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Crying Wolf (Life Sciences)
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Mick Harper
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We argued in Megalithic Empire that the weasel is a domesticated stoat gone feral. We use the 'world record clause' to help identify forgeries and domesticates are, in a sense, forged versions of wild animals, so it was gratifying to hear that weasels hold two world records: they are the smallest carnivores in the world and they have the most powerful bite, pound for pound, in the world. Of course, strictly, these aren't wholly different world records because small size presumably requires big bite but, on the other hand, this is not the usual pattern since small size would normally just mean small prey.

Which leads on to the next question: why don't stoats prey on weasels? The recent doc on the two animals Weasels: Feisty and Fearless (Natural World BBC2) showed the two species living in close proximity and since they seem to lead the same general lifestyle why on earth are the stoats putting up with the weasels? Why, for that matter, aren't adult weasels preying on baby stoats? It's all very reminiscent of siblings in the nursery. Somehow they have developed a built-in tolerance for one another.
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Mick Harper
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A correspondent tells me that in fact stoats do predate on weasels, even systematically, but don't seem to make a big thing about it. Nor do weasels, it seems, have much difficulty in keeping out of the way. Oddly it can be the stoats that relocate. It's all very well being bigger mano a mano but not if the other team are breeding like rabbits, which weasels do. Stoats only once a year. On the other hand it is stoats that have delayed implantation which (I seem to remember) is the domesticate marker. Although I also seem to remember that delayed implantation is something that can be exploited by human domesticators. Anyone remember anything about this?

Still, it can all be read as perfectly natural. Boo-hoo.
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Hatty
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Vast animal herds, at least of bison, not only don't overgraze but encourage spring growth.

bison (or buffalo) don’t follow the waves of new shoots that burst from the ground every spring. This phenomenon, known as surfing the green wave, allows animals to eat plants at their most nutritious, when they’re full of nitrogen and proteins and low in indigestible matter. Such freshness is fleeting, and so grazers undertake large migrations to track the new greenery as it crests across the landscape. Over the past decade, scientists have shown that mule deer, barnacle geese, elk, elephants, Mongolian gazelles, and a dozen other species all do this.


But 'non-surfing' seems to be unique to bison herds and the reasons, according to The Atlantic, are migration + animal numbers.

the team learned that bison graze so intensely that they freeze plants in early spring for weeks at a time, preventing them from maturing and forcing them to continuously produce young shoots. Other North American mammals like mule deer can’t do this, because they travel in small-enough groups that plants can still outgrow the effects of their grazing. Bison, however, gather in the thousands. By moving in synchrony, they don’t have to surf the green wave. Uniquely, they can also create it.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/11/how-bison-create-spring/602176/

The piece is based on observations from Yellowstone where the bison herds are free-ranging if not migratory in the traditional sense. The article brings to mind the question of grass cultivation outlined in TME. If bison were continually being moved on, presumably to prevent overgrazing, their seemingly natural non-surfing is learned behaviour.
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Mick Harper
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By the usual concatenation, this was featured in Countryfile this week. It's called 'mob grazing' and is going to revolutionise animal husbandry (sigh, why don't they ever listen to us). Basically you get a herd of cattle penned into an artificially small paddock (by temporary electrified fencing) and they eat the grass but, crucially, trample what they don't eat back into the soil because there are so many of them in such a restricted space. This trampling effect assists with regrowth and all the other things that normally you would need fertilisers and fallow to engender. The cattle are perfectly happy and, job done and well fed, they are moved on to the next small paddock.

Traditionally, of course, farmers are horrified by their lovely sylvan swards being trampled into something out of the First World War and prefer their cattle to munch the grass down to a uniform lawn fit to play shove h'appeny on (or whatever country people do in their spare time) before moving them on to another (large) field. Which in turn will be unprofitably left as short sward and requiring top dressing before the cattle can return the following year. As opposed to swarming with sheep and then goats and then pigs, as the Megalithic method was.

As we pointed out (...er... in so many words) the Megalithic reindeer (or as maybe, bison) herders went in for mob grazing on a much larger scale. That's why bison could be shot in their millions because they insisted on being packed together as the Megalithics had bred them to do. [Hatty, we'd better expand on this for the second edition ... er, I mean the fifteenth reprint.]
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Hatty
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Attenborough's survey of Earth's wildlife was about Europe this week. There was a sequence showing cormorants fishing in the Danube estuary being attacked and robbed of their catch by pelicans. If feeding areas ('Venus pools' as we call them) were constructed for cormorants, the birds could be vulnerable to attack from other seabirds unless the pools were protected. That might be why Venus pools are not large and not easy to find, a far cry from a wide river estuary.

Also featured were two of Europe's most elusive predators, grey wolf and lynx, which to the crews' surprise were quite at home in built up areas. And that was it. Noted but nothing further to add.
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Mick Harper
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If feeding areas ('Venus pools' as we call them) were constructed for cormorants, the birds could be vulnerable to attack from other seabirds unless the pools were protected. That might be why Venus pools are not large and not easy to find, a far cry from a wide river estuary.

Half right, surely. They must be easy to find to serve their function, or at any rate sufficiently visible that all birds will find them eventually. And nobody turns their nose up to a free lunch unless...

Venus pools are so designed that only cormorants can use them. To a bird, a stretch of water must be a) landable upon and b) take-offable from. That rules out quite a few sea birds and quite a few water fowl. And cormorants. But cormorants aren't bothered because they can land on and climb out onto the apron round the Venus Pool. (They've all got them.) As might other birds unless... well, I don't know enough about birds to work it out but presumably the Megalithics did. And one of you should. It will be all to do with flight paths around the Venus Pool, I should think. (They are all surrounded by rocks.) What aircraft designers call STOL, short take-off and landing.
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Hatty
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Evolutionary biologists are trying to decide if the body of a puppy, found in Siberia and radiocarbon dated to 18,000 years old, should be called a dog or a wolf

A perfectly preserved body found in the ice of the Siberian permafrost could be the oldest ever confirmed dog. The 18,000-year-old pup nicknamed Dogor – a pun on ‘dog or wolf’ – was found in the summer of 2018 and has been studied since then by Love Dalén and Dave Stanton, 34. They have been trying to work out if it is a wolf or a dog because it comes from the point in history where dogs were domesticated.

Who knew it would be so difficult to tell the two apart?

‘We cannot separate it from a modern wolf, Pleistocene [Ice Age] wolf or dog. One reason why it might be difficult to say is because this one is right there at the divergence time.

‘So it could be a very early modern wolf or very early dog or a late Pleistocene wolf.

‘If it turns out to be a dog I would say it is the earliest confirmed dog.’


https://metro.co.uk/2019/11/27/ice-age-puppy-found-18000-years-buried-permafrost-11224528/
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Hatty
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What has emerged so far from findings in the Siberian permafrost is that dogs are coeval with the earliest modern humans i.e. dogs predate wolves.

Human domestication of dogs predates the beginning of agriculture about 10,000 years ago, but when modern dogs emerged as a species distinct from wolves is still unclear. Although some previous studies have suggested that this separation of domestic dogs and wolves occurred over 100,000 years ago, the oldest known fossils of modern dogs are only about 36,000 years old

Scientists analysing a 'Siberian fossil tooth' state this quite baldly

The new research published today evaluates the relationship of a 33,000 year old Siberian fossil to modern dogs and wolves based on DNA sequence. The researchers found that this fossil, named the 'Altai dog' after the mountains where it was recovered, is more closely related to modern dogs and prehistoric canids found on the American continents than it is to wolves.

and admit they've been looking in the wrong place for early origins

They add, ""These results suggest a more ancient history of the dog outside the Middle East or East Asia, previously thought to be the centers where dogs originated."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130306221139.htm

It surely won't be long before wolves are dogs-gone-feral evolves into scientific fact without anyone noticing?
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Mick Harper
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Yes, and just as Out-of-Africa has been quietly spatchcocked in to 'additionalise' the previous paradigm of everything coming out of the Middle East, so 'the Altai' will be added to orthodoxy's list of places-things-came-from. As I pointed out in THOBR, according to palaeoanthropologists people always come from places they would not dream of going to.

They'll get round to out-of-America eventually. Although my grandchildren won't be around when they do. Even though I have done my best to lengthen the process by not yet getting to the children part which, I am told, is a necessary first step. I am open to offers. From seedbank operators I mean, I won't have any truck with organic methods. It seems disgusting, I was watching a documentary about it the other day on Dutch XXX.
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Mick Harper
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My brother stayed last night -- honestly, they treat the place like a free hotel, my sister was here in March -- and in a lull in the conversation I said, "I must tell you about mob grazing." "No," he replied, "I must send you a paper I've written on the subject."

If only they'd listened when I said he should be put up for adoption.
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