Loew set to stay as Germany coach

first_img0Shares0000Joachim Loew is set to remain head coach of Germany to rebuild the national side in the wake of a woeful display at the World Cup finals when they finished bottom of their group. © AFP / Yann SchreiberBERLIN, Germany, Jul 3 – Germany coach Joachim Loew will remain in his job despite the World Cup debacle which saw the holders crash out after the group stages, according to reports on Tuesday.Both Germany’s best-selling daily Bild and Sport Bild magazine say the 58-year-old will stay on to rebuild the national team, which finished bottom of their group in Russia. The Germans bowed out after shock defeats to Mexico and South Korea.It was the first time since 1938 that a Germany side failed to get past the first round at a World Cup finals — a huge dent to Loew’s reputation after 12 successful years in charge.The German Football Association (DFB) has yet to confirm the reports, but Loew has a contract until the 2022 World Cup.Loew returned from Russia considering his future, but the DFB said they would not sack him.He has promised a clearout of the squad and several of the World Cup winners who under-performed so badly in Russia may have played their last game for their country.“It needs far-reaching measures, it needs clear change,” Loew said last week when Germany arrived home in disgrace.Senior players Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller have given Loew their backing, yet could all face the axe after poor displays.There are, however, reports of player disgruntlement in other quarters with Loew.Frankfurt-based newspaper FAZ quoted unnamed Germany players who said the squad was deeply divided between senior and younger players in Russia.There was also resentment to the special status given to captain Manuel Neuer.The goalkeeper played all three group games, ahead of Barcelona star Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, even though Neuer had just returned from eight months sidelined by a foot fracture.That was “a problem for some players” as Loew had said he would only use those who were playing well regularly.Other complaints included Loew giving priority to established players, the choice of Germany’s isolated World Cup base in south-west Moscow and the poor handling of the pre-World Cup scandal involving Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan.Their loyalty to Germany was brought into question on the eve of the World Cup after meeting Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who Gundogan presented with a jersey signed “to my president”.Both players were booed by German fans during pre-World Cup friendlies, which overshadowed preparations for the finals.Ozil refused to comment on the controversy during the World Cup while Gundogan gave a single interview in which he said the furore was “a difficult experience”.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more

The secret lives of leafcutting ants

first_imgRelated posts:Looking back: A microscopic wasp and other amazing Costa Rica wildlife stories Grab your binoculars: It’s Christmas Bird Count season in Costa Rica! PHOTOS: Every Costa Rica sloth image you will ever need to see Urban flocks (Part 1): 5 common birds of San José When looking for wildlife in Costa Rica, it’s easy to become fixated on the unusual mammals and vibrant birds, but one of the country’s most complex creatures lies underfoot.Living in massive colonies of up to 5 million members, leaf-cutter ants (Atta cephalotes*) have walked the Earth for millions of years. The resilient ants can even be found streaming through the street gutters of San José in their characteristic sea of green leaves. Moving along their forged path, each ant will carry a piece of leaf up to three times its own weight.Common sense would indicate that the ants feed on the tiny leaf pieces, but leaf-cutters actually use the clippings to cultivate their own fungal garden. To sustain this production, the ants have evolved intricate societies that are now among the oldest and most elaborate on earth.Three-way symbiosisLeaf-cutter ants’ millennia-long existence can be attributed to their relationships with other organisms. Using leaves cut from trees, the ants cultivate a fungus from which they feed. Studies show that leaf-cutting ants have been cultivating the same strain of fungus for at least 23 million years. Neither the ants nor the fungus can survive without the other, and this link is perhaps the best recognized example of mutual symbiosis, the dependance of two species on each another.The two species are so inter-connected that each new colony begins with both an ant and a fungal growth. A new queen will take a small bit of fungus from the colony where she is born before flying off. The queen will then mate before taking the fungus underground to form the new colony.The first days for a newly anointed colony queen are busy. Along with nursing her young, the queen has to begin growing a new fungal garden by feeding it with her feces. Soon, the queen’s first set of young are large enough to leave the nest to cut leaves to continue to feed the fungus. As the fungus expands, so does the colony.But the ants’ monoculture fungal garden is extremely susceptible to another type of parasitic fungus that the ants cannot ingest. Left uncontrolled, the fungus will form a white growth over the ants’ garden, rendering it inedible and leaving the colony to starve. To combat this threat, the ants — already the world’s first farmers — became the world’s first pharmacists.Female leaf-cutters carry a small patch on their cuticle that grows the bacteria Streptomyces. The ants spread this bacteria over leaves and fungi in the garden to kill other types of fungi. Not only does this particular bacteria ward off parasitic fungi for the leaf-cutters, but it also is found in more than half of the antibiotics in modern medicine today. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)The caste systemTo manage the enormous tasks required for a farming ant colony, leaf-cutters have divided roles, or castes. Leaf-cutters, like many insects, are polymorphic, meaning that within each species there are a number of different body types, each suited to a specific task.Queens, the colonies’ founders, have wings to fly off to start another colony, and are the only fertile female ants in any given colony. Their sole job is reproduction, which is aided by drones, or small, winged males that fly from colony to colony to help queens reproduce.The rest of the ants in the colony are infertile females tasked with protecting the nest and caring for the fungal garden. Soldier ants are the largest in the colony and, as the name implies, are responsible for guarding the other ants from predators. Next down the line are the workers, which forage and cut leaves and carry them back to the colony. There, they pass the leaves on to the smallest ants, the minima, which use their small size to work inside the colony tunnels. These ants are responsible for gardening, feeding other ants, caring for young ants and cleaning other ants and leaves.Leaf-cutters also divide themselves by age and ability. The colonies put their older, weaker ants to work in the colony’s garbage dump. These ants are quickly infected with parasitic fungus and usually do not live long. Their bodies then die in the waste dump away from the healthy ants.Biologists estimate that the ants manage to clear as much as 15 percent of the leaves in Neotropical forests for their fungal gardens indicating massive populations. Today the ants are among the most evolutionary successful creatures on the planet, having survived for tens of millions of years.So the next time you walk through the forest, turn your head from the trees and skies and direct your gaze down for a glimpse at the oldest society on the planet.*Note: There are seven species of leaf-cutting ants found in Costa Rica. Atta cephalotes are the most common.Also Recommended: 6 camouflaged Costa Rican creatures you probably haven’t seenRead more “Into the Wild” columns here Facebook Commentslast_img read more