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.

City park wildlife

This is a video about a dog in the Leidse Hout.

The Leidse Hout is a park in the city of Leiden in the Netherlands.

In local daily Leidsch Dagblad, paper edition, 28 August, regional pages 10-11, there is an interview with city ecologist Frits van der Sluis about this park.

Of course, there are many insects and other invertebrates in the Leidse Hout.

And vertebrates. Van der Sluis estimates there are about 150 species of birds, mammals, amphibians and fish.

Birds include kingfishers. And tawny owls and sparrowhawks. Green woodpeckers are on the rise, as the trees are growing up.

As for mammals, there are shrews and hedgehogs. And wood mice. And bank voles. And various bat species.

Albino jackal in Iran

White golden jackal. Image courtesy of the Iranian Cheetah Society

From Wildlife Extra:

Albino jackal spotted in Iran

White jackal caught by camera trap

July 2013. An (probably) albino jackal, a medium-sized canid which is widespread in western Asia, has been caught on camera in south-eastern Iran during a research project into the population survey of the Asiatic cheetah in the Ravar Wildlife Refuge.

Albinism is a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. Albinism results from inheritance of recessive gene alleles and is known to affect all vertebrates, including humans. Albinism has not been common among golden jackals but there are few cases from west Asia dating back to 1970s. In contrast, recently [a] melanistic golden jackal has been also reported from Turkey.

A ‘true’ albino has no colouring at all, and many features such as eyes and ears, appear pink. This jackal does have a hint of colouring around the eyes and nose, so it may be ‘leucistic’, or more probably, this is just a trick of the light as the image is taken at night.

Leucism (or Leukism)

Leucism is a very unusual condition whereby the pigmentation cells in an animal or bird fail to develop properly. This can result in unusual white patches appearing on the animal, or, more rarely, completely white creatures.

Click here to see our gallery of albino and leucistic animals and birds.

Ravar Wildlife Refuge

With an area of 15,000 km2, Ravar Wildlife Refuge is part of the Asiatic cheetah monitoring program that the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) leads within multiple reserves in Iran in partnership with Iranian Department of Environment, Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP) and Panthera. Since early autumn 2012, the ICS’ experts have been surveying the area while training game wardens with monitoring skills. However, unlike other cheetah habitats in the country, Ravar is not an easy area to do field surveys, as it is near the border with Afghanistan and has a high chance of encountering drug smuggling caravans. The project will continue until the end of summer 2013.

Native American dogs’ Asian origins

This video is called Dogs 101: Chihuahua.

From KTH The Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden:

Asian origins of native American dogs confirmed

10 July 2013 KTH The Royal Institute of Technology

Once thought to have been extinct, native American dogs are on the contrary thriving, according to a recent study that links these breeds to ancient Asia.

The arrival of Europeans in the Americas has generally been assumed to have led to the extinction of indigenous dog breeds; but a comprehensive genetic study has found that the original population of native American dogs has been almost completely preserved, says Peter Savolainen, a researcher in evolutionary genetics at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

In fact, American dog breeds trace their ancestry to ancient Asia, Savolainen says. These native breeds have 30 percent or less modern replacement by European dogs, he says.

“Our results confirm that American dogs are a remaining part of the indigenous American culture, which underscores the importance of preserving these populations,” he says.

Savolainen’s research group, in cooperation with colleagues in Portugal, compared mitochondrial DNA from Asian and European dogs, ancient American archaeological samples, and American dog breeds, including Chihuahuas, Peruvian hairless dogs and Arctic sled dogs.

They traced the American dogs’ ancestry back to East Asian and Siberian dogs, and also found direct relations between ancient American dogs and modern breeds.

“It was especially exciting to find that the Mexican breed, Chihuahua, shared a DNA type uniquely with Mexican pre-Columbian samples,” he says. “This gives conclusive evidence for the Mexican ancestry of the Chihuahua.”

The team also analysed stray dogs, confirming them generally to be runaway European dogs; but in Mexico and Bolivia they identified populations with high proportions of indigenous ancestry.

Savolainen says that the data also suggests that the Carolina Dog, a stray dog population in the U.S., may have an indigenous American origin.

Savolainen works at the Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab www.scilifelab.se), a collaboration involving KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University, the Karolinska Institutet and Uppsala University.

Animals interrupting sporting events

By Lauren Hansen | The Week:

7 adorable animals that interrupted sporting events [Updated]

These enthusiastic cats, dogs, and squirrels weren’t content to remain on the sidelines

1. The marten who wouldn’t go quietly

Just as FC Thun and FC Zurich were starting their Swiss Super League soccer game on Sunday, a wild [pine] marten — a small, ferret-like animal — ran onto the field, brazenly bobbing and weaving through the players, managing to evade capture, and finding refuge in the stands. But it wanted more, and soon after play resumed, the stubborn little star zipped across the field once again. Zurich defender Loris Benito made an impressive jump and tackle, grabbing the marten with both bare hands, but was bitten on the finger. … The animal almost got away again, but Zurich’s gloved goalkeeper Davide Da Costa managed a one-handed grab of the surprisingly speedy critter and successfully sent it off the field. Watch the exciting episode below.

2. The dog who stole a golf ball

During the Dunhill Links in Scotland last October, a spunky pooch appeared out of nowhere, temporarily stealing the game’s spotlight and golf ball. Just as golfer Paul Casey was about to line up for a putt, the small mutt ran onto the 12th green, picked up the ball, and ran off. “I’ve heard of alligators jumping out of the water at unsuspecting hackers,” says Shane Bacon at CBS Sports. “But man’s best friend? Nah, not when we’re out on the links.”

Paul Casey and dog

Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

3. The squirrel who ran across home plate

In a 2011 playoff game between the Phillies and Cardinals, a wayward squirrel skipped across home plate just as Philadelphia’s Roy Oswalt threw a pitch. Despite Oswalt’s best protest, the home plate umpire ruled the pitch a ball, and the tiny guy darted away.

4. The stray cat who interrupted a soccer match

Last year, an English Premier League match between Liverpool and Tottenham was momentarily halted when a stray cat trotted out onto the pitch. It wasn’t until multiple security guards surrounded the confused feline that play was able to resume.

5. The dog who tried to run with the big boys

Cats aren’t the only ones who like football. In 2011, this Jack Russell terrier ran out onto the field to try and commandeer the ball in an international rules football match, tripping up more than a few players in the process.

6. The cow who interrupted a Polish soccer game

Yet another soccer game was put on hold this fall when a tiny cow ran out onto the field with his presumed owner in tow, winded and ragged. This time, though, players took things into their own hands, chasing the spotted animal back from whence it came.

7. The squirrel who invaded the U.S. Open

At last year’s U.S. Open, a plucky squirrel put a screeching halt to the action when it bolted out onto the court. “The poor thing’s scared now,” said a concerned announcer. Luckily, it didn’t take long for the furry critter to escape to safety.

This article — originally published on Oct. 5, 2012 — was last updated on March 11, 2013.