Saturday, December 13, 2014

MOTHER NATURE: Flamingoes "Closely Related To Pigeons" - Scientists Form "Most Reliable" Avian Tree Of Life!

Pink flamingos (AFP Photo)

December 13, 2014 - NATURE
- Scientists have generated a major study of 45 bird genomes, representing key branches in bird evolution. It took 9 supercomputers around the world the equivalent of 400 years of processor time to study the genomes and form them into a family tree.

Over 200 researchers from 20 countries have yielded what has been called the "most reliable avian tree of life yet produced."

The new analysis sheds light on the evolutionary relationships of major groups of birds, showing which groups are closely or distantly related to each other.

A key finding involves an early event in the evolution of the Neoaves, a group that features songbirds, raptors, parrots, herons, doves, penguins and most other birds. The scientists discovered a divergence between two groups of Neoaves: Columbea and Passerea.

"And what's really interesting about this divergence is that the group Columbea includes birds that you wouldn’t think were related, like flamingoes and pigeons. This means that flamingoes are more closely related to pigeons than they are to pelicans, for example,"
said Siavash Mirarab, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin.

Peregrine Falcon (AFP Photo)

Surprisingly enough, the scientists concluded that some birds of prey are not as closely related to each other as they are to other species that have very different traits.

"If you look at them, you would think that falcons are more eagle-like than they are parrot-like,"
Mirarab said. "But falcons are more closely related to parrots and passerines (a group that includes songbirds) than they are to eagles or vultures."

Only five of the birds whose genomes were studied turned out to be Neoaves. Chickens, turkeys and ducks inhabit a separate branch of the avian tree, while ostriches and tinamous stem from the most ancient branch on the tree.

An African fish eagle (AFP Photo)

"Most of the birds we know today, about 95 percent, belong to the group Neoaves. These birds appeared, it seems, in a period of a few million years. When a lot of new species appear in a short period of time, it makes reconstructing their relationships much harder,"
Mirarab explained.

The study lends support to the hypothesis that some vital traits, such as vocal learning or foot-propelled underwater diving, evolved independently among different groups of birds. There also is evidence that the core land birds (a group that includes songbirds, parrots, falcons, owls, woodpeckers and eagles) share a common ancestor that was an apex predator (an animal at the top of the food chain that is not preyed on).

Figuring out the evolution of birds is a painstaking process. According to scientists, the 'big bang' occurred some 65 million years ago, just after the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction, which killed off the "other dinosaurs," Mirarab said.

Doves (Reuters)

However, the exact timing of major events in bird evolution is still highly debatable.

"Our results suggest that modern birds diversified in the wake of the mass extinction that marked the end of the age of dinosaurs, but we cannot exclude the possibility that birds began diversifying before the extinction,"
a biology professor at the University of Florida and a co-author on the paper, Edward Braun, said.

The new study offers evidence that birds diverged more recently than earlier studies had indicated. According to Professor Tandy Warnow of the University of Illinois, different parts of the genome can have different histories.

"We observed significant conflict across the genome, which required the development of new statistical methods in order to develop a robust tree."

The paper describing the bird family tree is one of eight articles on avian evolution published in Science. - RT.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: "It Was Really Wild,.. Everything Was Flying Down The Sidewalk,..." - Rare Tornado Rips Through Los Angeles, California!

- A small, rare tornado raged through a South Los Angeles neighborhood Friday morning, launching wood and trash into the air amid a rainstorm that pelted Southern California.

The unusual event occurred about 9:20 a.m. near the intersection of Gage and Vermont avenues (map) in the Vermont-Slauson area.

The National Weather Service confirmed late Friday afternoon that the high winds were indeed a “small EF0 tornado.” Such tornadoes have wind speeds of 65 to 85 mph, the weather service said.

The tornado caused damage from Vermont and Gage avenues to Figueroa and 57th streets, the weather service said.

Amateur video of the tornado show debris sailing through the air and roof tiles circling wildly overhead and then coming down with a crash on top of a home.

The roof of an apartment building was lifted off into the air and a day care center was damaged, residents said. The tornado lasted less than a minute, according to witnesses.

“All of sudden, we heard banging and booming and my door flew open,” said Candy Ward, who had been watching TV with her granddaughter.

“We looked outside and everything was flying down the sidewalk. We saw the roof of the top of my building come flying off,” Ward said. “It was really wild.”

Another resident of the building said she came out of her apartment and saw a two-by-four fly by.

An employee at a nearby day care center, Garr Learning Center, said she was fixing food in the kitchen when something out the window suddenly caught her eye.

“I looked up and saw a trash can and (stuff) flying,” Deborah Lavergne said. “It got dark, then it got real cold. The wind, it just took off.”

The day care center’s sign was damaged and the windows were blown out, owner Gerae Vernon said.

“We saw the winds twirl up in the air 20 to 30 feet high,” Vernon said. “It took trees, anything that was in its way. It was trees, debris, wood, trash cans — it was all being whirled up in the wind by this tornado.”

Children at the day care center were safely kept away from the windows and were not harmed, Lavergne and Vernon said.

“I’ve been here 56 years and I have never seen a tornado,” Lavergne said. “It’s my first time. … It was crazy.”

Katherine Main of the Los Angeles Fire Department said there had been several reports of a “tornado” in South Los Angeles.

WATCH: Tornado strikes south Los Angeles neighborhood.

In its forecast for Friday’s storm, the National Weather Service had said small tornadoes were possible in Southern California.

A representative for the service’s Oxnard forecast office initially said they too had received calls about a possible tornado in South L.A. but had so far been unable to verify the phenomenon.

A field crew was likely heading to the scene to examine the damage and see if a tornado had occurred, the service’s Eric Boldt said. The service later announced on Twitter that the event was an “EF0 tornado.”

The category is the weakest type of tornado.

The roofs of an apartment complex and two home were damaged, as were trees and a steel billboard, the weather service said.

Though residents were not required to leave the damaged homes, Red Cross representatives were on scene.
“With all the possibilities and all the things that were going on with the weather, to have a tornado hit in the middle of Los Angeles is pretty extraordinary,” said Phyllis Cohn, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region.

There were no injuries, according to the disaster response organization.  - KTLA.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Did A ONE TON Meteorite Hit On December 1st - Explorer Says That A Massive Meteorite Is Lying On The Bottom Of A Lake In Russia's Karelia Region?!

December 13, 2014 - KARELIA, RUSSIA
- A meteorite weighing about one tonne is lying buried deep in sand on the bottom of Lake Vygozero in Russia's northwestern republic of Karelia, Vadim Chernobrov, the leader of a team of researchers, said on Friday.
"A celestial body flew from the easterly direction, from a low population area at about 08:00 a.m. Moscow time on December 1. This meteorite was making practically no noise while falling and the most loud sound it produced was the sound of it hitting the ice," Chernobrov, who heads the Kosmopoisk (Space Research) association, told journalists, adding that this was the reason that so few people had witnessed its fall when it was still dark. "Divers managed to sense the object under sand on the lake's bottom."
Magnetic field distortion has been registered over the meteorite crater. Divers failed to lift the heavy object from the bottom because of thin ice. "All observable factors - the flight direction, whop, specific crater testifying to the velocity of the fall - all indicate that it was a meteorite," he said. "It is a unique case having no precedents in the history."

A probable meteorite fall in Lake Vygozero was reported on December 2, when two fishermen called to the local emergencies services to say they had seen a trace along the coastline as though something had plowed up the soil. The trace ended in a clearing in the lake's ice.

They said one of them had come closer to the clearing to see a crater but he could not tell exactly what was down there - the bottom was sandy and covered with silt. When rescuers reached the scene, they also saw the trace and a 12-metre bank caving and a clearing in the lake. An amateur diver said he had seen a four-metre crated on the bottom, but no objects in the vicinity.

Meteorite attacks hit the headlines after the notorious meteorite fall near Russia's Urals city of Chelyabinsk on February 15, 2013. A 10,000-tonne meteorite with a diameter of about 17 meters entered the Earth atmosphere and broke into numerous fragments, the bulk of which fell down in Russia's Urals Chelyabinsk region.

Did a one ton meteorite hit lake Vygozero on December 1st 2014?  © Wikipedia

A shock wave that followed the fall of the meteorite broke windows in more than 4,700 houses in Chelyabinsk. Astronomers said the Chelyabinsk meteorite was the biggest celestial object to hit the Earth since the Tunguska event in 1908, when a huge meteorite exploded over Russia's Siberia. In 2013, the meteorite shower was observed in five Russian regions - the Tyumen, Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk and Kurgan regions, and in the republic of Bashkortostan.

Eyewitnesses said they had first seen a bright flash in the sky and had heard the sound of explosion. More than 1,500 people, including more than 300 children, sought medical help after the incident, and as many as 69 people, including 13 children, were hospitalized.

Several fragments of the meteorite have already been found. The biggest one measuring 12 centimetres in diameter was lifted from the bottom of Lake Chebarkul. These fragments are now being studied by scientists. - TASS.