Bird family tree shaken by discovery of feathered fossil

They're some of the strangest birds in the world, known for their bright plumage and their penchant for fruit.

The turacos, or banana-eaters, are today found only in Africa, living in forests and savannah, according to BBC.

A beautifully preserved fossil bird from 52 million years ago is shaking up the family tree of the exotic birds.

The fossil's weird features suggests it is the earliest known living relative not just of the turacos, but of cuckoos and bustards (large long-legged birds).

Strange sponge-like fossil creature from half a billion years ago

Scientists have discovered the fossil of an unusual large-bodied sponge-like sea-creature from half a billion years ago, according to Science Daily.

The creature belongs to an obscure and mysterious group of animals known as the chancelloriids, and scientists are unclear about where they fit in the tree of life.

They represent a lineage of spiny tube-shaped animals that arose during the Cambrian evolutionary "explosion" but went extinct soon afterwards. In some ways they resemble sponges, a group of simple filter-feeding animals, but many scientists have dismissed the similarities as superficial.

The new discovery by a team of scientists from the University of Leicester, the University of Oxford and Yunnan University, China, adds new evidence that could help solve the mystery.

The new species, named Allonnia nuda, was discovered in the Chengjiang deposits of Yunnan Province, China. It was surprisingly large in life (perhaps up to 50 cm or more) but had only a few very tiny spines.

Hello ladies! Male peacocks can make females’ heads vibrate from a distance with a shake of their tail feathers

The peacock’s elaborate tail feathers may be among the best known courtship displays in the animal kingdom – so, it should come as no surprise to find they’re really making heads turn in the wild, according to Daily Mail.

A new study has found that the pulsating sound created when a male peacock shakes his colorful feathers causes the crest on the female’s head to vibrate.

For now, however, it remains unclear how exactly this remarkable response plays into the mating game.

One in five UK mammals at risk of extinction

The red squirrel, the wildcat, and the grey long-eared bat are all facing severe threats to their survival, according to new research.
They are among 12 species that have been put on the first "red list" for wild mammals in the UK.
The Mammal Society and Natural England study said almost one in five British mammals was at risk of extinction, according to BBC.
Factors such as climate change, loss of habitat, use of pesticides and disease are to blame, the report said.

It said the hedgehog and water vole have seen their populations decline by almost 70% over the past 20 years.
However, it is good news for the otter, pine marten, polecat and badger, which have all seen their populations and geographical range spread.
The report is described as the first comprehensive review of the population of British mammals for 20 years.
Researchers examined more than 1.5m individual biological records of 58 species of terrestrial mammal.
They looked at whether their numbers were going up or down, the extent of their range, if there were any trends, and what their future prospects were.
The species have been ranked using the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria, which is used to compile the global list of threatened species.
A species that makes it on to the "red list" means it is called "threatened" and it faces going extinct within the next decade.
The highest threat category is "critically endangered." Three species were given this status: the wildcat, the greater mouse-eared bat, and the black rat.
The next highest threat level is "endangered". Listed here is the red squirrel, along with the beaver, water vole and grey long-eared bat.
The third-highest threat category is "vulnerable". The hedgehog, the hazel dormouse, Orkney vole, serotine bat and barbastelle bat are included in this list.
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Prof Fiona Mathews, chairwoman of the Mammal Society said: "This is the first time anyone has looked across all species for about 20 years.
"Now obviously we're living in a country that's changing enormously - we're building new homes, new roads, new railways, agriculture's changing - so it's really important we have up to date information so we can plan how we're going to conserve British wildlife."
John Gurnell, emeritus professor of ecology at Queen Mary University of London said the study was important.
"It's the first time since the 90s that we've assessed the status of all 58 species of terrestrial mammal in Great Britain," he said.
"I think it provides us a launching pad for going forward in working out what to do in trying to conserve species in the country where necessary."
The species reported as increasing in number were the otter, pine marten, polecat and badger along with red and roe deer, the greater and lesser horseshoe bat, and beaver and wild boar.

 

H.Z

 

Jurassic diet: Why our knowledge of what ancient pterosaurs ate might be wrong

Whenever we think about extinct animals we often imagine them eating their favourite meals, whether it be plants, other animals or a combination of both, according to Science Daily.

But are our ideas about extinct diets grounded within scientific reasoning, or are they actually little more than conjecture and speculation?

New research, led by a team of palaeobiologists from the University of Leicester, has revealed that the diets of pterosaurs are largely based on ideas that have been uncritically accepted for decades, or even centuries -- and may often be wrong.