Posts Tagged ‘wolves’

Wolves which adapt to humans will be the wolves which survive

December 19, 2014

The endangered species on earth are mainly those which are failures. Species which fail to adapt to the loss of habitat as the human species succeeds. Natural selection is incapable of ensuring survival of these species when their environment changes so rapidly. But humans represent one of the few species which has demonstrated the ability to handle rapid change. We have adapted by constructing artefacts to maintain optimum conditions in which to live, by the use of medicine and also – though this is in its infancy – by genetic manipulation. We effectively maintain a “tropical” climate around ourselves wherever we are. In our homes, in our transport vehicles, in our work places and in our public places, we maintain benign conditions of temperature, wind speed, humidity and pressure. Whether living in the Arctic circle or in equatorial deserts, we maintain “comfortable”, tropical conditions around us. We use medicine to fight debilitating diseases. And now we are moving towards the prevention of the birth of individuals with faulty genes but also towards the intentional selection of desired genes.

Some species have successfully adapted to the expansion of humans and their changing circumstances. Many bird species, rats, urban foxes (who now differ genetically from “wild” foxes”), urban polar bears, baboons, langur monkeys and even leopards are examples of species which have adapted to take advantage of the changes and thrive in the new conditions. Domesticated species are dependent upon their usefulness to, and the goodwill of, humans. Much admired species such as, rhinos, tigers and elephants have not adapted and face extinction – as all failing species do. From the beginning of life on earth, the rule has been “Adapt or die” and it it still applies.

In the long run traditional “conservation” which is based on trying to freeze a failing species in an unviable genetic pattern, within artificial habitats which are merely prisons, is meaningless and counter-productive. Helping a species has to be about adaptation to the new conditions and not about genetic stagnation in new prisons. It is time we helped these species adapt and stopped just stuffing them into zoos.

A year ago I observed

Perhaps Siberian neo-tigers could be evolved genetically to help herd reindeer and develop a mutually beneficial partnership with man. An occasional reindeer kill would then be quite acceptable. It would be so much more constructive if neo-wolves were helped not to stagnate genetically, but instead to evolve the behavioural characteristics that allowed them to find a way of co-existing with humans and human flocks of sheep.

And now this story suggests that some wolves have already realised that “if you can’t fight the humans it is better to join them”!

BBC:

Villagers in Kazakhstan are increasingly turning to an unusual animal to guard their land – wolves, it’s been reported.

“You can buy a wolf cub for just $500 (£320), they say, and hunters are adamant that if treated well the wild animal can be tamed,” the KTK television channel reports. Nurseit Zhylkyshybay, from the south-eastern Almaty region, tells the channel he bought a wolf cub, Kurtka, from hunters three years ago, and the animal is perfectly happy wandering the yard of his house. “He’s never muzzled, I rarely put him on a chain and do take him for regular walks around the village. Our family and neighbours aren’t scared of him at all,” Mr Zhylkyshybay insists. “If the wolf is well fed and cared for, he won’t attack you, although he does eat a lot more than a dog.”

Nurseit Zhylkyshybay and his wolf

The face of wolves to come

Maybe these wolves will just become another line of dogs or perhaps they are the particular species of neo-wolf which will succeed in developing a mutually beneficial relationship with humans.

 

 

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A waggish tale of tails and wagging and of the sinister

November 1, 2013

Tail wagging in dogs certainly originates from their wolf ancestry. Wolves also communicate with their tails.

There are two specific styles of tail wagging that wolves perform: rigid or fluid movement. A rigid tail (like a pendulum) wag means the wolf is excited and has dominant tendencies. A fluid, or snake-like wag typically is a signal of play or greeting toward other pack members. 
The elevation and movement of each wolf’s tail work together to describe the behavior of each individual. So, a wolf who is rigidly wagging a T1 tail is exhibiting intense dominance, however a wolf fluidly wagging a T3 tail is probably soliciting social play with other pack members. 

But new research shows that in dogs, wagging on the left is quite different and communicates a different message to wagging on the right. Needless to say tail-wagging on the sinister side was a cause for concern to other dogs while a wag on the dexter side was reassuring!

 Siniscalchi et al.Current Biology, Seeing left or right asymmetric tail wagging produces different emotional responses in dogs10.1016/j.cub.2013.09.027

EurekAlert:The findings reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 31 show that dogs, like humans, have asymmetrically organized brains, with the left and right sides playing different roles.

The discovery follows earlier work by the same Italian research team, which found that dogs wag to the right when they feel positive emotions (upon seeing their owners, for instance) and to the left when they feel negative emotions (upon seeing an unfriendly dog, for example). That biased tail-wagging behavior reflects what is happening in the dogs’ brains. Left-brain activation produces a wag to the right, and right-brain activation produces a wag to the left.

While monitoring their reactions, the researchers showed dogs videos of other dogs with either left- or right-asymmetric tail wagging. When dogs saw another dog wagging to the left, their heart rates picked up and they began to look anxious. When dogs saw another dog wagging to the right, they stayed perfectly relaxed.

“The direction of tail wagging does in fact matter, and it matters in a way that matches hemispheric activation,” says Giorgio Vallortigara of the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences of the University of Trento. “In other words, a dog looking to a dog wagging with a bias to the right side—and thus showing left-hemisphere activation as if it was experiencing some sort of positive/approach response—would also produce relaxed responses. In contrast, a dog looking to a dog wagging with a bias to the left—and thus showing right-hemisphere activation as if it was experiencing some sort of negative/withdrawal response—would also produce anxious and targeting responses as well as increased cardiac frequency. That is amazing, I think.”

Not so implausible.

We take sticking out the left hand when greeting someone as not quite the proper thing to do. In Asia where the left hand is associated with cleaning oneself, the use of the left hand inappropriately could be taken as insulting. Monica Watkins writes, “Left-handedness has been, and in some cases still is, considered an inconvenience, a bad habit, or a symbol of the “sinister””.  A Yale study just published also claims that left-handed people are more likely to have psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Another study claims that our handedness is a major subliminal influence in the choices and decisions we make in all aspects our daily lives.

And it might have sinister implications if the Queen were to start waving with her left hand.

What's wrong

A sinister wave?

And I wonder if dogs distinguish between humans who pat them with their right hands and those who use their sinister side?


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