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Crying Wolf (Life Sciences)
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Mick Harper
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As usual it all depends on where you're coming from. If you've only got placental mammals to go on, you just call them mammals in your classification system. If you suddenly chance upon Australia (mostly) you suddenly find placentas are only a feature of some mammals. But they're the important mammals because they're the ones you started with so you call them placental mammals but really you mean mammals (wink).

All the marsupial mammals get cast into the outer darkness and have to be given all their own evolutionary lines. Which means way, way back. The fact that they keep throwing up identikit animals just goes to prove ... um ... convergent evolution. We were going there anyway. It's all part of some great design ... no, woah! back a step. It's completely random but some things are less random than others. I'm not disputing it might all be true but just occasionally I wish the dumbells would not treat it all as self-evidently obvious.

"I can assure you we don't. I'm a biologist, I should know."
"Oh, yes you do. I'm an Applied Epistemologist, I should know."

They could start by observing it's overwhelmingly likely that one evolved from the other but they always hate that ('Dead ancestor syndrome', remember?) "No-o-o, both branches are descended from a common ancestral form that we haven't found yet. [And let's keep it that way, shall we?]"
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Hatty
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In: Berkshire
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Chad wrote:
South American foxes are not true foxes at all. They form a separate group of canids that are more closely related to wolves than foxes... another example of parallel evolution.

(Sorry got that wrong... its actually 'convergent evolution'.)

The Andean fox (wolf) is categorised as Lycalopex, of which Lycalopex culpaeus is the largest member though a bit of a mongrel

Despite their name, they are not true foxes, but are a unique canid genus related to wolves and jackals; some of them somewhat resemble foxes

Jackals are related to culpeos too?

In 1782 culpeos were classified as Pseudalopex culpaeus, 'related to wolves' (or false wolves?)

According to Molina (1782 cited in Osgood 1943: 64) the name culpeo derives from the Mapuche word ‘culpem’ that means ‘madness’, because individuals expose themselves to hunters that easily kill them

That behaviour is suggestive of a domesticated, semi-domesticated or domesticated-gone-feral animal, isn't it?
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Chad


In: Ramsbottom
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The taxonomy of canids is a bit of a sorry mess. Frequent reclassifications need to be made, to account for new data from genomic research, and the family tree is repeatedly redrawn.

But the tree only ever shows a pattern of divergence... never ever any element of convergence. Yet we know this happens via hybridisation, for instance the red wolf (70% grey wolf / 30% Wiley).

If the red wolf actually makes it onto the tree, it’s only ever as a subspecies of the gray wolf, with the poor old coyote never given parental acknowledgement.
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Hatty
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So culpeo could be more helpfully known as a red wolf, even if its reddishness makes it appear fox-like? Online images show quite a variation in pelt colour and officially the culpeo is 'related to' the smaller chilla, also officially a fox

The culpeo (Pseudalopex culpaeus) and the South American grey fox or chilla (Pseudalopex griseus) are closely related canids
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Chad


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So culpeo could be more helpfully known as a red wolf

No, on the contrary, the red wolf is another thing altogether (a North American canid) but I don’t believe the canids of South America are as unrelated to those of North America as taxonomists would have us believe.

The problem is, taxonomy is an old academic discipline which is constantly being embarrassed by this newcomer, genomics, and the newcomer is nervous about upsetting the apple cart.
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Mick Harper
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I deal with this in THOBR. Talking of which, genomics would upset the linguistic apple cart if only the population gene people wouldn't take the linguists' word for where everybody was and how related their languages are when adopting their baselines.

Much the same has happened with evolutionary biology. After Mendel had technically turned Darwinism into 'a science', there was a great opportunity to go the whole hog, ditch morphology, go over to genetics to provide the taxonomy, and let the chips lie where they may. But either indolence or something more serious got in the way.
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Mick Harper
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nervous about upsetting the apple cart

It's worth pointing out that science, academic subjects generally, are supposed to be all about upsetting apple carts but you don't have to spend long in their company to understand you get banned if you try.

This is all part of my science=bad/technology=good theme because science has become part of the academic guild system where innovation is always seen as a threat, whereas technology operates in the market place where innovation sweeps all before it whether you like it or not. The real tragedy is how quickly all these teenagers, excited by the dazzling promise of intellectual enlightenment, get it pounded out of them by the education system, first at school then at university and finally by peer review.
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Chad


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Mick Harper wrote:
I deal with this in THOBR.

Indeed you do... Without my having read THOBR I doubt the situation would have been so obvious to me in this instance. In fact I probably would not have thought about it at all.

The way I worded the post was meant as a homage that AEL members would pick up on (and I’m sure those that read it, did pick up on it). THOBR has had a more profound effect on my thought process than any other book I’ve read. (Mind you I’ve only read about seven.)

Just shows... you can teach an old dog new tricks.
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Mick Harper
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Your kind words are important to me in this area because I only get vulgar abuse whenever I stray into evolutionary biology. Even from Life Scientists who are otherwise quite relaxed about holy cows. It hardly needs saying that non-Life Scientists know better than to comment on anything in this notorious minefield. Except they know just enough to call me a Creationist.

I await the day when I am accused of being a Lamarckian which I get more and more convinced is the way to go. It is after all what domesticators do de facto. Are we really that much better than God?
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Mick Harper
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They are edging closer and closer to the where and the when of the Megalithic Empire though not the how and the why. Which to be fair, neither did the Megalithic Empire.

https://cosmosmagazine.com/nature/evolution/new-clues-to-the-origin-of-domestic-horses/
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Boreades


In: finity and beyond
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Hatty wrote:
That behaviour is suggestive of a domesticated, semi-domesticated or domesticated-gone-feral animal, isn't it?


Anecdotal evidence from Chateau Boreades.

We've been host to a racing pigeon for the last four weeks or so. It arrived one dark wet and stormy night, while the rain was persisting down. Obviously any port in a storm, but the wee thing has decided to stay. We know it's a racing pigeon because of the numbered rings on its legs, which tell us the Registered Keeper is in Cardiff.

However, we're not minded to phone the person in Cardiff and tell him where his lost bird is, and would he like to collect it? Because we know what happens to racing pigeons that get home weeks after they should have done - thereby proving they are of no value at all to a racing pigeon breeder that wants event-winning prize birds - except perhaps as cat food.

Yer normal feral pigeons won't come near us. But this little birdy practically sits in your lap, can be hand fed, and has no fear at all of our dog. Not a good survival trait?

M'Lady is now suggesting I build a Dove Cote especially for this one retired racing pigeon, and maybe any neighbouring doves as well. I've no idea if they would be multi-racially tolerant?
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Hatty
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Going back to a nagging question about cormorants being 'sea-crows' because they were reportedly known as corvus marinus in Latin, I came across a Wiki article about corvus marinus being a boarding bridge (corvus) used by Roman 'naval infantry' (marinus)

The corvus (meaning "crow" or "raven" in Latin) was a Roman naval boarding device used in sea battles against Carthage during the First Punic War.

Or at least they started using the corvus marinus and then abandoned it. That's odd enough that it has to be explained (the Roman navies gained enough expertise to dispense with the practice) but the source, Polybius, is even fishier

In Chapters 1.22-4-11 of his History, Polybius describes this device as a bridge 1.2 m (4 ft) wide and 10.9 m (36 ft) long, with a small parapet on both sides. The engine was probably used in the prow of the ship, where a pole and a system of pulleys allowed the bridge to be raised and lowered. There was a heavy spike shaped like a bird's beak on the underside of the device, which was designed to pierce and anchor into an enemy ship's deck when the boarding bridge was lowered. This allowed a firm grip between the vessels and a route for the Roman legionaries (who serve as specialized naval infantry called marinus) to cross onto and capture the enemy ship.

Polybius' 'History' was a 40 volume affair though "the work itself is lost" and the oldest copies of the first five, yet somehow 'entirely intact', books are 14th-15th century manuscripts. And yet, the boarding bridge = corvus marinus resonates with Chad's pirate = pilot insight and the relationship of birds and animals to mariners.
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Mick Harper
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I have never believed in the First Punic War. This was, Polybius will recall, when a land power (Rome) first came up against a sea power (Carthage) and said, "Mmm, we'd better build a navy" and next day said, "Well, that was easy. Next!" Although, having said that, Kaiser Bill came perilously close 1900-16. But that was AD. Even so, Hatty, you'd better look up 'Kaiser Bill', he'll probably turn out to be Buffalo Bill's brother or something.
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Hatty
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Cormorants or rather shags seem to be particularly associated with islands (Shetland, Isle of Man, Iceland, Sark) so there may be a connection between a 'boarding bridge' and a causeway or bridge.
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