On Christmas Eve, this “gynandromorph” Cardinal perches alone

sn-cardinalA gynandromorph is an organism that contains both male and female characteristics. The term gynandromorph, from Greek “gyne” female and “andro” male. (Wikipedia)

I came across this fascinating article on the rare occurrance of a gynadromorph in birds.  It appears that this phenomena is must more frequent in butterflies, but very rare in other species.

Quoting the article “Half-male, half-female bird has a rough life” by David Malakoff of sciencemag.org:

“This bird might look like a holiday ornament, but it is actually a rare half-female, half-male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis, pictured with female plumage on the left and male plumage on the right) spotted a few years ago in Rock Island, Illinois. Researchers have long known such split-sex “gynandromorphs” exist in insects, crustaceans, and birds. But scientists rarely get to extensively study a gynandromorph in the wild; most published observations cover just a day or so. Observers got to follow this bird, however, for more than 40 days between December 2008 and March 2010. They documented how it interacted with other birds and even how it responded to recorded calls. The results suggest being half-and-half carries consequences: The cardinal didn’t appear to have a mate, and observers never heard it sing, the researchers report this month in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. On the other hand, it wasn’t “subjected to any unusual agonistic behaviors from other cardinals,” according to the paper. Intriguingly, another gynandromorph cardinal sighted briefly in 1969 had the opposite plumage, they note: the male’s bright red plumes on the right, the drabber female feathers on the left.”

One can only hope that the human species is at least as tolerant, and perhaps even kind when such individuals exist in our world.   🙂

http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/12/half-male-half-female-bird-has-rough-life

http://www.wjoonline.org/doi/abs/10.1676/14-025.1?journalCode=wils

Since 1970 We’ve Wiped Out Half the Population of Animal Species :(

JungleAnimalsBorder_pe

This is so very sad.  A report by the World Wildlife Fund notes that we’ve lost 52% of the population from all species since 1970.  I feel like my children and their children will not know the kind of diversity of species that I had the privilege of encountering in nature as a child.  And the shows which brought us the wonderful expanse of nature, will have so much less to document and record.  It seems to me, as nature goes, so do we humans.  And right now that direction is not looking good.  Let’s change it.

From the report:

The conservation group’s Living Planet Report, published every two years, said humankind’s demands were now 50 percent more than nature can bear, with trees being felled, groundwater pumped and carbon dioxide emitted faster than Earth can recover.

“This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live,” Ken Norris, Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London, said in a statement.

For more about the report, go to this link:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/29/environment-wildlife-idUSL6N0RU48D20140929

Schizophrenia Is Actually Eight Distinct Genetic Disorders [io9.com]

by George Dvorsky / io9.com

New research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that schizophrenia is not a single disease, but rather a group of eight genetically distinct disorders, each of them with its own set of symptoms. The finding could result in improved diagnosis and treatment, while also shedding light on how genes work together to cause complex disorders.

Schizophrenia is classified as a psychotic disorder, one characterized by an inability to discern what is real and not real, to think clearly, have normal emotional responses, and act normally in social situations. As Elyn Saks told us last year, “it’s a waking nightmare, where you have all the bizarre images, the terrible things happening, and the utter terror — only with a nightmare you open your eyes and it goes away. No such luck with a psychotic episode.”

Scientists aren’t entirely sure what causes it, nor does it manifest identically in all people who have it (leading to the broader diagnosis of being on the ‘schizophrenia spectrum’). But links have been made to genetics, social factors (including early development), and neurobiology. The heritability link looks to be particularly promising, however; about 80% of the risk for schizophrenia is genetic. Yet scientists have struggled to identify which genes are responsible for the condition.

But a novel approach to analyzing genetic influences on more than 4,000 people with schizophrenia has finally allowed researchers to identify distinct gene clusters that contribute to eight different classes of schizophrenia.

“Genes don’t operate by themselves,” noted C. Robert Cloninger, MD, PhD, one of the study’s senior investigators in a statement. “They function in concert, much like an orchestra, and to understand how they’re working, you have to know not just who the members of the orchestra are but how they interact.”

Indeed, complex diseases like schizophrenia may be influenced by hundreds or thousands of genetic variants that interact with one another in complicated and dynamic ways, leading to what scientists call “multifaceted genetic architectures.” Now, thanks to the work of investigators at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the genetic architecture for schizophrenia is starting to take shape.

That’s a Match

For the study, Cloninger and his colleagues matched precise DNA variations in people with and without schizophrenia to symptoms in individual patients. In total, they looked at nearly 700,000 sites within the genome where a single unit of DNA is altered (i.e. a single nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP). Specifically, they analyzed the SNPs of 4,200 people with schizophrenia and 3,800 people without it. This allowed them to learn how individual genetic variations interact with each other to produce the illness.

So, for example, hallucinations and delusions were associated with one set of DNA variations, that carried a 95% risk of schizophrenia. Another symptom, disorganized speech and behavior, was found to carry a 100% risk with another set of DNA.

“What we’ve done here, after a decade of frustration in the field of psychiatric genetics, is identify the way genes interact with each other, how the ‘orchestra’ is either harmonious and leads to health, or disorganized in ways that lead to distinct classes of schizophrenia,” Cloninger said.

Click to continue reading the article on io9.com:

http://io9.com/schizophrenia-is-actually-eight-distinct-genetic-disord-1634838735

Occupy activists abolish $3.85m in Corinthian Colleges students’ loan debt [theguardian.com]

by  / theguardian.com

Rolling Jubilee activist group buys student debt at knockdown price to inspire Americans to ‘exert collective power’

Over the last few days, over 2,700 Everest College students woke up to find that someone had paid off their private student debt.

This was no act of goodwill by the government, which is currently suing Everest parent Corinthian Colleges for its predatory lending practices. Nor is it a gift from Everest itself, which is expected to shutter its doors and possibly leave 72,000 students out of their time and tuition.

Instead, the disappearing student loan debt is the second major piece of financial activism by a group of Occupy Wall street activists.

To inspire Americans with student debt to unionize, the Rolling Jubilee Fund, a project of Strike Debt, has purchased and abolished a portfolio of private student loans issued to Everest students.

Strike Debt is also launching a new initiative – The Debt Collective, which will “create a platform for organization, advocacy and resistance by debtors”.

“Solutions are not going to happen if we just wait for Congress to do it,” says Thomas Gokey, one of the organizers. “We need a social movement. We need debtors to unite to exert collective power.”

The portfolio was valued at – to be exact – $3,856,866.11 in student debt.

In the vast scheme of things, $3.8m is barely a drop in the bucket as the student debt owed by Americans has now surpassed $1tn.

The gesture, however, is meant to be symbolic as it proves that debt can be conquered – and at a discount. Rolling Jubilee bought the $3.8m worth of student loans for a total of $106,709.48 in cash. That’s about 3¢ for $1 of student debt.

“The Rolling Jubilee doesn’t actually solve the problem. The Rolling Jubilee is a tactic and a valuable one because it exposes how debt operates,” says Gokey.

“It punches a hole through the morality of debt, through this idea that you owe X amount of dollars that the 1% says you owe. In reality, that debt is worth significantly less. The 1% is selling it to each other at bargain-based prices. You don’t actually owe that.”

The 1% in this scenario are the companies issuing private student loans and the debt buyers, who often purchase student loan portfolios like the one purchased by the Rolling Jubilee.

This is not the first time that the group has shown that consumer debt can be purchased for cents on the dollar.

Last year, the group managed to buy $13.5m of medical debt owed by 2,693 people as well as $1.2m of other personal debt for a total of $400,000.

The funds that are making these purchases possible came directly from the US public. For little over a year, from November 2012 to end of December 2013, Rolling Jubilee was accepting donations from its supporters. The campaign was able to raise about $700,000.

“It’s really a crowdsourced project,” says Laura Hanna, one of the members, noting that majority of contributions were quite small.

Click on the link below to continue reading the article:

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/sep/17/occupy-activists-student-debt-corinthian-colleges