Wednesday, 13 May 2015
A report has come in that 7 Golden lion tamarins and 10 Silver marmosets have been stolen from Beauval Zoo near Paris (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/12/monkeys-stolen-from-french-zoo-are-extremely-rare-and-fragile). These primates (actually the property of the Brazilian Government) are rare and have 'special dietary needs'. The thieves were, no doubt, attracted by the reported going rate for tamarins on the black-market said to be between £3,600 and £7200. These acts further endanger already seriously endangered animals.
Monday, 11 May 2015
There is a suggestion that the falling prices of processed foods in a number of countries (reportedly, an ice-cream in the UK has reduced in price by 50% between 1980 and 2012 as fresh fruit and vegetables have tripled their costs) have had a major impact on the 'obesity epidemic' that is afflicting populations (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/may/11/falling-price-processed-foods-obesity-crisis-tax). It is suggested that around 3.5k deaths a year in the UK are diet-related (apparently twice as many as die on the roads).A similar pattern is said to be becoming clear in many established and 'newly rich' countries across the globe. Experts have suggested that 'unhealthy foods' should attract additional taxes that could be used to reduce the costs of the (not especially helpfully expressed) 5 a day helpings of fresh stuff but I wouldn't hold my breath. As a professor at King's College London noted, we have trillions of symbiotic bacteria in our guts ('We never eat alone' as he puts it) and processed foods do not supply the materials for those bacteria to produce vitamins and other helpful chemicals in our large intestines.
Saturday, 9 May 2015
Wednesday, 6 May 2015
There is a recent report (http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/150428/ncomms7987/full/ncomms7987.html) of a very early fossil of an ornithuromorpha bird from fossil measures in China. These, clearly flighted birds, were around in the early Cretaceous period, making them at least 5 million years older than previous frequent flyers. The legs of the fossil suggest that the species was a type of wader that rooted in sediment. So, birds were contemporaries of dinosaurs but their delicate structure (bones and feathers) presumably made them less prone to fossilisation.
Monday, 4 May 2015
The West coast of the USA is experiencing another outbreak of a densovirus-associated starfish wasting disease that reduces victims to putrifying blobs of jelly sans arms (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/03/starfish-sea-star-deaths-west-coast). There have been outbreaks in the past but this seems to be a very patchy event, hitting local populations and leaving others alone for a while. The outbreak is thought to be linked to local warming of sea temperatures but some of the outbreaks are reportedly in the coolest locations. The disease also seems to be unrelated to pollution events. One thing is certain, namely that removal of these mollusc-eating predators presents a challenge to marine ecosystems.