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Study shows condors, an endangered species, can reproduce without mating

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California condors, a critically endangered species, can reproduce without mating, according to a study by conservation scientists at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

During a routine analysis of biological samples from the California condors in the zoo’s breeding program, the scientists found that two condor chicks had hatched from unfertilized eggs.

“It came as a big surprise, to be honest. We didn’t expect to find any of this,” said Cynthia Steiner, associate director for the alliance’s conservation research division.

Steiner is also the co-author of the study published last week https://academic.oup.com/jhered/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jhered/esab052/6412509 in the Journal of Heredity, the official publication of the American Genetic Association.

Scientists confirmed that each condor chick was genetically related to its mother but neither bird was genetically related to a male. The two birds represent the first two instances of asexual reproduction, or parthenogenesis, to be confirmed in the California condor species, the zoo said.

“This is a very rare discovery because it’s not well-known in birds in general. So it’s known in other species, in reptiles and in fish, but in birds it’s very rare, in particular in wild species,” Steiner said.

Steiner said the discovery was particularly surprising, because both female birds were continuously housed with fertile male partners and had already produced chicks while paired with a male. Asexual reproduction has never before been confirmed in any avian species where the female bird had access to a mate.

“At some point they decided, for some reason, to go into asexual reproduction as well,” Steiner said.

Both chicks were underweight when they hatched, Steiner said. One was released into the wild and died at the age of two in 2003, while the other survived for eight years in captivity and died in 2017.

The California condor is one of the world’s rarest bird species, but its population is increasing. Steiner said there are now about 500 living condors, about 200 in captivity and 300 in the wild.

She hopes to keep studying asexual reproduction in the birds to see if it continues now that there are more condors in the wild.

“We just want to know how often this phenomenon might be happening now that the population is expanding instead of contracting as before in the 1980s,” she said.

 

(Reporting by Alan Devall; Editing by Karishma Singh and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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U.S. to revoke terrorist designation for Colombia’s FARC, add breakaway groups

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The United States will revoke its designation of the Colombian group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia as a foreign terrorist organization on Tuesday while designating two breakaway groups as such, a senior State Department official said on Friday.

A review of the terrorist listing – required every five years under U.S. law – found that the leftist organization known by the Spanish acronym FARC should no longer be listed, The official said.

But the two dissident groups that have formed out of FARC, La Segunda Marquetalia and FARC-EP, or People’s Army, would be designated as foreign terrorist organizations, the official said.

“It’s a realignment to address these current threats,” the official said. “The FARC that existed five years ago no longer exists.”

Founded in 1964, FARC was responsible for summary executions and kidnappings of thousands of people, including Americans.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that the United States was preparing to remove FARC from the list five years after the group signed a peace agreement with Bogota.

The State Department notified the U.S. Congress on Tuesday of its planned delisting of FARC. The Colombian government was formally notified on Wednesday.

The government of Colombia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The decision will allow U.S. government agencies like the U.S. Agency for International Development to work on peace implementation in parts of Colombia where demobilized FARC soldiers are located, the official said.

“This is a priority for the Colombian government in the implementation of the peace agreement,” the official said.

 

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis in Washington; Additional reporting by Oliver Griffin in Bogota; Editing by Mark Porter and Leslie Adler)

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Tunisian police say they shot, wounded extremist trying to attack them

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Tunisian police on Friday shot and wounded an extremist who sought to attack them with a knife and cleaver in the capital, authorities said.

The 31-year-old man, whose identity was not disclosed, shouted, “God is great. You are infidels,” as he ran toward police officers near the interior ministry, the ministry said in a statement.

Witnesses and local media said police shot the man in the leg and arrested him. The man, who was previously labelled an extremist by the government, was taken to hospital and is being investigated by an anti-terrorism unit, officials said.

Tunisian security forces have thwarted most militant plots in recent years and they have become more efficient at responding to those attacks that do occur, Western diplomats say.

The last major attacks in Tunisia took place in 2015 when militants killed scores of people in two separate assaults at a museum in Tunis and a beach resort in Sousse.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)

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At least 19 killed in bus crash in central Mexico

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At least 19 people were killed and 20 more injured on Friday when a passenger bus traveling on a highway in central Mexico crashed into a house, authorities said.

The brakes on the bus, which was heading to a local religious shrine in the state of Mexico, failed, according to local media reports. State authorities did not disclose the possible causes of the accident.

Assistant state interior secretary Ricardo de la Cruz Musalem said that the injured had been transferred to hospitals, including some by air.

The state Red Cross said 10 ambulances had rushed to the area.

 

(Reporting by Sharay Angulo; writing by Laura Gottesdiener)

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