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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

Melted Remains of Hiroshima Litter Japans Beaches

If you take a close look at the beaches of Motoujina Peninsula in Japan, you’ll find the sand is littered with tiny glass beads strangely shaped like teardrops as if they’ve been blasted down from the skies.

It might come as no surprise that these unusual objects are the relics of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in the dying days of World War Two. As reported in the journal Anthropocene, these pieces of debris – dubbed “Hiroshimaites” – are essentially the remains of the city that were blasted into the skies, cooked in an atomic cloud, and later rained down.

While sifting through the sands of Hiroshima Bay and Miyajima Island, geologist Mario Wannier started to notice these glassy flecks and set out on a journey to discover how exactly they were created. In the samples of sand he and his team collected, they found the spheroids and other unusual particles accounted for up to 2.5 percent of all of the grains.

This assortment of glassy particles was discovered in beach sands near Hiroshima. (c) Anthropocene, Volume 25, March 2019

This assortment of glassy particles was discovered in beach sands near Hiroshima. (c) Anthropocene, Volume 25, March 2019

Although most unusual, the teeny structures did remind Wannier of other sediment samples he had analyzed that date to the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, better known as that time an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million ago. Whatever forged the structures, it must have been an unbelievably epic amount of energy – and since they were found just miles outside the epicenter of nuclear explosions that occurred just 74 years ago, the source of that energy was obvious.

On the morning of August 6, 1945, the US dropped “Little Boy” on the city of Hiroshima, marking just the second ever detonation of an A-bomb and the first nuclear weapon ever used in warfare. Over 70 percent of the city was destroyed in the blink of an eye, along with at least 70,000 people who died instantly. An estimated 200,000+ more died in the following years due to injuries and radiation.

“This was the worst manmade event ever, by far,” Wannier said in a statement. “In the surprise of finding these particles, the big question for me was: You have a city, and a minute later you have no city. There was the question of: ‘Where is the city ­­– where is the material?’ It is a trove to have discovered these particles. It is an incredible story.”

The wrecked framework of the Museum of Science and Industry in Hiroshima, Japan. Everett Historical/Shutterstock

The wrecked framework of the Museum of Science and Industry in Hiroshima, Japan. Everett Historical/Shutterstock

A deeper analysis of the Hiroshimaites showed a wide variety in the chemical composition, including concentrations of aluminum, silicon, and calcium. However, some were composed purely of just iron and steel, or even concrete, marble, stainless steel, and rubber.

“Some of these look similar to what we have from meteorite impacts, but the composition is quite different,” explained co-author Rudy Wenk, a professor of mineralogy at UC Berkeley. “There were quite unusual shapes. There was some pure iron and steel. Some of these had the composition of building materials.”

Understandably, the research team concluded that only an atomic explosion could have kicked up such a strange composition.

Next, the team hopes their research will encourage further tests on the samples to see if any samples carry radioactive elements. They’d also like to travel to Nagasaki, the Japanese city hit by the US’s Fat Man atomic bomb three days later, to see if similar structures can be found.

Tom Hale
IFLScience

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Despite International Ban, Iceland Plans to Kill 2,000 Whales by 2023

Mandy Froelich, Truth Theory
Waking Times

In February 2019, Icelandic authorities announced their plan to kill more than 2,000 whales over a five-year period. Because the global demand for whale meat is declining, the trade is considered to be inhumane, and the conservation argument has flaws, environmentalists are enraged by the development.

Every year until the year 2023, whalers will be authorized to harpoon 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales in Icelandic waters. The move was approved, despite falling public support for whaling in Iceland.

The nation’s fisheries minister, Kristjan Thor Juliusson, claims the numbers are sustainable and based on “the latest scientific research.” In a statement, the government cited the economic benefits of whaling, as well as official figures revealing how populations of the once endangered fin whale are reviving. “During the most recent count in 2015, their population in the central North Atlantic was estimated at 37,000, or triple the number from 1987,” the statement reads.

But activists and conservationists disagree. The Icelandic Environmental Association, specifically, criticized the research on which the Fisheries Ministry based its quotas. And, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), an organization dedicated to protecting whales around the world, said whaling is no longer beneficial to the country’s economy.

“This is a country that’s embraced whale watching and has a different relationship with whales now,” said WDC spokesman Chris Butler-Stroud. “The reality is, the whale meat that’s being consumed there is mostly by tourists, unfortunately. … If it was down to local consumption, this probably would be dead in the water.”

Last year, Iceland was the center of a controversy after two rare blue/fin whale hybrids and at least a dozen pregnant females were killed in its waters. Activists believed change would finally occur, as a result. But, no such luck. “The Icelandic government’s decision to continue to kill whales – amongst the most peaceful and intelligent beings on the planet – is morally repugnant as well as economically bankrupt,” said Vanessa Williams-Grey, a campaigner for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) placed a ban on commercial whaling. Despite being a member of the IWC, Iceland has continued to hunt whales with its own quotas. Japan also a loophole that allows killing whales for scientific purposes to bypass the International Whaling Commission ban.

“It is well known that overexploitation by the whaling industry led toserious declines in many of the world’s populations of whales. … Many are now in the process of recovering, although not all,” says the IWC website.

About the Author

Mandy Froelich is an RHN, plant-based chef, freelance writer with 6+ years of experience, Reiki master therapist, world traveler and enthusiast of everything to do with animal rights, sustainability, cannabis and conscious living. I share healthy recipes at Bloom for Life and cannabis-infused treats at My Stoned Kitchen.Read More stories by Amanda Froelich

**This article (Despite International Ban, Iceland Plans to Kill 2,000 Whales by 2023) was originally featured at Truth Theory and is re-posted here with permission.**

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They discover plastic bags in the deepest place in the ocean

An underwater trip to the deepest place on the planet showed some unnatural results.

plastic bags in the deepest place in the ocean

On board a bathyscaphe (submersible), the businessman Victor Vescovo descended 10,927 meters to reach the abysmal depth of the Marianas Trench, in the Pacific Ocean.

He managed to break the record of the deepest dive made by a human being by a few meters; surpassing that obtained by the oceanographer Don Walsh in 1960 (10,916 m) and the most recent by filmmaker James Cameron in 2012 (10,908 m).

After spending four hours making observations from the specially prepared submersible, Vescovo and his team found several species, from arthropods with long legs and antennae to translucent “sea pigs”, similar to a sea cucumber.

plastic bags in the deepest place in the ocean

However, the most shocking was finding plastic objects such as bags and candy wrappers. “It was very disappointing to see the obvious human pollution in the deepest point of the ocean,” said the businessman when interviewed by Reuters.

Previous studies on samples collected in the Mariana Trench have shown that the amphipods called hirondellea gigas had microplastics in their entrails. But not only that, also radiocarbon.

The amphids that scan the dark depths feed on organic matter that rushes there. By eating the remains of animals that were exposed to the nuclear test activity of the Cold War, the bodies of the amphipods were infused with radiocarbon – the carbon-14 isotope or “carbon bomb” -.

Although it seems incredible, man’s pollution has reached more than 11,000 meters deep, where it also puts at risk the life that inhabits it.

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