Study of lizards shows trade as a force in biodiversity

first_imgIt may be a cliché to say it, but the world is getting smaller. For those able to afford a ticket, there is virtually no corner of the world that can’t be reached in a matter of days.And humans aren’t the only ones affected by this unprecedented level of mobility.New research shows that trade is one of the major drivers of biodiversity among lizard species in the Caribbean islands. The study was co-authored by Jonathan Losos, the Monique and Philip Lehner Professor for the Study of Latin America and curator in herpetology at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology; Matthew R. Helmus of the Amsterdam Global Change Institute; and Luke Mahler, a former Harvard Ph.D. student now at the University of California, Davis. It is described in a paper in Nature.“One of the key concepts in the theory of island biogeography is the idea that isolation plays an important role in biodiversity, because the more isolated an island is, the fewer species it will have,” Losos said. “Naturally, isolation is largely a function of distance, but Matt’s idea was that geographic isolation isn’t as relevant today, because humans can easily move between islands and can bring lizards with them. Instead, we chose to measure isolation in economic terms, and sure enough, we found that the amount of trade an island receives can explain to a large extent the number of invasive species on an island.”The study offers one of the few large-scale tests of theories first proposed by E.O. Wilson, the Pellegrino University Professor Emeritus, in his seminal 1967 work “The Theory of Island Biogeography.”In attempting to explain the biodiversity of islands, particularly the variation in species number from island to island, Wilson and co-author Robert MacArthur advanced a handful of simple ideas, including the notion that bigger islands, with more habitats and support for larger populations, could hold more species.As a counterbalance, Wilson and MacArthur said that an island’s isolation was also a powerful driver of biodiversity, with more isolated islands — because they are far more difficult for new species to colonize — having fewer species.Islands, depending on their size and level of isolation, reach an equilibrium that allows a particular level of biodiversity, Wilson and MacArthur found. In the decades since its publication, Losos said, the theory has become hugely influential, but remained frustratingly hard to test.The spark for the new study came from Helmus, who approached Losos with the idea of studying the introduction of anole species to new islands throughout the Caribbean.“The idea was to review the literature and reports from the field and create a database showing how the species richness has increased because humans have introduced new species to many of the islands in the Caribbean,” Losos said. “In essence, this is testing the equilibrium theory in a way that’s never been done before, because if humans are increasing the rate of colonization of islands by new species, according to the theory, we would expect to see the equilibrium change.”In line with the theory, researchers found that as an island became less isolated due to an increase in human-assisted colonization, its area became a far more significant factor in determining biodiversity.“Humans have changed what it means for these islands to be isolated,” Losos said. “And it turns out that, due to geopolitics, there is a particularly good example of this, and that’s Cuba. What we found is that larger islands tend to see more trade, and as a result see more colonization, but Cuba is an outlier because of the U.S. trade embargo. When we looked at the literature, we found there are zero introduced species there. Thanks to the quirks of politics, it’s the exception that proves the rule.”last_img read more

Afcon 2015 hero Copa Barry retires from international football

first_imgIvory Coast goalkeeper Copa Barry has retired from international football nearly a month after his team won the Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea.The 35-year-old, who plies his trade at Belgian side Lokeren, was the hero of the 2015 Afcon final against Ghana, when he saved two spot kicks and transformed the decisive shot during the nerve-racking penalty shootout.“Every good thing has an end. I have decided to put an end to my international career with the Elephants of Ivory Coast,” he told Ivorian TV RTI on Monday.“I have always been proud to wear the shirt of Ivory Coast team. Good luck,” he said.Barry is the second player from the Afcon-winning squad to retire after defender Kolo Toure, who made his announcement three days after their triumph.Groomed at the Abidjan-based Asec football academy, Barry joined the national team in 2007, winning a total of 83 caps. TP Mazembe new signing Sylvain Gbohouo has long been picked as Barry’s replacement by coach Herve Renard, playing all five matches at the 2015 Afcon before being sidelined for the final due to injury.–last_img read more

Steelers legend Franco Harris says James Conner has talent to be a star — if he can stay healthy

first_img“As a running back, I’m very impressed with his talent — running and catching the football,” Harris told Sporting News. “But the injury part, not being able to last a season, that’s been the tough part. And being durable and reliable in that sense makes a big difference.“As far as talent goes, to me, he has the talent to be a great NFL running back. The thing about injuries, a lot of it is luck, also. I tell people, you can get injured on any single play. That’s just the way it is. But you have to play the game knowing you want to play the whole game, and you definitely want to play the whole season to help your team.”NFL DRAFT PROSPECTS 2020: Ranking top 10 running backsConner’s frequent struggles with injuries — a lower-leg problem in 2017, a knee issue in 2018 that cost two games of a Pro Bowl season, a recurring shoulder sprain last autumn — have led to a lot of conversations about the Steelers drafting one of several promising running back prospects in this week’s draft.Sporting News’ latest mock draft from NFL expert Vinnie Iyer has the Steelers taking Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor at No. 49 overall; they do not own a first-round pick. Such prospects as LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Utah’s Zack Moss and Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins also could be in play for the team, depending on whether they fall to midway in the second round.Harris suggested the Steelers might want to look at the quarterback position given the way last season developed in the absence of Ben Roethlisberger, who had elbow surgery after Week 2. Former third-round pick Mason Rudolph initially showed promise, but struggled after being concussed by a high hit from Ravens safety Earl Thomas in Week 5.“Put it this way: I always think a player can really develop and find themselves at any time. Something can change. But as of right now, I don’t feel that has happened with our quarterback position,” Harris said, referring to Rudolph and No. 3 quarterback Duck Hodges. “Now, down the line, can we find another Tom Brady? I guess every team looks for that. But as you know, most of the time, the Steelers go defense or offensive line, and we’re not going to have a shot at any quarterbacks until the second round.”Other thoughts from Harris on the Steelers and the NFL:MORE: Steelers didn’t trade away their future — they stole Minkah FitzpatrickOn Pittsburgh trading its first-round pick (No. 18 overall) to Miami for All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick: “Giving away that first-rounder for what we got was well worth it. I really liked that move.”On the increased scrutiny that draft picks face in the current era: “They put so much time into studying things, doing things now. I know they put time into it back in the ’70s, but no way did they put that much time in that people are putting in today. It’s incredible: They’re testing guys, doing all sorts of things with guys. I didn’t get one interview. I didn’t talk to one team. Didn’t talk to anybody. There wasn’t any of that kind of stuff.”Harris was the 13th overall pick in 1972 — the only Pro Football Hall of Fame choice from his draft class.On the decreasing value NFL teams are placing on running backs: “Running backs are undervalued today. It makes me think of Saquon Barkley in the draft last year, and he ended up being rookie of the year. That goes to show you that a running back can still be a game-changer and make a lot of things happen. When you look at running backs today, you look at Christian McCaffrey, and what he accomplished was amazing. If they’re not going to look at controlling the ball, that sort of thing, running backs more in that style might be the demand in the future. He’s a big part of the passing game and running game.”On what he expects from Roethlisberger in his return from elbow surgery: “I don’t worry so much about Ben. I’m guessing if he’s coming back he feels he’s at a certain level, where he can perform. And now the rest of it goes to who they surround him: Will the offensive line protect him, and will our receiving corps step up? As far as worrying about Ben and his winning attitude and wanting to do it? No doubt. He’ll go in with that type of attitude.”On Terry Bradshaw’s comments that Roethlisberger is the best Steelers QB ever: “I wouldn’t go to battle with any other quarterback but Terry. His drive to succeed and will to win … and could he make the plays when we needed it. Wow.”On what he expects regarding the return of NFL football this season: “I’m hoping they will allow some of us to go with social distancing. I’m hoping they call out certain seats, family members who live together and staying together so they could go to a game together. And then with the layout of the stadium, practice social distancing. I think they could do that stuff by computer … and they would scale it out to where they sit people. And have a process: One way to approach the food stand and one way to leave the food stand with social distancing. And also any lavatories. It would be like a checkerboard, I guess. Not that it would be a lot of noise and you could get energy from the crowd. But it’s something to think about.”MORE: If Bradshaw says Big Ben is best Steelers QB, you should listenA businessman since his retirement who has focused primarily on nutritious foods, Harris has launched a new hydration product, AdeNation, that is available on the internet. He had the idea for a powdered mix to be added to water that would maintain proper hydration for all people — athletes and otherwise — after falling ill on a business trip and being shocked at the diagnosis: dehydration. Harris’ company tested AdeNation during two recent football seasons in South Carolina. “This past year in South Carolina, they had their hottest summer in history, and a few of the schools used our drink. And they had had nobody get cramps or come out of the game because of dehydration or symptoms that affect you with dehydration, cramps and things like that,” Harris said.“Sometimes you get lucky. I was talking about the draft, but you get lucky. There’ve been first-pick busts and there’s been last-round Hall of Famers. We got lucky and the formula worked.“It was like, ‘Wow, we have a winner here.’” From his first game as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers until he walked off as a Super Bowl champion for the fourth and final time — a period of eight seasons that encompassed 116 NFL games — Franco Harris sat out with injuries just four times. He had a lot of abilities, and availability was one of them.So he understands better than most the predicament running back James Conner is confronting as he enters his fourth season with the Steelers. In his three seasons, Conner already has missed 11 games with a variety of injuries, including six a season ago.last_img read more