Family feet smell good! Nice and relaxing. Why chew ‘em when you can sleep in ‘em? Happy weekend, friends! Until next time, Good day, and good dog!
I hate when that happens! Until next time, Good day, and good dog!
One of the most common memes in our popular understanding of zoology is that the thylacine of Tasmania was the marsupial equivalent of the gray wolf. This idea comes from a rather superficial understanding of its morphology, and lots of speculation about its behavior have stemmed from this popular understanding. One idea is that they were pack-hunters like wolves and dingoes, and they would have been murder on Tasmania’s sheep industry. Therefore, the final extinction of the thylacine was largely predicated upon a rational fear that the creatures would have been detrimental to sheep husbandry.
A lot of these speculations come from a belief that the thylacine was quite large. As I have discussed before on this space, larger carnivores are largely forced to hunt larger prey to survive. Otherwise, the larger size is of no benefit to the animal. Ecologists have found that the mass of 21 kg (about 46 pounds) is the size at which a carnivorous mammal can no longer subsist on smaller prey alone.
Thylacines were estimated to have weighed 29. 5 kg (about 65 pounds), which meant that their diet would have been larger prey. However, really big prey species are almost absent from Tasmania. The largest kangaroo in Tasmania is the Tasmanian Eastern gray kangaroo, which weighs is roughly the size of the smaller forms of white-tailed deer in the US. Further, analysis of Thylacine skulls revealed that they could not withstand very much force. So the thylacine would not have been a very effective predator of prey the size of an Eastern gray kangroo, and it would have had a lot of trouble grappling with a fully grown sheep.
The fact that thylacines would have had problems killing large prey creates a contradiction in their supposed larger size. If thylacines really did weigh 65 pounds on average, then they would be a major exception to the rule that larger predators must hunt larger prey to survive.
Well, a new analysis by researchers at Monash University has revealed that traditional estimates of thylacine size were greatly exaggerated. Using complex morphometric analyses on various preserved specimens, the researchers revealed that the mean weight of a male thylacine was 19.7 kilograms (43 pounds). The mean weight of a female was 13. 7 kilograms (30 pounds).
These animals would have been roughly the same size of an Eastern coyote. Now, Eastern coyotes can live on large prey or small prey, and they can scavenge quite well. But they have skulls that can withstand blunt force from a sheep or a deer that a pack of them has run down. The Eastern coyote can live as a fox or a wolf, depending upon the conditions of the ecosystem in which it lives.
A thylacine would have been a smaller prey specialist, and because its weight did not exceed 21 kilograms, its subsistence on smaller prey did not violate the “costs of carnivory” rule.
Indeed, the only predatory mammal I can think of that does come close to violating this rule is the maned wolf, which sometimes weighs 22 or 23 kg. It lives almost entirely on small prey and fruit. This species has been persecuted for its attacks on livestock, but like the thylacine, it is not much of a threat to them.
Of course, there will be debate about this finding. Many historical accounts of thylacines suggest or imply or even outright claim that they were killing sheep and dogs left and right.
But the truth is that Europeans had their own concept of what a creature like this could do or was likely to do, and they merely transposed these ideas onto a creature that had the superficial appearance of a wolf or hyena.
We should by now stop trying to pigeonhole the thylacine into a marsupial wolf and should try to appreciate it for what it was.
Or might still be.*
*I don’t believe they still exist, but I certainly wish they did!
The Labrador Retriever has consistently been dubbed top dog in annual lists of America’s favorite breed. In fact, Labs are so popular that they even have their own pet holiday, which…
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It was the strangest year of my life, and likely most of your lives too. The hardest part of it for me was my stepmom passing away from cancer in July, and how difficult her final days were due to visitor restrictions because of Covid. The rest of it, while very challenging, was not what I consider to be a true struggle. My husband, who has worked in the live music industry his entire career, was furloughed in late March, which has obviously been quite challenging. Our trip to Iceland was canceled, as was our trip to Florida in July and the rest of our travel plans. My kids missed out on activities and school. And the year went out with a bang on Christmas, which was not only the first Christmas in my life I haven’t spent with my sister, but also the night my dad fell down his stairs and was to have emergency surgery on a broken femur. (He spent a week in the hospital and is now in a rehab facility.)
In January, I shared 6 easy ways to refresh school lunches in the New Year.
In February, I shared an updated version on my favorite vegetarian tortellini soup recipe.
I shared my 16 favorites items from Trader Joe’s in March.
Quarantine meant lots of organizing in my kitchen, and in April I shared tips for organizing both your pantry and fridge.
In honor of Earth Day, I shared 10 ways to be eco-conscious in your own home.
I shared my favorite veggie club sandwich recipe in May.
The bulldog family as we understand now is a bit complicated.
One of the harder distinctions in the literature is to come across distinctions between mastiff and bulldog, but it is very clear that by the late Middle Ages, there were specialized dogs that were used as catch dogs on wild boar and to control cattle through gripping.
A certain lineage of these dogs became known as bulldogs in the British Isles, but there are three other lines that are not as well explore.
The first of these lines is the Bullenbeisser and the Bärenbeisser lineage. These dogs appeared in Germanic Europe, including areas of the Netherlands and Belgium.
These dogs were evident in that region by the seventeenth century, where nobles used them to hunt wild boar and bears, and in some eastern region, the relict populations of aurochs. They also likely grappled with wolves, but I could find very few accounts of them being used for that purpose. These were the dogs of the nobles, and they were famous in their courage as catch dogs.
When the Napoleonic Wars transformed this part of Europe, things changed dramatically. Although Napoleon was an autocratic ruler, his revolutionary ideas changed the remnants of feudal society in that region, which meant that nobles had to give up a lot of their traditional hunting estates.
These Germanic bulldogs wound up in the hands of cattle dealers, who used them in much the same way the British had used them. They were cattle controlling dogs that were sometimes used for baiting contests.
By the nineteenth century, two distinct strains were evident. In the region around Danzig, a large bulldog called the Danziger bullenbeisser was pretty common. In Belgium and the Netherlands, a smaller strain was developed called the Brabanter bullenbeisser,
We know now that the Brabanter bullenbeisser was quite common as a pet in Munich, and in the very last few years of the nineteenth century, this breed was bred with the variants of the English bulldog (and supposedly one black schnauzer) to found the modern boxer breed.
In France, a very similar story went with their bulldogs. What we call the Dogue de Bordeaux is actually a bulldog, not a mastiff. It is the last survivor of a long line of French catch dogs. The larger ones were called dogues and the smaller ones were called doguin. Noble families used them as catch dogs, but as France lurched into a Republic, the dogs became commonly used as working bulldogs in much the same way that the English used theirs.
Today, when we think of French bulldogs, we think of the small ones that became popular in Paris at the end of the nineteenth century. These dogs were largely created by the pet market in England, then transported to France, where they were widely accepted. I will have more on these bulldogs in a later post, but they are not the traditional bulldog of France. The dogue and the doguin are.
Some may quibble with my inclusion of the dogue as a bulldog. But we know from genome-wide assays that the bulldog of England, the boxer, and the Dogue de Bordeaux form a clade.
That means that these dogs share a deep common ancestry in Northwestern Europe. Indeed, these three breeds share a close common ancestry that puts them closer to each other than to the other bulldog breeds.
This discovery raises an interesting idea. There have been attempts to re-create the Brabanter bullenbeisser through crossbreeding boxers with other bull breeds. The result is the Banter bulldogge.
However, I’ve been more interested in the Danziger bullenbeisser, which was larger, and my guess is to recreate that breed, you would breed the boxer to the Dogue de Bordeaux and then select for black skin pigment, brindle and fawn color, and a more athletic build.
So it has captured my imagination a bit. Big, fell bulldogs really didn’t have much of a place in Europe as the larger game species disappeared, but in the American South, the larger bulldog would hold on.
That will be the next installment of the this series.
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I also post almost exclusively vegetarian recipes on here, because, well, I’m a vegetarian and have been most of my life. But both of my kids and my husband enjoy eating meat, and if I can whip them up something they truly love that isn’t vegetarian for once, they’re stoked.
1 18 oz bag InnovAsian Sweet and Sour Chicken