Tag Archives: Mammals

A question about your squirrels

My friend Asha just gave a copy of Squirrel Wars: Backyard Wildlife Battles & How to Win Them to her mom for Father’s day. Which reminds me of this method of controlling squirrels in your back yard.

Which, in turn, reminds me that I’ve been meaning to ask around about color morphs. Where I grew up, gray squirrels were gray. I lived in Boston for many years, and gray squirrels there were … also gray. Well, the ones in Harvard Yard were more a shade of grey. Anyway, here in the Twin Cities area, they are pure white, almost jet black, or gray. Some of the gray ones are reddish gray.

So, here is my question: Am I living in a region where there is unusual diversity in the color morphs of Sciurus carolinensis? What is the diversity of gray squirrel pelt color in your region?

And why?

Global warming and the Minnesota Moose. Part I.

Minnesota moose experts generally agree that global warming is forcing the southern edge of the distribution of the moose northward into Canada, threatening this important US population of this ginormous deer species. Global warming denialists insist that this is the moose’s fault, and has nothing to do with global warming. This is the first of a two part look at this question.

This is an Alaskan moose. But someday he hopes to visit its relatives in Minnesota. If they live long enough…

Continue reading Global warming and the Minnesota Moose. Part I.

Global Warming, The Decline of the Moose, and “Minnesota Nice”

We have had a cool summer here in Minnesota, and this has brought out the miscreants who for their own reasons do not want to get on board with the simple, well demonstrated scientific fact that global temperatures have risen, that we humans are the primary cause, and that this climate change has negative consequences.

Continue reading Global Warming, The Decline of the Moose, and “Minnesota Nice”

Evolutionary enamel loss linked to molecular decay of enamel-specific gene

The evolutionary history of mammals can be reviewed as the evolutionary history of tooth loss. The early mammals had many teeth, and every now and then in evolutionary time, a tooth is lost wiht subsequent species arriving from that n-1 toothed form having that smaller number of teeth. With ver few exceptions, no mammals have added a tooth during the history of mammals. (Excepting maybe the very very earliest period, but probably not.)

ResearchBlogging.orgWell, the loss of enamel itself is also an evolutionary trend in mammal history, and recent research published in PLoS Genetic associates genetic changes over time with what is known of the morphological evolution of mammals.

Continue reading Evolutionary enamel loss linked to molecular decay of enamel-specific gene

New Primate Research

I have had a lot of students of whom I’m very proud because of their accomplishments both in research and generally. One of these students is Mark Foster, who is one of a very small number of undergraduates to engage in significant research at some of the key East African chimpanzee research sites. Unfortunately for me, I can’t take a lot of credit for Mark’s excellent research, because I played a much smaller role in working with him than did others, but I am still very happy with his successes.

I’ve got a peer reviewed paper by Mark that I’ll be reviewing soon. In the mean time, have a look at this piece from Nature News

Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Jane Goodall Institute Center for Primate Studies have now collated ten years of behavioural data on three male chimpanzee in Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Chimpanzees within the park have been routinely weighed by park staff, allowing Mark Foster and his team from the institute to work out which tactics chimpanzees of dramatically different sizes used both before and after they became alpha males….

The findings … are the first to suggest that physically smaller males make up for their reduced physical characteristics by using grooming to make allies who will aid them when their time comes to try and achieve alpha-male status, says Foster….

“It’s kind of like when I was a teenager and the football team’s quarterback lost the school’s popularity poll to a wimpy, unassuming fellow who was also quick-witted. The latter fellow was able to make friends through his sense of humour and charisma, and in turn achieved a kind of alpha status over the brutish quarterback,” he says.

You can probably access the story here.