Category: Animals

Rats implanted with human kidneys from aborted fetuses lived up to four months after transplant.

Credit: Eugene Gu et al

By Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer

Researchers say they have developed a new technique that will get more kidneys to people who need transplants, but the method is sure to be controversial: The research shows that it is feasible to remove a kidney from an aborted human fetus, and implant the organ into a rat, where the kidney can grow to a larger size.

It’s possible that further work could find a way to grow kidneys large enough that they could be transplanted into a person, the researchers said, although much more research is needed to determine whether this could be done.

“Our long-term goal is to grow human organs in animals, to end the human donor shortage,” said study co-author Eugene Gu, a medical student at Duke University and the founder and CEO of Ganogen, Inc., a biotech company in Redwood City, California. [The 9 Most Interesting Transplants]

Such organs could also be used to test drugs before human trials are started, which would help avoid the risks associated with using untested compounds in people, Gu added.

The new findings will be published tomorrow (Jan. 22) in the American Journal of Transplantation.

But the research raises a number of ethical questions, including whether it is acceptable to use human fetal organs in research, or to transplant human organs into animals. If the research moves forward, it must be determined that the organs were obtained with proper consent, and that the research was conducted with adequate oversight, experts said.

Human-rat transplants

More than 123,000 people in the United States currently need an organ transplant, and about 21 people die each day waiting for one, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Previously, other scientists had attempted to grow immature human kidneys in the abdomens of mice, but the new research “is definitely the first time an actual whole human organ has been grown in an animal, and has sustained the life of that animal,” Gu told Live Science.

In the new study, Gu and his colleagues obtained human fetal kidneys from Stem Express, a Placerville, California-based company that supplies researchers with tissue from deceased adults and fetuses. The people who donated the fetal tissues gave consent for the kidneys to be used in research, and the scientists were completely separated from the donation process, Gu said.

The researchers transplanted the fetal kidneys into adult rats that lacked an immune system (so as to avoid tissue rejection), and connected the animals’ blood vessels to the organs using a challenging procedure that involved tiny stitches, about three to four times smaller than the width of a human hair.

One of the main reasons that previous attempts to transplant fetal organs into animals have failed is due to a difference in the blood pressure between human fetuses and adult animals. In most adult animals, including rats, the average blood pressure is about three times higher than it is in human fetuses. If a fetal organ is transplanted without adjusting the pressure, “the organ basically hemorrhages everywhere,” Gu said.

To get around that problem, Gu’s team developed a device, called an arterial flow regulator, which they fitted around the rats’ blood vessels to decrease the pressure of the blood flowing into the fetal kidneys.

About a month after the researchers transplanted the fetal kidneys into the rats, the scientists surgically removed the animals’ own kidneys. The rats that received the transplanted kidneys survived an average of four months after transplant, and one even survived for 10 months, Gu said. By comparison, a control group of rats that did not receive a transplanted kidney lived for only three to four days after having their kidneys removed, the researchers said.

Kidney growth in a rat host

Kidney growth in a rat host

Credit: Eugene Gu et al

In addition to kidneys, the researchers have also transplanted human fetal hearts into rats, Gu said. The work is still in progress, but the researchers said it may also be possible to use the method with other organs. “This technology is applicable not just to the kidney, but to every kind of [blood-supplied] organ in the body,” Gu said.





© wikipedia
Public perception of wolves has fluctuated enormously over time. In antiquity, wolves were widely beloved.

“Apollo takes pleasure in the wolf,” said historian Aelian in about 200 A.D.

“That is why, at Delphi (in Greece), a bronze wolf statue is set up.”

Over time, the image of the wolf has become somewhat tarnished. In North America, public opinion is split between those who admire wolves and those who despise them. There does not seem to be any middle ground, no compromise.

Historically, negative public opinion has been galvanized by Aesop fables, such as “The boy who cried wolf” and “The wolf and the lamb.” In Grimms’ Fairy Tales, a wolf eats Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother and then tries to ambush Little Red herself.

In “The wolf and seven young kids,” a wolf kills and eats seven young goats, but they are liberated alive from the wolf’s stomach by a resourceful mother goat.

In “The Three Little Pigs,” a wolf kills and eats two pigs, but the third captures the wolf and kills it in boiling water.

Wolf-admirers stress the animal’s good qualities, but there is a dark side to wolf behaviour and it seems to be worsening. Wolves are becoming habituated to humans, losing their natural fear. The result has been an intensifying frequency of wolf attacks on humans.

On Dec. 7, 2016, a wolf aggressively stalked a man at Mount Norquay, Alberta after killing his dog. On Oct. 8, 2016, 26-year-old Andrew Morgan was attacked by a wolf near Canmore, Alberta. On August 29, a young worker was attacked at the Cigar Lake Mine in Saskatchewan.

In June, 2016, officers shot a wolf at Banff National Park because it was harassing park visitors.

Unprovoked wolf attacks on humans are increasing. In 2015, wolves attacked two families on snowmobiles at Labrador City. In 2013, a pack of wolves attacked Michelle Prosser at Merritt, B.C. and William Hollan was attacked by wolves while cycling in the Yukon.

Ontario wolf attacks include: a three-year-old girl attacked in 2010 in Lake Superior Provincial Park, Patricia Wyman killed by wolves in Haliburton in 1996, three men killed by a wolf pack near Thunder Bay in 1922, and two women killed near Perth in 1856, while looking for cattle.

A 2002 study confirms there have been 80 confirmed wolf attacks on people in North America in the past 100 years, including 39 by healthy aggressive wolves, 29 cases of unprovoked predatory attack and 12 instances of attacks by rabid wolves.

Wildlife biologists suggest that outdoor enthusiasts use extreme caution in areas known to be inhabited by wolves, especially in winter when natural food is scarce. Wolves naturally prefer to hunt quarry that are larger than themselves.

Source: Orillia Today



by Christina Sarich, Staff Writer, Waking Times

Humans have long thought themselves to be the smartest animals on the planet, but evidence continues to reveal that even with little shared DNA – animals are catching up, and perhaps even surpassing our own evolutionary intelligence.

Some philosophical perspectives suggest that this anthropomorphic egocentrism is misplaced, since all creatures, not just people have ‘mind,’ which is capable of evolving toward higher levels of consciousness. We share a quarter of our DNA, after all, with a single grain of rice, but there is something even more intelligent in our design, and many believe it permeates everything.

The Buddhists and Taoists regularly call for us to be mindful of all sentient beings, while the suppositions of panpsychism, the view that mind (psyche) is everywhere (pan), reaches back into ancient Greece and the teachings of Miletus and Plato.

Terrence McKenna supposes that the Universal psyche has been given an extra push overtime. He theorizes that animals moved to grasslands as the North African jungles receded after the ice age. These animals grazed on whatever they could find, including psilocybin-containing mushrooms growing in the dung of ungulate herds. McKenna suggests that the psychedelics in the animals’ diets helped to create synesthesia, and then language, followed by additional higher-intelligence skill sets.

McKenna argues that when mushrooms disappeared from their diets another 12, 000 years later due to climate change, animals simply regressed back to less intelligent primates.

Mainstream science says that it is only subtle refinements in our brain’s architecture that allows us to be “smarter” than most other animals. While dogs can’t yet compose music, birds do it every day. Perhaps the expression is not as complex as a violin concerto, but even the most rarefied composer has looked to nature for musical inspiration, if not immaculate intelligence.

No matter what drives our evolution, though, there is clear evidence that it is changing – obviously in people – but perhaps more subtlety in animals from a number of species.

Footage of animals learning to use tools provides evidence of this evolutionary shift happening to all of us on earth, not just the human race, but there are other indications of intelligence as well. We all seem to be awakening together.

If consciousness is truly primordial and all things are just “minds in a world of mind” it would explain some of the fascinating behaviors of animals in recent times.

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have caught New Calendonian crows carrying two items at once using a stick – a feat normally only seen in the human race. First one crow slipped a wooden stick into a metal nut and flew away, and just a few days later another crow conducted a similar behavior, carrying a large wooden ball with a stick.

Octopuses exhibit amazing abilities, including short and long-term memory. They’ve even been known to sneak aboard fishing vessels and pry open crabs caught be fishermen – no tools needed. They are also such great escape artists, they can squeeze through openings no bigger than their eyeballs.

Scientists also have documented monkeys called Serra da Capivara capuchins making stone “tools” that bear a striking resemblance to early human implementations for digging, cutting meat, or opening nuts. The sharp rock “tools” made when the moneys bang one rock on top of another are so similar to ancient tools made by early humans, that archeologists are having to rethink giving credit to previous human civilizations.

Chimps in Bakoun, Guinea recently stunned scientists when they were found using long twigs like fishing poles, dragging the rods in water to scoop up algae that they could then eat. The footage is an affront to the notion that people are the only intelligent creatures with an ability to consciously evolve.

Even bees are exhibiting more complex behaviors. Researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have discovered that bumblebees can learn how to carry out complex instructions, and then pass that knowledge along to other bees in the hive.

Scientists set up an experiment with three artificial flowers containing sugar-water and attached pieces of string to each flower. They were then placed inside a clear, Plexiglas panel with just the strings poking out. Researchers were curious to see if the bees could problem-solve and get the ‘nectar’ from the fake flowers.

Out of a control group of 110 bees, only two figured out how to pull the strings to get to the nectar. They did this with no training. A second group was then ‘trained’ by gradually moving the flowers out of reach gradually. This group did much better. 23 out of 40 learned to pull the strings to get the reward.

Amazingly, when a new group of bees was introduced to the problem, 60 percent were able to pick up the new skill simply by observing the other ‘trained’ bees access the reward…


About the Author
Christina Sarich is a staff writer for Waking Times. She is a writer, musician, yogi, and humanitarian with an expansive repertoire. Her thousands of articles can be found all over the Internet, and her insights also appear in magazines as diverse as Weston A. Price, NexusAtlantis Rising, and the Cuyamungue Institute, among others. She was recently a featured author in the Journal, “Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and Healing Arts,” and her commentary on healing, ascension, and human potential inform a large body of the alternative news lexicon. She has been invited to appear on numerous radio shows, including Health Conspiracy Radio, Dr. Gregory Smith’s Show, and dozens more. The second edition of her book, Pharma Sutra, will be released soon.
This article (Major Shifts in Consciousness Being Observed Throughout the Animal Kingdom) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Christina Sarich and It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement. Please contact for more info.



Resultado de imagem para ant brings home flowers

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The ant colony has often served as a metaphor for human order and hierarchy. But real ant society is radical to its core

Deborah M Gordon is a professor of biology at Stanford University. She has written about her research for publications such as Scientific American and Wired. Her latest book is Ant Encounters: Interaction Networks and Colony Behavior (2010).

It’s easy to find familiar examples of division of labour. In a corporation, some people work in sales and others in accounting; in an orchestra, some play the bassoon and others the violin. Since no one is born an accountant or a bassoonist, in a system with division of labour, differentiated skills must be acquired. ‘Division of labour’ evokes an organisation characterised by a fit between role – what each participant does – and its natural ability.

Historically, many have found the idea of division of labour a compelling and powerful model. Plato admired it, Adam Smith explained how economies benefit from it, and Henry Ford industrialised it. But it’s not natural. A vision of human society ordered and improved by division of labour has permeated and distorted our understanding of nature. In high-school biology, for example, people are taught that a body consists of cells specialised to perform certain functions. Skin cells stick together and seal wounds, while blood cells hurtle along picking up and handing off oxygen. But different kinds of cells originate from a few identical ones, and some cells, such as stem cells, can change type. Textbooks tell us that these are merely transitory stages along the way to the ideal condition in which each cell does its particular job.

Ant colonies seem the perfect natural instance of a social system governed by division of labour. All known species of ants – now about 14,000 – live in colonies. An ant colony consists of one or more reproductive females, called ‘queens’, who lay the eggs. All the rest of the ants, the ones you see walking around, are sterile female ‘workers’, daughters of the queen and the males with whom she mated.

In the 1970s, the biologist E O Wilson set the agenda for research on ants by extolling the virtues of division of labour. He freely used metaphors from human society to describe a colony as a ‘factory within a fortress’. In this metaphor, each ant is programmed to carry out its appointed task. Some ants feed the larvae; while others go out to get food. Using a term that refers to ascribed social positions in Hindu society, Wilson called an ant’s task its ‘caste’. The idea was that an ant’s task is fixed. The implication was that the workers in an ant colony, all sisters or half-sisters, are divided into naturally fixed groups, and genetically programmed to perform a particular task. This perspective is depicted in the movie Antz(1998): a harried bureaucrat stamps each larva as a soldier or forager. Thus each ant’s role is unalterable destiny, much like the handsome and intelligent Alphas and the semi-moronic Epsilons of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1931).

We know now that ants do not perform as specialised factory workers. Instead ants switch tasks. An ant’s role changes as it grows older and as changing conditions shift the colony’s needs. An ant that feeds the larvae one week might go out to get food the next. Yet in an ant colony, no one is in charge or tells another what to do. So what determines which ant does which task, and when ants switch roles?

The colony is not a monarchy. The queen merely lays the eggs. Like many natural systems without central control, ant societies are in fact organised not by division of labour but by a distributed process, in which an ant’s social role is a response to interactions with other ants. In brief encounters, ants use their antennae to smell one another, or to detect a chemical that another ant has recently deposited. Taken in the aggregate, these simple interactions between ants allow colonies to adjust the numbers performing each task and to respond to the changing world. This social coordination occurs without any individual ant making any assessment of what needs to be done.

For millennia, ants have been held up as models for human societies, characterised by coordinated and efficient mutual regard and selfless hard work. In The Iliad, Zeus changes the ants of Thessaly to soldiers after a plague wiped out the men, creating the Myrmidons, who beat back the Trojans. Aesop’s fable of the ant and the grasshopper celebrates the ant’s capacity for delayed gratification, collecting food to be used later. Unlike the frivolous and short-sighted grasshopper, the virtuous ants contribute to their society. Aesop’s ant lugging a seed home is bringing food for the colony. Similarly, the Myrmidon’s willingness to sacrifice, in their case their lives, makes them heroic soldiers in Achilles’ army…




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Photo edited by Web Investigator. Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic

Animal consciousness is taboo in many areas of biological science. What’s so hard about the inner lives of other species?

by Antone Martinho is a researcher in the department of zoology at the University of Oxford. His current work is focused on how birds learn concepts and process information. 

I have recently decided to bring two small parrots into my home. They are celestial parrotlets, originally from Ecuador and Peru, and one of the smallest parrot species that can cohabit with humans. I call them Dandolo and Madeleine. They fit well into my apartment life in Oxford, despite the burgeoning beak-scars on my fingers, and they fill my weekends with rainforest twittering.

They are the first birds I have kept as pets – which is surprising, because my professional life is entirely concerned with birds. I am interested in how they learn, what they learn, and the behaviours that made them such a successful group of organisms. Birds are directly descended from dinosaurs, and have diversified into more than 10,000 species, far more than mammals, amphibians or reptiles. In the past, I have worked with crows and pigeons, and am currently focused on ducks.

Recently I’ve been investigating whether ducks can learn the concepts of ‘same’ and ‘different’. First, my colleagues and I trained ducklings to recognise, for example, two red spheres, via imprinting. This is the process by which young birds can learn to identify and follow a moving object, normally their mother. The shapes were attached to rotating booms, and the ducklings followed them around like a mother duck. Then we gave them a choice between two more pairs of shapes: two red pyramids, and a red cube and a red rectangular prism.

To everyone’s surprise, the ducklings could spot the difference. Both sets of shapes were new to them, but the identical pair had a familiar ‘sameness’, and so the ducklings were drawn to it. They showed an equivalent preference for matching colours – when they were primed on two green spheres, for example, they picked a blue pair over a mixed violet and orange pair – and for difference itself, preferring mismatched shapes or colours when they had imprinted on a non-identical pair. Previously, only members of the big-brain club of clever animals had been shown to be able to grasp such abstract ideas: parrots, chimps, other primates, and crows. (Though, with extensive training, pigeons can do it too. A funny pattern in animal behaviour seems to be that whatever difficult task you devise will eventually be done by pigeons, trained through thousands of trials.)

But ducklings, it turns out, are the emperors of all clickbait. ‘Ducklings are capable of abstract thought,’ screamed the internet. Now, to the extent that ‘thought’ means ‘brain activity’, or ‘the identification of abstract representations’, that’s not necessarily wrong. But the intuitive reaction suggested that, for any creature to be able solve such a problem, it must consciously infer the relationship between each pair and compare them; it must possess a version of a tiny homunculus (or, perhaps, anatunculus) in its cute little head, furrowing its brow in consideration of which pair is the ‘same’ and which is ‘different’.

Even for seasoned scientists, it’s hard not to assume that animals are thinking. There was one clever duckling in the experiment that noticed the rotating booms above the testing chamber that controlled the stimuli he was meant to be watching, and spent the rest of the trial intently staring at the mechanism, looking contemplative. We named him Plato.

But the other ducks in the experiment didn’t have names, and with good reason. We referred to them using numbers and symbols. With some exceptions, this is a standard practice. It helps researchers maintain an intellectual distance and avoid anthropomorphism, which is a cardinal sin in the study of animal behaviour. However, long-lived species used in repeated, cumulative behavioural experiments tend to be privileged with names: take Nim Chimpsky, the chimpanzee at the centre of a controversial, decades-long experiment in language acquisition, or the New Caledonian crows in a colony in Bavaria that I worked with a couple of years ago. In these instances, it is easier for a human researcher to keep mental track of animals’ histories when they are given names such as Jungle and Mango rather than S602 and D14.

The question of naming gets at the root of my confusion about my parrotlets. At home, feeding and training Dandolo and Madeleine, they are little people. They call to each other when I have one out of the cage for training because they miss each other; they chatter at me while I work because they are envious of my attention; they look at me with curiosity; they bite me because they are annoyed. In short, at home with my pets, I do what we all do: I anthropomorphise them to understand them. Were I not an animal behaviour researcher, I would hardly notice; but because I am, I constantly ask myself: why do I treat my pets like thinking, conscious companions, and the ducklings in my lab like feathered robots? The reluctance of my field to engage seriously with animal consciousness is, I believe, holding back our efforts to truly understand their behaviour…





In the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the government is trying to develop tourism. But the lives of rangers who patrol areas popular for rare gorillas are on the line.

By Thomas Nicolon

Park Ranger Jean Pierre stands guard in a remote area of Kahuzi-Biega National Park. Rangers are paid a meager salary, though typical of regional wages, for their dangerous work. (Photo: Thomas Nicolon for Mongabay)

I came out of my room and a park ranger was standing just outside the door with an AK-47 in his hands.

“You don’t have to worry, Monsieur, the base is totally secured,” he said.

I actually wasn’t worried at all: I just wanted to have a nice cold beer before going to bed.

Park Ranger Janvier (who didn’t give his last name) and I started taking a walk around the base, toward the only spot where there was decent phone reception. I asked him what he was defending me — and the base — against. Was it Mai-Mai rebels? Poachers? Bandits?

“There are almost no more rebels in the area, sir,” he said. “Don’t worry, you’re safe here. We just need to be ready: the enemy can strike any time.”

It’s hard to get a grasp on what exactly threatens the park, the rangers, and the villagers, since the park’s communication policy is to talk as little as possible and avoid sensitive topics such as insecurity.

No need to scare tourists — and money — away.

But the truth is that security is still an issue in South Kivu, where Kahuzi-Biega National Park is located. The eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been a hotbed of violence over the past 20 years, and the park’s 2,316 square miles of thick jungle are complicated to secure.

The area is still recovering from two wars, thousands of refugees, countless rebel groups, and decades of violence.

During a week in Kahuzi-Biega to photograph the rare Grauer’s Gorilla, I was escorted by half a dozen armed guards every single day. The park is home to the last stronghold of Grauer’s Gorillas in the world, a subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla, which was recently listed as critically endangered.

Park rangers repeatedly told me when they took me out on patrols to look for gorillas that they were “only taking precautions” and that it was all “safe.” Such a statement is hard to believe when five to eight rangers at a time escorted me daily. I even remember a day when 12 rangers took me on patrol to the park’s waterfalls, where few tourists ever go. Each of the 12 park rangers was armed with an AK-47.

Yet the day after I left the park, one of the many daily patrols got caught in an ambush. Park ranger Munganga Nzonga Jacques was shot dead. Jacques was one of Kahuzi-Biega’s 250 rangers who crisscross the park every day in order to protect the gorillas, 24 hours a day, for a salary of just $60 — $145 a month.

The attack that took Jacques’ life was the third in six months — two of which were fatal. Upon returning to the park a few weeks later, no one would talk to me about the incident.

Private Opinions

Kahuzi-Biega’s rangers are a unique group. On a daily basis, many are so poor that they don’t have resources to carry water with them on their hours-long patrols over difficult terrain. They say little — about their work, their lives, or their opinion of the Grauer Gorillas.

Yet when off duty, they sometimes speak their mind.

I asked one ranger how many times he has seen the gorillas.

“I’ve never seen them,” he replied flatly….




Resultado de imagem para Fancy bird; a Voorburg-Cropper Pigeon. Photo by Richard Bailey

Fancy bird; a Voorburg-Cropper Pigeon. Photo by Richard Bailey

How and why did humans domesticate animals – and what might this tell us about the future of our own species?

Jacob Mikanowskiwrites about science, history and art, and his work has appeared in Prospect, The Awl and The Los Angeles Review of Books, among others. He lives in Berkeley, California.

Should humans continue to create species via new techniques – and technologies – of domestication?

One day in London in 1855, during an unusually cold winter, Charles Darwin went for a walk. As he strolled along the banks of the ice-bound Thames, he noticed some pigeons foraging for food. He began to wonder about their relationship to so-called ‘fancy pigeons’, the more exotic varieties favoured by fanciers and breeders. Was there an ancestor common to the nondescript blue-grey creatures on the riverbank, and those featured on the front page of Darwin’s newspaper that day, all puffed-up chests and improbable neck-ruffs?

Darwin was a pigeon-fancier himself and raised birds at his home in Kent. Observing these creatures closely, he became convinced that the various pigeon breeds descended from a single ancestor: the rock dove, or Columba livia. His fancy pigeons all interbred freely, and it seemed unlikely that a different species corresponded to each particular characteristic, none of which lived on in the wild. If man could breed a multiplicity of forms from a single thing, Darwin thought, perhaps nature could too. Domestication, for Darwin, was a laboratory for the study of evolution.

But what, exactly, is domestication? Darwin noticed that, when it came to mammals, virtually all domesticated species shared a bundle of characteristics that their wild ancestors lacked. These included traits you might expect, such as tameness and increased sociability, but also a number of more surprising ones, such as smaller teeth, floppy ears, variable colour, shortened faces and limbs, curly tails, smaller brains, and extended juvenile behaviour. Darwin thought these features might have something to do with the hybridisation of different breeds or the better diet and gentler ‘conditions of living’ for tame animals – but he couldn’t explain how these processes would produce such a broad spectrum of attributes across so many different species.

We’re still puzzling over the hows and whys of domestication. Advances in animal genetics, both ancient and modern, coupled with new techniques in archaeology, have illuminated at least some of the mechanisms behind this previously hidden transition. It’s deeply bound up with the origins of the so-called ‘Neolithic revolution’, when humans first turned to farming around 12,000 years ago. But the history of the human relationship to animals and agriculture is now being rewritten. Domestication, it appears, wasn’t a one-way street: new research suggests that species moved from wild to tame multiple times over their history, and that human agency played a far smaller role than previously believed. It’s also becoming clearer that, in the millennia we’ve spent changing animal genetics, they’ve been changing us in turn.

Melinda Zeder, an archaeologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, has identified three main routes to domestication. The ‘directed’ pathway is the most straightforward. It happens when humans deliberately set out to amplify some desired trait in a species, for example, breeding donkeys to be good for transport, or minks to have luxuriant fur – or, for that matter, fancy pigeons to look fancy. (Darwin marvelled at the ‘astonishing’ diversity of fancy pigeons in On the Origin of Species, from the hooded Jacobin to the immensely heavy Runt, the short-faced Tumbler to the magnificently berumped Fantail. ‘I have kept every breed which I could purchase or obtain, and have been most kindly favoured with skins from several quarters of the world,’ he wrote in 1859, adding that ‘not one man in a thousand has accuracy of eye and judgment sufficient to become an eminent breeder.’)…



thepolarbear_jennidesmond6A largehearted celebration of the science behind the life and times of the Arctic’s furry monarch.

“In wildness is the preservation of the world,” Thoreau wrote 150 years ago in his ode to the spirit of sauntering. But in a world increasingly unwild, where we are in touch with nature only occasionally and only in fragments, how are we to nurture the preservation of our Pale Blue Dot?

That’s what London-based illustrator and Sendak Fellow Jenni Desmond explores in The Polar Bear(public library) — the follow-up to Desmond’s serenade to the science and life of Earth’s largest-hearted creature, The Blue Whale, which was among the best science books of 2015.





The story follows a little girl who, in a delightful meta-touch, pulls this very book off the bookshelf and begins learning about the strange and wonderful world of the polar bear, its life, and the science behind it — its love of solitude, the black skin that hides beneath its yellowish-white fur, the built-in sunglasses protecting its eyes from the harsh Arctic light, why it evolved to have an unusually long neck and slightly inward paws, how it maintains the same temperature as us despite living in such extreme cold, why it doesn’t hibernate.




As in Desmond’s previous book, the protagonist moves through the story wearing a crown reminiscent of Max’s in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are — whether conscious or not, a delightfully apt allusion.

Beyond its sheer loveliness, the book is suddenly imbued with a new layer of urgency as we witness the nightmarish absurdity of a new president who is vowing to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency “in almost every form,” beginning by appointing a science-denier as its chief administrator — an agency built on the wings of Rachel Carson’s tireless advocacy, nurtured for generations, and responsible for whatever environmental consciousness America does have. At a time when we can no longer count on politicians to protect the planet and educate the next generations about preserving it, the task falls on solely on parents and educators. Desmond’s wonderful project alleviates that task by offering a warm, empathic invitation to care about, which is the gateway to caring for, one of the creatures most vulnerable to our changing climate and most needful of our protection…




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A mother coyote on the sidewalk of the 1300 block of Larrabee Street, 3 June 2011, in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Getty

Coyotes, dingoes and wolves are all dogs, as intelligent and loyal as our familiars. Our treatment of them is unconscionable

Brandon Keimis a science, nature and technology writer whose work has appeared in The Atlantic,WIRED, National Geographic News,Scientific American Mind and theGuardian, among others. He divides his time between Bangor, Maine and Washington DC.

Drinking her coffee one sunny winter morning, Pamela Karaz looked out the window of her home in upstate New York and saw a coyote walking up the driveway. It was an uncommon sight – coyotes tend to be secretive – but what happened next was even more surprising. The coyote marked a tree with his scent, strolled across her yard, sniffed at a few tracks and then noticed a bright blue plush toy Karaz had bought a few days earlier for Bristol, her golden retriever.

Bristol had left the toy outside, as was her habit. Now the coyote sniffed it, picked it up in his mouth, dropped it, picked it up again. Then the coyote started to have fun. ‘He tossed it up in the air. It fell down. He picked it up again and bucked around,’ Karaz said. ‘At no point do I ever think he thought it was prey. He wasn’t trying to tear it apart. He was literally playing with it, like a dog.’ This went on for about 10 minutes before the coyote trotted away with the toy still in his mouth.

Karaz is a wildlife photographer, and the photos she took had a moment of internet fame. They resonated: a fierce wild animal, behaving like a pet! Or, as Karaz noted, like a dog. Which of course coyotes are, albeit dogs who embody the very complicated relationship of humanity to canines.

Some dogs exist inside the circle of human domesticity: beloved companions and friends, respected and often pampered. They sleep in our homes, sometimes in our beds. We buy them plush toys. Other dogs live outside, free and independent. They possess the essential cognitive and emotional faculties as our dogs; domestication has introduced refinements, but the raw material was already there. They have personalities, memories, love their pups, and are devoted to their packs. Every so often, they play with toys we don’t bring inside.

They’re also treated arbitrarily: sometimes respected, sometimes ignored, and frequently persecuted with extreme prejudice if not outright cruelty. It’s a dissonant state of affairs, and one that sometimes makes me wonder about the future of wild dogs. Not about whether they’ll survive through this century and beyond, but what sort of lives they’ll lead. Whether they’ll thrive or live on our margins, fearful and broken, a perpetually abused canine underclass.

Karaz, who considers her dogs to be family, is a coyote advocate. To her, they’re just wild dogs trying to survive. But if she’d wanted to kill that coyote and had a hunting licence, she could have. For $22, or $100 for out-of-state residents, people can kill as many coyotes as they want for six months a year in nearly all of New York state – which, compared with most parts of the United States, is quite restrictive. In many states, coyotes can be killed year-round, day or night, in just about any way: poisoned, lured into range with electronic calls that mimic their voices, chased from planes, shot with semi-automatic assault weapons or sniper rifles. They live in killing fields. 

Coyote-killing is different from hunting deer, elk or so-called game birds, traditions that are steeped in an ethos of stewardship, provision and even fairness. It’s killing for fun. YouTube abounds with videos that revel in the death of a coyote; in many parts of the western US, so-called coyote derbies are common, documented in photographs of stacked bodies – the kinds of photos we associate with the rapaciousness of the 19th-century frontier…






What we can learn about evolution from species who thrive without sexual reproduction.

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