As I mentioned last week, we’re busy socializing our new puppy Bärli with a long list of activities and experiences to enjoy with him. We’re working on exposing him to many types of…
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I believe this project actually helps educate people on both pitbulls and "wolfdogs" by reducing overbreeding and showing how wonderful blockheads can be as mentor dogs. Good work.
BAD RAP Blog
I hate biology by Facebook meme. We’re living in a time of great natural history illiteracy, but we’re also living at a time in which people want to respect and learn about nature.
Virginia opossums are one of the most common species in the United States. They fit nicely in suburbia, and they are quite often encountered.
They are not cute, at least by conventional standards of cuteness, and when you encounter them, they stand with their mouths open in a gape threat display. They usually drool and generally look nasty.
So well-meaning people have tried to make the opossum look good, and in doing so, they have decided to bullshit people.
Bullshitting about any animal is a bad conservation strategy.
One common statement is that “many studies” or “a study” have shown that opossums are smarter than dogs and cats.
I had to hunt to find that citation! You’d think that such a groundbreaking discovery would be all over the clickbait science press, but no, it’s actually rather obscure study.
It was a study that was performed in the 1950s using the Fink arrow maze. It is really just a test to see if an animal can remember where it was fed before. The researcher who did the research was a W.T. James, and he performed some other studies on the species, which did not show such a marked ability among the opossums. They are capable of learning.
Other researchers looked into the opossum’s intelligence and have generally found it lacking. Indeed, a 1965 study revealed that opossums were much worse than rats at learning how to follow a maze.
The 1950s study is the only one that compared dogs and opossums, and we live in a time in which a new cognitive study on dogs is released every month or so. Dogs are pretty intelligent animals. They have evolved some cognitive shortcuts that have allowed them to live in close concert with humans and to learn from humans.
So you have one study that shows opossums are more intelligent than dogs and you think that is worth posting on a Facebook meme?
It’s bullshitting people.
The truth is opossums don’t have to be smart to be successful. What makes them successful are two simple things: they reproduce rapidly and they will eat virtually anything.
They also can live their whole lives next to people and never really bother anything. Opossums are far less obnoxious to have around than raccoons are. Raccoons tear things up. They open up garbage bins. They den in chimneys. They kill cats and eat their food.
A raccoon is an intelligent animal. They know how to open up chicken coops and eat all the chickens. They know how to open up gates and get into cornfields.
An opossum will just trundle around and not cause too much trouble.
It works for them.
And yes, they eat ticks and can prevent the spread of Lyme disease.
But they aren’t smarter than super social carnivorans.
So when you see these memes posted on Facebook about how wonderful opossums are, keep in mind that the claim about opossum intelligence being greater than dogs comes from a single study.
It’s bullshitting people. This study is useful, but it’s 60 years old. And no one has attempted to replicate it or tried to draw deeper meaning in the general comparison of cognitive abilities between dogs and opossums.
So yeah, one study. Interesting discovery, but it hasn’t been replicated. Also it doesn’t match what else we know about the two species.
It’s just one of those things you run across in a literature review and wonder about.
A much better understanding of opossums is they are primitive mammals. I don’t mean that they are inferior in this sense. I mean that they very similar to the first mammals that ever existed, and they have retained these primitive, generalized traits for tens of millions years.
That’s pretty amazing.
And it’s not bullshitting people.
I love holidays – especially now that I have kids – but I tend to prepare for them later than I probably should. In fact, I just remembered yesterday that Easter is this Sunday. Oops. Never fear though, fellow last-minute bunnies. I have compiled a list of fun Easter basket fillers you can easily grab at a local store, via Amazon Prime (my go-to), or even around your house that will make your little ones’ basket as full of joy as if you’d planned way ahead.
1. Eco-Friendly Easter Grass I remember finding pieces of plastic Easter grass under the sofa in, like, October as a child. I also cringe at the thought of how much of that stuff sits in landfills. You can get biodegradable or recycled paper Easter grass at Target, on Amazon Prime, or at most local shops, or if you have a paper shredder, make it yourself. If you’re really running behind, crumbled tissue paper looks really pretty too.
2. Books This is another item you can grab last minute almost anywhere (even grocery stores have kids’ books these days). I like to use spring-themed books. This one is a current favorite around here.
3. Movies If you don’t have time to order a DVD or BlueRay, or to run to the store to grab one, buy one for immediate download (like I did for Coco and will also be doing for Ferdinand), print out a picture of the movie, and put that in the basket.
4. Bunny Ears I got the set you see Essley wearing in the photo above at Target last year, but they’re available in all sorts of shops this time of year. Or if it’s the night before and you have a headband and some cardstock and tape, you can easily make your own. (Runner up: a bunny stuffed animal. Also very easy to find in stores right now.)
6. Fruit I always throw an apple or banana in my kids’ Easter baskets, depending on what we have on hand. And surprisingly, despite the candy that accompanies it, they love it. And you can’t get any easier.
7. Sunglasses I love gifts that are easy and practical! You can find sunglasses in most stores this time of year because the spring lines have just launched. I just got this adorable pair of cat eye sunnies for Essley at Target.
8. Money My kids love the idea of saving money in their piggy banks, and when they get a dollar, they are beyond stoked. I usually roll up a dollar bill and tie it with ribbon for their baskets. Easiest gift ever.
9. Easter Candy Duh. There are only a few times a year my kids get to sugar binge, and there really isn’t an easier last minute gift to grab.
10. The Basket! Okay, so this isn’t a filler idea, but it is necessary, so I’m including it. It’s really easy to get creative with this even if you’re really behind. When I was a kid, my parents always used unusable objects for Easter baskets that we could reuse. My favorite (that I still have and now use for my mail) was a vintage hat box with bears dancing on it. You probably have baskets or containers you’re not using at home that would work well. Or some of my favorite places to buy Easter baskets are Personal Creations (as seen in image above), Target, and Pottery Barn Kids.
If you have any other great ideas for easy, last-minute Easter basket goodies, I’d love to hear them!
We’ve got a special giveaway of interest to movie-loving dog lovers! Enter to win a special ISLE OF DOGS movie prize pack to celebrate the release of this new stop-motion-animated film from…
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Now that I only have one dog and (gulp) five cats, it’s much more common for me to get help with my toileting needs from the feline contingent. The dog is getting so old, she just stays on the couch and waits for me to come back to her. Until next time, Good day, and […]
We’ve been in our new home for two months now, and we’ve officially gotten one whole room painted (Essley’s). To be fair, Robbie has been on the road a lot of this year so far, so there hasn’t been a lot of time to for us to work together on this place. That certainly hasn’t stopped us from planning through. The paint colors in this space aren’t terrible, and the old owners did a really nice job in terms of painting well. Right now we’ve got beige front rooms, a dusty blue-grey living room, yellow hallways, and a mustard-beige color in the kitchen. And they look fine, but they’re not our particular style. In terms of paint, we actually want to eventually redo most of the house – the master bedroom is the only room that came in a color we would have chosen for it.
Now because I know us, I can confidently say that most of our walls will probably end up grey. But I want to make at least some of them something different. I love the way all white spaces look, and probably will paint over the beige in the front rooms with a bright white, but I see trends moving away from that and toward more moody colors. And the one that I find myself falling more and more in love with is deep, dark blue. So today, I thought I’d share some of the spaces painted in this color that are inspiring me right now.
I generally prefer light, airy rooms, but there is something so inviting about a deep blue wall (or walls). And I feel like it goes with most other colors, almost like a neutral.
What is your favorite wall color? Are you a fan of dark blue walls? (You can see other spaces that have inspired me in our Moving Inspiration series.)
IMAGES FROM TOP: 1. Domino | 2. Around The Houses | 3. In Honor of Design (my beautiful friend Anna’s gorgeous shared boys’ room) | 4. Apartment Therapy | 5. Around The Houses | 6. Emily Henderson | 7. Marie Flanigan Interiors | 8. Found on Pinterest; anyone know original source?
I am ethically opposed to BSL for all of the reasons outlined above, specially that it encourages discrimination of pit bulls by other powers.
However, this article is written in such a way that it’s not outright lies, but it is certainly designed to mislead. SFACC does not put people in a position as to force them to surrender their pet bc they can’t afford to spay or neuter. The way this is written is incredibly misleading and irresponsible. SFACC will not keep someone’s pet because they cannot afford to redeem them. They work out payment plans. They have the power to refuse to give someone a pet that they can’t pay for, this is true. But it simply isn’t done (unless there are extenuating circumstances that lead them to believe this is in the dog’s best interest).
Additionally, the legislation was put into place because the mayor at that time wanted to ban pit bulls outright. While this version of BSl certainly is not great, it’s vastly better than banning these precious babies altogether.
While I too am against BSL, and understand where Bad Rap is coming from, it’s pretty hard to be against spay neuter for a dog breed that is disproportionally homeless. Personally I wish that it was mandatory spay and neuter for all dogs.
Bad Rap, you’re better than this. You have the moral high ground-don’t squander it by being misleading and misinformed. Additionally, SFACC didn’t write the law. Maybe you should be more critical of the legistlators at city hall and less critical of the men and woman working hard every day to keep the animals of San Francisco safe and who support the pet guardians of San Francisco in countless ways.
BAD RAP Blog
What we do know about the origins of Canis species is much more hotly-contested than what we know about the evolution of our own species. The earliest fossils of the genus are roughly 6 million years old, and the oldest species in the “wolf lineage” is Canis lepophagus, which lived in the American Southwest and Northern Mexico 5 million years ago. This species is often posited as the direct ancestor of the coyote, and it may have been a direct ancestor of all the entire wolf-like canid lineage.
Of course, recent discoveries that have come from full genome comparisons make things a little complicated. With the discovery that coyotes diverged from gray wolves as recently as 50,000 years ago, the linear evolution from Canis lepophagus to Canis latrans is probably invalid. Further another full genome study that used a single Israeli golden jackal (Canis aureus) as the outgrouping sample to determine when dogs and gray wolves split, revealed that this particular jackal diverged from gray wolves less than 400,000 years ago.
Both of these dates are far more recent that the millions of years that are assumed to separate these wolf-like canids from each other. Of course, more work must be done. We need more studies on coyote genomes, but these researchers have come across what could be the most important discovery in our understanding of the evolution of Canis species. Depending upon the study, coyotes and gray wolves were thought to have diverged between 700,000 to 1 million years ago, and this assumption is used to calculate when other Canis have diverged.
Now, this assumption always did bother me, because if Canis lepophagus leads directly to Canis latrans, where do wolves fit in? Because in order for that model to work, gray wolves have to evolve from a very small coyote-like ancestor with very few transitions in between. It always just seemed to me like it was unworkable.
Further, there is a whole host of literature on the evolution of gray wolves in Eurasia, and in most European literature, there is a general acceptance of how gray wolves evolved from a smaller wolf called Canis mosbachensis.
Wolfgang Soergel, a German paleontologist at the University of Tübingen, discovered Canis mosbachensis at a site near Jockgrim in 1925. The animal is sometimes called the “Mosbach wolf,” which means it was found in the Mosbach Sands, where many fossils from the Middle Pleistocene have been found.
Mark Derr was particularly interested in this species in his How the Dog Became the Dog. He points out that the earliest dated fossils of this species are 1.5 million years old and come from the ‘Ubeidiya excavations in Israel. The most recent Canis mosbachensis remains in Europe are about 400,000 years old, after which time they were replaced by Canis lupus. Derr speculated about the relationship mosbachensis might have had with early hominin species, which were also well-known from that site, and suggested that they might had some kind of relationship.
Further, there is a growing tendency among paleontologists to group Canis mosbachensis with another wolf that was its contemporary. This wolf, called Canis variabilis, was discovered at the Zhoukoudian Cave System in China in 1934. Its discoverer was Pei Wenzhong, who became respected paleontologist, archaeologist, and anthropologist in the People’s Republic of China. It was a small wolf with a proportionally smaller brain, and it has long been a subject of great speculation.
And this speculation tends to get lots of attention, for this cave system is much more famous for the discovery of a type of Homo erectus called “Peking Man.” It is particularly popular among the people who insist that dogs are not wolves, which is about as scientifically untenable as the “birds are not dinosaurs” (BAND) clique of scholarship.
Mark Derr and as well as more established scholarship have begun to group variabilis and mosbachensis together. Variablis has also been found in Yakutia, and it may have been that varibablis nothing more than an East Asian variant of mosbachensis.
These wolves were not large animals. They varied from the size of an Eastern coyote to the size of an Indian wolf. They were not the top dogs of the Eurasian predator guild.
Indeed, they played second fiddle to a larger pack-hunting canid called Xenocyon lycaonoides, a large species that is sometimes considered ancestral to the African wild dog and the dhole, but the recent discovery of Lycaon sekowei, which was a much more likely ancestor of the African wild dog, suggests that it was more likely a sister species to that lineage.
Although canids resembling Canis lupus have been found in Alaska and Siberia that date to 800,000 years ago, anatomically modern wolves are not confirmed in the Eurasian faunal guild until 300,000-500,000 years before present.
I’m throwing a lot of dates at you right now, because if the modern Canis lupus species is as recent as the current scholarship suggests, then we can sort of begin to piece together how the entire genus evolved.
And we’re helped by the fact that we have an ancient DNA study on a Yakutian “Canis variablis” specimen. This specimen would have been among the latest of its species, for it has been dated to 360,000 years before present. Parts of its ancient mitochondrial DNA has been compared to other sequences from ancient wolves, and it has indeed confirmed that this animal is related to the lineage that leads to wolves and domestic dogs. The paper detailing its findings suggests that there is a direct linkage between this specimen and modern dog lineages, but one must be careful in interpreting too much from limited mitochondrial DNA studies.
360,000 years ago is not that far from the proposed divergence between gray wolves and the Israel golden jackal in genome comparison study I mentioned at the beginning of the post.
This really could suggest something a bit controversial and bold. It make take some time for all this to be tested, but it is a hypothesis worth considering.
I suggest that all this evidence shows that Canis mosbachensis is the ancestor of all interfertile Canis, with the possible exception of the Ethiopian wolf.
If the Ethiopian wolf is not descended from that species, then it is a sister taxon. It is not really clear how divergent Ethiopian wolves are from the rest of interfertile Canis, but their divergence estimates currently suggest that it diverged from the rest of the wolf-like clade 1.6 million years ago, which is just before Canis mosbachensis appears in the fossil record.
If that more recent date holds for the split for the Eurasian golden jackal, then it is almost certain that this hypothesis is correct. The Eurasian golden jackal may be nothing more than a sister species to a great species complex that includes the coyote, gray wolf, dingo, and domestic dog that both derived from divergent populations of Canis mosbachensis.
The exact position of the Himalayan wolf and the African golden wolf are still not clear. We do know, though, that both are more closely related to the coyote and gray wolf than the Eurasian golden jackal is, and if its split from the gray wolf is a recent as less than 400,000 years ago, then it is very likely that all of these animals are more closely related to the main Holarctic population of gray wolves than we have assumed.
The recent divergence of all these Canis species is why there is so much interfertility among them.
And if these animals are as recently divergent as is inferred, their exact species status is going to be questioned.
And really should be, at least from a simple cladistics perspective.
More work does need to be done, but I don’t think my hypothesis is too radical.
It just seems that this is a possibility that could explored.