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WebClawer: Discovering unknown species with Google Earth; Mexico City bullfighting protest; survival of the smartest?

February 3, 2009 |  2:39 pm

Mexican bullfighter Arturo Macias performs at the Plaza de Toros Mexico.

We claw the Web so you don't have to. Some of our favorite animal-related stories today:

  • A study published last month in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society may offer an answer to the question many have raised about why dinosaurs died out, but birds continue to thrive today. Based on an examination of the skulls of two prehistoric seabirds that lived 55 million years ago, researchers believe that modern birds' ancestors developed larger, more complex brains earlier than was previously believed. The resulting big-brained bird predecessors were then at an advantage over the dinosaurs when the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event occurred. "Some ancient groups of birds did go extinct," [study co-author Angela Milner] noted, so it wasn't feathers or warm-bloodedness that gave modern birds a leg up. "It had to be something else," she said, "and it seems to be this bigger brain."  National Geographic News
  • Young animal activists in Mexico City staged a protest march Sunday in which they decried bullfighting in Mexico, chanting, "Corridas de toros -- vergüenza nacional (bullfights -- a national shame).''  The march began a few blocks away from the biggest bullfighting venue in Mexico, the Plaza de Toros Mexico, and was scheduled to coincide with the venue's 63rd anniversary. It was attended by about 800 people, most in their teens or twenties.  La Plaza
  • Scientists who used Google Earth to locate an unmapped forest in Mozambique found three new species of butterfly, a new species of snake, and populations of seven Globally Threatened birds there. "This is potentially the biggest area of medium-altitude forest I'm aware of in southern Africa, yet it was not on the map.... Most Mozambicans would not even have recognised the name Mount Mabu," said expedition leader Jonathan Timberlake.  Science Daily
  • A 23-year-old Australian man was detained after arriving in Melbourne on a flight from Dubai.  Authorities found two eggs in his luggage ... and two live pigeons in his pants. They found the pigeons wrapped in padded envelopes and held to each of the man's legs with a pair of tights, according to a statement released by the agency. Officials also seized seeds in his money belt and an undeclared eggplant. Wildlife smuggling charges could be brought, carrying a maximum penalty of ten years in jail and a fine of 110,000 Australian dollars.  Metro U.K.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Mexican bullfighter Arturo Macias performs at the Plaza de Toros Mexico. Credit: Mario Guzman / EPA

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