Snow makes children of us all

Why teaching music is so important

Cat & tuba

One liners, quickies & ruminations

We made it through another day of the trump presidency!


Tis year of the pig...

Mom's "bacon bits"


"tee hee"

Victorian version of a GIF

Reminds of something seen before....Most likely leucistic animals, on the albino-melanistic spectrum

Dalmation has look-alike horse pal

Penguin wants to science

Penguin Awareness by Bill Bilston

Meanwhile in Canada...

How sleep works

Unconditional love

How did dogs become man's best friend?

Perhaps more intriguing then exactly when or where dogs became domesticated is the question of how. Was it really the result of a solitary hunter befriending an injured wolf? That theory hasn’t enjoyed much scientific support.   
Though the origins of the dog/human partnership remain unknown, it’s increasingly clear that each species has changed during our long years together. The physical differences between a basset hound and wolf are obvious, but dogs have also changed in ways that are more than skin deep.
One recent study shows how by bonding with us and learning to work together with humans, dogs may have actually become worse at working together as a species. Their pack mentality appear to be reduced and is far less prevalent even in wild dogs than in wolves.
Dogs have compensated in other interesting ways. They’ve learned to use humans to solve problems:  
researchers presented dogs and wolves with an impossible problem (e.g., a puzzle box that can't be opened) and ask how these different species react.  Wolves try lots of different trial and error tactics to solve the problem— they get at it physically. But at the first sign of trouble, dogs do something different. They look back to their human companion for help.
Dogs lost some of their physical problem-solving abilities in favor of more social strategies, ones that rely on the unique cooperation domesticated dogs have with humans. Dogs are especially good at using human social cues.

The relationship has become so close that even our brains are in sync. Witness a study showing that dogs hijack the human brain’s maternal bonding system. When humans and dogs gaze lovingly into one another’s eyes, each of their brains secretes oxytocin, a hormone linked to maternal bonding and trust. Other mammal relationships, including those between mom and child, or between mates, feature oxytocin,bonding, but the human/dog example is the only case in which it has been observed at work between two different species.
Because dogs are shaped to pick up on human cues, we can use dogs as a comparison to test what's unique about human social learning. For example, a recent Yale study found that while dogs and children react to the same social cues, dogs were actually better at determining which actions were strictly necessary to solve a problem, like retrieving food from a container, and ignoring extraneous “bad advice.” Human kids tended to mimic all of their elders’ actions, suggesting that their learning had a different goal than their canine companions’.
When a dog looks into your eyes, it’s bonding with you in the same way babies bond with their human moms. No wonder our canine companions often seem like part of the family—dogs have evolved to hijack the same mechanisms in our brains that create the strongest social bonds.  This powerful example of interspecies affection is fueled when dogs and humans gaze into each other's eyes.
Humans also likely went through some sort of evolution that allowed them to bond with another species. The human-dog bond may even be a unique relationship, researchers say. Wolves, the closest relatives to dogs, do not share the same behaviors or brain responses with people—even when those wolves were raised by humans.
In one experiment, 30 dogs of various breeds were left in a room with their owners to interact freely for 30 minutes. The dogs that gazed at their owners longer showed increased oxytocin levels in their urine at the end of that period. Intriguingly, so did their owners. This suggests the existence of a similar oxytocin feedback loop, in which dogs' gazing behavior caused their owners' brains to secrete more oxytocin, which led those owners to interact more with their dogs, which in turn facilitated more oxytocin secretion in the dogs' brains.
The team also tried the same tests with wolves.  Results show that this phenomenon was shared only between humans and dogs. Even wolves that had been raised by humans, just as the dogs had, did not communicate by eye gazing and did not experience an oxytocin feedback loop. This strongly suggests that these behaviors were also absent in dog ancestors and only appeared at some point in their later evolutionary history.
Over the course of domestication, "there was likely strong selection for dogs that could elicit a bond with the owner and become bonded to a human owner. 
At least one immediate benefit for people who live with dogs: Many people think that they have to teach a dog everything and take total control.  But the research shows dogs are able to be friends with humans very naturally
More info about this excerpted from Smithsonian Magazine, this is a continuation of the same article (TLDR) at my "All dogs are descended from wolves" post.

All dogs are descended from wolves.

Gray wolves and dogs diverged from an extinct wolf species some 15,000 to 40,000 years ago.
Long ago, about 40,000 years before your four-legged best friend learned to fetch tennis balls or watch football from the couch, his ancestors were purely wild animals in competition—sometimes violent—with our own. So how did this relationship change? How did dogs go from being our bitter rivals to our snuggly, fluffy pooch pals?
We’ll never know the gritty details of our oldest domestic relationship (dogs), but...learn how both species have changed along canines’ evolutionary journey from wolves to dogs.

But controversies abound concerning where a long-feared animal first became our closest domestic partner. Genetic studies have pinpointed everywhere from southern China to Mongolia to Europe.
Comparing these genomes with wolves and modern dog breeds suggest dogs were domesticated in Asia, at least 14,000 years ago, and their lineages split some 14,000 to 6,400 years ago into East Asian and Western Eurasian dogs. 
But because dog fossils apparently older than these dates have been found in Europe, the authors theorize that wolves may have been domesticated twice, though the European branch didn’t survive to contribute much to today’s dogs.
One theory argues that early humans captured wolf pups, kept them as pets, and gradually domesticated them. This could have happened around the same time as the rise of agriculture, about 10,000 years ago. The oldest fossils generally agreed to be domestic dogs date to about 14,000 years, but several disputed fossils more than twice that age may also be dogs or at least part-wolf.
The physical changes that appeared in dogs over time, including splotchy coats, curly tails, and floppy ears, follow a pattern of a process known as self-domestication. It’s what happens when the friendliest animals of a species somehow gain an advantage. Friendliness somehow drives these physical changes, which can begin to appear as visible byproducts of this selection in only a few generations.

excerpted from Smithsonian Magazine

Do the Oldest and Weakest Wolves Really Lead the Pack?

Photograph taken by Chadden Hunter-featured in BBC's Frozen Planet in 2011, but original description explaining that the “alpha female” led the pack.
A massive pack of 25 timberwolves hunting bison on the Arctic circle in northern Canada. In mid-winter in Wood Buffalo National Park temperatures hover around -40°C. The wolf pack, led by the alpha female, travel single-file through the deep snow to save energy. The size of the pack is a sign of how rich their prey base is during winter when the bison are more restricted by poor feeding and deep snow. The wolf packs in this National Park are the only wolves in the world that specialize in hunting bison ten times their size. They have grown to be the largest and most powerful wolves on earth. While this description is more accurate than the one shared in the viral Facebook post, some researchers would nonetheless dispute the use of the term “alpha.” David Mech’s 1999 paper “Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs” argues that the concept of an “alpha” wolf who asserts his or her dominance over other pack members doesn’t actually exist in the wild:
Labeling a high-ranking wolf alpha emphasizes its rank in a dominance hierarchy. However, in natural wolf packs, the alpha male or female are merely the breeding animals, the parents of the pack, and dominance contests with other wolves are rare, if they exist at all. During my 13 summers observing the Ellesmere Island pack, I saw none.
Thus, calling a wolf an alpha is usually no more appropriate than referring to a human parent or a doe deer as an alpha. Any parent is dominant to its young offspring, so “alpha” adds no information. Why not refer to an alpha female as the female parent, the breeding female, the matriarch, or simply the mother? Such a designation emphasizes not the animal’s dominant status, which is trivial information, but its role as pack progenitor, which is critical information.

This photograph is “real” in the sense that it shows a pack of wolves in Wood Buffalo National Park, but the pack is not being led by the three oldest members and trailed by an “alpha” wolf, as implied by a viral Facebook post. Instead, one of the stronger animals leads the group in order to create a path through the snow for them.
Source: Snopes

“It was a black and white day of frost,

which crawled along the dark trees and outlined twig and branch. The air was misty, and distant objects assumed a mysterious importance. Slight sounds, too, suggested infinite activities to the mind.
A Tribute Of Souls, Robert S. Hichens

The truth, please

We Need to Talk About Your Behavior at the Superbloom (great article)

This year’s poppy superbloom is particularly spectacular, and has drawn visitors from across the region. Unfortunately, what should be a lovely experience, as strangers gather to take a moment from our hectic lives to appreciate the simple natural beauty of flowers, has turned into something really stressful.
Hundreds of human beings are clambering about, crushing delicate plants, ruining not just the experience, but the eco system. If you are incapable of enjoying nature without destroying it, you should probably just stay home. Here is a tip: Stay on the trails.
Antelope Valley Reserve
Not to single out one particular group of people for extra shaming, but…OK, yeah, let’s do that. The parents who bring small children just to pose them for photos, allowing them to pull up poppies by their stems or crush the blossoms are just the actual worst. 
When you plonk your baby down in the middle of a bloom, letting them pick petals from the flowers around them, just so you can snap a cute photo for the family holiday card, you’re not just doing an immediate harm to the superbloom, you’re also instilling in that child the idea that this whole planet exists as a backdrop for the perpetual photoshoot that will be their life, rather than something to be respected and cared for. 
And that is how you get children who grow up to be influencers. Do you really want to be responsible for that? 
But let’s also address the self-styled influencers, with their photo crews and lighting reflectors, and assorted hats and props. You’re grown adults and you should know better than to crouch down in the flowers or go stamping about with the skirt of your Free People sundress flowing behind you in the breeze. Also, it’s obviously too cold (March) for that dress anyway.
If you’re really an influencer, use that power for good. Use it to encourage your audience to celebrate nature in a respectful way that will allow for native plants to continue to grow and flourish. If you post photos where you even appear to be in the flower fields and off the trail (and based on observations at the site, the majority of you are, so don’t blame it all on Photoshop) you’re glamorizing the destruction of nature.
Sticking to the trail and not destroying the poppies isn’t just about obeying arbitrary rules. It’s about ensuring that this isn’t the last time this ever happens. When you pluck, cut, crush, or otherwise mangle a poppy flower, you’re risking that it may never return, cutting off a cycle of blossoming and rebirth that has been going on for years. 
Your content is not worth that. Here is a tip: Stay on the trails. The trails shouldn’t be too hard to find, they’re the dirt paths cut into the ground where there aren’t flowers. Those patches where cretins who have come before you have already smashed down the blossoms in order to create a patch for the perfect hard style are not trails. Just because they did it, doesn’t mean you should make it worse or encourage anybody else to either, so don’t go on those. This also applies to your dog. And your photographer.
Don't Tread on Me
Leave No Trace has recently added a new principle. Do not post pictures of amazing places with the location attached. That just invites more people to go to the same place for their stupid instagram photo op - leading to its destruction. I live on the entrance road to Joshua Tree National Park. You wouldn't believe the number of people coming out here & climbing Joshua trees, then posting. Then we see the same tree in other pics. If you find a beautiful place, stay out/off/away from the delicate flora and soils. Post your pic without any location ID.
article source: Superbloom behavior
FYI: The Joshua Tree reference is b/c: ‘A travesty to this nation’: People were destroying Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park during the government shutdown. Most park employees were not permitted to work until the budget crisis was over. Worse, this shutdown was caused by pres. trump in order to get more funding for his border wall. He capitulated after the longest shutdown in history.
"visitors have been illegally off-roading, cutting down trees and spray painting rocks, among other infractions.  Seeing these trees damaged has been devastating."

Happy St. Patrick's Day + One