our lives with dogs, & other interesting reading

I have a dog. As a result, papers to do with dogs tend to catch my eye 🙂 On his blog Neuroanthropology, Greg Downey reviews an upcoming book by Pat Shipman and discusses humanity’s long relationship with canines. Beginning with the point that "the first animals domesticated were not food sources, but a fellow predator and scavenger: the wolf (dogs being descendants of wolves, even a subspecies by some reckoning). Clearly, domestication wasn’t first about eating the animal…" Our current relationship may have begun as a commensal one, with wolves following nomadic human hunter-gatherers – unfortunately this sort of thing doesn’t exactly leave traces in the fossil record. A long post, but well worth reading (especially for those of you currently studying human cultural evolution as part of your NCEA L3 biology).

Jason Goldman writes The thoughtful animal.He’s just discussed a paper looking at some intriguing behaviour in the Galapagos marine iguana. These reptiles are non-vocal, communicating among themselves through visual & olfactory signals. But – they appear to respond appropriately to alarm calls by mockingbirds, becoming more vigilant when the birds’ calls indicate that a predator’s on the prowl. This sort of interspecific eavesdropping’s not unknown, but it’s a first in a species that doesn’t itself use sounds to communicate.

And at Tetrapod zoology, Darren Naish has a fascinating article about the strikingly ugly turtle, the matamata. Its weird looks are matched by its unusual feeding behaviour, for it catches prey not by snatching & biting but by inhaling it, expanding its throat to rapidly draw in large volumes of water along with whatever happens to be swimming in it at the time. How neat is that?

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