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Malaspinas A.-S.,Copenhagen University | Malaspinas A.-S.,University of Bern | Malaspinas A.-S.,Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics | Westaway M.C.,Griffith University | And 89 more authors.
Nature | Year: 2016

The population history of Aboriginal Australians remains largely uncharacterized. Here we generate high-coverage genomes for 83 Aboriginal Australians (speakers of Pama-Nyungan languages) and 25 Papuans from the New Guinea Highlands. We find that Papuan and Aboriginal Australian ancestors diversified 25-40 thousand years ago (kya), suggesting pre-Holocene population structure in the ancient continent of Sahul (Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania). However, all of the studied Aboriginal Australians descend from a single founding population that differentiated ∼10-32 kya. We infer a population expansion in northeast Australia during the Holocene epoch (past 10,000 years) associated with limited gene flow from this region to the rest of Australia, consistent with the spread of the Pama-Nyungan languages. We estimate that Aboriginal Australians and Papuans diverged from Eurasians 51-72 kya, following a single out-of-Africa dispersal, and subsequently admixed with archaic populations. Finally, we report evidence of selection in Aboriginal Australians potentially associated with living in the desert. © 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved


PubMed | 2 Wynnum North Road, Explico Foundation, James Cook University, ETH Zurich and 33 more.
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Nature | Year: 2016

The population history of Aboriginal Australians remains largely uncharacterized. Here we generate high-coverage genomes for 83 Aboriginal Australians (speakers of Pama-Nyungan languages) and 25 Papuans from the New Guinea Highlands. We find that Papuan and Aboriginal Australian ancestors diversified 25-40 thousand years ago (kya), suggesting pre-Holocene population structure in the ancient continent of Sahul (Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania). However, all of the studied Aboriginal Australians descend from a single founding population that differentiated ~10-32 kya. We infer a population expansion in northeast Australia during the Holocene epoch (past 10,000 years) associated with limited gene flow from this region to the rest of Australia, consistent with the spread of the Pama-Nyungan languages. We estimate that Aboriginal Australians and Papuans diverged from Eurasians 51-72 kya, following a single out-of-Africa dispersal, and subsequently admixed with archaic populations. Finally, we report evidence of selection in Aboriginal Australians potentially associated with living in the desert.


News Article | December 27, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

Horse, possum, camel and donkey will be available for sale from South Australian butchers from September next year if recommended changes to food safety regulations are adopted. The SA government, which has to update the regulations by 1 September 2017, has suggested the state should adopt the Australian and New Zealand Food Standards code definition of “game meat”, which governs what wild animals may be sold commercially for human consumption. The proposed change would broaden the range of animals available at butchers to include wild horses and donkeys, as well as wild buffalo, camel, deer, pig and possum. Domestic horses, like racehorses, would still not be allowed to be sold for human consumption. Eggs, foetuses and pouch young are still off the list. Wild goats, rabbits, hare, kangaroo, wallaby and any bird that may be legally hunted can already be slaughtered and sold for human consumption in SA. A spokeswoman from SA Health said the proposed changes would not change the laws around hunting or culling protected species. “Any South Australians wanting to hunt protected species in SA would need a permit as per the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 legislation,” she said. The move would make SA only the second jurisdiction to allow for the local production and sale of horse meat, after Western Australia adopted the broader national standards in 2009. The proposed change has been opposed by the Animal Justice party. “The newly proposed game industries are particularly obnoxious because they produce meats that people don’t even like,” convenor Geoff Russell told the Advertiser. According to the Humane Society, about 100,000 horses are slaughtered annually in Australia. Of those about 8,400 are processed through one of two abattoirs licensed to slaughter horses for export – Samex Peterborough in South Australia and Meramist in Caboolture, Queensland. The rest are processed by one of 33 knackeries and sold as pet meat. A Perth butcher, Vince Garreffa, received death threats from animal rights groups after he received ministerial permission to sell horse meat in 2010 and joked that his Inglewood butchery would “be known as the horse whisperers”. “You just whisper, ‘Can I have a kilo of horse meat please’,” he told Fairfax media. He later told the Courier Mail he was doing a roaring trade among French and Italian migrants, who say it “tastes of home.” Legally caught possums and wallabies can already be sold as game meat in Tasmania. Wallaby is said to taste like kangaroo, only “milder”, but possum has proved harder to describe, earning the qualified approval of one Tasmanian producer who said it was “quite a different meat.” The proposed SA regulations are open for public consultation until February.


News Article | November 17, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

The New South Wales government’s controversial biodiversity laws have passed their final hurdle in parliament, with farmers winning greater power to clear their land from next year. The changes, which the government says were developed through a “rigorous, transparent, scientific and evidence-based process”, allow farmers more freedom to clear land without having to find equivalent areas of offsets. Conservation groups have argued the bills significantly weaken wildlife, soil and water protections in the state, put 2.2m hectares of koala habitat at risk, allow a significant increase in broadscale clearing and increase the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. One of four scientific advisers on the government’s changes, University of Queensland biologist Hugh Possingham, resigned from the government’s independent biodiversity legislation review panel in protest, saying its advice was being ignored. He warned that broadscale clearing could double in NSW as a result of the changes. Farmers will be allowed to clear native vegetation without approval in many cases and others will have access to “offsets”. In Possingham’s resignation letter he said that despite the government agreeing to adopt and implement all the recommendations of his panel, it did not do so. “A key intent of the report is that broadscale land-clearing would only be possible through the biodiversity offsetting process,” he said. “Biodiversity offsetting, by definition, means no net decrease in the quality and quantity of native vegetation.” Possingham said despite that, the proposed legislation contained “a series of “codes”, such as ‘the equity code’, that will enable broad-scale clearing of hundreds of hectares of native vegetation on individual farms without offsetting”. As a result of the changes, as well as plans to continue allowing logging of native forests, a recent report by the National Parks Association said endangered koala populations in NSW were “under siege”. “The NSW government is completely failing to conserve and protect koala habitat,” the report said. “Koalas can lay claim to be the most poorly managed species in eastern Australia at present – which is hugely disappointing in light of their beloved status.” Mark Speakman, the state’s environment minister, said the reforms contained strong environmental safeguards, including sensible limits on clearing, offset requirements and exclusions. “This legislation is supported by a record investment of $240m over five years in private land conservation, plus $70m per year after that,” he said. “This is in addition to $100m for the Saving Our Species program.” NSW Farmers welcomed the changes, which it said were the “beginning of the long road to comprehensive reform”. “We will be keeping a close eye on the reforms as outstanding elements are finalised and rolled out, including regulations and codes,” the association’s president, Derek Schoen, said. “It’s extremely important that Local Land Services is resourced and ready to carry out its important functions to engage farmers on the ground,” he added. The new laws, which are expected to come into force in 2017, will scrap three pieces of existing legislation: the Native Vegetation Act, the Threatened Species Conservation Act and the Nature Conservation Trust Act. Parts of the National Parks and Wildlife Act will also be repealed. The Native Vegetation Act, which came into force in 2005 was designed to prevent mass land clearing and was largely successful in doing so. According to a WWF report, NSW experienced an 88-fold reduction in areas approved for clearing from 80,000 hectares per year (from 1998 to 2005) to 911 hectares per year (from 2005 to 2013). However, the laws were deeply unpopular with farmers, who argued they should be entitled to clear trees on their own land without government permits. The Coalition promised to review the laws when it came to power and in June 2014, appointed an independent biodiversity legislation review panel to recommend on changes to the laws. In July 2014, NSW environment officer Glen Turner was shot and killed by farmer Ian Turnbull while he was investigating allegations of illegal land clearing. Turnbull was later tried and convicted of murder. It prompted renewed debate on the laws with one Nationals MP, Andrew Fraser, blaming the murder on resentment felt by landowners to the Native Vegetation Act. “It’s a tragic event that I think has been brought about by bad legislation,” Fraser said. • Australian Associated Press contributed to this report


News Article | February 6, 2017
Site: www.techtimes.com

It was a long time coming but a rare frog in Zimbabwe was spotted again since it was discovered in 1962. Called the Arthroleptis troglodytes, the frog was prioritized in 2015 as one of the top 10 southern African species in need of conservation research, with its rediscovery tagged as high priority. It is also known as the "cave squeaker" because it prefers living in caves. There are only 16 specimens of the frog in collections today, all of which were likely acquired at the top of Zimbabwe's Mount Chimanimani near or in the Bundi River. Likely to live in micro habitats located at altitudes 5,000 feet or more, the cave squeaker was considered extinct or near extinct and was listed as critically endangered in 2004. Headed by Robert Hopkins, a team of researchers traveled to Chimanimani Mountain, the cave squeaker's known habitat, on Dec. 1, 2016. The researchers left for the summit on Dec. 2 and Hopkins received a call later in the day from Francois Becker telling him that a cave squeaker has been located. The researchers continued with their examination of the area and were able to find three more of the frogs: one female and two males. The first cave squeaker they found was male. Photographs were taken and DNA clippings were gathered before the frogs were released. "I am able to state that this species is alive and well on the summit of Chimanimani, and is breeding well, there seems to be a very viable population," Hopkins wrote in a report. But while the cave squeaker's rediscovery is definitely good news, it also brought concerns. According to Hopkins, he is concerned there will be increased interest in the frog, resulting in the illegal exportation of specimens. Fortunately, Hopkins has the support of Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management. "We are expecting an influx of scientists looking for it. We will do everything in our power to protect and conserve the frog," said Caroline Washaya-Moyo, Zimparks spokesperson. Amphibians experience exposure to both land and water so they are used to gauge the overall health of an ecosystem. Unfortunately, worrying trends have presented themselves in recent decades. Completed in 2004, the Global Amphibian Assessment reported that 32 percent or a minimum of 1,856 species were at risk of extinction. Today's current conditions may have resulted in different figures but the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural resources said the assessment remains relevant. It's important to know which amphibian species are still out there for appropriate measures for conservation to be developed so the IUCN launched a six-month search for threatened species across 19 countries in 2010. The Search for Lost Frogs' aim was to look for amphibians that have not been seen in more than 10 years. Results for the search were dismal, with scientists only finding four of the 100 amphibian species they were aiming for by February 2011. However, scientists part of the search did not give up, and it was in one of their meetings in 2015 that Hopkins advocated for the cave squeaker. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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