(Visited 35 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 Welcome to a menagerie of believe-it-or-not creatures that once inhabited our planet (or still do).Saber-tooth swimming otter-bear (Live Science, PhysOrg): “A mysterious, carnivorous marine mammal that lived 23 million years ago clamped down on its mussel dinner similar to the way a saber-toothed tiger grasped its larger prey, scientists have found.” The big sea-otter-like mammal had the bite of Smilodon without the saber teeth, but is only known from a few fossils. Lack of post-cranial fossils didn’t stop artists from drawing pictures of humpbacked, clawed hunters resembling grizzly bears.Humvee armadillo (Current Biology, Science Daily). The mysterious glyptodonts of the Ice Age have been reclassified as a subgroup of armadillos, but these armed mammals would dwarf any alive today. With spiked tails and armor reminiscent of ankylosaurs, they were as big as a car and roamed the world alongside saber-tooth cats and giant ground sloths in South America. See the BBC News for a short video about them.Barrel-chested giant globetrotting turtle (Live Science): This article describes pareiasaurs, large “turtle relatives” with round abdomens, stubby legs and ugly faces (if inferred correctly from bones). Despite their rotund appearance on short legs, they apparently found their way to China, Russia, South Africa, South America and Europe. Found in Permian strata, pareiasaurs enjoyed a global success in what is claimed an evolutionary short period of 10 million years. The article doesn’t mention ancestors, and doesn’t elaborate on the alleged relationship to turtles.Baby dragons (Live Science): That’s what Live Science calls them: baby dragons, ready to hatch in a Slovenian cave. But are they “human fish” instead? No, neither: they are cave salamanders with a fleshy pink appearance and frills that look downright dragonian. People in the 1600s thought they were baby dragons when some washed out of a cave. Strangely, they are born with functioning eyes, but the eyes degenerate in the cave environment. Called olms, they hatch from eggs, taking 14 years to reach maturity. Some can live 70 years.Frozen Survivor (PhysOrg): A water bear (tardigrade) has survived 30 years frozen in ice, this article says. Despite their small size, they are remarkably complex and durable (see Evolution News & Views for discussion of the challenge tardigrades present to arthropod phylogeny).The approximately 0.2 mm long tardigrades were retrieved from a frozen moss sample collected in Antarctica in November 1983. In May 2014, the moss was defrosted (at 3 °C for 24 h) and soaked in water (for an additional 24 h). Two individuals and one egg were collected from the sample and reared on agar plates with algae provided as food. One of the revived tardigrades and the juvenile that hatched from the revived egg went on to continuous reproduction successfully.Underwater butterflies (Live Science, New Scientist): They are mollusks of the snail variety, but they “fly” underwater in a manner similar to butterflies. Endowed with “wing-like appendages that allow them to swim,” these shy, fragile “sea butterflies” use the same mechanical principles as their aerial analogues to propel themselves, scientists have found using 3-D cameras. How could such different animals use the same flight mechanisms? You guessed it: “convergent evolution.”Even though gastropods and insects diverged from a common ancestor 550 million years ago, sea snails use the same clap-and-fling mechanism flies use, which involves bringing their wings together then quickly pushing them apart.This shows evolutionary convergence on a similar locomotion technique to move through a similar environment. Due to their tiny size, the balance of inertial and viscous forces sea snails come across in water is similar to that experienced by flies in air.Empty sock without a tree house (Science Daily): Nature reported that weird flatworm-like creatures without brains, eyes or guts have finally been assigned an evolutionary place in the tree of life. Called Xenoturbella, these “acoel” (“no cavity”) marine flatworms, just an inch or more long, have confused scientists for years. “Sometimes it is the most unassuming animals that cause the most consternation,” the article begins. A new classification announced in Nature places them at the base of bilateria (animals with bilateral symmetry), but scientists will undoubtedly puzzle more about them. Live Science says, “They have no digestive system, no excretory system, no reproductive organs, but they probably don’t worry about that too much because they don’t have brains, either — just a neural network.” Leave it to a Darwinian to smirk, “‘These features means that we humans also crawled the ocean floor next to mud and grains of sand 560 million years ago,’ Hejnol explains with a smile on his face.”Hejnol should reflect upon the fact that a smile on his face requires the coordinated action of many muscles, nerves, and thousands of irreducibly complex molecular machines. You can’t get there from an empty sock. Each of these creatures, even the flatworm, is (or was) matched to its environment with similar complexities at the cellular level. You can learn about them without having to tell stories about how they morphed into each other over millions of years, diverging and converging in mysterious ways.
The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has dismissed the application moved by Ashraf Mattoo, whose son Tufail Mattoo died in a widely-reported police firing in Srinagar in 2010, where he sought a copy of the Koul commission.‘Application dismissed’SHRC chairman Justice Bilal Nazki, in response to the application move by Mr. Mattoo, said, “This request is outside the jurisdiction of this commission (SHRC). The application is dismissed.”Mr Mattoo’s 17-year-old son died in police firing on June 11 in 2010, sparking a five-month-long cycle of violence.On June 19, 2014, the government appointed a one-man judicial commission headed by Justice M.L Koul to probe the 2010 killing.Quoting Mr. Nazki’s recent statement where he asked people “to approach the Commission even in case a patwari refuses to issue any revenue paper,” Mr. Mattoo said “Mr. Nazki saw human rights violation in case a patwari refuses a document. But what is holding back the SHRC from issuing a direction to seek a copy of report of the Commission. It is my rightful plea to have the copy of the Commission report before which I deposed and cooperation with the hope to get justice.”Mr. Mattoo said the State and its institutions seem “out to kill the idea of justice by such acts.”Earlier in January, the Commission refused to share its findings with Mr. Mattoo. The officials at the tribunal in Srinagar denied him access to the retired report, in which 60 civilian killings were re-investigated.“I filed an application for the report in the first week of January. I am told that I will get access only to a small portion of the report. Isn’t it my right to get a copy of the report of which I have been a part since its formation in 2014,” Mr. Mattoo said.
Although a split in the Biju Janata Dal’s Parliamentary Party has been averted for the time being following a series of tweets by BJD’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha, Tathagata Satpathy, the BJP does not seem to have given up hopes as yet.According to sources in the saffron party, at least two BJD Lok Sabha members are working towards engineering a split in their Parliamentary party at the instance of national-level BJP leaders. “While BJD MP Baijayant Panda has been furthering the BJP’s cause through his writings and tweets, another junior MP is working behind the curtains,” said a BJP member in Odisha, who wished not to be named.BJP plans meet“Anything could happen in the BJD Parliamentary Party after the BJP’s forthcoming national executive meeting in Bhubaneswar,” the member added.The meet, which will be organised from April 15-16, will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah, besides Union Ministers and Chief Ministers of all BJP-ruled States.Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who is being projected as the BJP’s new face in Odisha, had said on Sunday that the party’s strategy for the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the State in 2019 would be discussed at the event.Mr. Satpathy had tweeted last week that the saffron party was working towards causing a rebellion, if not a split, against the Naveen Patnaik government ahead of the polls. If that happens, Mr. Patnaik might face a rebellion in the Assembly, leading to imposition of the President’s rule in the State.Although the BJP never enjoyed a strong presence at the grassroots level, it struck gold when it replaced the Congress, the BJD’s traditional rival, in the three-tier panchayat elections in February. The BJP is also using the alleged infighting within the Odisha unit of the Congress to its advantage.At the bicentenary celebrations of the Paika mutiny that the BJP is planning to organise later this year, some prominent Congress leaders are likely to join the party, said sources.See also Page 8
On Thursday, the Bombay High Court was hearing a bunch of petitions related to the effective implementation of the Noise Pollution Rules, 2000. The Bench asked the government what it had been doing on this front.In response, Advocate General A.A. Kumbhakoni submitted an affidavit filed by the Deputy Secretary of the state’s Home department, saying that on April 6 this year, Maharashtra’s Legislative Assembly had enacted the Maharashtra Transport and Roads Safety Act, 2017, which, among other issues, tackled the noise pollution problem.No needless useSection 20 of the Act says that a driver shall not use the horn needlessly or continuously or more than necessary to ensure safety, or use the horn in silence zones. It also disallows the use any multitone horn ‘giving a harsh, shrill, loud or alarming noise.’ The Act goes beyond horns: it also bans vehicle creating undue noise when in motion, the use of mufflers causing ‘alarming’ noise, and the use of cut-outs by which exhaust gases are released other than through the silencer, (The Act does not specify, thus far, how terms like hard, shrill, undue or alarming would be defined, or what volume of sound would be considered loud.)Contravening any of these provisions, says Section 23, will attract a ₹2000 penalty.The state’s Regional Transport Office has already issued directions not to register a vehicle with silencers that make noise beyond permissible limits or with multi-toned horns.Monitoring stationsThe Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has installed real-time continuous noise monitoring stations at 10 locations in Mumbai and the data is displayed at five locations and on MPCB’s and Central Pollution Control Board’s web sites. The MPCB will be noise-mapping 27 cities in Maharashtra, in coordination with their municipal corporations.The Act also provides for the creation of a separate fund for road safety, which can be used for initiatives like raising public awareness about noise pollution. Under the Act, awareness will be created with, among other things, a drive in municipal schools, which will supplement efforts by the Education Department to make students aware of the ill effects of noise pollution.The Act is not law yet; it has been forwarded for the President’s assent, which is awaited.
Satya Pal Malik was on Sunday sworn in as the Governor of Goa.Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court Justice Pradeep Nandrajog administered the oath of office to Mr. Malik at the Raj Bhavan.Mr. Malik had earlier served as the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, which has been bifurcated into two Union Territories.Mr. Malik, 73, replaced Mridula Sinha who was has held the Goa Governor’s post since August 2014.Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant was among the prominent dignitaries who attended the swearing-in ceremony.“I have come from Kashmir which is known to be a very problematic place. I have dealt there successfully and handled all issues. J&K is a peaceful now and is on the path to progress. The leadership there is non-controversial. They are doing their work well, so I feel that I would be spending time here in much peaceful way,” Mr. Malik said on the occasion. Jammu and Kashmir ceased to be a State from October 31 after the Centre withdrew its special status under Article 370 on August 5 and bifurcated it into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. On Thursday, Radha Krishna Mathur and G.C. Murmu took oath as the first Lt. Governors of the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir, respectively.