Death sentence for apostasy

Religion makes people feel justified in doing evil things, and do evil things to protect their nonexistent gods. A man has been sentenced to death in Mauritania for “speaking lightly of the Prophet Mohammed.”

In 2012, an American man was arrested for killing an American soldier for not believing in God: murder of Jose Ramirez.

Posted in Africa, events. Tags: . 1 Comment »

What would you eat if you were hungry?

Probably anything you could catch, such as that uncivilized “bushmeat,” such as deer or rabbit or possum.

Read “Granny’s mean pot of bushmeat stew,” by Tara C. Smith of Aetiology.

Mapping can save African forests from logging

Mapping from satellite pictures can warn scientists and governments where illegal logging is taking place in Africa.

Pterosaurs over the Sahara

I know I’m mixing up times and environments. Here’s the real news: A fossil pterosaur has been found in the Sahara desert. It has a wingspan of about five metres. The fossil comprises most of the bones of one wing and a number of long, slender teeth, which indicate a fish-catching habit.

 

Masters–and mistresses–of camouflage

a small lizard among rubbery brown leaves looks like a leaf itself

Leaf-tailed Gecko of Madagascar

Just look at these twenty examples of evolution for camouflage. Above, the geckos that look most like leaves avoid predators and catch more insects. Below, potoos and owls that succeed in blending in with tree branches avoid the daytime attention of hawks and eagles.

A large,bark-coloured bird hides by leaning against a tree branch

A great potoo of Brazil leans against a tree branch


The gallery also ha a photo of a Vietnamese mossy frog in full, frilly glory.

Wierd and wonderful: Grandidier’s vontsira

face of mongoose-like carnivore, Grandidier's vontsira

I’m enjoying my high-definition BBC feed while I still have it. Recently, I enjoyed a documentary about Madagascar narrated by Sir David Attenborough. He mentioned a rare carnivore called Grandidier’s vontsira (BBC, Island of Marvels, Part 3. YouTube clip, 0:12:08–0:13:24). I had never heard of it, and no wonder. It’s a rare mongoose found only in a tiny part of Madagascar. It’s like the mammalian equivalent of a snail darter, a tiny fish found only in certain rivers.

striped mongoose-like carnivore, Grandidier's vontsira

It took a little while for me to find out more. It’s more commonly called Grandidier’s mongoose. It was named only in 1986 and little is known of its life. It’s adapted to an arid climate, eats small prey and insects, and pairs off to have one offspring. If you watch the video clip, you’ll hear its voice, distant whistles and then a cross between a mew and a coo.

striped mongooses with plumy tails, Grandidier's vontsira

Most of the prey items caught are insects but the greater biomass, 57% – 80% depending on the season, comes from small animals.

The range map for Galidictis grandidieri is from Wikipedia, and ultimately from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, species assessors and the authors of the spatial data.

Wierd and wonderful: Verreaux’s Coua

Coua verreauxi is a member of the cuckoo family that lives in a very small area of southwestern Madagascar. The bird lives on the shores of a single salt lake and is classified as Near Threatened. It lives in dry-adapted scrubland and is threatened by habitat loss. You can see a video clip here: BBC, Zoo Quest: Island of Marvels, Part 3. Video clip, 0:06:50 – 0:08:35, Verroux’s coua. the bird in this clip is puffed up against the cold.

a crested, grey and white cuckoo with its feathers puffed up

Verreaux's coua

Old Britannica

Quagga mare

This Google Books section of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, about Africa, is from such an old edition that it gives the range of the quagga! Africa.

“The quagga, exclusively African, inhabits the most southern parts of the continent, and is scarcely found north of the Orange river, but occurs in great herds, associated with the white-tailed gnu. The zebra (Equus Burchellii), or zebra of the plains, is widely distributed over Africa, from the limit of the quagga to Abyssinia and the west coast; the zebra of the mountains (Equus zebra), more completely striped than the rest, is known only in South Africa. The true onager or aboriginal wild ass is indigenous to North-East Africa and the island of Socotra. A species inhabiting the high land of Abyssinia is distinct from these.

…the Cape buffalo, a species peculiar to Africa, reaches as far north as a line from Guinea to Abyssinia; the Bos Brachycerus is a species peculiar to West Africa, from Senegal to the Gaboon. Of sheep, the Ovis Tragelaphus is peculiar to North Africa; the Ibex goat extends into Abyssinia. the family of the antelope is essentially African, five-sixths of the species composing it being natives of that country, and chiefly of the portion lying south of the Sahara, occurring in dense herds. Lastly, the giraffe, one of the most celebrated and characteristic of African quadrupeds, ranges from the limits of the Cape Colony as far as the Sahara and Nubia.

Of Edentata the seven species known to occur in Africa are also peculiar to it. The aardvark (Orycteropus capensis) is essentially burrowing in its habits….

A genus of moles is met with in South Africa, but is not found in the tropical regions. The Cape or gilded mole, chryso-chlore, is so called from its iridescent glossy fur; two or three species of hedgehog occur in the continent, and Madagascar has a peculiar family resembling those in appearance, but without the power of rolling up into a ball for defence. Bats are numerous in Africa, but few are peculiar to it.

Of Rodenta the burrowing kinds prevail. The African species of porcupine are known in the the northern and western coast-lands and in South-Eastern Africa. The hyrax extends over Eastern Africa and a portion of the west coast. Hares are only known in the countries north of the Sahara and in the Cape colony. Among squirrels, those with bristles or spines in their fur are peculiar to the southern regions of the continent….

The ostrich, the hugest of birds… is found in almost every part of Africa. But its chief home is the desert and the open plains; mountainous districts it avoids, unless pressed by hunger. The beautiful white feathers, so highly prized by the ladies of Europe, are found in the wings of the male bird. The chase is not without its difficulties, as it requires the greatest care to get within musket-shot of the bird, owing to its constant vigilance and the great distance to which it can see. The fleetest horse, too, will not overtake it unless stratagem be adopted to tire it out. If followed up too eagerly, the chase of the ostrich is not destitute of danger; for the huntsman has sometimes had his thigh-bone broken by a single stroke from the leg of a wounded bird.

The large messenger or secretary-bird, which preys upon serpents and other reptiles, si one of the most remarkable African birds. It is common near the Cape, and is not seldom domesticated. Of gallinaceous fowls, adapted to the poultry-yard, Africa possesses but a single genus, the guinea-hens, which, however, are found in no other part of the world. These birds, of which there are three or four distinct species, go in large flocks of 400 or 500, and are most frequently found among underwood in the vicinity of ponds and rivers.

Bonus quotation: “Plants of the proteus tribe also add to the extraordinary variety in the vegetable physiognomy of that region.”

The quagga was hunted to extinction in the wild in the 1870s, exact date not noticed, and the last known quagga died in the London Zoo in 1883. The only photograph of a live quagga was taken at the London Zoo in 1870.

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