Tapeworm discovery in prehistoric domestic dog


Echinococcus granulosus tapeworm

From the Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 50, October 2014, Pages 51–62:

Multicomponent analyses of a hydatid cyst from an Early Neolithic hunter–fisher–gatherer from Lake Baikal, Siberia

Highlights:

Echinococcus granulosus infection in an 8000-year-old forager from Siberia.

Differential diagnosis of egg-like, multi-chambered ovoid calcifications.

Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes of a parasitic hydatid cyst.

Abstract:

Calcified biological objects are occasionally found at archaeological sites and can be challenging to identify. This paper undertakes the differential diagnosis of what we suggest is an Echinococcus granulosus hydatid cyst from an 8000-year-old mortuary site called Shamanka II in the Lake Baikal region of Siberia. Echinococcus is a parasitic tapeworm that needs two hosts to complete its life cycle: herbivores and humans are intermediate hosts, and carnivores such as dogs, wolves, and foxes are definitive hosts.

In the intermediate host the Echinococcus egg hatches in the digestive system, penetrates the intestine, and is carried via the bloodstream to an organ, where it settles and turns into an ovoid calcified structure called a hydatid cyst. For this object, identification was based on macroscopic, radiographic, and stable isotope analysis. High-resolution computed tomography scanning was used to visualize the interior structure of the object, which is morphologically consistent with the E. granulosus species (called cystic Echinococcus).

Stable isotope analysis of the extracted mineral and protein components of the object narrowed down the range of species from which it could come. The stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios of the object’s protein, and stable carbon isotope ratio of the mineral, closely match those of the likely human host. Additionally, the δ13C protein-to-mineral spacing is very low, which fits expectations for a parasitic organism. To our knowledge this is the first isotopic characterization of a hydatid cyst and this method may be useful for future studies. The hydatid cyst most likely came from a probable female adult. Two additional hydatid cysts were found in a young adult female from a contemporaneous mortuary site in the same region, Lokomotiv. This manuscript ends with a brief discussion [of] the importance of domesticated dogs in the disease’s occurrence and the health implication of echinococcal infection for these Early Neolithic hunter–fisher–gatherers.

Wolves learning from humans, new research


This video says about itself:

In the Valley of the Wolves – Nature Full Documentary HD 2013

Nature Documentary: In the Valley of the Wolves
Narrated by F. Murray Abraham

In 1995, the first gray wolves were transported from Alberta, Canada to Yellowstone National Park, to repopulate the sprawling landscape with the species, absent for more than 70 years. The following year, a second wave of wolves was brought to the park from British Columbia, Canada; five of them were released together, and they were named the Druid Peak pack.

Since the arrival of those first immigrants, wolves have thrived in Yellowstone — and none more dramatically than the Druids. The epic history of the Druids, one of more than a dozen packs now occupying the 2.2 million acres of Yellowstone, is documented in NATURE’s In the Valley of the Wolves, was produced and shot in High Definition by Emmy-award winning filmmaker Bob Landis. On the Web site for In the Valley of the Wolves, you’ll learn how the successful reintroduction of Yellowstone’s apex predator has changed the entire ecosystem of the park, and about the threats that these majestic animals continue to face on their road to recovery.

The gray wolf or grey wolf (Canis lupus) is a species of canid native to the wilderness and remote areas of North America, Eurasia, and North Africa. It is the largest member of its family, with males averaging 43–45 kg (95–99 lb), and females 36–38.5 kg (79–85 lb). It is similar in general appearance and proportions to a German shepherd, or sled dog, but has a larger head, narrower chest, longer legs, straighter tail and bigger paws. Its winter fur is long and bushy, and predominantly a mottled gray in colour, although nearly pure white, red, or brown to black also occur.

Within the genus Canis, the gray wolf represents a more specialised and progressive form than its smaller cousins (the coyote and golden jackal), as demonstrated by its morphological adaptations to hunting large prey, its more gregarious nature and its highly advanced expressive behavior. It is a social animal, travelling in nuclear families consisting of a mated pair, accompanied by the pair’s adult offspring. The gray wolf is typically an apex predator throughout its range, with only humans and tigers posing a serious threat to it. It feeds primarily on large ungulates, though it also eats smaller animals, livestock, carrion, and garbage.

The gray wolf is one of the world’s most well researched animals, with probably more books written about it than any other wildlife species. It has a long history of association with humans, having been despised and hunted in most agricultural communities due to its attacks on livestock, while conversely being respected by some Native American tribes. It is the sole ancestor of the dog, which was first domesticated in the Middle East. Although the fear of wolves is prevalent in many human societies, the majority of recorded attacks on people have been attributed to animals suffering from rabies. Non-rabid wolves have attacked and killed people, mainly children, but this is unusual, as wolves are relatively few, live away from people, and have been taught to fear humans by hunters and shepherds. Hunting and trapping has reduced the species’ range to about one third of its original range, though its still relatively widespread range and stable population means that the species is not threatened at a global level, and is therefore classified by the IUCN as Least Concern.

From Wildlife Extra:

Study shows pre-existing capacity of wolves to learn from humans

Domestication of dogs may have been built on this predisposition

December 2013: Wolves can learn from observing humans and pack members where food is hidden and recognise when humans only pretend to hide food, reports a study for the first time in the open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology. These findings imply that when our ancestors started to domesticate dogs, they could have built on a pre-existing ability of wolves to learn from others, not necessarily pack members.

A paper published recently in the journal Science suggested that humans domesticated dogs about 18,000 ago, possibly from a European population of grey wolves that is now extinct. But it remains unknown how much the ability of dogs to communicate with people derives from pre-existing social skills of their wolf ancestors, rather than from novel traits that arose during domestication.

In a recent study, Friederike Range and Zsófia Virányi from the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, investigated if wolves and dogs could observe a familiar ‘demonstrator’ – a human or a specially trained dog – to learn where to look for food within a meadow. The subjects were 11 North American grey wolves and 14 mutts, all between 5 and 7 months old, born in captivity, bottle-fed, and hand-raised in packs at the Wolf Science Center of Game Park, Ernstbrunn, Austria.

The wolves and dogs were two to four times more likely to find the snack after watching a human or dog demonstrator hide it, implying they had learnt from the demonstration instead of only relying on their sense of smell. Moreover, they rarely looked for the food when the human demonstrator had only pretended to hide it.

The wolves were less likely to follow dog demonstrators to hidden food. This does not necessarily mean that they were not paying attention to dog demonstrators: on the contrary, the wolves may have been perceptive enough to notice that the demonstrator dogs did not find the food reward particularly tasty themselves, and so simply did not bother to look for it.

Wolf inbreeding could end world’s longest predator-prey study: here.

GenomeWeb News – Dog domestication from a still-to-be-determined group of wild wolf ancestors likely occurred through a series of dynamic processes that began before the advent of widespread agriculture by humans, according to a new PLOS Genetics study.

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British newts in a dog bowl


This video is called Smooth Newts (Lissotriton vulgaris).

From Wildlife Extra:

Odd location for wildlife – More newts in a dog bowl again

Smooth and palmate newts appear in a dog bowl!

October 2013. The Wildlife Extra office is near a large pond, and there is plenty of wildlife in and around that pond, but we were taken aback in August when two small, immature newts appeared in the dog’s water bowl that sits outside our front door. We relocated the newts to the edge of the pond, but 2 months later, we now have 4 small newts in the dog bowl, apparently 3 palmate newts and a smooth newt.

Newts actually spend much of their year on dry land, so it isn’t unusual to see them away from the pond, but how and why they ended up in the dog’s water bowl is a mystery.

Even more surprising, it appears that they are two different types of newt; a smooth newt and a palmate newt! Once we had taken a couple of pictures, we released the newts back into the wild (before a dog could drink them.).

This video from Britain is called Palmate Newt displaying to a female.

Dingoes wrongly blamed for Australian marsupial extinctions


This video is called Bite of the Tasmanian Devil.

From the University of Adelaide in Australia:

Dingo wrongly blamed for extinctions

Dingoes have been unjustly blamed for the extinctions on the Australian mainland of the Tasmanian tiger (or thylacine) and the Tasmanian devil, a University of Adelaide study has found.

In a paper published in the journal Ecology, the researchers say that despite popular belief that the Australian dingo was to blame for the demise of thylacines and devils on the mainland about 3000 years ago, in fact Aboriginal populations and a shift in climate were more likely responsible.

“Perhaps because the public perception of dingoes as ‘sheep-killers’ is so firmly entrenched, it has been commonly assumed that dingoes killed off the thylacines and devils on mainland Australia,” says researcher Dr Thomas Prowse, Research Associate in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Environment Institute.

“There was anecdotal evidence too: both thylacines and devils lasted for over 40,000 years following the arrival of humans in Australia; their mainland extinction about 3000 years ago was just after dingoes were introduced to Australia; and the fact that thylacines and devils persisted on Tasmania, which was never colonised by dingoes.

“However, and unfortunately for the dingo, most people have overlooked that about the same time as dingoes came along, the climate changed rather abruptly and Aboriginal populations were going through a major period of intensification in terms of population growth and technological advances.”

The researchers built a complex series of mathematical models to recreate the dynamic interaction between the main potential drivers of extinction (dingoes, climate and humans), the long-term response of herbivore prey, and the viability of the thylacine and devil populations.

The models included interactions and competition between predators as well as the influence of climate on vegetation and prey populations.

The simulations showed that while dingoes had some impact, growth and development in human populations, possibly intensified by climate change, was the most likely extinction driver.

“Our multi-species models showed that dingoes could reduce thylacine and devil populations through both competition and direct predation, but there was low probability that they could have been the sole extinction driver,” Dr Prowse says.

“Our results support the notion that thylacines and devils persisted on Tasmania not because the dingo was absent, but because human density remained low there and Tasmania was less affected by abrupt climate changes.”

The study ‘An ecological regime shift resulting from disrupted predator-prey interactions in Holocene Australia‘ also involved Professors Corey Bradshaw and Barry Brook from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute and Professor Chris Johnson from the University of Tasmania.

Australia’s dingo is a unique species, not a kind of wild dog as previously believed, according to a new study that definitively classifies the country’s largest land predator: here.