I don’t care much for auction, unless is something really impressive, like the image above: A dodo. Yes, a dodo, but not a regular dodo image, a dodo watercolour from the Dutch School. The Dutch, the same people that colonized Mauritius, and a drawing is from the 17th Century, which means that the chances of that painting had a real dodo as a model were pretty high.
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And the Dodo Award unfortunately had to choose one more winner last year. If you are following The Dodo Blog on Twitter you already know that The Center for Biological Diversity announced Michael Winer, portfolio manager for the giant real-estate investment firm Third Avenue Management, LLC (“TAREX”), as the winner of its third annual Rubber Dodo Award for : “His Wall St. Firm Pushing Largest Developments in California and Florida Imperiling Dozens of Endangered Species, Including Condors on Tejon Ranch“. Not an easy work, but there is always a monster to do such things.
Winer is deserving of the 2009 award for his leadership of TAREX, the largest stockholder in companies developing the largest pieces of private land remaining in Southern California and Florida. These regions are also home to some the highest numbers of endangered species in North America. In California, TAREX is pushing the Tejon Ranch Company to pave over thousands of acres of federally designated California condor habitat. In Florida, TAREX is pushing the St. Joe Company to flood tens of thousands of acres of the Florida Panhandle with high-end developments.
“Under Winer’s money-obsessed leadership, TAREX has become the poster child for unsustainable, endangered-species-killing sprawl,” said Adam Keats, director of the Center’s Urban Wildlands Program. “He specializes in finding massive, remote estates far from urban centers and turning them into a sea of condos, malls, golf courses, and resorts. There is good reason that even Wall Street commonly calls TAREX a ‘real-estate vulture’.” (more…)
From PhysOrg, The way of the digital dodo: The laser light glowed brilliant red, forming a moving line as it bounced information from the dodo’s bones back into the high-tech scanner sitting on a tripod on the Museum of Comparative Zoology’s (MCZ) fifth floor.
Again and again, the red line traced the contours of the skeletal bird, one of just a handful of complete skeletons of one of the world’s most famous cases of human-caused extinction.
The flightless bird, about the size of a large turkey, was native to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. It became extinct in the mid- to late-1600s from a combination of human hunting, habitat destruction, and predation by introduced animals, including rats, cats, pigs, and dogs.
The laser’s tracings were creating a 3-D digital model of the skeleton, compiled as part of a joint effort between the MCZ’s ornithological collection, overseen by Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Scott Edwards, and Holy Cross College biologist Leon Claessens, an assistant professor whose doctoral work at Harvard and familiarity with the MCZ’s collections led to the collaboration. Claessens received his doctorate in 2006.
The National Science Foundation-funded, three-year effort aims to create 3-D digital models of each species represented in Harvard’s collection of 12,000 bird skeletons. It will make those digital models available on the Internet for researchers around the world. The collection’s digitization will not only vastly expand access to the collections for researchers who can’t afford to travel to Cambridge, it will also make analysis of the specimens far more rapid, using powerful engineering software that creates thousands of data points on each bone that can be manipulated, measured, and used in calculations.
“This project will be useful for people studying the basic morphology of birds,” Edwards said. “In this era of genomics, the size and shape of bones is still very important.”
Claessens, who has been scanning with a group of his students since the “Aves 3D” project got under way in August, said much of the effort is aimed at disarticulated bones of specimens, so that the scanner can image the entire bone, including the ends and surfaces that might not be accessible in an assembled specimen. Researchers interested in the shape and size of a particular bone across different species will be able to call up those bones digitally, rather than traveling to individual museums with calipers, pencil, pad, and camera, as would be required today. Those interested in other aspects of anatomy can manipulate the bones digitally, even reassembling the bird if needed.
Keep reading on PhysOrg.
Those are old news, but I didn’t share it here yet and the dodos were very pleased that she isn’t the vice president of USA. The dodos really don’t like her. And those were the news from the Center for Biological Diversity: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin Wins 2008 Rubber Dodo Award. Palin Has Sought to Remove Endangered Species Act Protection for the Polar Bear, Suppressed and Lied About State Global Warming Studies, and Denied That Global Warming Is Caused by Greenhouse Gas Emissions
“Governor Palin has waged a deceptive, dangerous, and costly battle against the polar bear,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Her position on global warming is so extreme, she makes Dick Cheney look like an Al Gore devotee.”
Palin has waged a deceptive public relations campaign, asserting that the polar bear is increasing. But many populations (including Alaska’s southern Beaufort Sea) are in decline and two-thirds (including all Alaska bears) are projected to disappear by 2050 by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Palin has repeatedly asserted that Alaska Department of Fish and Game scientists found fatal flaws in the sea ice models used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine the polar bear is threatened. When challenged, Palin refused to release the alleged state review. Independent scientists eventually obtained a summary through the federal Freedom of Information Act, revealing that Palin had lied: The state mammalogists concurred with the Fish and Wildlife Service determination that Arctic sea ice is melting at an extraordinary rate and threatens the polar bear with extinction.
“All global warming deniers are eventually forced to suppress scientific studies, and Palin is no different,” said Suckling. “To maintain her ludicrous opposition to protecting the polar bear in the face of massive scientific consensus, Palin stepped over the line to lie about and suppress government science.”
Palin has since filed a frivolous lawsuit against the Bush administration to have the threatened listing overturned. Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey announced on September 16th that the 2008 summertime Arctic sea-ice melt was the second greatest on record, nearly matching the extraordinary melt of 2007.
“Palin’s insistence that Arctic melting is ‘uncertain’ is like someone debating the theory of gravity as they plunge off a cliff,” said Suckling. “It’s hopeless, reckless, and extremely cynical.”
Dodo Skeleton Found on Island, May Yield Extinct Bird’s DNA by Kate Ravilious for National Geographic News:
Adventurers exploring a cave on an island in the Indian Ocean have discovered the most complete and well-preserved dodo skeleton ever found, scientists reported yesterday.
Researchers say the find would likely yield the first useful samples of the extinct, flightless bird’s DNA.
If you follow this blog, you know I already linked to the same news on the posts Bones Could Yield Dodo DNA and Flightless Fred has scientists in raptures. However, that National Geographic article is good, as usual, and there more additional information on it.
Until now most of the information about dodos has come from scattered bone fragments. Only one other full skeleton was ever unearthed—in the 1860s—but it has been of limited scientific value, because the person who discovered it never revealed where it was found.
“We need to know about the location to understand the ecology of the dodo,” said Kenneth Rijsdijk, a scientist with Geological Survey of the Netherlands, who plans to study the environment in which the newfound bird was discovered.
The site of the new dodo skeleton and the layout of its bones has been precisely recorded, making the find already very useful to scientists, he added.
“We can take soil samples and discover how and why the animal got there,” Rijskijk said.
What’s more, the location of the new skeleton makes it much more likely to yield DNA, said Beth Shapiro, a geneticist from Oxford University who studies dodo remains. […]
The cave site of the new skeleton is likely to provide the best hope of a decent DNA sample because the bones will not have been exposed to sunlight and the temperature was fairly constant, she added.
“We are really excited about the new find and hope it might tell us much more about the behavior and appearance of dodos,” Shapiro said.
PS.: Photograph from Reuters, inset illustration from Getty Images.
Expatica, 11 May 2007: Dodo has become an icon. But you already knew that, don’t you?
The dodo has become an international icon for species that have died out because of human activity.
Fifty dodo experts met in Leiden on Friday to share their still scarce information on the mysterious animal. Dutch scientists found leg and toe bones from a dodo, part of a hip bone, vertebrae and a beak in 2005.
“The fascination for the dodo stems from that fact that so few people saw the bird,” says palaeontologist Anwar Janoo, the only Mauritian at the conference.
Update: the article was removed.
From the Center for Biological Diversity: “Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne Wins 2007 Rubber Dodo Award.” This is the first time they celebrate it, and it was a deserved victory: Kempthorne Surpasses James Watt By Protecting Fewer Endangered Species Than Any Interior Secretary in History.
Since his confirmation as secretary of the interior on May 26, 2006, Kempthorne has not placed a single plant or animal on the federal endangered species list. The last listing (12 Hawaiian picture-wing flies) occurred on May 9, 2006 — 472 days ago. The previous recordholder was James Watt, who listed no species for 376 days between 1981 and 1982.
Watt’s refusal to list species resulted in a 1982 congressional amendment to the Endangered Species Act, which established firm timelines for listing species and litigation consequences for violating the deadlines. Kempthorne’s refusal prompted Ed Markey (D-MA) to introduce H.R. 3459, the “Transparent Reporting Under ESA Listing Act,” on August 4, 2007. It would amend the Endangered Species Act to require the secretary to explain the scientific basis of decisions to deny Endangered Species Act protections to imperiled plants and animals.
“Kempthorne is eminently deserving of the first annual Rubber Dodo award,” said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity, which administers the award. “His refusal to protect a single imperiled species in more than 15 months gives him the worst record of any interior secretary in the history of the Endangered Species Act. His policies should go the way of the dodo as soon as possible.”
“Political appointees like Kempthorne come and go, but extinction is forever. No politician has the right to destroy the future of an endangered species.”
It’s not easy do that, he must have had a hard work and I would like to congratulate him for being such a jerk.
The Sydney Morning Herald from Reuters: Missing bird species rediscovered.
A bird species that has not been seen since the remains of one were found in India 140 years ago is alive and living in Thailand, scientists say.
The live Large-billed Reed-warbler was found by chance by ornithologist Philip Round as he was putting identification tags on wild birds at a water treatment plant near Bangkok last year.
“Although reed-warblers are generally drab and look very similar, one of the birds I caught that morning struck me as very odd, something about it didn’t quite add up; it had a long beak and short wings,” he said in a statement.
“Then, it dawned on me – I was probably holding a Large-billed Reed-warbler. I was dumbstruck, it felt as if I was holding a living dodo,” he said.
After Bones Could Yield Dodo DNA, the same news at Stuff.co.nz: The remains of a dodo found in a cave beneath bamboo and tea plantations in Mauritius offer the best chance yet to learn about the extinct flightless bird, a scientist has said.
Update: Unfortunately the link to the news was removed.
From LiveScience Bones Could Yield Dodo DNA: A newly discovered dodo skeleton has raised hopes for extracting some of the legendary extinct bird’s DNA.
Fred the dodo
Late last year, biologists looking for cave cockroaches accidentally discovered a dodo skeleton in the highlands of Mauritius.
Nicknamed “Fred” after one of its discoverers, the skeleton’s bones were badly decomposed and fragile, but there is still a good chance of extracting some dodo DNA because of the stable temperature and dry to slightly humid environment (keys to DNA preservation) of the cave.
(Scientists think Fred ended up in the bottom of the cave because he sought shelter from a violent cyclone but fell down in a deep hole and could not climb out.)
Dodo DNA would be of great scientific value because scientists know very little about the genetics of the dodo. Also, it would allow scientists to figure how long the skeleton was lying in the cave.
Keep reading on LiveScience.