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Manta ray

Manta rays are large rays belonging to the genus Manta. The larger species, M. birostris, reaches 7 m in width, while the smaller, M. alfredi, reaches 5.5 m. Both have horn-shaped cephalic fins and large, forward-facing mouths, they are placed in the family Myliobatidae. Mantas are found in warm temperate and tropical waters. Both species are pelagic, they are filter feeders and eat large quantities of zooplankton, which they gather with their open mouths as they swim. However, research suggests that the majority of their diet comes from mesopelagic sources. Gestation lasts over a year and mantas give birth to live pups. Mantas may visit cleaning stations for the removal of parasites. Like whales, they breach for unknown reasons. Both species are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Anthropogenic threats include pollution, entanglement in fishing nets, direct harvesting for their gill rakers for use in Chinese medicine, their slow reproductive rate exacerbates these threats.

They are protected in international waters by the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals, but are more vulnerable closer to shore. Areas where mantas congregate are popular with tourists. Only a few public aquariums are large enough to house them; the name "manta" is Portuguese and Spanish for mantle, a type of blanket-shaped trap traditionally used to catch rays. Mantas are known as "devilfish" because of their horn-shaped cephalic fins, which are imagined to give them an "evil" appearance. Manta rays are members of the order Myliobatiformes which consists of their relatives; the genus Manta is part of the eagle ray family Myliobatidae, where it is grouped in the subfamily Mobulinae along with the Mobula devil rays. In 2017, an analysis of DNA, to a lesser degree, found that Mobula was paraphyletic with respect to the manta rays, they recommended treating Manta as a junior synonym of Mobula. Mantas evolved from bottom-dwelling stingrays developing more wing-like pectoral fins. M. birostris still has a vestigial remnant of a sting barb in the form of a caudal spine.

The mouths of most rays lie on the underside of the head, while in mantas, they are right at the front. Manta rays and devil rays are the only ray species; the scientific naming of mantas has had a convoluted history, during which several names were used for both the genus and species. All were treated as synonyms of the single species Manta birostris; the genus name Manta was first published in 1829 by Dr Edward Nathaniel Bancroft of Jamaica. The specific name birostris is ascribed to Johann Julius Walbaum by some authorities and to Johann August Donndorff by others; the specific name alfredi was first used by Australian zoologist Gerard Krefft, who named the manta after Prince Alfred. Authorities were still not in agreement and some argued that the black color morph was a different species from the white morph; this proposal was discounted by a 2001 study of the mitochondrial DNA of both. A 2009 study analyzed the differences in morphology, including color, meristic variation, dermal denticles, teeth of different populations.

Two distinct species emerged: the smaller M. alfredi found in the Indo-Pacific and tropical east Atlantic, the larger M. birostris found throughout tropical and warm temperate oceans. The former is more coastal, while the latter is more migratory. A 2010 study on mantas around Japan confirmed the morphological and genetic differences between M. birostris and M. alfredi. A third possible species, preliminarily called Manta sp. cf. birostris, reaches at least 6 m in width, inhabits the tropical west Atlantic, including the Caribbean. M. birostris and it occurs in sympatry. More DNA studies published in 2017 suggest that the genus Manta should be nested within Mobula, that six existing species of Mobula should be consolidated into three. While some small teeth have been found, few fossilized skeletons of manta rays have been discovered, their cartilaginous skeletons do not preserve well. Only three sedimentary beds bearing manta ray fossils are known, one from the Oligocene in South Carolina and two from the Miocene and Pliocene in North Carolina.

Remains of an extinct species have been found in the Chandler Bridge Formation of South Carolina. These were described as Manta fragilis, but were reclassified as Paramobula fragilis. Manta rays have broad heads, triangular pectoral fins, horn-shaped cephalic fins located on either side of their mouths, they have horizontally flattened bodies with eyes on the sides of their heads behind the cephalic fins, gill slits on their ventral surfaces. Their tails are shorter than their disc-like bodies; the dorsal fins are small and at the base of the tail. The largest mantas can reach 1,350 kg. In both species, the width is about 2.2 times the length of the body. Dorsally, mantas are black or dark in color with pale markings on their "shoulders". Ventrally, they are white or pale with distinctive dark markings by which individual mantas can be recognized, their skin is covered in mucus. All-black

Pride of Acadiana

The Pride of Acadiana is the marching band at the University of Louisiana. The band plays pregame and halftime shows for all home games of the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns football team; the band has given the Ragin' Cajuns an unofficial second fight song, Respect, as made famous by Aretha Franklin, by playing the song at every football game since the early 1970s. The band performed at Governor Kathleen Blanco's inauguration in 2004, it traveled to New York, New York to perform in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2005. During spring break in 2009, the band traveled to the United Kingdom to perform, they held performances at Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh, at Victoria Embankment Gardens in the City of Westminster in London, England and in 2010 performed in Madrid, Spain as part of the annual Three King's Parade and was the first American marching band to appear on national Spanish television. The Pride has been invited to return to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2012 to represent the Cajuns once again making them only a handful of college marching bands to be invited back.

The Pride of Acadiana performs a pregame show before the games. The band will start behind the student section of Cajun Field, marching around three sides of the stadium until it gets to the main entrance. There it will perform a pep rally with the help of the cheerleaders. It'll start playing "Do What Ya Wanna" as it turns and heads into the stadium; the band files out and down into the tunnel, where the members line up for the pregame field show. For 2013, the band begins pregame by peak stepping out of the tunnel and onto the field at a quick tempo to a drum cadence, they perform short snippets of Aretha Franklin's "Respect" before marching down the field to the Louisiana Fight Song forming a large "UL." The band performs the Alma Mater and the Star Spangled Banner. Afterwards, the band performs the songs "Jambalaya" and "You Are My Sunshine" forming a large fleur de lis, as the world's largest Louisiana flag is displayed. After forming a "tunnel," the band plays the Louisiana Fight Song once again as the team enters the field.

Afterwards, the band plays "Respect off the field", where they play "Respect" while marching to the away side of the field and gathering by the band's section in the stands. The Pride of Acadiana prepares multiple marching shows for each football season, which they will alternate between games. For these shows, the band will file down to the field and get in position to start the show before the half; the band performs to the home side, although it will turn and perform a couple of songs to the student side. After the performance, the band returns to their seats; the University marching band is the host of the annual Louisiana Showcase of Marching Bands, which brings bands from more than 30 high schools from around the state to compete at one festival. The Pride of Acadiana ends the festival with an exhibition performance of the year's shows; the band hosts Drums Across Cajun Field, an annual DCI exhibition that takes place before school starts in July. Official website

Six English Towns

Six English Towns, Six More English Towns and Another Six English Towns are three television documentary series presented by architectural historian Alec Clifton-Taylor for BBC Two. In the series, Clifton-Taylor visits an English town and discusses their history and architectural character, with a particular focus on the building materials. A writer on architecture, Clifton-Taylor came to television late in life, he was introduced by his friend Nikolaus Pevsner to BBC arts producer John Drummond, planning a series on British architecture called The Spirit of the Age. Drummond asked Clifton-Taylor to present the first episode about medieval English architecture, broadcast in October 1975. Based on the success of this episode, Clifton-Taylor was teamed with producer Denis Moriarty to present a series of studies of English towns, discussing the genius loci similar to his chapters in Pevsner's Buildings of England and the AA Touring Guide to England; the Radio Times stated that the initial six towns were chosen "based not so much on the historical appeal of a fine cathedral, a castle or a church but the range and quality of the ordinary domestic houses and the use made of the traditional building materials of England - stone, brick and plaster."

Clifton-Taylor said "I'd like every programme to be an exercise in looking." Three series were made in total. Series 1 and 2 feature the final movement of Thomas Arne's Symphony No. 2 in F major as their title music, series 3 has an original score composed by Jim Parker. Architectural writer Jonathan Glancey cites them as a formative influence for his passion for architecture: "It wouldn't work today. A lovely old duffer in a Viyella shirt, tweed jacket and wobbly hat pottering about six small English towns with a camera crew in tow and speaking of their simple virtues... I still think these programmes are some of the best made on architecture and places, because I learned so much from them, liked their lack of pretension, their quiet passion and Clifton-Taylor's great ability as a communicator." Each series was accompanied by its own book, DVDs of the three series were released in 2016 and 2017. A box set of the three series was released 5 November 2018, entitled Six English Towns The Complete Collection and includes a discussion between John Julius Norwich and Alec Clifton Taylor called In Search of the Spirit of the age shown before the BBC2 repeat of the series Spirit of the Age in May 1976.

Producer Denis Moriarty provided a new commentary on the episodes about Chichester, Saffron Walden and Cirencester