Dogs: Always dressed up
Why do animals have white patches? Does your dog or cat have "mittens" or a white tail tip? It appears that domesticating animals somehow has selected for this pattern of coat colors...and @DogSpies is going to tell us more!
If a salamander is going to make babies, they have to head to a vernal pool. In some places, that means a deadly trek across a freeway, resulting in many (50-100%) squished amphibians. Conservationists in New Hampshire started a Citizen Science program to track both live and dead salamanders and give them a little help crossing the road. The Salamander Brigade has over 600 volunteers and helped 25K salamanders get to the pool, and hopefully, find a mate. They've also started photographing and ID-ing salamanders by their individual markings, and found that many of the same salamanders make the cross-freeway trek year after year! So COOL!
Is musicality something unique to humans? It’s a question scientists have been asking for years, but I thought I’d dig a little deeper after seeing a recent video of a cat playing with a theramin (an eerie-sounding, electronic instrument).
I think the first thing to recognize is that musicality in humans is a broad spectrum – some of us love to listen to music, some of us love to create music, some of us love to dance and sing, and (strangely to me) some people could care less about any of it. Some people have perfect pitch,and others are tone deaf. Any time we try to determine if animals can do something we human animals can do, it’s important to think about how we define that ability.
The dangers of laughter
I enjoyed this NYT piece on a recent review paper on the possible dangers of laughter, including hernias, dislocated jaws and peeing your pants.
Should Santa bring kittens and puppies down the chimney?
It's always interesting how we respond to science that goes against our intuition. My instinct is always to tear it apart, but also try to consider the evidence. A recent ASPCA survey found that pets received as gifts were at no greater risk of relinquishment than pets acquired in other ways (they also found that over 20% of all randomly phone people had received a pet as a gift - which just seems high to me!) - what do you think? Dog Spies is on the case, as always bringing us animal-based thoughtfulness.
Our complicated past and present with elephants
This is more of a book review than anything, but it made me go to the library and check out Behemoth, by Ronald B. Tobias, which details the history of the elephant in the United States. Unfortunately, for most elephants, the story does not end well. Perhaps what is most fascinating is that elephants were often held responsible for "moral transgressions" which sadly led to abuse, corporal punishment and even being sentenced to death. I'm looking forward to reading this book!