2 Indigenous Leaders Killed in Brazilian Amazon
The murdered men belonged to the Guajajara tribe, which is known for organizing guardians to defend their Amazon rainforest territory against illegal tree clearing, The Guardian pointed out. Violence against Brazil's indigenous communities has increased during the presidency of far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro, who has spoken against indigenous reserves and promised to open more of the Amazon to agriculture and industry. Saturday's killings come little over a month after illegal loggers shot and murdered forest guardian Paulo Paulino Guajajara.
"How long will this go on? Who will be next?" Sonia Guajajara, leader of Brazil's Indigenous People Articulation (APIB), told The Guardian. "The authorities need to look at our indigenous people. They're taking away our lives."
One indigenous witness recorded a video of the scene, along with a plea for help.
"Please spread this video so that people can know the state of vulnerability we are in, for lack of security, for illicit acts that some people practice. And now our relatives have had to pay with their own lives," the filmer said, according to Amazon Watch. "This can't keep happening. Brazilian authorities and responsible bodies must take action on this."
The murdered men were chiefs named Firmino Prexede Guajajara and Raimundo Guajajara, according to Amazon Watch. They were riding a motorcycle on their way back from advocating for indigenous rights at a meeting with Brazilian electric utility Eletronorte and Funai (Brazilian National Indigenous Foundation). When they reached the part of a highway near El-Betel village, the murderers opened the windows of a moving car and opened fire, tribal spokesman Magno Guajajara said, according to The Guardian.
"They were shooting at everyone," he recounted.
Magno said he did not know why the men were targeted. Brazilian Justice Minister Sergio Moro said on social media that the federal police were investigating the murder and that he would consider dispatching a National Guard unit to the area.
News of the killings sparked outrage from international activists.
"Indigenous people are literally being murdered for trying to protect the forest from illegal deforestation," 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted Sunday. "Over and over again. It is shameful that the world remains silent about this."
Indigenous people are literally being murdered for trying to protect the forrest from illegal deforestation. Over a… https://t.co/QZgvlgxyQ9— Greta Thunberg (@Greta Thunberg)1575827109.0
Amazon Watch program director Christian Poirier also issued a statement denouncing the killings.
"An institutionalized genocide of indigenous peoples is taking place in Brazil," Poirier said. "They are being left alone, vulnerable to all kinds of threats and violence. The international community must not accept that any more indigenous blood be shed. It is the constitutional duty of the Brazilian government to protect indigenous territories and ensure the safety of their peoples."
The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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