Extinct before we knew much about it

pig-footed bandicoot

I think it’s really hard for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere to understand what special place Australia is in terms of biodiversity.

It is largest area in the world that has been isolated from the rest of the continents long enough for evolution to take an entirely different course, but when Europeans came, so much of the biodiversity wound up disappearing. Unfortunately, this is still going on.

One animal I wish we’d been able to study more closely before it became extinct is the pig-footed bandicoot (Chaeropus ecaudatus). This animal was a bandicoot that had evolved something similar to cloven hooves on the front feet. Cloven hooves, are the trademark of the Artiodactyls, the very successful group of placental mammals that includes cows, sheep, goats, deer, and pigs. But here was a bandicoot that had them on its front feet. Its hind feet had a single “hoof,” with two vestigial toes higher up the leg, which were almost like the double dewclaws of a Great Pyrenees or Beauceron.

No other animal, placental or otherwise, has produced such an unusual toe arrangement.

We know very little about this animal. It was rare when Europeans arrived. It’s gone now. We don’t know what killed it off. Cats usually get the blame. The end of aboriginal burning also gets pointed out. Burning created areas where new shoots could pop up, and this omnivorous animal was able to us those areas as its main habitat.

The truth is there just so much we don’t know. There is even debate about how well this animal actually moved and why it would evolve such unusual toes.

We have eye witness accounts, and the animals were reported to be alive as late as the 1950s. But not enough zoologists were interested in them at the time, and they were exceedingly rare. So we’ve got horrible gaps in knowledge about them.

This actually isn’t that unusual. Look up the literature on marsupial moles, which are similarly quite rare and horribly under-studied.

Because the pig-footed bandicoot went extinct only in the 1950s, there is actually a bit better chance that there might be a few living out in some remote region than there is for extant thylacines. For some reason, this animal has never captured the imaginations of any naturalists in the same way the thylacine has.

But here we have a sort of marsupial “chevrotain,” which is every bit as interesting as a marsupial “wolf.”

Parallel evolution is always pretty cool.

It’s a shame that species go extinct before we can learn about them.

Natural History

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Halo_LAL_Chicken_2Dr. Donna and I recently had a most delightful participant in our Halo Healthy Weight Challenge. Lola was a chubby Pug (quite honestly I don’t think anyone has ever actually seen a slender Pug?!) whose Mom, Heather, was a champ at documenting every little thing Lola ate each day during the 3 month challenge, weighed her conscientiously every week, and had fantastic results, losing pounds, ounce by ounce, every week.

A couple of times Heather got a little frustrated with Lola’s progress. When I sneaked a peek at her food diary I was astonished to see that even though Heather had increased Lola’s exercise and was carefully measuring her daily rations of Halo Spot’s Stew, she had not changed her habits in the treats she gave to Lola.

And boy oh boy, those were some real doozies – popular treats with catchy names but with dreadful ingredients that make me “see red” – like Red Dye #40, an artificial colorant that is banned in human foods in Europe because of its link to cancer. And there were several other ingredients which are proven carcinogens- ingredients you would never let a child eat.

Heather had not stopped to study the ingredient panel except to notice that the calorie count for each treat was low – which is probably true of many people who care about the quality of their dog’s main meal but don’t fuss over what’s in a “few small treats” especially if their dog loves them.

DFF-logo-ProudSponsor175x166But a few treats will lead to many, depending on how vigilant you are so I thought that including those treats would be a challenge in maintaining Lola’s weight going forward, after she successfully completed the weight challenge. Equally importantly, it might adversely affect the Pug’s lifetime health going forward.

Some of the nasty ingredients in the well-known brands of treats Heather was buying might be in your own treats, too. Please check whether you are giving potentially health-threatening snacks to your dog without realizing it. My book The Dog Bible also has an entire section documenting pet food ingredients to avoid.

Here’s what Dr. Donna recommends as treats for our Halo Healthy Weight contestants (all about 30 calories): zucchini (raw or lightly steamed), 1 cup; green beans, 1 cup; baby carrots, 8; green peas ¼ cup; apple 1/3 cup; broccoli 1 cup; blueberries 1/3 cup; cantaloupe ½ cup.

Myself, I buy brown rice cakes and break each one into 10 or more small pieces and my dogs adore them – no bad ingredients, inexpensive, good fiber, few calories and lots of crunch. I intersperse those with Halo Liv-a-Littles various freeze-dried proteins, so the dogs never know what’s coming next, which makes it more rewarding for them.
And I always have the option to give a good “butt scratch” in lieu of any edible treats – love is its own kind of treat, isn’t it?!
Tracie Hotchner is the author of THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know.

She is also a renowned pet radio host and producer, having spent 7 years on the Martha Stewart Channel of Sirius/XM with CAT CHAT® and even longer with her award-winning NPR radio show DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too!) that continues to broadcast in the Hamptons and the Berkshires. Her most recent accomplishment is the pet talk radio network she has created on the Internet called The Radio Pet Lady Network.


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Frosty morning

There was a hard frost last night.










Natural History

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10 Great Creative Carved Pumpkin Ideas

10 Great Creative Carved Pumpkin Ideas (via Bubby and Bean)
1. Crescent Moon Pumpkin, Country Living  //  2. Black Magic Carved Pumpkins, Martha Stewart  //  3. Big Dipper Pumpkin, Country Living  //  4. Hanging Jack O’ Lantern Candle Door Entry, Cupcakepedia  //  5. Skeleton Hand Pumpkins, Country Living  //  6. Decorative Drilled Pumpkins, Everyday Dishes  //  7. White Zombie Jack O’ Lantern, Woman’s Day  //  8. Etched Leaf Pumpkins, Southern Living  // 9. Top Hat Pumpkin, Sew Country Chick  //  10. Cut-Out Polka Dot Pumpkins, Whipperberry  

Halloween is less than two weeks away, and although we’ve already carved a couple of pumpkins (I can’t get enough of the seeds, man; here is my all-time favorite pumpkin seed recipe), I’ve been thinking about carving another (or five) as the holiday gets closer. I genuinely love plain, old school carved pumpkins with uneven triangle eyes and jagged toothless smiles because they remind me of celebrating Halloween as a child. But I’m also a fan of more creative ideas for pumpkin carving, and that’s where today’s 10 Great comes in. While searching for inspiration for unique jack o’ lantern ideas, I came across the projects you see above. They range from beautiful to fun, intricate to simple. I’d love to do something similar to both #1 and #3 over the next couple of weeks.

DIY Tutorial: Chic Painted Fall Pumpkins // Bubby and Bean

And if you’re looking for another creative way to decorate your pumpkins this year (one that doesn’t involve having to use a sharp object), click here or on the image above to see the DIY painted pumpkin project we did last year.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Israel’s Mission Discovery Guide by Laan Vander Ray (Book Review)

Israel’s Mission Discovery Guide by Laan Vander Ray My rating: 5 of 5 stars A visual stunning DVD and accompanying study guide, “Israel’s Mission Discovery Guide” really challenges the reader to discover what it means to be an ambassador for Christ. An in depth dvd from the founder of “That the World May Know” and…

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Sunflower Faith

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Hey, Donna, I shared your "A New Dog in the H…

Hey, Donna, I shared your "A New Dog in the House" handout with a friend who is hoping to bring home his first dog very soon and basically he freaked out and shut down. He thought maybe the content would be better served up in a blogpost, so I tried to share blogposts, but even the title "Boot Camp" (for the story of Tater), was so upsetting to him that he couldn't read it. He promises he's pro-structure (I explained that anxious dogs need this structure every bit as much as boisterous dogs), but he refuses to use these methods on the timid little fluff muffin he's applied to adopt. So… I was wondering if you have any favorite "new dog" resources that wouldn't be quite so intimidating to a soft-hearted first time dog-owner.

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The jaguar


If you were ever to ask me what my favorite big is, I would not hesitate to tell you it’s the jaguar.

It actually still enthralls me that jaguars were once fairly numerous in the United States. How numerous is up to a bit of debate, but they were found throughout Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. They were also found in much of Louisiana, but there are accounts of them coming as far east as North Carolina and maybe as far north as Kentucky or Ohio.  These accounts have always been regarded as urban legends, but one must keep in mind that the jaguar actually evolved in the Old World before entering the New. There was actually a jaguar species or paleosubspecies found all over Europe up until 1.5 million years ago. In order for jaguars to get here, they had to go through the very cold land of the Bering Land Bridge, so our common notion that jaguars were always a tropical or semi-tropical species is a bit in error.

The jaguar is the only surviving Pantherine cat in the Americas. There was also a lion species or paleosubspecies that lived in both North and South America, but it is now long gone.

Humans have been hard on big cats. We’ve extirpated the lion from Europe and all of Asia but the Gir Forest. We made several populations of lion and leopard threatened with extinction, and we’ve waged such a successful war on the tiger that there is a very good chance that it won’t be known in the wild within just a few decades.

There is no breeding population of jaguars in the United States anymore. They were killed off for their pelts and because jaguars do kill horses and livestock.

But every few years, a jaguar is captured on trail camera or winds up being bayed up by cougar hounds. It’s said to be a wanderer and very little is done about it.

We used to be a big cat nation, but now we don’t even consider those that do wander up from Mexico to be native. The idea of a jaguar in this country is at once romantic but also repugnant. We might lose our minds as we debate wolf reintroduction, but no one talks about the “Texas leopard” anymore.

It’s much a phantom as the American lion, the European jaguar, and the Smilodon are.

I can remember the first time I laid eyes upon a jaguar. It was at the Cincinnati Zoo when I was about 5 years old. There were two jaguars in a large enclosure that was surrounded by thick glass. The spotted one was reclining in the background, but the black one was lying up against the glass. My dad had me sit next to the glass and pretend to pet the great beast, which paid me no mind at all as my dad recorded it on a VHS cassette.

Every time I see a photo or film of a black jaguar, I think of that one.

It never lived wild. it never killed a deer or a horse.

Yet it still had all the essence of a big cat.  Smooth and gliding, yet chiseled and sharp. Like cutlasses on springs.

We turned the wolf into a symbol of wilderness, and we managed to restore to it. And now we fight about the best way to manage them, but the idea of jaguars in the Southwest or Louisiana or Texas just sounds like a fools’ mission.

The wolf of the Northern Rockies and the Midwest’s North Country survived by romanticism, but el tigre never got the same treatment.

He will not wander the White Mountains of Arizona or the piney river bottoms of Louisiana. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has decided that this animal lived here only at the margins of its habitat. Never mind the extensive records of these animals in the United States.

The species just can’t be preserved here.

I suppose we have a bit of Trumpism in our ideas of what an American native species is. A wolf sounds like it belongs here.

A jaguar doesn’t.

Natural History

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One More

We’ve been fostering puppies a fair amount this past year.  Not because we wanted to find one to adopt, but because we find Lacey is much more comfortable accepting them and because I find them so much fun.  :)

Well we finally decided to adopt one ourselves.  Marlin really became attached to these two latest boys and when one of them got adopted we decided to keep the other one.  So may I introduce Summit.

When he first arrived he was very skinny and underweight. Within a few weeks we had him all fattened up.  We are still struggling to get him to eat enough and not have diarrhea at the same time but fingers crossed it all gets straightened out any day now.  :)

He is a pretty confident little dude.  So far new people and places don’t phase him and when he does get taken by surprise, he is very quick to recover.  I’m determined to have a “bomb” proof dog that is comfortable around new people and new places.  I want a dog we can take places – to people’s homes, on group camping trips and hikes, etc.  I think he has the temperament to do all this, I just need to not screw it up.  So every day we are doing something to expose him to new things.

  • Friday – he went off to the family that ended up adopting his brother and spent the afternoon there.
  • Saturday – we brought out the cat tunnel (which he instantly loved) and explored the upstairs for the first time.  (On Monday he learned how to do the indoor stairs and promptly went exploring up there over and over again.)
  • Sunday – we went to the pet store, a drive through and the daycare.  He met Chewy and got exposed to studio photography lighting equipment – no fear at all of the flash or the umbrella – even when I put  it on the ground or spun it around in the air.
  • Monday – we went out to Amanda’s to meet her dogs, and explore her yard.  He had a great time with her new pup Siren.
  • Tuesday – we spent time in the front yard watching the world go by.  We saw cars, a bus and a lady with a dog on the far side of the road.  The cars were no problem but the bus made him startle. The dog was hilarious.  He just sat and watched in awe.  I was feeding him kibble and he absentmindedly would open his mouth to take it but was often forgetting to chew.  
  • Tomorrow we are going to hang out at the grocery store parking lot and then the recycling depot.
  • Thursday if the weather is nice we’ll go to the playground by our house and watch the children.
  • Friday we are going to hang out at the front of the house again and try and catch the school kids walking home.  
  • Saturday we are going to a puppy class.
  • Sunday we’ll probably try and find more people to meet or do whatever Amanda suggests at the puppy class.  :)
He is already learning to be a polite puppy.  He is learning to come when called and he charges over at full speed and promptly puts his butt to the ground for a cookie.  The only issue at the moment is that he is using me for a break instead of slowing down to a stop himself.  LOL.
He’s been wearing an activity monitor since we decided to keep him and is logging about 130 minutes of “action” a day.  He is by no means a crazy pup, but he definitely has his busy moments – he’s definitely a morning dog!  Lacey enjoys playing with him – on her terms only of course.  Poor dude struggles some times to figure out why one moment she’s playful and the next she isn’t.  Not surprisingly Coulee is taking longer to adjust.  She took about 9 months to enjoy Lacey’s company so we aren’t expecting her to come around any time soon.  She generally just ignores him and grumbles when he is playing and she isn’t.
We still need to get a decent family photo – this one isn’t going to cut it. :)

Crazy Coulee and Little Lacey

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“A Tale of Two Foxes”

tale of two foxes

This photo showing a red fox killing an arctic fox was taken at Wapusk National Park in northern Manitoba. The photographer, Don Gutoski, is a physician at an emergency room, but his amateur status didn’t stop him from being named 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year f by BBC Wildlife and the National History Museum.

The photo is an epic demonstration of climate change’s effects on an ecosystem. Red foxes are expanding their range north into arctic fox range, and red foxes in those northern regions are known for eating other foxes when they come across carcasses. It’s doesn’t take much for them to start hunting the little arctic foxes, the polar jackals that follow the great white bears across the sea ice.

With climate change, red foxes can come north into areas where they weren’t before, and this is bad news for the arctic fox.

This predation has fascinated me quite a bit. Check out my previous posts:

These two species actually have produced sterile offspring in captivity, but it should be noted that they aren’t that closely related. Red foxes originated in the Middle East. Their closest relative is Rüppell’s fox. Arctic foxes are have been said to have an Old World origin, but their closest relatives are the swift and kit foxes of North America.

So climate change has thrown these two lineages together, and it’s not looking good for the specialist polar jackal.

And this photo is so amazing. I’m glad Don Gutoski was able to capture it, and I’m quite pleased that he is being recognized for it.

Natural History

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zoodog2-lgA dog who was once abandoned himself now cares for abandoned baby zoo animals.

According to a Cincinnati.com story, Blakely, a 5-year-old Australian Shepherd, works at the Cincinnati Zoo in Cincinnati, Ohio, watching over zoo babies who were orphaned or abandoned by their mothers.

The dog came to the zoo when he was seven months old; just a baby himself. The zoo team adopted Blakely from a local shelter.

Perhaps that’s why he seems to have a knack for his “caretaker” role.

The abandoned or orphaned babies are brought to the zoo’s nursery, where Blakely is ready to nurture them. He takes his job seriously. He must teach these babies how to play, interact and co-exist with other animals – a lesson a human simply can’t teach.

Click here to read the complete story.


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