Archive for December, 2012

what passes for wit

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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 1,100,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 20 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.

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Pavel is fetching

Yep. He’s a fetching big game hunting spitz. He oddly looks nothing like a retriever.


He is being clicker trained to refine the behavior.

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Could the extinct elephants of North China that lived as recently as 3,000 years ago be a relict species of straight-tusked elephant?

Could the extinct elephants of North China that lived as recently as 3,000 years ago have been a relict species of straight-tusked elephant?

Much of China was home to elephants, but the records of elephants in northern China bothered scientists.

The Asian elephant (Elaphas maximus) is a tropical species that does roam up into southwestern provinces of China. It is poorly adapted to  the cooler temperate climate that characterize much of central and northern China.

So was there an unusually cool climate-adapted subspecies of Asian elephant in China?

It turns out that the answer is no.

And the truth is more spectacular than we might have imagined.

A team of researchers in China examined the fossilized teeth of elephants from the Shang and Zhou Dynasties from 4,000 to 3,000 years ago and also examined elephant-shaped bronzes.

Their findings suggest that the elephants of North China were not Asian elephants but a relict species of a genus of elephant that was believe to have gone extinct 10,000 years ago.

The researchers believe that the elephants of North China were a late surviving species of Palaeoloxodon or “straight-tusked elephant.”

Now, one should be a bit skeptical of this research. Tooth morphology can have a tendency towards convergence. If these elephants actually were a subspecies of Asian elephant, it is possible that they might have evolved similar dentition to straight-tusked elephants, and one should be careful about making claims of animal morphology based upon artistic expression. Even photographic evidence can be somewhat dubious, so one needs to be careful about using artwork in this fashion.

That said, if these findings are corroborated with more evidence– say, an examination of a full elephant skeleton from that time period– then it will be one of the most amazing findings in recent years.

It’s only recently become clear that there are actually two species of elephant in Africa, and if these findings are further corroborated with more evidence, then Asia also had two species in historic times.



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Canada lynx and bobcats really don’t belong in the pet trade.

They might be somewhat easy to breed and feed, but their needs are usually too much for the average person. Most of the ones available on the pet market descend from ancestors that were bred for the fur trade.

And the fact that they are wild animals that have a lot of power for their size just makes the inappropriate as pets.

Declawing such animals might make sense in this context, but for a species that is known for producing such a copious undercoat, a Canada lynx needs all the grooming equipment at its disposal.

And never mind that declawing is a very painful procedure.




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Digging up something

Some small animal– my guess is some kind of weasel– got Miley’s attention, so she tried to dig it out.

digging it out

digging it out 2

digging it out 3

digging it out 4



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What do wild turkeys do in the snow?

When the wild turkeys forage for acorns in the snow, they have to dig them up. I’ve tried to get some photos of massive turkey scratches in the leaf litter early this year, but they’ve not shown up well.

But in the snow, they are quite clear:

turkey scratches 1 turkey scratches 2

Wild turkeys are survivors.

Unlike their domestic kin, they aren’t hatched out into warm brooders.

They poults hatch here in the middle of spring, when it can still get quite cold and rainy.

Many poults die of exposure, and all the wild ones you see that are older than a month old have had to survive that gauntlet.

Further, these turkeys fly pretty well. I’ve seen them fly across really broad rivers, and if a dog spooks them, they will fly off  for more distant trees.

During the winter, the turkeys bunch together in really large flocks. If the weather gets too bad, they leave the oak-covered ridgetops for the bottom land along rivers.

The wild ones are very graceful and wary– as different from their domesticated form as an Arabian wolf is from a St. Bernard.

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