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January 24, 2013

Wikinews interviews Aurélien Miralles about Sirenoscincus mobydick species discovery

Wikinews interviews Aurélien Miralles about Sirenoscincus mobydick species discovery

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Aurélien Miralles with a Many-scaled Cylindrical Skink in Morocco in July 2012.
Image: Mr Philippe Geniez.

The Sirenoscincus mobydick.
Image: Aurélien Miralles.

Sirenoscincus yamagishii, another species in the same genus.
Image: Mr Falk Eckhard.

Sirenoscincus yamagishii (edited photo).
Image: Mr Falk Eckhard.

The Sirenoscincus mobydick, dead specimen on a leaf.
Image: Mrs Andolalao Rakotoarison.

A group of researchers published a paper about their discovery of a new species of Madagascar mermaid skink lizards last December. The species is the fourth forelimbs-only terrestrial tetrapods species known to science, and the first one which also has no fingers on the forelimbs.

The species was collected at Marosely, Boriziny (French: Port-Bergé), Sofia Region, Madagascar. The Sirenoscincus mobydick name is after the existing parent genus, and a sperm whale from the 1851 novel Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.

This week, Wikinews interviewed one of the researchers, French zoologist Aurélien Miralles, about the research.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What caused your initial interest in Madagascar lizards?

Aurélien Miralles: Well, I would say that since I am a child I am fascinated by the biodiversity of tropical countries, and more especially by reptiles. I did a PhD on the evolution and systematics of skink lizards from South America. Then, I get a Humboldt grant to do a postdoc in Germany, at the Miguel Vences Lab, in order to study Malagasy skinks. Madagascar being a fabulous hotspot for reptiles (and not only for reptiles actually), it was a very nice opportunity. Professor Vences proposed me to associate our complementary fields of expertise: he is expert in herpetology for Madagascar, and I am expert in skinks lizards (family Scincidae). It was a very fruitful experience, and many other results have still to [be] published.

Approximate location of the species discovery.
Image: OpenStreetMap.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How was the new species discovered?

AM: By a very funny coincidence actually. In 2010, I went to Madagascar for a long trip through the south of the island, in the semi-arid bush for collecting lizards and snakes samples. Then, during the last days, just before coming back to Germany, I have visited by coincidence the zoological collection of the University of Antananarivo. In that place, I found an old jar of ethanol with two weird little specimens previously collected by a student who didn’t realize it was something new. Being expert on skinks, I immediately recognised it was something very probably new, very different from all the other known species.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What does “Sirenoscincus” stand for?

AM: I am not the author of the genus name Sirenoscincus. This genus name was already existing. It has been described by Sakata and Hikida (two Japanese herpetologists). “Sireno” means mermaid. “Scincus” means skinks, a group of little lizards on which I am particularly focusing my studies. So, Sirenoscinus means “mermaid skink”, in reference to [the] fact it has forelimbs but no hindlimbs.

Illustration from an early edition of Moby-Dick.
Image: A. Burnham Shute.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How deep underground do the lizards live?

AM: Hard to answer this question because nothing is known on the ecology of this species. But more reasonably, we can hypothesize, by comparison to similar species of skinks, that it is probably living just under the sand surface, [a] few centimeters deep, probably no more, or below [a] rock, leaf litter, or piece of dead wood.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What do the lizards eat?

AM: Again, by analogy, I would say most likely small invertebrates (insects, larvae, worms etc…).

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What equipment was used during the research?

AM: Classic equipment (microscope) and also a state-of-the-art device: a micro CT-scan. It is a big device producing [a] 3D picture of the internal structure without damaging the specimen. It is actually very similar to the scanner used in human medicine, but this one is specially designed for small specimens. Otherwise, I am currently studying the DNA of this species and closely related species in order to determine its phylogenetic position compared to other species with legs, in order to learn more about the evolutionary phenomena leading to limb loss.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png There are several news sources that have a photo of the species. Is it a photo as seen in a CT-scan?

AM: No, this picture showing a whitish specimen on a black background is not a CT-scan. It is a normal photograph of the collection specimen preserved in alcohol (the one that was in the jar). You can see the complete of picture (including CT-scan 3D radiography, drawing…) in the original scientific publication.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you know when the newly discovered mermaid skink species was put into the jar? Do you have its photo (of the jar)?

AM: No, I have no picture of the jar. The specimen has been collected in November 2004.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What were the roles of the people involved in the research? What activity was most time-consuming?

Miguel Vences in the field in Madagascar, in 2006.
Image: Miguel Vences.

AM: As first investigator, I did most of the work…and the longest part of the work was to examine closely related species in order to do comparisons…and also to check the complete bibliography related to this topic and to write the paper.
Mrs Anjeriniaina is the student who […] collected the specimen a couple of years ago.
Mrs Hipsley and Mr Müller learnt me how to use the CT-scan, and helped me concerning some point relative to internal morphology. Mr Vences helped me as supervisors. Additionally, all of them have corrected the article, and gave me many relevant advices and corrections, thus improving the quality and the reliability of the paper.

A picture from the field area where Sirenoscincus mobydick has been collected.
Image: Mrs Andolalao Rakotoarison.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Did you get in touch with an external entity to get the new species officially recognised?

AM: No. In zoology, it is only needed to publish the description of a new species (and to give it a name) in a scientific journal, and to designate a holotype specimen (= specimen that will be the official reference for this species), to get this new species “officially” recognised by the scientific community. That does not mean that this new species is “correct” (it might be invalidated by subsequent counter-studies), but that means that this discovery and the new name of [the] species are officially existing.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Are there any further plans on exploring the species habitat and lifestyle?

AM: No, not really for the time being, because ecology is not our field of expertise. But other studies (including molecular studies) are currently in progress, in order to focus on the phylogenetic position and the evolution of this species.



Sister links

  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Sirenoscincus mobydick
  • Wikispecies-logo.svg Sirenoscincus mobydick

Sources

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This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
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April 7, 2011

At least fourteen dead after eating toxic fish in Madagascar

At least fourteen dead after eating toxic fish in Madagascar

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Madagascar
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More than 120 people remain ill from the sardines

At least fourteen people have died after eating toxic sardines in Madagascar. The deaths occurred in the town of Toliara, with another similar situation happening 130 km (80.8 mi) away in Sakaraha. The sardines the victims ate belong to the Clupeidae family. As well as the dead, around 120 people have been taken ill after eating the fish according to officials.

Dr Hery Raharisaina, Madagascar’s fishing and aquatic resources minister, offered condolence to the families of the victims on behalf of the government. He added in his statement that the government would pay for the medical bills for those who are still hospitalized from the toxic fish and would also supply 100 mattresses to the city of Toliara, as the region’s hospital is overcrowded.

Samples of the sardines have been sent to health officials at the Institut Pasteur de Madagascar in the capital city of Antananarivo. Incidents like this have happened before in which researchers have tracked the cause down to the fish eating poisonous seaweed. Madagascar has the third biggest coral system in the world.



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May 13, 2010

Madagascar\’s leader Andry Rajoelina \’will not run in polls\’

Madagascar’s leader Andry Rajoelina ‘will not run in polls’

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Madagascar
Other stories from Madagascar
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Location of Madagascar

A map showing the location of Madagascar

To write, edit, start or view other articles on Madagascar, see the Madagascar Portal
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Andry Rajoelina seized power in 2009

Andry Rajoelina, the leader of Madagascar, announced that he will not run in elections due to be held later this year. He stated his reason as an attempt to end the country’s political crisis. Rajoelina has been pressured to find a solution to the crisis.

At the same time as his announcement not to run as a candidate, he announced the planned dates for both the parliamentary and presidential elections. The parliamentary elections were announced for September, with the presidential election following in November.

Rajoelina announced his decision on television, saying: “I declare in the name of the superior interest of the nation and of the people, my decision not to stand as candidate in the presidential elections for a fourth republic.”

During the crisis Rajoelina has come under more pressure. Aid was cut off by donors, and former military allies, who backed him during his coup, began to turn on him. The African Union have also imposed sanctions on the country.

Madagascar was previously ruled by France. French secretary of state for co-operation Alain Joyandet released a statement saying that it “demonstrated a sense of responsibility”.



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December 21, 2009

Madagascar leader names army officer as prime minister

Madagascar leader names army officer as prime minister

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Madagascar
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Location of Madagascar

A map showing the location of Madagascar

To write, edit, start or view other articles on Madagascar, see the Madagascar Portal
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Andry Rajoelina

Madagascar’s leader, Andry Rajoelina, has named a high-ranking army officer as the country’s new prime minister, and announced he is abandoning a power-sharing deal with the opposition.

Mr. Rajoelina’s office announced Sunday that Colonel Camille Albert Vital would serve as the new prime minister, replacing Eugene Mangalaza, who was supposed to be prime minister under the deal. Previously he had been expected to make Cecile Manorohanta the new prime minister. He also abolished the posts of co-president.

In a nationally broadcast address, Colonel Vital said that organising elections and increasing security were his priorities. He called on the people of Madagascar, including political rivals, to work with his government.

Mr. Rajoelina took power in a coup last March. On Wednesday, he appeared on national television to announce that parliamentary elections would take place March 20 next year. He made no mention of presidential elections.

International mediators have brokered several power-sharing agreements in recent months, but all have been unsuccessful. The African Union and other regional bodies have refused to recognize Mr. Rajoelina’s presidency.



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November 7, 2009

Madagascar political rivals agree to unity government deal

Madagascar political rivals agree to unity government deal

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Madagascar
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Location of Madagascar

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Andry Rajoelina

Marc Ravalomanana

Four of Madagascar’s top political figures signed an agreement on Saturday to form a coalition government, ahead of next year’s planned elections.

According to the agreement, Andry Rajoelina, who instigated a coup earlier this year to overthrow ousted president Marc Ravalomanana, will remain the president. He, as well as Ravalomanana and former presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy, signed the agreement on Saturday.

“There will be two co-presidents as well as the president. That has been decided and accepted by leaders of the four movements, and by the president of the transition too,” Rajoelina said to reporters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

According to the United Nations’ special envoy to Madagascar, Tiebile Drame, the four are now dividing up ministerial portfolios. “The Madagascan leaders have managed to reach an accord on putting in place a transitional charter,” Drame said. “They agreed on the leadership of transitional institutions, including the presidency, and on power sharing in the government and other institutions.”

However, it is currently unclear how power would be split between the president and the two co-presidents, also referred to as the “presidential council”. Drame said that the government would consist of “a consensual president, two consensual co-presidents, a consensus prime minister and a national unity government.”

Rajoelina, aged 35, overthrew former president Ravalomanana on March 17 this year, with the support of the army. Ravalomanana is now in exile in South Africa. However, Rajoelina’s government has not received much recognition from the international community.



Related news

  • “Madagascar President resigns, unclear rule in Antananarivo” — Wikinews, March 17, 2009
  • “Coup in Madagascar; opposition leader backs army” — Wikinews, March 16, 2009

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March 22, 2009

Madagascar\’s former opposition leader sworn in as president

Madagascar’s former opposition leader sworn in as president

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Madagascar
Other stories from Madagascar
…More articles here
Location of Madagascar

A map showing the location of Madagascar

To write, edit, start or view other articles on Madagascar, see the Madagascar Portal
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Andry Rajoelina

Andry Rajoelina, who ousted Madagascan ex-president President Marc Ravalomanana earlier this week, officially became the leader of the country, after being sworn in on Saturday.

National television broadcast the inauguration, which occurred at a soccer field in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. Tens of thousands of people attended the event, although approximately 2,000 supporters of Ravalomanana held protests in the capital’s Democracy Square.

“We proclaim today the end of the dictatorship,” said the new president, promising to tackle corruption that was rife under Ravalomanana.

Earlier this week, then-president Ravalomanana gave up his power to military forces, which subsequently gave Rajoelina control over the government. Rajoelina was the former mayor of Antananarivo.

Many foreign powers, among them the United States and France, have denounced the change in leadership as a coup. Norway and the US have both frozen all non-humanitarian aid to Madagascar, whilst the African Union suspended Madagascar’s membership. The South African Development Community (SADC) stated that it “completely rejected the legitimacy” of the new president.



Related news

  • “Madagascar President resigns, unclear rule in Antananarivo” — Wikinews, March 17, 2009
  • “Coup in Madagascar; opposition leader backs army” — Wikinews, March 16, 2009

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Madagascar’s former opposition leader sworn in as president

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Other stories from Madagascar
…More articles here
Location of Madagascar

A map showing the location of Madagascar

To write, edit, start or view other articles on Madagascar, see the Madagascar Portal

Andry Rajoelina

Andry Rajoelina, who ousted Madagascan ex-president President Marc Ravalomanana earlier this week, officially became the leader of the country, after being sworn in on Saturday.

National television broadcast the inauguration, which occurred at a soccer field in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. Tens of thousands of people attended the event, although approximately 2,000 supporters of Ravalomanana held protests in the capital’s Democracy Square.

“We proclaim today the end of the dictatorship,” said the new president, promising to tackle corruption that was rife under Ravalomanana.

Earlier this week, then-president Ravalomanana gave up his power to military forces, which subsequently gave Rajoelina control over the government. Rajoelina was the former mayor of Antananarivo.

Many foreign powers, among them the United States and France, have denounced the change in leadership as a coup. Norway and the US have both frozen all non-humanitarian aid to Madagascar, whilst the African Union suspended Madagascar’s membership. The South African Development Community (SADC) stated that it “completely rejected the legitimacy” of the new president.


Related articles

Sources

  • “Madagascar’s leader is sworn in”. BBC News Online, March 21, 2009
  • “Former opposition leader becomes Madagascar’s president”. CNN, March 21, 2009
  • Tom Burgis “Rajoelina sworn in as Magadascar PM”. Financial Times, March 21, 2009
This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.

Madagascar’s former opposition leader sworn in as president

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Other stories from Madagascar
…More articles here
Location of Madagascar

A map showing the location of Madagascar

To write, edit, start or view other articles on Madagascar, see the Madagascar Portal

Andry Rajoelina

Andry Rajoelina, who ousted Madagascan ex-president President Marc Ravalomanana earlier this week, officially became the leader of the country, after being sworn in on Saturday.

National television broadcast the inauguration, which occurred at a soccer field in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. Tens of thousands of people attended the event, although approximately 2,000 supporters of Ravalomanana held protests in the capital’s Democracy Square.

“We proclaim today the end of the dictatorship,” said the new president, promising to tackle corruption that was rife under Ravalomanana.

Earlier this week, then-president Ravalomanana gave up his power to military forces, which subsequently gave Rajoelina control over the government. Rajoelina was the former mayor of Antananarivo.

Many foreign powers, among them the United States and France, have denounced the change in leadership as a coup. Norway and the US have both frozen all non-humanitarian aid to Madagascar, whilst the African Union suspended Madagascar’s membership. The South African Development Community (SADC) stated that it “completely rejected the legitimacy” of the new president.


Related articles

Sources

  • “Madagascar’s leader is sworn in”. BBC News Online, March 21, 2009
  • “Former opposition leader becomes Madagascar’s president”. CNN, March 21, 2009
  • Tom Burgis “Rajoelina sworn in as Magadascar PM”. Financial Times, March 21, 2009
This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.

November 17, 2006

French inspection: North Korean ship has no illegal cargo

French inspection: North Korean ship has no illegal cargo

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Mayotte is between Madagascar and the coast of Africa

North Korea’s nuclear program
North Korea's nuclear program
Recent stories
External and Inter-wiki links
  • Portal:North Korea nuclear proliferation
  • Wikipedia article about North Korea and WMDs
  • Wikipedia article about the 2006 nuclear test

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Officials on the Indian Ocean island of Mayotte said that a North Korean vessel they searched today had no illegal cargo.

The ship was searched by French Customs to enforce sanctions imposed by an October 14 resolution of the United Nations Security Council.

The UN passed Resolution 1718, imposing new sanctions on North Korea, in response to a nuclear weapon test in October. The ship was searched at the small French island of Mayotte. The BBC reports that this may be the first search of a North Korean vessel under the new sanctions regime.

Update:Friday, November 17, 2006, Press agency AFP reported last night that French authorities plan to continue inspecting the ship until the end of the week.

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March 10, 2005

United Nations passes Declaration on human cloning

United Nations passes Declaration on human cloning

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

The declaration was passed at the UN general assembly

A divided UN General Assembly has voted to approve a nonbinding statement against all forms of human cloning.

The vote, held Tuesday, came after four years of debate and an end to attempts for an international ban.

In the 191-nation assembly, there were 84 votes in favor of a nonbinding statement, 34 against and 37 abstentions.

Proposed by Honduras, the statement was largely supported by Roman Catholic countries and opposed by countries with active embryonic stem cell research programs. Many Islamic nations abstained.

The UN Declaration on Human Cloning, as it is named, calls for all member states to adopt a ban on human cloning, which it says is “incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life.”

The US, which has long pushed for a complete ban, voted in favor of the statement while traditional ally Britain, where therapeutic cloning is legal and regulated, voted against it.

The statement should have no impact on countries that allow therapeutic cloning, such as Britain and South Korea, as it is not legally binding.

“The foes of therapeutic cloning are trying to portray this as a victory for their ideology,” Bernard Siegel, a Florida attorney who lobbies to defend therapeutic cloning, said in a Reuters report. “But this confusing declaration is an effort to mask their failure last November to impose a treaty on the world banning therapeutic cloning.”

Breakdown of the vote

Of the 191 countries eligible to vote:

In favor

84 countries voted in favor of the declaration against cloning:

Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Burundi, Chile, Comoros, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Federated States of Micronesia, Monaco, Morocco, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Sudan, Suriname, Switzerland, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uzbekistan, Zambia.

Against

34 countries voted against the declaration:

Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, China, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People`s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Iceland, India, Jamaica, Japan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Tonga, United Kingdom.

Abstention

37 countries abstained from voting on the declaration against cloning:

Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Yemen, Zimbabwe.

Absent

36 countries were absent from and during the vote on the declaration against cloning:

Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Bhutan, Botswana, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Dominica, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nauru, Niger, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russian Federation, Senegal, Seychelles, Swaziland, Togo, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam.

Sources


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