird on an island can’t escape is water. About 136,000 years ago, sea levels began rising during a global warming near the end of the Pleistocene period and caused an “inundation event” – aka ‘flood’ – which drowned the Aldabra white-throated rails into extinction.

Or did it?

Study authors Julian Hume, an avian paleontologist at Natural History Museum in London, and David Martill, a paleobiologist at the University of Portsmouth, found fossil evidence on the island which show that just 20,000 years later, the same evolutionary ancestor – which still existed on the Seychelles Islands and Madagascar – flew to the now dry atoll once again, stayed once again and evolved into the same flightless Aldabra white-throated rail once again. While this phenomenon, called “iterative evolution,” has been seen before in aquatic creatures (sea cows, ammonites and sea turtles), this is the first time for a bird, as Martill explained in the press release:

“We know of no other example in rails, or of birds in general, that demonstrates this phenomenon so evidently. Only on Aldabra, which has the oldest palaeontological record of any oceanic island within the Indian Ocean region, is fossil evidence available that demonstrates the effects of changing sea levels on extinction and recolonisation events. Conditions were such on Aldabra, the most important being the absence of terrestrial predators and competing mammals, that a rail was able to evolve flightlessness independently on each occasion.”

Dodo

Could this be good news for other extinct flightless birds, like the dodo, or extinct birds in general? Unfortunately, it’s not even good news for the Aldabra white-throated rail. That nemesis of flightless birds – flooding – may be returning soon to the atoll courtesy of climate change. If they go extinct again, there’s a possibility that they could iteratively evolve once again since its flighted rail ancestors still exist on other isolated islands. Sadly, that’s no longer the case for the dodo.

A better solution would be to stop eating, hunting, developing and climate-changing other species into extinction before we humans need an “iterative evolution” ourselves.

Source: Mysterious Universe

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Planet Earth

Bear Cub Feels Grass For First Time After Being Rescued From Filthy Basement [Video]

By Mandy Froelich / Truth Theory

An adorable bear cub has a new lease on life, thanks to the animal welfare group Four Paws International and Kosovo authorities. After living in a dark, filthy basement for most of its life, the bear cub now lives at the Bear Sanctuary Prishtina. Recently, he experienced grass for the first time ever. 

As GoodNewsNetwork reports, the cub had been liberated from a dark basement enclosure in Kosovo. Someone had been keeping him as a pet, which is against the law. After the cub was rescued, he was transported to his new home at the bear sanctuary.  The specialized sanctuary is home to other bears who have also been saved from neglectful situations.

Before he was allowed to experience the joys of nature, the bear cub underwent a thorough medical examination. Once he was deemed “healthy,” he was transported outside. The video below shows him running through the grass, feeling the sun on his face, and exploring his new home.

Safe haven for the bear cub in Kosovo!

A safe haven last! 🐻The recent tragic story about the bear cub in Kosovo, who was found to be living in terrible conditions in a dark garage, was not only touching for us, but it also moved many of your hearts.🧡Two weeks ago, we got the news we had all been hoping for, and we were finally able to bring him to our Bear Sanctuary Prishtina. Here you can see the emotional moment when the little bear explores his new beautiful enclosure for the first time! 🌳➡️ Please help us to look after this little wild animal in the future!

Gepostet von FOUR PAWS International am Dienstag, 25. Juni 2019

https://www.facebook.com/fourpaws.org/videos/464367954330208/

“We thank Ministry of Environment and Agency for Environment Protection for the trust in our professionalism to continue with the right treatment for the cub,” said Afrim Mahmuti, manager of the Bear Sanctuary Prishtina.

For the next six months, Four Paws International will care for the cub until he matures into adolescence. At that point, it will be determined whether or not the bear can be released into the wild. For now, he seems happy simply living at the sanctuary.

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Four steps to make your lawn a wildlife haven – from green desert to miniature rainforest

If you could ask British insects about the habitats they prefer, they’d probably tell you that you can’t improve on grassland that’s rich with wildflowers. For farmers, though, grassland is said to be “improved” if it has been treated with fertiliser and sown with fast growing grasses.

“Unimproved” grasslands are those that have not had their productivity improved for agriculture. They’re semi-natural habitats, because if mowing or grazing stopped, they’d quickly turn to scrub and then woodland. These unimproved grasslands are extremely rich in the number of species they can support, sometimes having well over 40 species of flowering plant in a single square metre.

But since World War II, 97% of unimproved grassland habitats have vanished from the UK. This has contributed to the loss of pollinating insects – and the distribution of one third of species has shrunk since 1980.

Left – Grassland in Transylvania, where agricultural ‘improvement’ has been limited. Right – Potwell Dykes, Nottinghamshire – how much of the UK’s lost grassland would have looked.
Adam Bates

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, your lawn can be thought of as a small patch of artificial grassland, which will usually have only a few species of turf grass. Most suburbs and villages still have around a quarter to a third of their area covered by grass.

Unfortunately, lawns are largely featureless and offer little refuge for small creatures like bugs and other invertebrates. Regular mowing also prevents plants from flowering and producing seeds, which is why carefully maintained lawns are mostly barren.

A traditionally managed lawn. There are few plant species and little structure for bugs to exploit. Spiders, for instance, have nothing to anchor their webs to.
Adam Bates

But lawns can be made into important wildlife habitat by changing how they’re managed. This is an idea that’s gaining traction – campaigns such as “Say No to the Mow” have made an “unkempt” garden more socially acceptable. For anyone wanting to create a wildlife lawn in their garden, there are four important steps to follow.


Adam Bates

1. Cut higher

The first step is simple. By raising the height that the mower blade cuts the grass to its highest setting – usually about 4 cm off the ground – you can provide more variety in the lawn’s structure and more refuge for other plant and invertebrate species.

2. Include mowing gaps

Fox-and-cubs (Hieracium aurantiacum) help feed leafcutter bees.
Jörg Hempel/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

By mowing less often you can allow plants time to flower and provide a food source for bees and other pollinators. Leaving gaps between mowing in spring gives time for species like the cowslip to flower – a plant which has declined markedly in the UK but which butterflies like the Duke of Burgundy depend on for laying their eggs.

Summer gaps can allow species like cat’s ear and fox-and-cubs time to flower, providing an important source of food for species of leafcutter bee. Deciding how long to wait between mowing isn’t an exact science, but can be judged by seeing whether or not the plants in your lawn have had a chance to flower.

3. No fertilisers or herbicides

“Weed and feeds” are used on lawns in a one-bottle mix of herbicide – used to kill non-grass species that we’d usually consider weeds – and fertiliser, to add nutrients to the soil. Herbicides reduce biodiversity by killing other species, but it may surprise you to learn that fertilisers are no friend to biodiversity either.

When gardening or farming, usually the more fertility in the soil the better, because this promotes greater productivity. In other words, more grass, greener grass, more flowers and larger flowers. The selective actions of the gardener or farmer to promote the target species, whether prized rose or crop, means that only the target species benefits.

Without this selectivity, more fertility in your lawn only favours the one or two turf species that are best able to take up nutrients and outcompete other species. So, more fertility means fewer plant species, despite the more luxuriant green colour.

4. Remove the clippings

Removing the grass clippings after you’ve mowed the lawn also reduces the fertility in your lawn, preventing it from becoming dominated by one or two competitive turf species. Removing and composting grass clippings will gradually remove nutrients from the soil, lowering the fertility with each cut.

Beyond these four steps for improving the value of your lawn to wildlife, there are other things that can be done by the more committed gardener. Leaving small areas of the lawn deliberately uncut – such as strips at the sides or patches in the corners – can help small wildflower meadows to form. Cutting these at the end of summer will prevent them overgrowing into rank grassland with few species.

Wildlife value can also be added by spreading some locally-sourced wildflower seed on your lawn. If you’re gathering seeds from elsewhere, make sure to ask permission and don’t take too much.

A single suburban wildflower lawn – multiple plant species that can flower and seed, and high structural diversity.
Adam Bates

Enjoying your wildflower lawn

Wildflower lawns can have a variety of other surprising benefits, not least helping to slow global warming. Some studies have shown that lawns are actually sources of carbon dioxide due to the amount of energy needed to power the mower and manufacture “weed and feeds”. Reducing how often you mow, not applying “weed and feeds” and even using a manual lawn mower can change your lawn from a carbon source to a carbon sink.

Having taller vegetation in your lawn shades the ground, thereby reducing evaporation from the soil and reducing the need for sprinklers and hosepipes. Less mowing means less work to do and more time for you to enjoy watching the bees gathering nectar and pollen from your wildflower lawn.

Wildflower lawns, with spikes of colourful flowers and attendant bees, at least to my eyes, are far prettier than a carpet of grass, whether it’s stripy or not. Grass – especially when not in flower – is the most aesthetically boring part of a grassland. The species that have traditionally been disregarded as “weeds” are far more interesting.

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Spectacular blue lava flows at this Indonesian volcano

Photographer Olivier Grunewald first learned about the Kawah Ijen volcano in 2008. A sulfur mine by day, this infernal Indonesian mountain turns into a surreal alien landscape when the night comes. His pictures—taken in very dangerous conditions—are stunning:

He and his friend Régis Etienne have gone back repeatedly to photograph and film this incredible unearthly patch of glowing blue lava. A recent 52-minute documentary film is the result of 30 nights in hazardous conditions.

But it’s the sulfur mine workers who are constant toiling among the flames. Here is the description Olivier sent to us:

For over 40 years, miners have been extracting sulphur from the crater of Kawah Ijen in Indonesia. To double their meagre income, the hardiest of these men work nights, by the electric blue light of the sulphuric acid exhaled by the volcano.

As the light of day recedes, an eerie incandescence appears to rise from the depths of the Kawah Ijen crater. The high-temperature liquid sulphur that flows from an active vent at the edge of the world’s largest hydrochloric acid lake flares in blue flames that can reach up to 5 metres.

At the foot of the glow, miners bustle amidst the toxic fumes. They are monitoring the flow of molten sulphur as it pours out of pipes at 115 °C, and its subsequent crystallisation. Breaking up, gathering up, loading up and transporting the coagulated blood of the earth earns them a living. By the blue light of the flare, they extract hunks of sulphur, then carry them up the flank of the crater to sell for 680 roupees per kilo (about €0.04). But the loads they carry, weighing between 80 and 100 kilos, cost them their health—and sometimes their life. By working nights, they manage to haul out two loads every 24 hours, doubling their salary, avoiding the daytime heat of the Kawah Ijen cauldron, and despite the condition remaining independent

The sulphur, among the purest in Indonesia, is destined for the food and chemical industry. Whitening sugar, at the price of their health and youth, such is the destiny of these serfs to sulphur.

Olivier is a four-time World Press Photo winner. After studying commercial photography in Paris, he first began shooting natural landscapes after a shoot with rock climbers. He’s been photographing volcanos since 1997. You can see more of Oliver’s work at his website.

Source gizmodo.com

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