Saturday, 21 April 2018

Ursus arctos marsicanus: Rare Marsican Brown Bear dies during tagging operation in Italy.

A rare Marsican Brown Bear, Ursus arctos marsicanus, has died during an operation to fit it with a radio collar in the Abruzzo National Park in the Appenine Mountains of Italy on Wednesday 18 April 2018. The Bear had been captured in a trap with a view to fitting it with a radio collar, which would have enabled scientists to track its movements, helping them to gain a better understanding of the behaviour of this rare subspecies, but suffered a reaction to an anaesthetic it was administered to it and asphyxiated.

A Mascarine Brown Bear, Ursus arctos marsicanus. Bear Conservation/Animalia Life.

The Mascarine Brown Bear is a subspecies of the Brown Bear, Ursus arctos, found only in the Appenine Mountains of Italy. They differ from other Brown Bears chiefly in their behaviour, with young Bears maturing more quickly, due to a higher fat content in the milk of the females, and the adult Bears being less aggressive, making them much less dangerous to Humans than other Brown Bears. There are currently thought to be only about 50 of this subspecies surviving, all within the Abruzzo National Park or its immediate surroundings, for which reason the subspecies is considered to be Critically Endangered under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.

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Ephysteris kullbergi & Ephysteris ustjuzhanini: Two new species of Twirler Moth from Siberia and Mongolia.

The Gnorimoschemini are a group of Twirler Moths, Gelechiidae, are found across much of North America. They are small Moths, with narrow, fringed wings, the larvae of which feed internally on their host plants, sometimes forming galls; many species being considered to be agricultural pests. The genus Ephysteris currently contains about 60 species, most of which come from Europe and temperate Asia, although there are six described species from North America and over 20 are found in Africa.

In a paper published in the journal Nota Lepidoptera on 26 March 2018, Oleksiy Bidzilya of the Institute for the Evolutionary Ecology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, and Ole Karsholt of the Zoological Museum at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, describe two new species of Ephysteris from Russia and Mongolia.

The first new species is named Ephysteris kullbergi, after Jaakko Kullberg, the Finnish entomologist who collected the specimens from which the species is described, by Moth-lamping in dunes beside Lake Tere-Khol in the Tuva Republic of southern Siberia, Russia. These Moths have a wingspan of about 8-10 mm, and are creamy white in colour with black and grey markings. The females resemble the males, but have smaller hindwings, the larvae are unknown.

Ephysteris kullbergi, (1) male, and (2) female. Bidzilya & Karsholt (2018).

The second new species described is named Ephysteris ustjuzhanini, in honour of the Russian lepidopterist Petr Ustjuzhanin who collected the specimens from which the species is described. This species is described from two specimens, a male and a female collected t different locations in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia. The male has a wingspan of 8.8 mm, the female 9.0 mm, both are grey with white and brown markings.

Ephysteris ustjuzhanini, male specimen. Bidzilya & Karsholt (2018).

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Magnitude 5.5 Earthquake in Bushehr Province, Iran.

The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 5.5 Earthquake at a depth of 10.0 km in Bushehr Province, Iran, slightly before 11.05 am local time (slightly before 6.35 am GMT) on Thursday 19 April 2018. There are no reports of any damage or casualties associated with this event, but it was felt in coastal areas around the Persian Gulf, including Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

The approximate location of the 18 April 2018 Bushehr Earthquake. USGS.

Iran is situated on the southern margin of the Eurasian Plate. Immediately to the south lies the Arabian Plate, which is being pushed northward by the impact of Africa from the south. This has created a zone of faulting and fold mountains along the southwest coast of the country, known as the Zagros Thrust Belt, while to the northeast of this the geology is dominated by three large tectonic blocks, the Central Iran, Lut and Helmand, which move separately in response to pressure from the south, stretching and compressing the rock layers close to the surface and creating frequent Earthquakes, some of which can be very large.

The movement of the Arabian Plate and extent of the Zagros Thrust Belt. Rasoul Sorkhabi/Geo ExPro.

To the northeast of this the geology is dominated by three large tectonic blocks, the Central Iran, Lut and Helmand, which move separately in response to pressure from the south, stretching and compressing the rock layers close to the surface and again creating frequent Earthquakes.

The population of Iran is particularly at risk from Earthquakes as, unlike most other Earthquake-prone nations, very few buildings in the country are quake-resistant. The majority of residential buildings in Iran are made of mud-brick, a building material particularly vulnerable to Earthquakes as the bricks often liquefy, trapping people inside and quickly asphyxiating them with dust. This is particularly dangerous at night when the majority of people are inside sleeping.

 Section through the Zagros Fold Belt. Sarkarinejad & Azizi (2007).

Witness accounts of Earthquakes can help geologists to understand these events, and the structures that cause them. The international non-profit organisation Earthquake Report is interested in hearing from people who may have felt this event; if you felt this quake then you can report it to Earthquake Report here.
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Cangoderces globosa: A new species of Telemid Spider from South Africa.

The Telemidae are a small group of web-building Spiders found in East and Southeast Asia, Australasia, North and Central Africa, southwest Europe and Africa. The group contains a high proportion of cave-dwelling species, but of the thirteen African species described only one is found in caves, Cangoderces lewisi from the Cango Caves of Western Cape Province, with all the remaining species found in tropial forests.

In a paper published in the journal African Invertebrates on 21 March 2018, Chunxia Wang and Shuqiang Li of the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Charles Haddad of the Department of Zoology & Entomology at the University of the Free State, describe a new species of Telemid Spider from Mpumalanga Province in South Africa.

The new species is placed in the genus Cangoderces, and given the specific name globosa, meaning 'sperical' in reference to the shape the female spermatheca (receptacle in which sperm is stored after mating). Males of this species reach 1.32 mm in length, with females being slightly smaller. The Spiders are yellow on colour with six eyes and a blue abdomen. They were found living in leaf-litter in an Afromontane forest.

Cangoderces globosa, female specimen in dorsal view. Wang et al. (2018).

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Arachnanthus lilith: A new species of Tube Anemone from the Red Sea.

Tube Anemones, Ceriantharia, are tube-dwelling Cnidarians related to Corals and True Anemones. They are popular with aquarium keepers and underwater photographers, but relatively understudied by marine biologists. Tube Anemones are solitary animals, each living in a fibrous tube into which they can withdraw. They have two rows of tentacles surrounding their mouths, an outer row of larger stinging tentacles used for defence and food capture, and an inner row of smaller tentacles used for food manipulation.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 4 April 2018, Sérgio Stampar and Suraia El Didi of the Laboratório de Evolução e Diversidade Aquática at the Universidade Estadual Paulista, Gustav Paulay of the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, and Michael Berumen of the Red Sea Research Center of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, describe a new species of Tube Anemone from the Red Sea Coast of Saudi Arabia.

The new species is named Arachnanthus lilith, in reference to the Demon Lilith, a mythical monster from the Middle East, said to be sexually wanton and prone to stealing babies. This is a small species, reaching about 42 mm in length, and 4-6 mm wide. The outer tentacles are 3-5 mm in length and translucent with 2-4 brown bands and pores marked by concentration of green fluorescent protein. The species was found along the southern Red Sea Coast of Saudi Arabia from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Farasan Islands.

Arachnanthus lilith. (A), (B) Whole specimens. (C)–(D) Live specimens in nature. (E) Dissected specimen with detail of acontioids (arrows) (scale bar 2 mm). (F) Detail of oral disc with detail on tentacular pores with green fluorescent protein. Stampar et al. (2018).

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Woman attacked by Leopard in Rajasthan, India.

A woman has been attacked by a Leopard in the Udaipur District of Rajasthan. Kesi Devi, 25, was mauled while going to the toilet in woods behind her house in the village of Salumber Tehsil on the evening of Thursday 19 April 2018. The Leopard inflicted wounds to her head and neck, but ran off when she began screaming to alert fellow villagers. Devi was treated for her wounds in a local clinic for her injuries. This is the fourth recorded Leopard attack in Rajasthan this year, with a villager attacked in Jaipur District on 8 April and two in Barmer District in January, though none of these attacks has been fatal.

A Leopard in Rajasthan. Jogi Photography/Mumbai Travellers.

Leopards are considered to be Vulnerable under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, with the Indian subspecies, Panthera pardus fusca, considered to be particularly vulnerable due to India's rapidly rising Human population, which has resulted in agriculture and other Human activities expanding into many former wilderness areas. For this reason the Indian Forest Service usually try to relocate Leopards that come into conflict with Humans to more remote areas, preferably within national parks, though the extent to which local people co-operate is variable.

Rajasthan has a population of 508 Leopards, which are considered to be at their most dangerous during the summer season (April-June) when water is scarce, often bringing them closer to Human settlements in search of water and prey. The animal responsible for the 8 April attack was shot by villagers and later found to have an empty stomach.

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Microtektites from the Transantarctic Mountains

Microtektites are microscopic glass spherules produced by the vaporisation of material from the Earth's crust due to hypervelocity impacts by extraterrestrial bodies. They are spherical in shape because they are formed by the cooling of liquid silica within the atmosphere. These are found in many locations, but can be linked together into regions related to, but typically far from, impact sites, known as scattered fields. To date four such scattered fields have been found on Earth, known as the Australasian, Central European, Ivory Coast and North American fields, each of which is thought to relate to a different impact event.

In a paper published in the journal Geochemica et Cosmochemica Acta on 6 March 2018, Matthias Van Ginneken of the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, the Department of Earth Science at The Natural History Museum, the Department of Analytical, Environmental and Geo-Chemistry at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and the Laboratoire G-Time, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Mathew Genge, also of the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, and Ralph Harvey of the Department of Geological Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, describe the discovery of a new microtektite producing area in a glacial moraine near Larkman Nunatak in the Transantarctic Mountains of Antarctica.

The new site and comprises a moraine roughly 1.5 km in length and 700 m wide, orientated in an east-west direction. 250 g of material was removed from this site in 2006, and subsequently washed and sieved, producing 52 glass spherules between 107 and 388 μm in diameter and pale yellow in colour; one of these contains a bubble 10 μm in diameter.

Stereomicrograph of three Larkman Nunatak microtektites. The scalebar is 100 lm. A vesicle is arrowed in (c). Van Ginneken et al. (2018).

Chemically these spherules fall within the Australasian Scattered Field, which have previously been found in deep sea sediments of the Indian and Pacific Ocean. These are the youngest of the four scattered fields, thought to have originated about 800 000 years ago from an impact somewhere in Southeast Asia, probably Vietnam, from which they are spread out in a three-lobed shape. The Antarctic microtektites are the furthest yet known from the presumed location of the impact, about 11 000 km away. 

Sampling location of Larkman Nunatak microtektites. (a) Sketch map showing the sampling sites of Australasian microtektites and the current extension of the Australasian strewn field. (b) Regional map showing the locations where microtektites were found in the Transantarctic Mountains. (c) Panoramic view of Larkman Nunatak. Arrowed is the sampling area where glacial moraine was collected. (c) Detail of the sampling area. Van Ginneken et al. (2018).

The Antarctic microtektites are smaller than any previously found Austrolasian microtektites and more-or-less totally depleted in volatile elements. This fits with a consistent pattern within the Austrolasian Scattered Field, in which the further microtektites are found from the presumed impact site, the smaller and more depleted in volatiles they are. Van Ginneken et al. suggest that this is because the furthest material actually originates from closest to the impact site, and thus was thrown higher into the atmosphere, and therefore the microtektites are more altered the further they are found from this origin.

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