Connect with us

Science

Catchy Sparrow Song Goes 'Viral' Across Canada in Continent-Wide Phenomenon – ScienceAlert

Published

 on


White-throated sparrows in British Columbia are whistling a new tune and it’s going viral across Canada.

What started as a minor change to a common song has now morphed into a continent-wide phenomenon before our very ears. 

“As far as we know, it’s unprecedented,” says biologist Ken Otter from the University of Northern British Columbia, Canada. 

“We don’t know of any other study that has ever seen this sort of spread through cultural evolution of a song type.”

When Otter first moved to western Canada in the late 1990s, he heard the white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) singing an unusual tune. Instead of sticking to the species’ usual three-note finish, local sparrow populations were ending their tune on two notes.

[embedded content]

Between 2000 and 2019, this small change has travelled over 3,000 kilometres (1,800 miles) from British Columbia (BC) to central Ontario, virtually wiping out a historic song ending that’s been around since the 1950s at least.

No one knows what’s so addictive about this new ending, or why it can’t exist alongside the three-note variant, but scientists are trying to figure it out. 

Thanks to citizen scientists, researchers were able to analyse the songs of 1,785 male white-throated sparrows, which were recorded from the 1950s onwards. 

While it’s not unusual for populations of sparrows and other birds to change their tunes, it usually remains a regional dialect. It certainly doesn’t spread like the one from BC.

And yet, from Alberta, to Saskatchewan, to Manitoba, this unique ending crossed Canada’s prairie provinces in record time.

“It could well be a “we haven’t noticed it before”,” admits Otter to ScienceAlert.

“Now that there is so many more songs from vast areas being uploaded each year, it is possible to start exploring whether this is a more general phenomenon in other species.”

In 2004, the data show Alberta’s sparrows were still trilling away with the triplet ending typical to the species. Ten years later, all the males in that region had shifted to a doublet ending.

By 2015, it had spread to central Ontario, completely supplanting the three-note ending in the northwest. By 2019, it had reached western Quebec, covering the entire western portion of the species’ geographic range.

Altogether, that’s a linear distance of nearly 3,300 kilometres. 

“Within the regions where the doublet-ending song variant spread, it also completely replaced in the process,” the authors write

“To our knowledge, this is an unprecedented rate of song-type transition in any species of birds.” 

Using citizen science databases, like eBird and Xeno-Canto, the new study shows the songs heard on the wintering grounds tend to match up with where the sparrows are from.

“This concentration and intermingling of birds from large portions of the breeding range suggests that the spread of song variants among populations may be facilitated by song tutoring on the wintering grounds,” the authors write.

Incidentally, there are reports that the white-crowned sparrows (Z. leucophrys) sometimes incorporates elements of other dialects during winter singing.

To test this idea, researchers attached geolocators – or what Otter calls ‘tiny backpacks’ – to 50 male sparrows in British Columbia. They then recovered the devices after the animals had migrated, some to the west and others to the east.

Several crossed the Rocky Mountains and entered a new breeding region, which could have feasibly spread the song’s new ending to eastern populations.

“We know that birds sing on the wintering grounds, so juvenile males may be able to pick up new song types if they overwinter with birds from other dialect areas,” says Otter.

“This would allow males to learn new song types in the winter and take them to new locations when they return to breeding grounds, helping explain how the song type could spread.” 

Why males end up adopting this new ending is still unclear. Otter says the ending might simply be compelling because it’s unusual and unique. Like many other bird songs, however, it could have to do with females and their preferences.

“In many previous studies, the females tend to prefer whatever the local song type is,” says Otter. 

“But in white-throated sparrows, we might find a situation in which the females actually like songs that aren’t typical in their environment. If that’s the case, there’s a big advantage to any male who can sing a new song type.” 

And it might be happening again. Researchers are currently watching a new song variant that has suddenly emerged in western sparrow populations and is rapidly spreading.

Perhaps this time, we can figure out why.

The study was published in Current Biology.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

New species of crested dinosaur identified in Mexico

Published

 on

A team of palaeontologists in Mexico have identified a new species of dinosaur after finding its 72 million-year-old fossilized remains almost a decade ago, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said on Thursday.

The new species, named Tlatolophus galorum, was identified as a crested dinosaur after 80% of its skull was recovered, allowing experts to compare it to other dinosaurs of that type, INAH said.

The investigation, which also included specialists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, began in 2013 with the discovery of an articulated tail in the north-central Mexican state of Coahuila, where other discoveries have been made.

“Once we recovered the tail, we continued digging below where it was located. The surprise was that we began to find bones such as the femur, the scapula and other elements,” said Alejandro Ramírez, a scientist involved in the discovery.

Later, the scientists were able to collect, clean and analyze other bone fragments from the front part of the dinosaur’s body.

The palaeontologists had in their possession the crest of the dinosaur, which was 1.32 meters long, as well as other parts of the skull: lower and upper jaws, palate and even a part known as the neurocranium, where the brain was housed, INAH said.

The Mexican anthropology body also explained the meaning of the name – Tlatolophus galorum – for the new species of dinosaur.

Tlatolophus is a mixture of two words, putting together a term from the indigenous Mexican language of Nahuatl that means “word” with the Greek term meaning “crest”. Galorum refers to the people linked to the research, INAH said.

 

(Reporting by Abraham Gonzalez; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

Continue Reading

Science

Alberta family searches for answers in teen's sudden death after COVID exposure, negative tests – CBC.ca

Published

 on


A southern Alberta mother and father are grappling with the sudden, unexplained death of their 17-year-old daughter, and with few answers, they’re left wondering if she could be the province’s youngest victim of COVID-19.

Sarah Strate — a healthy, active Grade 12 student at Magrath High School who loved singing, dancing and being outdoors — died on Monday, less than a week after being notified she’d been exposed to COVID-19.

While two tests came back negative, her parents say other signs point to the coronavirus, and they’re waiting for more answers. 

“It was so fast. It’s all still such a shock,” said Sarah’s mother, Kristine Strate. “She never even coughed. She had a sore throat and her ears were sore for a while, and [she had] swollen neck glands.”

Kristine said Sarah developed mild symptoms shortly after her older sister — who later tested positive for COVID-19 —  visited from Lethbridge, one of Alberta’s current hot spots for the virus.

The family went into isolation at their home in Magrath on Tuesday, April 20. They were swabbed the next day and the results were negative.

‘Everything went south, super-fast’

By Friday night, Sarah had developed fever and chills. On Saturday, she started vomiting and Kristine, a public health nurse, tried to keep her hydrated.

“She woke up feeling a bit more off on Monday morning,” Kristine said. “And everything went south, super-fast.”

Sarah had grown very weak and her parents decided to call 911 when she appeared to become delirious.

“She had her blanket on and I was talking to her and, in an instant, she was unresponsive,” said Kristine, who immediately started performing CPR on her daughter.

When paramedics arrived 20 minutes later, they were able to restore a heartbeat and rushed Sarah to hospital in Lethbridge, where she died.

“I thought there was hope once we got her heart rate back. I really did,” recalled Sarah’s father, Ron.

“He was praying for a miracle, and sometimes miracles don’t come,” said Kristine.

Strate’s parents say her health deteriorated quickly after being exposed to COVID-19. She died at Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge on Monday. (Ron Strate)

Searching for answers

At the hospital, the family was told Sarah’s lungs were severely infected and that she may have ended up with blood clots in both her heart and lungs, a condition that can be a complication of COVID-19.

But a second test at the hospital came back negative for COVID-19.

“There really is no other answer,” Ron said. “When a healthy 17-year-old girl, who was sitting up in her bed and was able to talk, and within 10 minutes is unconscious on our floor — there was no reason [for it].”

The province currently has no record of any Albertans under the age of 20 who have died of COVID-19.

According to the Strate family, the medical examiner is running additional blood and tissue tests, in an effort to uncover the cause of Sarah’s death.

‘Unusual but not impossible’

University of Alberta infectious disease specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger, who was not involved in Sarah’s treatment, says it is conceivable that further testing could uncover evidence of a COVID-19 infection, despite two negative test results.

However, she hasn’t seen a similar case in Alberta.

“It would be unusual but not impossible because no test is perfect. We have had cases where an initial test is negative and then if you keep on thinking it’s COVID and you re-test, you then can find COVID,” she said.

According to Saxinger, the rate of false negatives is believed to be very low. But it can happen if there are problems with the testing or specimen collection.

She says people are more likely to test positive after symptoms develop. 

“The best sensitivity of the test is around day four or five of having symptoms,” she said. “So you can miss things if you test very, very early. And with new development of symptoms, it’s always a good time to re-test because then the likelihood of getting a positive test is a little higher. But again, no test is perfect.” 

Sarah deteriorated so quickly — dying five days after she first developed symptoms — she didn’t live long enough to make it to her follow-up COVID-19 test. Instead, it was done at the hospital.

‘An amazing kid’

The Strate family now faces an agonizing wait for answers — one that will likely take months — about what caused Sarah’s death.

But Ron, who teaches at the school where Sarah attended Grade 12, wants his daughter to be remembered for the life she lived, not her death.

Strate, pictured here at three years old, had plans to become a massage therapist. She attended Grade 12 at Magrath High School and was an active, healthy teenager who was involved in sports, music and the school’s suicide prevention group. (Ron Strate)

Sarah was one of five children. Ron says she was strong, active and vibrant and had plans to become a massage therapist after graduating from high school.

She played several sports and loved to sing and dance as part of a show choir. She was a leader in the school’s suicide prevention group and would stand up for other students who were facing bullying.

“She’s one of the leaders in our Hope Squad … which goes out and helps kids to not be scared,” he father said.

“She’s an amazing kid.”

Sarah would often spend hours helping struggling classmates, and her parents hope her kindness is not forgotten.

“She’d done so many good things. Honestly, I’ve got so many messages from parents saying, ‘You have no idea how much your daughter helped our kid,'” said Ron.

“This 17-year-old girl probably lived more of a life in 17 years than most adults will live in their whole lives. She was so special. I love her so much.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

China launches key module of space station planned for 2022

Published

 on

BEIJING (Reuters) -China launched an unmanned module on Thursday containing what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent space station that it plans to complete by the end of 2022, state media reported.

The module, named “Tianhe”, or “Harmony of the Heavens”, was launched on the Long March 5B, China’s largest carrier rocket, at 11:23 a.m. (0323 GMT) from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan.

Tianhe is one of three main components of what would be China’s first self-developed space station, rivalling the only other station in service – the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS is backed by the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. China was barred from participating by the United States.

“(Tianhe) is an important pilot project in the building of a powerful nation in both technology and in space,” state media quoted President Xi Jinping as saying in a congratulatory speech.

Tianhe forms the main living quarters for three crew members in the Chinese space station, which will have a life span of at least 10 years.

The Tianhe launch was the first of 11 missions needed to complete the space station, which will orbit Earth at an altitude of 340 to 450 km (211-280 miles).

In the later missions, China will launch the two other core modules, four manned spacecraft and four cargo spacecraft.

Work on the space station programme began a decade ago with the launch of a space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011, and later, Tiangong-2 in 2016.

Both helped China test the programme’s space rendezvous and docking capabilities.

China aims to become a major space power by 2030. It has ramped up its space programme with visits to the moon, the launch of an uncrewed probe to Mars and the construction of its own space station.

In contrast, the fate of the ageing ISS – in orbit for more than two decades – remains uncertain.

The project is set to expire in 2024, barring funding from its partners. Russia said this month that it would quit the project from 2025.

Russia is deepening ties with China in space as tensions with Washington rise.

Moscow has slammed the U.S.-led Artemis moon exploration programme and instead chosen to join Beijing in setting up a lunar research outpost in the coming years.

(Reporting by Ryan Woo and Liangping Gao; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Simon Cameron-Moore and Lincoln Feast.)

Continue Reading

Trending