Last night I got to rock out at the last North American stop of the Guns n Roses “Not in This Lifetime” tour. In a moment that made me realize just how old I’ve gotten, I realized the last time they played San Diego- in 1992- I was also there. I was in high school, high on life (and probably a few other things unintentionally, as tended to happen at those arena shows), idealistic about the future. Guns n Roses was the biggest name in rock at the time, at the height of their fame and the zenith of their success.
Things fell apart for them shortly thereafter.
Axl Rose spent the next two decades litigating with his former bandmates, holed up in a mansion somewhere getting plastic surgery and churning out less than awesome music. While his star faded, the rest of us went on with our lives, going to school and having careers and starting families. You know, growing up. Such is life.
I had low expectations for the show, to be honest. The band fell apart due to Axl’s temperamental nature and the shows often started three hours late and ended after one or two songs. When he was on, he was ON, and the rest of the time he was a disaster. He was the rock god equivalent of the vet who burns out in a flame of glory and leaves veterinary medicine forever to hole up on a lake somewhere to nurse their wounds in solitude. (Not that I know what that urge feels like, of course.)
I was not the only one who gave this reunion short shrift. The first time he walked out on stage at a warmup show, he broke his foot and everyone said, “Oh, here we go. This is going to be a disaster.” There’s a reason Spinal Tap was a cautionary tale, they said. Once you leave something great, you’re done. You can never go back. This is no longer going to happen:
The murmurings were nonstop: Axl’s had a ton of plastic surgery. He looks old (hint: he is, as are we all.) His voice isn’t the same. He can’t move his hips the way he did when he was 20. The band still all hates each other.
All of this is true.
But they went out there anyway, and played a monster three hour set despite the creaky joints and the lower octaves. They came out on time and nailed everything. It was like being back in 1992 except even better because I can legally drink! When’s the last time you sat in a packed stadium arena listening to a power ballad with fireworks onstage and a 10 minute guitar solo? It was before cell phones for sure. And it was awesome. Yes, things changed, but a lot of those changes were for the better.
There’s actually something super metal about getting old and refusing to let people stop you from all the stuff you’ve been told you can’t do any longer. About getting up in front of a PACKED stadium with your face looking exactly like what everyone said it would look like and singing about your serpentine with your hips moving exactly two inches in either direction and waiting for the cameras to zoom in on your before flipping everyone the bird- and hearing them all cheer. That takes some brass ones, my friends.
In 2012, a reporter asked him if Guns n Roses would ever get back together and he replied, “Not in this lifetime.”And yet here we are, a little older, a little wrinklier, a little wiser, and clutching our Zippo apps that won’t burn your fingers in lieu of the actual lighters.
You can change your mind. You can go back. You can embrace what time has changed and laugh about it and refuse to apologize for it and kind of love it. It’s the only way to live, really.
I never in a million years would have thought Axl Rose would be doling out inspirational life messages at 54 years of age but I guess I was wrong too. It’s never to late to burn down the house.
One of the great enigmas in the world of canid zoology is the case of Hagenbeck’s wolf.
Hagenbeck’s wolf is a proposed species based upon one pelt.
The pelt came from an animal dealer in Argentina, who sold it to Lorenz Hagenbeck in 1926. Hagenbeck claimed there were four such skins, but he purchased only one. The dealer claimed they came from a wild dog that lived in Andes.
It was sent to Germany and wound up in the museums of Munich. In 1940, a zoologist named Ingo Krumbiegel examined the pelt. The pelt’s color was black and fur was much longer than other canids from the region. He assumed that it belonged to a undescribed montane species of maned wolf.
Krumbiegel ignored the pelt until 1947, when it began looking at again. In that year, he learned from Lorenz Hagenbeck that there were three other pelts just like it. That got Krumbiegel thinking. He had received from the Andes. He had thought the skull belonged to a maned wolf, but it was much larger than any maned wolf he’d ever examined or read about.
He thought that maybe this skull came from the same species as the one with the black pelt. It measured over 30 centimeters in length, while the typical maned wolf skull is only 25 inches in length
Krumbiegel began to reconstruct the animal from the skin. The “mane” on the neck of the pelt was 8 inches long. He noticed the legs were a lot shorter than the typical maned wolf, which is creature of open woodland and grassland habitats and uses its long legs to help it see, hear, and smell over the tall grass. He drew sketches of what he imagined this montane maned wolf looked like.
Krumbiegel thought the animal was unique enough that it deserved its own genus. He initially gave it the name Oreocyon hagenbecki or “Hagenbeck’s mountain dog,” but on learning that Oreocyon had been used before, he changed it to Dasycyon hagenbecki–“Hagenbeck’s thick (furred) dog.”
That proposed name has been the one that has been floating around cryptozoology circles ever since. Bernard Heuvelmans, the dean of cryptozoologists, thought that if Hagenbeck’s wolf really was that similar to the maned wolf, then it might be more properly classified as part of Chrysocyon.
The big maned wolf skull was lost during the war, so Krumbiegel was unable to make additional measurements of it.
In 2000, there was an attempt to do a DNA test on the pelt, but the researchers were unable to get uncontaminated DNA from it. The pelt had been chemically treated, making recovery of DNA from it quite difficult.
The most likely explanation is that this pelt belonged to a domestic dog. Perhaps there was a population of domestic dogs that went feral in the Andes. They were prick-eared and black-coated, and they were thought of as “wild dogs.”
But they were actually feral.
It has been suggested that the large skull that Krumbiegel examined belonged to a German shepherd and that he extrapolated all of this analysis off a skull belonging to a domestic dog.
I’m a bit skeptical of that suggestion. Krumbiegel lived in Nazi Germany, where German shepherds were celebrated dogs and heavily studied. He surely would have known the difference between a German shepherd or wolf skull and that belonging to a South American wild dog.
No one has tried to extract DNA from the anomalous pelt since 2000. It’s generally been ignored. We do have better techniques for DNA extraction now, so maybe it is worth another go.
Maybe this animal really is a montane maned wolf or some other undescribed canid. Maned wolves do rarely come in black on occasion, and this could be suggestive of a relationship.
Perhaps it was a descendant of the improperly classified Canis gezi. Maybe it was a closer relative of the extinct Falkland Islands wolf than the maned wolf, which is currently listed as its closest relative.
The truth is we really don’t know, but if we were to find out that it was something that spectacular, the question ultimately would be whether this animal still exists.
Maybe it was among the last of its species.
Or maybe it was just a feral dog.
That’s the enigma.
And in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that much of a priority.
But wouldn’t you like to know?
Guardian angels come in all forms. May yours be watching over you this weekend. Until next time, Good day, and good dog! Related PostsFriday Funny: Too Tired to Help With The DishesFriday Funny: No Worries!Friday Funny: Get Well SoonFriday Funny: Scary VisitorsFriday Funny: Some Guard Dog You Are!Friday Funny: Smart Dog!
My son started back to school this week, so this gave me a little chuckle. Until next time, Good day, and good dog! Related PostsFriday Funny: School’s Back in SessionFriday Funny: Fishing for DogsFriday Funny: Dog FeetFriday Funny: Smart Dog!Friday Funny: Paternity TestingFriday Funny: Some Guard Dog You Are!
We often talk about the South American wild dogs. The South American wild dogs are a sister group to Canis and its allies, and in South America, evolution allowed dogs to go many unusual directions.
When the dog family phylogenetic tree was drawn from sequencing the genome of a boxer, I was amazed that it put the bush dog, which is sort of a wild version of the dachshund, as being a sister species to the maned wolf, which has very long legs.
There was actually a big debate as to where the bush dog actually fit. When I was learning about dog evolution as a child, I had books that told me that the dhole, African wild dog, and the bush dog were all closely related because of their trenchant heel dentition. One of their carnassials has a single, blade-like cusp that increases their ability to bolt shear meat.
The phylogenetic tree that was created from the dog genome sequence pretty much ended this discussion. The dhole and African wild dog were both found to be closely related to Canis, more so than the side-striped and black-backed jackals. The bush dog was with the maned wolf and the other South American canids, and the trenchant heel dentition was the result of convergent evolution.
End of story.
Or so I thought.
In 2012, a study was released that that was meant to update the divergence times with all extant carnivora. The researchers used large samples of DNA and other characters to determine when these animals diverged from each other. Some of these “other characters were things like vocalization and scent gland similarities.
Its phylogenetic tree for Canidae is similar to that in the aforementioned paper on the domestic dog genome, except that it greatly increases the divergence time between species. For example, it has the Urocyon foxes diverging from the rest of Canidae 15-16 million years ago, instead of the 9-10 million years that the dog genome paper found. It also has the golden jackal and the coyote being sister species, and the wolf is not the closest relative of the coyote. We now know this is very much in error, and it probably comes from the non-genetic “source trees” that were used in the analysis. It has has the Tibetan fox as being related to the extinct Falkland Islands wolf, which happened because there are almost no genetic studies on the Tibetan fox. Both the Tibetan fox and the Falkland Islands wolf had kind of weird squared off bodies, though, and this type of analysis does use morphology.
It has the dhole as being closely related to the wolf, golden jackal, and coyote.
But it has the African wild dog splitting off much sooner from this clade, and what’s more, it has the bush dog as its sister species!
One should be skeptical of this finding, because of its use of so many non-genetic “source trees,” it is going to miss the problem that occurs so much with dog species. Convergent evolution and phenotypic plasticity run riot in the family, and it is really hard to figure out relationships between species using just morphology and behavior alone.
This would make a lot of sense if it were confirmed with better genetic studies. Bush dogs are very weird animals. They are the only South American canids that hunt in packs. They really don’t have a rich fossil record, and it is pretty hard to connect them to other South American wild dogs.
It is tempting that they might be something that weird, but we need more evidence.
If they really did turn out not to be part of the South American clade of wild dogs and to be closer to the African wild dog, it would be a real shocker.
But not entirely.
The questions that would arise from it would be how it evolved. We have evidence of Xenocyon coming into North America. Xenocyon is traditionally thought of as the ancestor of the African wild dog and the dhole, but it may not be. But there is also evidence of dholes or dhole-like dogs that are actually closer to the AWD coming into North America and making it as far south as Mexico.
So maybe there is something to it.
But this sort of study does have its limits. It’s trying to morph both classical and molecular techniques for taxonomy, and those tend not to hold up very well.
But I still think it’s worth examining.
Hey there! I’m Chaparro, which means “short.” Personally, I don’t think people call me that because of my stature…I think it’s my name because I’m nothing short of…
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This is a post I never imagined I’d have to write. Some of you may have already seen my update on Instagram yesterday. For the rest of you, here it is.
On Tuesday morning of this week, Emmett’s 7 month birthday, he was diagnosed with a rare, serious form of Epilepsy. The only symptom was an occasional random head nod he’d had on and off for a few days that we decided to have checked out by his pediatrician, just to be safe. Long story short, after an immediate trip to a pediatric neurologist and an EEG, we were given a diagnosis, and spent the rest of the week in the pediatric unit of Northwestern/CDH hospital.
The prognosis for this specific type of epilepsy is very poor for the vast majority of the cases – but most of the tests we’ve had done, along with the facts that Emmett is developmentally where he should be for his age and we caught it very early, are positive signs. They have also found no cause for this with Emmett (which is actually a good thing with this specific disease). His time in utero and life up to this point have been perfectly healthy.
We are now giving him twice daily injections at home of a powerful medicine that, while not without extreme side effects, will hopefully help end his seizures soon and thus give him a chance. How he reacts to the medication over the next couple of days is crucial in determining what the outcome will be.
Whatever your beliefs, please channel good energy, pray, manifest, meditate, focus on healing vibes for our little boy. I believe in the power of positive collective energy – I have seen it work. The more people sending love and light his way, the more people praying, and the more people envisioning a positive outcome, the better I believe his chances are. We are so grateful for the support and love of our friends (internet friends included) and family right now. We feel lucky to know so many kind, compassionate people who care about our family and our son. I am terrified. This is hell. But I believe. Just like I had a strong maternal instinct that told me something was wrong when it looked like absolutely nothing, I have a strong instinct telling me that Emmett is going to pull through this and be one of the exceptions.
For right now, Bubby and Bean will remain silent of regular posts while we make sense of this. My number one priority right now is to focus on Emmett and his sister. I also ask you to forgive me for not being the best communicator right now, and not in the head space to answer questions or to be able to handle much more than just good vibes. I will update as I can.
Thank you in advance for sending any love you can our way. Emmett is a fighter, and I believe in him with all my heart.
I’m sure that just about everyone has seen the footage of the Tibetan fox. Its blocky head is really unique among canids, and one theory about why it has such an unusual head is that the head actually makes the fox more camouflaged around rocks as it stalks its prey.
If you’ve not seen the footage, here it is:
The Tibetan fox is found in the Tibetan and Ladakh Plateaus, and it pretty much found only in high grasslands. It is a specialist of this environment.
The mitochondrial genome of this species was sequenced recently. Preliminary studies had indicated that its closest relative is the corsac fox, which ranges in the steppe country that runs from the eastern edge of the Caucasus to northeastern China. It lives in arid, semi-arid, and grassland habitats to the north of the core range of the Tibetan fox.
The corsac is the basic fox. It is smaller than most red foxes, and it comes in gray or reddish brown.
And to be completely honest with you, I have a very hard time telling corsac foxes from North American swift foxes (Vulpes velox). I should note that even though the two look alike, the corsac is more closely related to the red fox, while the swift fox* is very close to the arctic fox (Vulpes lagogpus). Both swift and corsac foxes are adapted to grassland ecosystems, so their similarities can be chalked up to simple convergent evolution.
The researchers who sequenced the Tibetan fox mitochondrial genome also looked at other dog species and found that modern dog species radiated very rapidly. The authors estimate less than 5 million years separates Canis species from the maned wolf, which is actually quite about half the time that has been estimated for the divergence between Canis and its allies and the South American wild dogs through the sequencing of the dog genome.
Mitochondrial DNA studies can lead us astray, but this is still an interesting find.
The researchers found that the corsac and Tibetan foxes split from each other about 1 million years ago. Although they don’t say so in the paper, it’s pretty likely that the corsac is the ancestor of the Tibetan fox. Maybe it happened like this:
A population of corsac foxes, whose range had been pushed south during the Pleistocene, were able to roam into the Tibetan Plateau during a warming period. They were then cut off by glaciers and began their journey toward speciation, adapting the high grassland habitat in ways that made them quite different from their ancestors. The squared off heads gave the foxes marginal advantages in hunting in the high, rocky grasslands.
The authors didn’t find any genetic evidence of any sort of adaptations in the mitochondrial genome for higher altitude living among Tibetan foxes. Those genes probably do exist, but they don’t exist in the mitochondrial genome.
So what the researchers found is that Tibetan fox is very closely related to the corsac fox. This is not a surprising find, but I have wondered where this fox really does fit in the dog family. It’s from such an isolated area that virtually no studies have been done on it.
The squareness of its head makes the Tibetan fox a bit of a celebrity in the digital age. If BBC cameras hadn’t filmed it (twice!), it wouldn’t really be known. I’d only ever heard of it from a children’s book, which included a bad painting of one. It was just a nondescript fox as far as I was concerned.
So the Tibetan fox is a modification on the basic fox.
It evolved from the banal to the bizarre.
Bizarre enough to be on the BBC.
*The study looked at kit foxes. Kit foxes are closely related to swift foxes. Both are very closely related to the arctic fox.