Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting

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Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
In this July 16, 2019 photo, an ancient bust of King David is displayed inside the historical Pasha Palace run by Gaza’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, in Gaza City. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Walid al-Aqqad’s Gaza home would be the envy of many an antiquities collector.


Pieces of Corinthian columns greet visitors in the backyard. Inside, hundreds of ancient pots and other artifacts hang on the walls or are arranged helter-skelter on shelves.

They are remnants of five millennia of Gaza’s history, from the Bronze Age to the Islamic caliphates and on down to the years of Ottoman and British rule in the 20th century.

A sliver of land on the Mediterranean, Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant going back to ancient times. But decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction.

The Islamic militant group Hamas seized Gaza in 2007 from forces loyal to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority. In response, Egypt and Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza that has left the territory isolated and increasingly impoverished. The Palestinians say the closures have also hindered excavations and restricted experts’ access to new discoveries.

Hamas has done little to protect Gaza’s antiquities and in some cases actively destroys them. In 2017, Hamas authorities leveled large parts of Tel Es-Sakan, the remains of a 4,500-year-old Bronze Age city, to make way for construction projects.

  • Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
    In this July 17, 2019 photo, a Palestinian looks at ancient artifacts displayed inside the Shahwan private museum in the basement of a building, in Khan Younis, Southern Gaza Strip. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
    In this July 14, 2019 photo, Walid al-Aqqad sits next to Palestinian heritage pieces and antiques piled up inside his private museum in town of Khan Younis, Southern Gaza Strip. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
    In this Wednesday July 17, 2019 photo, a Palestinian looks at ancient artifacts displayed inside the Shahwan private museum in the basement of a building in Khan Younis, Southern Gaza Strip. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
    In this July 17, 2019 photo, paintings decorate the wall over ancient artifacts displayed inside Al-Qarara private museum in town of Khan Younis, Southern Gaza Strip. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
    In this July 17, 2019 photo, young Palestinians sit among ancient artifacts displayed inside Shahwan private museum in a basement of a building in town of Khan Younis, Southern Gaza Strip. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
    In this July 14, 2019 photo, Walid al-Aqqad sits in front of old coins hanging on a wall inside Al-Aqqad private museum in town of Khan Younis, Southern Gaza Strip. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
    In this Sunday July 14, 2019 photo, Palestinians work on a 4th century AD St. Hilarion monastery archaeological site in central Gaza Strip. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
    In this July 14, 2019 photo, Palestinian heritage pieces and ancient artifacts are piled inside Al-Aqqad private museum in town of Khan Younis, Southern Gaza Strip. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
    In this July 16, 2019 photo, Palestinians work on the preservation of a Byzantine period mosaic near the Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
    In this July 17, 2019 photo, Palestinians look at antiquities displayed inside the Shahwan private museum in a basement of a building in town of Khan Younis, Southern Gaza Strip. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
    In this July 14, 2019 photo, Palestinians work on a 4th century AD St. Hilarion monastery archaeological site in central Gaza Strip. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
    In this July 16, 2019 photo, Palestinians work on a preservation of a Byzantine period mosiac near Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
    In this July 14, 2019 photo, Palestinians work on a 4th century AD St. Hilarion monastery archaeological site in central Gaza Strip. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
    In this July 16, 2019 photo, Palestinians work on the preservation of a Byzantine period monastery near Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Ayman Hassouna, professor of history and archaeology at Gaza’s Islamic University, blames Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas equally for not protecting the territory’s cultural heritage. He says Israel confiscated artifacts from archaeological digs in the decades it occupied Gaza and did little to prevent antiquities trafficking. Palestinian authorities governing Gaza since 1995 have “attacked many archaeological sites—either intentionally or not,” he said.

He also blamed a lack of awareness among Gazans of the importance of preserving antiquities and leaving ancient sites undisturbed.

“When they find something, they would hide it or build over it,” he said.

Antiquities plundering and trafficking also remains a problem, said Heyam al-Bitar, an archaeologist with Gaza’s ministry of tourism and antiquities. She said the ministry only learned earlier this year that dozens of ancient Greek silver coins were smuggled out of Gaza in 2016.

Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
In this Wednesday July 17, 2019 photo, Palestinian vendors set up in front of the remains of the 13 century Barquq Castle, built by an Mamluk Sultan, in Khan Younis, Southern Gaza Strip. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

“It’s difficult to track down the trafficking because everything happens in the dark,” she said.

Al-Aqqad is one of few trying to save antiquities in Gaza. He began his collection in 1975, buying from collectors or searching the beach and new construction sites. Now his house in the southern city of Khan Younis is an archaeological, heritage and cultural museum, welcoming school trips and history students.

“This museum was established by personal efforts and at the expense of my children’s bread… to protect the pieces,” al-Aqqad said.

His is one of five legally registered private collections in the Strip, containing 10,000 artifacts and objects of historical value, according to the ministry.

Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting
In this July 17, 2019 photo, ancient columns are displayed at the Al-Qarara private museum in Khan Younis, Southern Gaza Strip. Gaza was a major trade route between Egypt and the Levant for thousands of years, but decades of uprisings, war and political turmoil have inflicted a heavy toll on its rich archaeological heritage, exposing it to looting and destruction. Neglect by Hamas authorities and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have hindered efforts to preserve and protect antiquities, leaving much of the work to private collectors. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The ministry keeps an inventory of all private collections to prevent artifacts from being sold or smuggled out, said al-Bitar. Owners have received training from the ministry and the Islamic University on how to preserve artifacts and restore clay objects when they fracture, she added.

The underfunded ministry opened a public museum in 2010 at al-Basha Palace, a fort built by Gaza’s Mamluk rulers in the mid-13th century. It has 350 to 400 pieces held in sparsely-filled display cases. The museum occasionally showcases pieces from the private collections, but does not have space for all of them.

“The ministry has plans to build a large national museum for all these archaeological pieces, but the political economic situation and the siege on Gaza are preventing this,” she said.

Restorers are struggling to save two of Gaza’s endangered heritage sites: a 5th century Byzantine Church in Jabaliya, discovered in 1996, and a 4th-century monastery just south of Gaza City. Since the Jabaliya church’s discovery, it has suffered from neglect and was damaged in fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants.

Last year, French NGO Première Urgence Internationale launched an ambitious 26-month project to preserve the two sites with a £1,755,000 grant by the British Council. As part of the project, protective roofs now cover the ruins and layers of sand protect ornate mosaic floors from further destruction.


Gaza workers discover what could be an ancient church


© 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Citation:
Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting (2019, August 7)
retrieved 7 August 2019
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Medication in the environment affects feeding behavior of fish

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Medication in the environment affects feeding behavior of fish
Credit: Erik Baatrup

Scientists are increasingly warning that prescription drugs can affect wildlife and ecosystems when they find their way into the environment. In a new Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry study, investigators found that the anxiety and depression drug Escitalopram—at concentrations similar to those measured in the environment—can inhibit fish foraging and eating behavior.

Interestingly, the team noted that the two sexes respond differently to the drug. Specifically, the inhibitory effect of the drug was more pronounced in males than in females.

“It is disturbing that psychoactive drugs affect vital life processes in aquatic wildlife,” said corresponding author Erik Baatrup, Ph.D., of Aarhus University, in Denmark.


Investigating the impact of drug addiction and pollution on behaviour in humans and wildlife


More information:
Sebastian Vedel Nielsen et al, The psychoactive drug escitalopram affects foraging behavior in zebrafish ( Danio rerio ), Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (2019). DOI: 10.1002/etc.4474

Citation:
Medication in the environment affects feeding behavior of fish (2019, August 7)
retrieved 7 August 2019
from https://phys.org/news/2019-08-medication-environment-affects-behavior-fish.html

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Hordes of Earth’s toughest creatures may now be living on Moon

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moon
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

There might be life on the Moon after all: thousands of virtually indestructible creatures that can withstand extreme radiation, sizzling heat, the coldest temperatures of the universe, and decades without food.


These terrifying-sounding beings aren’t aliens but instead microscopic Earthlings known as tardigrades, who likely made it out alive following a crash landing on the lunar surface by Israel’s Beresheet probe in April, the US-based organization responsible for their trip said Tuesday.

Based on an analysis of the spacecraft’s trajectory and the composition of the device the micro-animals were stored in, “we believe the chances of survival for the tardigrades… are extremely high,” Nova Spivack, co-founder and chairman of the Arch Mission Foundation, told AFP.

The non-profit is dedicated to spreading backups of human knowledge and Earth’s biology throughout the Solar System, a quest it likens to the creation of an “Encyclopedia Galactica” first evoked by sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov.

“Tardigrades are ideal to include because they are microscopic, multicellular, and one of the most durable forms of life on planet Earth,” said Spivack.

He added that the diminutive creatures, which are under a millimeter (0.04 inches) in size, had been dehydrated to place them in suspended animation, then “encased in an epoxy of Artificial Amber, and should be revivable in the future.”

The tardigrades were stored inside a “Lunar Library,” a nanotechnology device that resembles a DVD and contains a 30-million-page archive of human history viewable under microscopes, as well as human DNA.

Spivack is confident this too survived impact—but it doesn’t represent the first genetic code or life forms to be deposited on the barren celestial body.

That distinction belongs to the DNA and microbes contained in the almost 100 bags of feces and urine left behind by American astronauts during the Apollo lunar landings from 1969-1972.

No rescue mission

Also known as water bears or moss piglets, tardigrades can live in water or on land, and are capable of surviving temperatures as high as 150 degrees Celsius (302 degrees Fahrenheit) and as low as minus 272 degrees Celsius (-458 Fahrenheit), albeit for a few minutes.

The grub-like, eight-legged animals can come back from being dried out to a lifeless husk for decades, withstand near-zero pressure in outer space and the crushing depths of the Mariana Trench.

If they did not burn up in an explosion, they could in theory survive the tiny pressure on the lunar surface, and the extremes of temperature, William Miller, a tardigrades expert at Baker University, told AFP.

“But to become active, to grow, eat, and reproduce they would need water, air and food,” so it would not be possible for them to multiply and form a colony, he added.

NASA astrobiologist Cassie Conley said that their exact survival time would depend on the condition of the impact site and the temperatures to which they are exposed.

“If they don’t get too hot, it’s possible they could survive for quite a long time (many years),” she told AFP.

“I’d be more concerned that the animals would be affected by toxic chemicals from the epoxy or glue” used to store them, as opposed to conditions in space, she added.

Even if the creatures lived on for several years, there is no crewed mission to the Moon planned until NASA’s Artemis program in 2024 at the south pole—far from Beresheet’s crash site on the Sea of Serenity, so they probably won’t make it home.

“It is unlikely that they will be rescued in time, so my guess is that, even if they survived, they are doomed,” Rafael Alves Batista, a physicist at Sao Paulo university who co-authored a 2017 paper on tardigrades’ extreme resilience, told AFP.


Tiny ‘water bears’ can teach us about survival


© 2019 AFP

Citation:
Hordes of Earth’s toughest creatures may now be living on Moon (2019, August 7)
retrieved 7 August 2019
from https://phys.org/news/2019-08-hordes-earth-toughest-creatures-moon.html

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Cooperation with high status individuals may increase one’s own status

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Cooperation with high status individuals may increase one's own status
Two Tsimane men returning from a hunt. Credit: Chris von Rueden

Seeking social status is a central human motivation. Whether it’s buying designer clothing, working the way up the job ladder, or making a conspicuous donation to charity, humans often seek and signal social status. Human cooperation and competition aren’t mutually exclusive, they are two sides of the same coin. Christopher von Rueden from the University of Richmond and Daniel Redhead from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology led a study to assess the relationship between men’s cooperation and status hierarchy over a period of eight years in a community of Tsimane Amerindians in Amazonian Bolivia.


Among the Tsimane, status is informal and evident in who has more verbal influence during community meetings. Influential men in this community also enjoy greater health and have more surviving children. At three points over the eight-year period, the researchers asked men to rank other men within their community on their status and to report other men with whom they regularly cooperate, in terms of food-sharing or joint hunting, fishing, or horticultural labor. The researchers show that high status men gain more cooperation partners over time, and that men gain status over time by cooperating with men of higher status than themselves. By cooperating with high-status individuals, one may gain valuable information, resources or coalitional support that increases one’s own status. Alternatively, cooperation with high-status individuals may increase one’s status by more effectively broadcasting generosity or other desirable attributes to other community members.

“The finding that status depends on cooperation provides insight into why human societies, particularly small-scale societies like the Tsimane, are relatively egalitarian compared to other primates,” says von Rueden, joint lead author of the study. “Humans allocate status based on the benefits we can provide to others, often more than on the costs we can inflict. This is in part because humans evolved greater interdependence, relying on each other for learning skills, producing food, engaging in mutual defense and raising offspring. Individuals who can offer unique services in these contexts gain status. However, the transfer of information and resources from higher- to lower-status individuals, as well as the potential reputational benefits to cooperating with higher-status individuals, may constrain or even erode status differentials. Status inequality is constrained when, by cooperating, status-dissimilar individuals influence each other’s statuses. This likely changed with the spread of agriculture 10,000 years ago, as human communities grew in size and began producing more private wealth. Widespread cooperation among community members becomes difficult as community size increases, and individuals with more wealth can lose incentive to cooperate with the non-wealthy outside of more market-based or coercive transactions. These processes limit upward mobility and fuel stratification by wealth class.”

Cooperation with high status individuals may increase one's own status
A Tsimane man helping resolve a dispute over land, which is illustrative of the largely informal way in which political influence operates in this society. Credit: Chris von Rueden

Daniel Redhead, joint lead author of the study, adds, “This is one of the first longitudinal studies of social status. Our findings provide some of the first evidence that the relationship between cooperation and social status among humans is bidirectional. That is, humans, compared to other animals, give status to those who provide benefits to groups, and are thus more attracted to these individuals as cooperative partners. At the same time, individuals increase their own status by cooperating with such high status. These findings provide empirical evidence that stresses the broader importance of social interdependence—be it food sharing, food production, friendship or advice—in shaping human behavior, and that this interdependence makes the ways that we obtain social status quite distinct from other animals.”


‘Lower status’ people more likely to share wealth than ‘higher status’ people


More information:
The dynamics of men’s cooperation and social status in a small-scale society, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, rspb.royalsocietypublishing.or … .1098/rspb.2019.1367

Provided by
Max Planck Society

Citation:
Cooperation with high status individuals may increase one’s own status (2019, August 6)
retrieved 6 August 2019
from https://phys.org/news/2019-08-cooperation-high-status-individuals.html

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Meet ‘Hercules’—the giant parrot that dwarfs its modern cousins

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NZ big bird a whopping 'squawkzilla'
Reconstruction of the giant parrot Heracles, dwarfing a bevy of 8cm high Kuiornis — small New Zealand wrens scuttling about on the forest floor. Credit: Dr Brian Choo, Flinders University

Australasian palaeontologists have discovered the world’s largest parrot, standing up to 1m tall with a massive beak able to crack most food sources.


The new bird has been named Heracles inexpectatus to reflect its Herculean myth-like size and strength—and the unexpected nature of the discovery.

“New Zealand is well known for its giant birds,” says Flinders University Associate Professor Trevor Worthy. “Not only moa dominated avifaunas, but giant geese and adzebills shared the forest floor, while a giant eagle ruled the skies.

“But until now, no-one has ever found an extinct giant parrot—anywhere.”

The NZ fossil is approximately the size of the giant ‘dodo’ pigeon of the Mascarenes and twice the size of the critically endangered flightless New Zealand kakapo, previously the largest known parrot.

Like the kakapo, it was a member of an ancient New Zealand group of parrots that appear to be more primitive than parrots that thrive today on Australia and other continents.

Experts from Flinders University, UNSW Sydney and Canterbury Museum in New Zealand estimate Heracles to be 1 m tall, weighing about 7 kg.

The new parrot was found in fossils up to 19 million years old from near St Bathans in Central Otago, New Zealand, in an area well known for a rich assemblage of fossil birds from the Miocene period.

“We have been excavating these fossil deposits for 20 years, and each year reveals new birds and other animals,” says Associate Professor Worthy, from the Flinders University Palaeontology Lab.

NZ big bird a whopping 'squawkzilla'
Graphic showing the Heracles inexpectatus silhouette next to an average height person and common magpie. Credit: Professor Paul Scofield, Canterbury Museum

“While Heracles is one of the most spectacular birds we have found, no doubt there are many more unexpected species yet to be discovered in this most interesting deposit.”

“Heracles, as the largest parrot ever, no doubt with a massive parrot beak that could crack wide open anything it fancied, may well have dined on more than conventional parrot foods, perhaps even other parrots,” says Professor Mike Archer, from the UNSW Sydney Palaeontology, Geobiology and Earth Archives (PANGEA) Research Centre.

“Its rarity in the deposit is something we might expect if it was feeding higher up in the food chain,” he says, adding parrots “in general are very resourceful birds in terms of culinary interests”.

“New Zealand keas, for example, have even developed a taste for sheep since these were introduced by European settlers in 1773.”

Birds have repeatedly evolved giant species on islands. As well as the dodo, there has been another giant pigeon found on Fiji, a giant stork on Flores, giant ducks in Hawaii, giant megapodes in New Caledonia and Fiji, giant owls and other raptors in the Caribbean.

Heracles lived in a diverse subtropical forest where many species of laurels and palms grew with podocarp trees.

“Undoubtedly, these provided a rich harvest of fruit important in the diet of Heracles and the parrots and pigeons it lived with. But on the forest floor Heracles competed with adzebills and the forerunners of moa,” says Professor Suzanne Hand, also from UNSW Sydney.

“The St Bathans fauna provides the only insight into the terrestrial birds and other animals that lived in New Zealand since dinosaurs roamed the land more than 66 million years ago,” says Paul Scofield, Senior Curator at Canterbury Museum, Christchurch.

Canterbury Museum research curator Vanesa De Pietri says the fossil deposit reveals a highly diverse fauna typical of subtropical climates with crocodilians, turtles, many bats and other mammals, and over 40 bird species.

“This was a very different place with a fauna very unlike that which survived into recent times,” she says.

‘Evidence for a giant parrot from the early Miocene of New Zealand’ (2019) by Trevor H Worthy, Suzanne J Hand, Michael Archer, R Paul Scofield and Vanesa L De Pietri has been published in Biology Letters (Royal Society).


Extinct pigeon species related to dodo found


More information:
Evidence for a giant parrot from the early Miocene of New Zealand, Biology Letters, royalsocietypublishing.org/doi … .1098/rsbl.2019.0467

Provided by
Flinders University

Citation:
A whopping ‘squawkzilla’: Meet ‘Hercules’—the giant parrot that dwarfs its modern cousins (2019, August 6)
retrieved 6 August 2019
from https://phys.org/news/2019-08-whopping-squawkzilla-herculesthe-giant-parrot.html

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Animal collectives like ants should move through their environment like ‘savvy gamblers’

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ant colony
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Many animals have to move around in their environment to find resources to live and reproduce.


Scientists have studied particular examples of this for many years but there are not many unifying frameworks to understand the general organising principles of animal movement.

This is especially true for animal collectives like ant colonies, whose individual routes as they search for food can look rather like a ‘random walk’.

Now an inter-disciplinary team of scientists from the University of Bristol has developed a more fundamental model of collective movement that generates predictions for how individuals in tight-knit groups should move, considering how their movement behaviour should be optimised for colony-level success at finding food.

Their research is published today in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

One of the authors, Dr. Edmund Hunt from the University of Bristol’s Department of Engineering Mathematics, said: “We recognised that the challenge an ant colony has to solve is the same as the challenge of a gambler trying to maximise long-term wealth.

“The mathematician John Kelly produced a result in 1956 showing that the way to do this is to bet on games in proportion to the probability of winning—so bet more money on more likely outcomes.

“The ants, then, should allocate their foragers (their ‘wealth’) to foraging areas according to how likely they are to find food there.”

If this is indeed the best strategy, evolution should have produced movement behaviours that result in ants preferentially spending time in areas with high probability of payoff.

This results in mathematical models of movement that can be taken directly from statistical techniques originally developed in physics, to sample from complex probability distributions (complex ‘environments’).

The new framework for animal movement generates theoretical predictions for the way highly related collectives of organisms should move around, which in future can be examined experimentally in a wide range of biological systems.


Ants respond to social information at rest, not on the fly


More information:
Optimal foraging and the information theory of gambling, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, rsif.royalsocietypublishing.or … 098/rsif.2019.0162 

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University of Bristol

Citation:
Animal collectives like ants should move through their environment like ‘savvy gamblers’ (2019, August 6)
retrieved 6 August 2019
from https://phys.org/news/2019-08-animal-ants-environment-savvy-gamblers.html

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Staring at seagulls could save your chips

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seagulls
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Staring at seagulls makes them less likely to steal your food, new research shows.


University of Exeter researchers put a bag of chips on the ground and tested how long it took herring gulls to approach when a human was watching them, compared to when the human looked away.

On average, gulls took 21 seconds longer to approach the food with a human staring at them.

The researchers attempted to test 74 gulls, but most flew away or would not approach—only 27 approached the food, and 19 completed both the “looking at” and “looking away” tests. The findings focus on these 19 gulls.

“Gulls are often seen as aggressive and willing to take food from humans, so it was interesting to find that most wouldn’t even come near during our tests,” said lead author Madeleine Goumas, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“Of those that did approach, most took longer when they were being watched. Some wouldn’t even touch the food at all, although others didn’t seem to notice that a human was staring at them.

“We didn’t examine why individual gulls were so different—it might be because of differences in “personality” and some might have had positive experiences of being fed by humans in the past—but it seems that a couple of very bold gulls might ruin the reputation of the rest.”

A human looking away from a gull. The gull approaches and tries to take the food. Credit: University of Exeter

Senior author Dr. Neeltje Boogert added: “Gulls learn really quickly, so if they manage to get food from humans once, they might look for more.

“Our study took place in coastal towns in Cornwall, and especially now, during the summer holidays and beach barbecues, we are seeing more gulls looking for an easy meal. We therefore advise people to look around themselves and watch out for gulls approaching, as they often appear to take food from behind, catching people by surprise.

“It seems that just watching the gulls will reduce the chance of them snatching your food.”

The UK’s herring gulls are in decline, though numbers in urban areas are rising. Gulls in these areas are often considered a nuisance because of behaviours like food-snatching.

A human watching a gull as the gull approaches food. The gull does not attempt to snatch the food. Credit: University of Exeter

The researchers say their study shows that any attempt to manage this issue by treating all gulls as being alike could be futile, as most gulls are wary of approaching people. Instead, people might be able to reduce food-snatching by the few bold individuals by modifying their own behaviour.

The natural diet of herring gulls is fish and invertebrates, and the researchers will next investigate how eating human foods affects the gulls, and their chicks, in the long term. The paper, published in the journal Biology Letters, is entitled: “Herring gulls respond to human gaze direction.”


Gulls could pass on drug-resistant bacteria to humans, say scientists


More information:
Herring gulls respond to human gaze direction, Biology Letters, royalsocietypublishing.org/doi … .1098/rsbl.2019.0405

Provided by
University of Exeter

Citation:
Staring at seagulls could save your chips (2019, August 6)
retrieved 6 August 2019
from https://phys.org/news/2019-08-seagulls-chips.html

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NASA finds heavy rain in new tropical storm Krosa

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NASA finds heavy rain in new tropical storm Krosa
The GPM core satellite passed over Tropical Storm Krosa at 10:21 a.m. EDT (1421 UTC) on August 6, 2019. GPM found the heaviest rainfall (pink) was east of the center of circulation falling at a rate of 50 mm (about 2 inches) per hour. Credit: NASA/JAXA/NRL

Tropical Storm Krosa had recently developed into a tropical storm when the GPM satellite passed overhead and found heavy rainfall. Fortunately, the storm was over open waters.

Krosa formed on August 5 as the eleventh tropical depression of the Northwestern Pacific Ocean typhoon season. On August 6 by 5 a.m. EDT (0900 UTC) it had become a tropical storm and was re-named Krosa.

The Global Precipitation Measurement mission or GPM core satellite passed over Tropical Storm Krosa at 10:21 a.m. EDT (1421 UTC) on August 6, 2019. GPM found the heaviest rainfall was east of the center of circulation falling at a rate of 50 mm (about 2 inches) per hour, over open ocean GPM is a joint mission between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA.

At 11 a.m. EDT (1500 UTC) Tropical storm Krosa was located near19.0 degrees north latitude and 142.3 east longitude, about 352 miles south of Iwo To Island, Japan. Krosa was moving to the northwest and had maximum sustained winds near 40 knots (46 mph/74 kph).

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center noted that Krosa will move northwest, then later north and strengthen to a typhoon with maximum sustained winds near 75 knots (86 mph/139 kph).

Krosa is expected to pass very near the island of Iwo To on August 9 and move north.


NASA catches birth of Northwestern Pacific’s Tropical Storm Francisco


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NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Citation:
NASA finds heavy rain in new tropical storm Krosa (2019, August 6)
retrieved 6 August 2019
from https://phys.org/news/2019-08-nasa-heavy-tropical-storm-krosa.html

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NASA finds tropical storm Francisco in the Korea strait

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NASA finds tropical storm Francisco in the Korea strait
On Aug. 6, 2019 at 1217 a.m. EDT (0417 UTC). the AIRS instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite analyzed cloud top temperatures of Tropical Storm Francisco in infrared light. AIRS found coldest cloud top temperatures (purple) of strongest thunderstorms were as cold as or colder than minus 63 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 53 degrees Celsius). Credit: NASA JPL/Heidar Thrastarson

NASA’s Aqua satellite passed over the Korea Strait and found the center of Tropical Storm Francisco in the middle of it. The AIRS instrument aboard took the temperature of its cloud tops to estimate storm strength and found strong storms over two countries.

The Korea Strait is a located between South Korea and Japan. It connects the East China Sea, the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan in the northwest Pacific Ocean..

NASA’s Aqua satellite passed over Francisco on Aug. 6, at 1217 a.m. EDT (0417 UTC). The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder or AIRS instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite analyzed Francisco in infrared light and found cloud top temperatures of strongest thunderstorms as cold as or colder than minus 63 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 53 degrees Celsius) were wrapping around the low-level center from west to north to east. Cloud top temperatures that cold indicate strong storms that have the capability to create heavy rain. Those strong storms were affecting southern South Korea and southern Japan. The southern side of the storm appeared to have few storms.

At 11 a.m. EDT (1500 UTC), the center of Tropical Storm Francisco was located near latitude 36.2 degrees north and 129.4 degrees east longitude. Francisco’s center is about 33 nautical miles north-northeast of Busan, South Korea. It was moving to the northwest and had maximum sustained winds near 45 knots (52 mph/83 kph).

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecasts that Francisco will move north then turn northeast and curve east through the Sea of Japan and cross Hokkiado, the northernmost islands of Japan on Aug. 8.


NASA gazes into Tropical Storm Lekima in Philippine Sea


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NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Citation:
NASA finds tropical storm Francisco in the Korea strait (2019, August 6)
retrieved 6 August 2019
from https://phys.org/news/2019-08-nasa-tropical-storm-francisco-korea.html

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