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For example, would a green lizard know it need to stay on a leaf, and avoid creeping on ground? Or in general, would animals with crypsis know what color they are and then hide on suitable place? Or they don't planned to do it and just be unlucky if they leave their suitable place and be seen by predators?
I think you can break this down into two sub-questions:
Will natural selection select animals whose crypsis and behavior align with each other? The answer here is definitely yes, but with a few caveats:
Crypsis might not be the best strategy in a particular situation: a green lizard crawling on a leaf might be outcompeted with a red-and-blue lizard that is poisonous, for instance.
Either behavior or crypsis might be easier to change over evolutionary time: you might see your green lizard evolving to spend more time in leaves (particularly if it's herbivorous or eats plant-dwelling insects), or you might see it evolving brown pigmentation to hide on the ground.
Natural selection isn't going to be concerned with individual actions but overall behavior. So a lizard might fall off a bush, get spotted on the ground and eaten. But it might dash from bush to bush without getting caught. But if a lizard spends most of its time on leaves, there might be selection towards it being well-camouflaged on leaves.
Does this require a conscious decision on the animal's part? I think the answer here is no, consciousness isn't necessary. Very simple animals show responses to their environment, such as bacteria swimming towards food. Your green lizard might be staying close to leaves that it feeds on, or near the insects it feeds on that itself feed on the leaves, and so stay near the green leaves that camouflage it by accident. Or its brain might be programmed to carry out a complex action to hide it better. Perhaps the most sophisticated examples of this is animals that reconfigure their body to match their surroundings, such as octopuses, cuttlefish (but not, interestingly enough, chameleons!)
This doesn't mean that the animals don't have consciousness or are not deliberately hiding by finding surroundings that match themselves. It just means that that's not necessary to explain why we find green lizards hanging out on leaves.
We urgently need to save what is left of the animal and plant world
The push to protect 30 percent of U.S. land and water by 2030 is vital and could be America’s last chance.
“Midway between ourselves and the colossal events in the sky, the great beings become interlocutors, whose lives sift the forces of the wind, and water and fire, seeming to say that all such phenomena ultimately are purposeful and ongoing expressions of a meaningful world.”
—Paul Shepard, “The Others: How Animals Made Us Human,” 1996
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.”
“Compassion for animals is intimately associated with goodness of character, and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man.”
—Arthur Schopenhauer, “The Basis of Morality”
Thirty-one species disappeared forever in 2020. Extinction being something we should eternally be ashamed of and which has full bearing on our future.
“Without the animals we will have nothing to return to,” said a Samburu elder whose clan had adopted a baby elephant from the frontier with Ethiopia generations ago. He also added, “Without them we will lose our minds.” Animals, the real treasure of the world, and the plants they depend on, are the foundation of existence. For the Samburu elephants were, in essence, part of their extended family. But as we have cleared forest for cows, there are almost a billion of them, and agriculture all over the planet, the human population has gained and the wild animal population has plummeted. The elephant population is maybe a quarter of what it was when I was a teenager. The legal wildlife trade in which over 30,000 species are traded is worth $300 billion dollars. The animal kingdom simply cannot take it anymore. The 6th extinction has taken over and we are the prime actors in an unfolding tragedy that will take down civilization as we know it, if we don’t alter our ways. We are, quite simply in an emergency as the Secretary General of the UN admonishes. Everything has to be rethought and acted upon to save what is left this decade.
Today would be a good time to examine the Simon-Ehrlich wager made in 1980. Paul Ehrlich, who wrote the “Population Bomb” in 1968 predicted a population catastrophe and worldwide famine. Julian Simon, a business professor, was skeptical of the claim and proposed a wager concerning metals and bet that a given commodity’s price would be lower a year later than it was at the time of the wager. Ehrlich, because of scarcity, thought nickel, copper, chromium, tin and tungsten would increase in price. A year later the prices had decreased. Ehrlich lost the bet, but if they had made a bet about animal populations, which have decreased 70 percent in the last half century, Ehrlich would have easily won.
More than three-quarters of large land predators (31 species) are in trouble, which is having a cascade effect on ecosystems worldwide. Seventeen of these are living on less than half the land they used to occupy. All over the world the story is the same: we are losing our larger mammals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services working for ranchers and agribusiness, kills 100,000 predators every year. So cows can gaze unmolested. And so rangers have something to target as they have for the last several hundred years. But a ban on wildlife killing contests targeting coyotes and swift foxes just passed recently in Colorado and five other Western states. A major step in the right direction, especially considering some of their favorite food, rodents, carry such things as the bubonic plague. Marine ecosystems with sharks that are caught every year by the millions, are being affected. The Chinese market and penchant for jaguar, lion, tiger, leopard, black bear and polar bear parts among many other species borders on the depraved. Their assault on the fish stocks near the fragile Galapagos ecosystem should never have been allowed and cannot be overlooked. As fisheries are collapsing in the seven seas, new mandates have to start being implemented in what is an out of control situation for fish stocks everywhere.
Milan Kundera, the Czech writer, especially concerned with totalitarian regimes, wrote, “No one can give anyone else the gift of the idyll only an animal can do so, because only animals were not expelled from Paradise.” And yet everywhere we turn animals are being expelled from paradise. While humans suffer, ultimately our place on earth will be dictated by the original caretakers of paradise, the animals.
Scientists say there may be many more animals than we thought on planet Earth. But just as we discover new species, many are on the brink of extinction. The just discovered Popa Langur monkey in central Myanmar may have no more than 250 individuals to its name. How long will they be able to hold on as a species?
Countries such as Norway resumed whaling in 1993 despite the whaling ban and continue to sell whale meat to Japan. One shipment was so contaminated that it was sent back. Before Christmas there was outrage against hunters in Spain who went on a killing spree of 540 deer and boar on a 1,100-hectare enclosed farm. It was a massacre. How can this be allowed in our time? How can it even be contemplated? The newest victim of the global pandemic are the mink of Europe, more particularly in Denmark where 17 million were culled or destroyed for potentially harboring a new virus strain. Does the world really need a fur industry? Do countless millions really need to suffer in cages their whole lives and then be executed. In Finland, Poland, Russia, Canada and even the U.S., the fifth biggest fur producer. It might be time to rethink our twisted fondness for fur once and for all.
England and Austria banned fur farming since 2000, the first countries to do so, but other countries need to follow suit. China has seen an opportunity to increase its business since Denmark’s covid variant was found. But it is not only the fur trade that is heinous, it is humanity’s barbaric relationship to animals that has brought us to this inflection point.
Kundera, who understood a little about oppression and suffering, having witnessed Russian tanks swarming into Prague in 1968, understood that, “mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which is deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.”
Now in our hour of need, we know that our relationship to animals has been woefully misaligned. Over time viruses we never knew existed will find new hosts in us. All over the world the felling of forests has caused innumerable species populations to crash and even to disappear forever.
Bats who form a quarter of the world’s mammalian species, about 1,400 species, have been uprooted from their homes all over the world. The rat family also contains over 1,100 species and can carry a platoon of possible microbes. One reason the Bamboo rat consumed in southeast Asia has been banned in China. Rats can carry coronaviruses and with forests being burned in the Amazon, Indonesia and the Congo Basin, the potential for rodents and bats to spread new diseases is very real. The dreaded Ebola virus has even been known to have been spread by bush pigs, rodents, and even porcupines, not just bats.
David Quammen wrote “the killer pathogen” will spillover into humans almost a decade ago in 2012 as he wrote in “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic.” White footed mice which harbor lyme disease is an example of the impact of rodents, which are the main culprits in spreading disease. If other rodents like chipmunks, squirrels and even predator birds vanish, mice proliferate. Basic biology. Diversity matters and everywhere the venues for diseases are expanding. Human numbers are an “outbreak” population. They are staggering and rarely on any politician’s agenda. Other species cannot compete or survive because of us. Emerging diseases are not going to go away as species vanish.
Between 1999 and 2015 about 2,000 new species were discovered in the Amazon. Among them 20 mammal species, 19 reptiles, 32 amphibians and 216 previously unknown plants. Then the giant fires came. Where are those species today? How can we be persuaded that animals and plants are living gifts and the only true treasures we have besides each other? This is the task of this decade as the Convention on Biological Diversity seeks to salvage what is left of the biosphere.
Paul Shepard, the environmentalist, saw our utter disconnect with nature as few ever have. In his book “Nature and Madness” (1982) he exclaimed, “In the captivity and enslavement of plants and animals and the humanization of the landscape itself is the diminishment of the Other, against which men must define themselves.” Shepard clearly saw our schizoid confusion from the beginnings of the Judeo-Christian emergence as an “abiding hostility to the natural world, characteristically fearful and paranoid. The 16th century fixation on the impurity of the body and the comparative tidiness of the machine are strongly obsessive compulsive. These all persist and interact in a tapestry of chronic madness in the industrial present, countered by dreams of absolute control and infinite possession.”
And today we inherit an emergency. Amputated from the animals and the forests and grasses, even the "lowly" fungi whose magic we are just beginning to grasp, the world asks, no actually screams for us to right our wrongs. In our backyard in New Mexico where thousands of birds fell victim to an early cold spell and starvation, the wings of Creation are being clipped. Will our species in turn, follow the trajectory of Icarus who flew too close to the sun, as we reach for the stars, but fail the Earth at every turn, with every flayed forest, every shipwrecked oil tanker.
Our relationship to domesticated animals and the meat industry is an atrocity. The forests felled on five continents for cows and sheep and goats and meat production have lost an area the size of Mexico for meat in the last generation. As Paul McCartney rightly said, if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian. The horror of the industry is that absolute. Is there any relation between the coronavirus infection rate in the U.S. and the amount of meat we eat? And as climate change exacerbates, those industrial farms will not be able to pursue their killing ways. Inefficient and deadly, wasting almost 2,000 gallons of water to get 1 pound of grain. Clearly something has to give.
The virus is forcing us to look through the glass darkly. The childhood of the West can be said to be officially over. It did not last long. Considering that civilization is barely 5,000 years old, we have to overturn our regressive childhood and adulthood of failed fanciful notions of omnipotence and control over nature into a compassionate collaboration.
The new administration will have to take over the reins to forge a mature relation to the planet. It will necessitate a new respect for animals and plants and in so doing maybe avoid the worst. The next four years may be our last chance to start redressing the ills and injustices we have imposed on the other species of the world. With so many countries entrenched in abuse, subjugation and exploitation of the life force, it will be a tall order. But it is a challenge we need to meet head on, especially if we want to avoid much more deadly pandemics than the one we just inherited. Protecting and strengthening the Endangered Species Act would be welcomed by all especially the four legged, winged and finned creatures that need maximum protection before they vanish.
Now that the European Commission has accepted the new Green Deal as the focus of Europe’s economic recovery plan, the stage is set for revitalizing the environment in ways not conceivable four years ago. The cost of preserving 30 percent of each eco region on Earth could amount to over $30 to 40 billion a year but it could yield three times that each year. It will be money very well spent.
The push to protect 30 percent of U.S. land and 30 percent of its oceans by 2030 is urgent, vital and could be America’s last chance. If we can’t save this planet, there won’t be any need to go to Mars.
“One day the absurdity of the almost universal human belief in the slavery of other animals will be palpable. We shall then have discovered our souls and become worthier of sharing this planet with them.”
Leopard tree iguana
Native to the Chilean Andes, this reptile mom protects her young for their first 48 hours, then abandons them in their den—along with a pile of her poop.
Not only is this pungent parting gift edible and nutritious, it also contains valuable gut microbes, says Stanley Fox, a herpetologist at Oklahoma State University.
“They pass that gut microbe from mother to offspring, and it’s in their body from then on so they can digest fruits, leaves, and flower petals.”
Poop isn’t mom’s only contribution. “The babies are very weak, so when she leaves the birth chamber, she seals up the exits so [they can’t] be preyed upon by birds,” Fox explains.
“You’d think she’s a bad mother, with no babysitter, who just locks them into their natal chamber. But they are safe inside.” (Read how animal mothers remind us of our own.)
When they get older, the juveniles simply dig themselves out.
Should I Stay at a Lab That Makes Animals Suffer?
I am an undergraduate researcher in a university-affiliated biology lab. The research we are doing involves subjecting many mice to disease, suffering and death. I haven’t interacted with the mice directly, but I use their serum in my experiments. The thought of animals suffering for the data we produce really bothers me I am vegan for ethical reasons. My only justification is that the research we do will hopefully provide disease prevention in the future. However, I don’t know if that is enough considering the slim chance of developing a therapy and the many mice that are suffering right now.
The lab offered to have me continue to work throughout the upcoming semesters. The people I work under have been exceptional mentors remaining in the lab would be extremely valuable for me professionally, and I am fortunate to be given this opportunity. On the other hand, I don’t know if I am sacrificing my values to focus on academic and professional goals. Can I continue to work in this lab? Name Withheld
You ought not participate in research that involves wrongful suffering. Whether the suffering in question is wrongful depends in part on whether the research might yield important benefits to people or other animals and whether the suffering could be mitigated or avoided altogether. The guidelines in Britain get at some important precepts here, usually referred to as the 3Rs: replacement (substitute nonanimal alternatives where possible), reduction (minimize the number of animals used) and refinement (adjust procedures in order to minimize animal suffering). In the United States, of course, there are laws and regulations about animal welfare that your university is presumably complying with, but many people think those rules are too lax. You should inform yourself further by talking to your mentors.
If they are responsible, they will want to assure you that what they are doing is morally permissible. Animal research has, after all, led to treatments that save millions of lives. But once you have the whole story, you may disagree with their assessment. If you do, and the principal investigators aren’t inclined to change their procedures, you shouldn’t continue to work in this lab. (That itself won’t save any animals, but the fact that others will continue a wrong if you withdraw isn’t a reason to carry on participating.) You should also make the case to the university authorities that they ought to stop or reform the work. There is a vast scope for research in the life sciences that does not involve the wrongful treatment of animals. And there’s good news in the longer term: Emerging technologies — such as the use of the complex cellular structures known as organoids — may reduce the need for animal models.
I have an acquaintance who is a good friend of my sister’s. She is the caregiver for her elderly parents. Decades ago, her father had an affair, and a child was conceived. My sister’s friend never knew of the affair, and she has no idea she has a half sibling. I feel guilty for keeping the truth from her but would never reveal it while her mother is alive. But if her mother passes away before her father, I would confront him and tell him that if he didn’t reveal the truth, I would. I think my sister’s friend should know that she has a sibling. My sister says that we should mind our own business. Name Withheld
You don’t say how you came by this knowledge let’s stipulate that you don’t have any obligations of confidentiality. Let’s agree further that it would be good for your sister’s friend to learn the truth about her family at some point. But one thing that strikes me is that your connection to all this seems rather indirect. Your sister presumably knows her friend better than you do and thinks her friend doesn’t need to know about her secret half sibling.
Nor do you think that the right to know the truth trumps everything else. You think the truth would be so painful for your acquaintance’s mother that it should be kept from her. You give little weight to the cost to the adulterous father of the revelation, evidently because he was in the wrong. But do you really think this gives his suffering no weight at all? All this is aside from the prospective cost to your friend of learning of her father’s betrayal, which your sister apparently believes would overwhelm the value to her of having a better understanding of her family’s history. Truth matters, but as you already know, it isn’t the only thing that matters.
After my mother died, I asked one of her oldest friends if she knew if my mother ever had an affair while married to my father. (My father is also deceased.) She told me that my mother had an affair with someone I knew, but she would not disclose his name. I became obsessed with trying to figure out who it was. My husband and I would discuss different scenarios but never came to any conclusions.
A few years ago, my mother’s friend finally told me who it was. I was shocked! She said that this man had made my mother very happy and that she had never planned on leaving my father. I had no judgment toward my mother because this man had brought so much joy into her life. (He was also married at the time. He then got a divorce and has since died.)
His daughter was a good friend of mine. Now that all the parties have died, I would like to tell my friend. I know she knew that her father cheated on her mother perhaps she even knew of this relationship and doesn’t want to tell me for fear of hurting me. It would feel comforting to talk with her about it, but it’s possible this will change my friend’s feelings about me or my mother. Should I take this indiscretion to my grave? Name Withheld
People are entitled, where there aren’t strong countervailing considerations, to know the truth about their families. In this case, unlike the previous one, your involvement in the story is direct, and the adulterers and the spouses they betrayed are all dead. The harm there will be reputational, and we aren’t entitled to reputations we don’t deserve. So my default view is that you may indeed share what you’ve learned. But again, when you make decisions, you should bear their consequences in mind, and you might take a moment first to think about whether this revelation will damage relationships among the living.
Help Protect Wild Horses
- Learn more about wild horse issues.
- Contact your US senators and representative and urge them to help reform the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse program.
- Write to Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt and tell him you oppose the BLM’s overzealous wild horse roundup policy. The BLM admits it plans to round up far more horses than are adoptable—leaving many wild horses to remain indefinitely in long-term holding facilities. Urge the agency to act responsibly and stop removing these national treasures from the wild:
When it is cold outside, you put on more clothes. Your winter coat does not keep out the cold, but rather keeps in the heat. (Cold itself doesn’t exist—it is simply the absence of heat see the article titled “Why Cold Doesn’t Exist,” on p. 10.) Birds and mammals also rely on insulation to prevent heat loss. The most effective insulation traps air, since air is one of the best insulators. Wool tends to be warm because its fibers are curled, effectively trapping air and keeping you (and sheep) warm. Birds fluff up their feathers when they want to stay warm, since fluffing introduces air.
For mammals without hair, insulation is accomplished by blubber, a thick layer of fat tissue which helps to insulate an animal’s body because fat does not transfer heat as well as muscle and skin. This blubber may be two feet thick in some whales! Whales, tuna, dolphins, and other warm-blooded marine animals also rely on another ingenious method to conserve heat. To prevent excessive heat loss from extremities such as fins and flippers—which are not well insulated—aquatic animals rely on a “countercurrent heat-exchange method,” in which the arteries that carry warm blood away from the heart are positioned directly against the veins that carry cool blood to the heart. So, the warmer blood leaving the heart through the arteries warms the cooler blood entering the heart through the veins.
In contrast to birds and mammals, lizards, frogs, snakes, and other cold-blooded animals do not need insulation—it would only slow down heat transfer into their bodies.
Animals Don’t Just Flee–They Make Surprisingly Careful Escape Plans
A young cheetah learns to hunt. (Photo: Volt Collection/shutterstock.com)
For many years, humans thought simplistically about how animals escape their predators. Because, if another animal wants to eat you, the best course of action seemed simple enough.
You RUN. As fast as you can. In the opposite direction.
But that’s not actually what happens. Most prey, when they detect a predator, do not try to escape immediately. “This is a decision, like many other decisions,” says Dan Blumstein, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and co-editor of the new book Escaping From Predators.
Say, for instance, that you’re a low-status bird. No one likes you, and you’re not always going to have great access to food. But, at this moment, you’re feasting on a rich source of nutrition. A predator approaches. Maybe the other birds take off. But not you. “Lower status birds will stick around longer because that’s their chance to eat,” says Blumstein.
It’s only in the past decade or so, though, that biologists have really begun to understand the factors that contribute to animals’ escape plans. When Ronald Ydenberg and Lawrence Dill published the first paper on the economics of flight in 1986, “few thought of fleeing as a ‘decision’ or saw that there were costs, most notably lost opportunity,” they write in the foreword to the new book. And even after that first paper, few scientists looked closely at how animal fled their would-be killers.
But in the past ten years, the study of escape behavior has been a booming field of research, and scientists are beginning to better understand how animals decide to run, walk, jump, dive, sprint or saunter for their lives.
“This is one of those hidden success stories of taking a very economic approach,” says Blumstein. It’s clear now that the decision to flee can be influenced by rank, hunger level, sexual drive, season, location, or prior experience with predators. And they can begin before animals are even born.
Karen Warkentin first started studying the eggs of red-eyed tree frogs back in the early 1990s, when she was just beginning her doctoral work. She was in Costa Rica and looking for, in her words, “a frog that did something cool that Canadian frogs don’t do.” (She grew up in Canada.)
At the particular pond where she was working, red-eyed tree frogs were abundant, but so were snakes. About the half the eggs that the frogs laid—little translucent globes with wide-eyed tadpoles peering out—were being eaten by snakes. Given how many were dying, it seemed to Warkentin like these soon-to-hatch tadpoles should have a strategy for running away, once they were under attack.
To test her hypothesis, she gathered up eggs, put them in a cage with a snake and let the snake into the eggs’ side of the cage. When the snake attacked the egg clutch, the uneaten tadpoles started escaping—instead of waiting to spontaneously hatch, they sensed the danger and—plop—fled from their eggs and into the water below.
This isn’t just a random reaction. In the years that followed, Warkentin, now an associate professor at Boston University, and her collaborators were able to show that escape hatching is a specific response to being attacked. Sometimes, the eggs wouldn’t have hatched for days otherwise.
There are trade-offs to escape hatching, though. There may be a risk, for instance, of trying to hatch too early and failing, leaving the poor tadpole in danger, now in a damaged egg. It’s like being “trapped in a deflated water balloon,” says Warkentin. “You better be really sure you’re about to die if you’re going to risk that.”
Of course, once the tadpoles escape the snake, they’re not home free. Waiting for them in the water are aquatic predators, happy to suck up vulnerable tadpoles.
Animals face the possibility of predation throughout their life, but they do have one advantage. “The prey’s life is at stake. The predator misses a meal,” Blumstein says. This is called the life/dinner principle, and the stakes are much higher for the animals on the “life” side of that equation.
Even once an animal decides to flee, though, it won’t necessarily devote all its energy to the escape. It might be running for its life, but that doesn’t mean sprinting as fast as possible to the nearest refuge.
“The escape response was thought of as being an all or none response, either on or off,” says Paolo Domenici, a researcher at the Italian National Research Council. “But there’s more and more evidence that it’s not really so black and white. If there is a response, there can be different levels. It can be a half hearted response or a full response.”
If your predator is far enough away, for instance, you can run or swim a little slower—save energy and still get away from the danger. If the refuge is near by, you can walk towards it. Or maybe you’re just tuckered out from some other activity, and you can’t muster the will to speed away as fast as might be wise.
When animals resolve to escape, they don’t always turn away from their predators, either. “You’d think it’d all be away,” says Domenici. “But that’s not the case. Not all animals will. The proportion varies from 50 to 90 percent.”
Scientists aren’t sure why, exactly, but it may have something to do with the element of surprise. Predictability is dangerous in its own way. One snake will signal an attack from one direction, and its prey, a fish, will turn away from that wave of pressure. But the sneaky snake has actually positioned its head behind the fish—in the direction its prey will most likely escape.
“The fish, by escaping from the pressure wave, will go straight into the predator’s mouth,” Domenici says.
Some animals do always run away: schools of fish, in particular, tend to all turn one way—away from the danger—probably in order to stay together. Not all animals flee in a straight line from their predator, either. If the predator is faster than the prey, there’s some advantage to running at an angle from the predator, as sharp as 90 degrees. A cockroach depends on the element of surprise: it might turn 90, 120, 150, or 180 degrees away from its potential predator.
And some animals flee at an angle where they can keep an eye on their pursuer: “If I’m chasing you and you go straight away from me, you have a hard time checking out what I’m doing,” says Domenici. “You can’t turn your head while you’re running, but if you run 120 degrees away from me—at a bit of an angle—with the corner of your eye, you can be checking out what i’m doing, if I’m throwing rocks or something.”
Biologists are still studying the mechanism and genetics of this. Different populations of the same species, for instance, have different tendencies to escape. “You can walk right up to an urban squirrel,” Blumstein points out. Scientists are still trying to understand if different populations have actually evolved to be less flight-prone, or if they’re simply sorting themselves out based on their preferences. Individual animals, too, can be more skittish.
Blumstein runs a long-term study of marmots, and his wife, a collaborator, once noted that across 10 different experiments, one animal ran away immediately from any stimulus. “We couldn’t include it in anything,” he says. “That was a nervous nelly.”
Once the decision is made to flee, though, there’s a whole world of ways to actually run away. In Escaping from Predators, the author of one chapter note that mammals “show tremendous variation in how they flee from predators: rapid running, jumping, dropping from trees to the ground, fleeing into a burrow or other covers, climbing trees moving into water, and even flying away. In the Reptiles chapter, we learn that lizards often prefer refuges, “most commonly trees, logs, crevices in rocks, and animal burroww.”
To get there, they might jump, glide, swim or dive. When they run up trees, they often choose “the side of the tree opposite that of the approaching predator, where their movements are invisible.” In an earlier book on antipredator defenses, the scientist Tim Caro describes animals “zigzagging, looping, wild bouncing, and sudden twisting”—everything “from ponderous moment to extremely fast dashes.”
Every animal has its own particular strategy. Blumstein has also studied hermit crabs, and, he says,” I feel a little sorry for the work I’ve done with these guys.” In the wild, he says, they’ll slowly make their way away from the water, moving slowly up steep mountain slopes in the Virgin Islands. “They’ll be pretty far away from the water,” says Blumstein. “But as soon as they detect you, they pull their legs in, and they start rolling down,” losing all the ground they’ve covered in an instant.
Dog Dementia: What It Looks Like and What Can Done About It
A few days ago I received an email from a friend, Rod, that read: "You've met my pal Jack who celebrates his 12th birthday next week. As of late, say the last couple months, Jack has awoken after maybe 30 minutes of seemingly sound sleep. He comes awake in a start, head and ears down, clambering quickly to run from whatever has terrified him in his dream. He goes a short distance and then stops, wide awake. This happens a few times a week and is not dependent on sleeping in a specific location. It had been suggested to give him some melatonin prior to bed to help his sleep pattern, but that does not seem to have much effect. I wondered if you have encountered anything similar. I always try to comfort him after the fact, but so wish there was something I could do to alleviate his terror before it occurs."
I immediately wrote back and said that perhaps Jack is suffering from a form of sundowners syndrome, that can include different forms of confusion, anxiety, aggression, ignoring directions, pacing, or wandering. I was relieved when Rod wrote back and concluded that most likely Jack's behavior was caused by bad dreams.
Rod's email also reminded me of a number other times when I've been told that a dog manifested some of the warning signs of sundowners, and there was little to no doubt that each dog was suffering from some form of cognitive dysfunction. One of my own senior canine companions clearly experienced dementia, and I've seen similar patterns of behavior in wild coyotes, red foxes, and an aging black bear who lived near my mountain home. Thus, I was pleased when I received notice of an important and information-packed essay available online: "Dog Dementia: What is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?" by veterinarian Gurpal Chahal.
I'm sure there are numerous dogs, especially senior and elder dogs, who show different forms of dementia. Friends have told me about changes in the behavior of a canine companion and were at a loss to explain what was happening. I mentioned to them that dogs are mammals and have mammalian brains, so it's not surprising that they, too, can suffer from cognitive decline and other psychological disorders. This simple statement went a long way toward their seeking advice from a veterinarian in how to deal with these changes.
Chahal notes, "The exact cause of this degenerative disorder is not known. Chronic illness or stress may increase a dog’s chances of suffering from cognitive dysfunction, but some or all of the following factors may contribute toward this dysfunction and affect the normal functioning of the dog’s brain." These include a reduction in the number of neurons, a decrease in blood flow to the brain, and the death of neurons. He also notes that it's difficult to pin down when dog dementia may begin. At least half of dogs who suffer some form of decline manifest it by 11 years of age, but it's also been noticed in dogs as young as 7.
Chahal summarizes the symptoms of dog dementia as follows:
- Disorientation the pet may be confused and lost in familiar environments like home or park.
- Changes in sleeping cycle, including night waking or vocalization and sleeping a lot during the day.
- Changes in interactions with family members, friends, or other animals such as being less enthusiastic to greet them, wanting less attention, and showing signs of aggression toward them.
- Abnormal behavior and less interest in eating or playing and being unwilling to socialize.
- Staring at inanimate objects.
- Being restless with pacing and aimless wandering.
- House soiling and lack of response to commands are also common. The dog may eliminate in an improper location. The dog may appear deaf to the owner because he does not respond to learned commands.
He stresses that these don't always indicate dementia. These behavior changes can also be caused by separation anxiety, arthritis, declines in hearing or seeing, or kidney or liver disease.
There are a number of medications and nutritional supplements that can be used to treat dog dementia, and a number of other ways that include light exercise, behavior therapy, making their homes more user-friendly, and providing different forms of enrichment. These include "taking them on gentle smell walks and allowing them to sniff, and ensuring they still have interactions with their human family members." (Also see "There's No Magic Formula to Slow Your Dog's Aging.")
I was especially pleased to read about "smell walks," because dogs' sense organs, like their muscles, heart, and lungs, need to be exercised, and we need to make time for them to do so. In Canine Confidential, I wrote about a woman who wondered if not allowing dogs to sniff to their noses' content could cause psychological problems because they weren't getting a true picture of the odor in which they're interested. I continue to ponder this possibility because dogs greatly depend on learning about what's going on via "pee-mail."
We're also told that dogs with cognitive dysfunction don't necessarily live shorter lives, and they can be our loving friends for many years after suffering from dementia.
I learned a lot from Chahal's essay and I hope it reaches a broad global audience. Senior dogs can be awesome companions even if they're psychologically or physically compromised. We owe it to them to give them the very best lives possible, they depend on us to do so, and we should give them everything they need and love and then some. We also can learn a lot from their presence in our homes and hearts, a win-win for all.
10 Easy Things You Can Do to Save Endangered Species
1. Learn about endangered species in your area. Teach your friends and family about the wonderful wildlife, birds, fish and plants that live near you. The first step to protecting endangered species is learning about how interesting and important they are. Our natural world provides us with many indispensable services including clean air and water, food and medicinal sources, commercial, aesthetic and recreational benefits. For more information about endangered species, visit endangered.fws.gov and join our activist network to receive updates and action alerts.
2. Visit a national wildlife refuge, park or other open space . These protected lands provide habitat to many native wildlife, birds, fish and plants. Scientists tell us the best way to protect endangered species is to protect the places where they live. Get involved by volunteering at your local nature center or wildlife refuge. Go wildlife or bird watching in nearby parks. Wildlife related recreation creates millions of jobs and supports local businesses. To find a wildlife refuge near you, visit www.fws.gov/refuges/ To find a park near you, visit www.nps.gov To find a zoo near you, visit www.aza.org.
3. Make your home wildlife friendly. Secure garbage in shelters or cans with locking lids, feed pets indoors and lock pet doors at night to avoid attracting wild animals into your home. Reduce your use of water in your home and garden so that animals that live in or near water can have a better chance of survival. Disinfect bird baths often to avoid disease transmission. Place decals on windows to deter bird collisions. Millions of birds die every year because of collisions with windows. You can help reduce the number of collisions simply by placing decals on the windows in your home and office. For more information on what you can do, check out these tips from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
4. Native plants provide food and shelter for native wildlife. Attracting native insects like bees and butterflies can help pollinate your plants. The spread of non-native species has greatly impacted native populations around the world. Invasive species compete with native species for resources and habitat. They can even prey on native species directly, forcing native species towards extinction. For more information about native plants, visit https://www.plantsocieties.org.
5. Herbicides and pesticides may keep yards looking nice but they are in fact hazardous pollutants that affect wildlife at many levels. Many herbicides and pesticides take a long time to degrade and build up in the soils or throughout the food chain. Predators such as hawks, owls and coyotes can be harmed if they eat poisoned animals. Some groups of animals such as amphibians are particularly vulnerable to these chemical pollutants and suffer greatly as a result of the high levels of herbicides and pesticides in their habitat. For alternatives to pesticides, visit https://www.beyondpesticides.org.
6. Slow down when driving. Many animals live in developed areas and this means they must navigate a landscape full of human hazards. One of the biggest obstacles to wildlife living in developed areas is roads. Roads divide habitat and present a constant hazard to any animal attempting to cross from one side to the other. So when you’re out and about, slow down and keep an eye out for wildlife.
7. Recycle and buy sustainable products. Buy recycled paper, sustainable products like bamboo and Forest Stewardship Council wood products to protect forest species. Never buy furniture made from wood from rainforests. Recycle your cell phones, because a mineral used in cell phones and other electronics is mined in gorilla habitat. Minimize your use of palm oil because forests where tigers live are being cut down to plant palm plantations.
8. Never purchase products made from threatened or endangered species. Overseas trips can be exciting and fun, and everyone wants a souvenir. But sometimes the souvenirs are made from species nearing extinction. Avoid supporting the market in illegal wildlife including: tortoise-shell, ivory, coral. Also, be careful of products including fur from tigers, polar bears, sea otters and other endangered wildlife, crocodile skin, live monkeys or apes, most live birds including parrots, macaws, cockatoos and finches, some live snakes, turtles and lizards, some orchids, cacti and cycads, medicinal products made from rhinos, tiger or Asiatic black bear.
9. Harassing wildlife is cruel and illegal. Shooting, trapping, or forcing a threatened or endangered animal into captivity is also illegal and can lead to their extinction. Don’t participate in this activity, and report it as soon as you see it to your local state or federal wildlife enforcement office. You can find a list of state wildlife departments at https://www.fws.gov/offices/statelinks.html.
10. Protect wildlife habitat. Perhaps the greatest threat that faces many species is the widespread destruction of habitat. Scientists tell us the best way to protect endangered species is to protect the special places where they live. Wildlife must have places to find food, shelter and raise their young. Logging, oil and gas drilling, over-grazing and development all result habitat destruction. Endangered species habitat should be protected and these impacts minimized.
By protecting habitat, entire communities of animals and plants can be protected together. Parks, wildlife refuges, and other open space should be protected near your community. Open space also provides us with great places to visit and enjoy. Support wildlife habitat and open space protection in your community. When you are buying a house, consider your impact on wildlife habitat.
Do animals with crypsis know where they should stay to save their lives? - Biology
Animals & Habitats
The first step to understanding individual animals is to understand their environment.
The environment in which an animal lives in is referred to as its habitat.
A habitats is a place where living things live and how they survive in that area.
Habitats are homes, and everyone needs one!
Animals have basic needs for air, water, food, shelter, and space.
Plants, animals, and even humans choose habitats for many different reasons, depending on their needs.
The picture to the right shows different animals and the habitat that best fits it's needs.
Animals live in habitats all over that are suited for them.
Some of these habitats include:
Grasslands , Rainforests , Deserts , and Arctic Tundra
Humans help animals by providing habitats for them as well!
Some people build dams in the water to create new habitats for fish, while others take in pets, like dogs and cats, and provide habitats for them in their homes!
Animals have a variety of similarites and differences some are alike in what they look like, what they do, what they eat, and where they live while others are very different from one another.
Many animals share the same habitat because they are from the same group.
The picture below shows different habitats with different animals in each one!
Scientists divide animals into groups, depending upon how they are alike and different.
Six common groups of animals are:
Some animals eat plants or other animals for food and may also use plants for shelter and nesting.
Within each animal group, there are some similarities and differences in their habitats.
Click the "Quiz Me" button to test your knowledge on an animal and it's habitat!
So let's learn about 8 different animals using the flash card activity.
What the animal is called
What group it is classified in
Click the "Quiz Me" button to test your knowledge on animals and their habitats!
Living things are found almost everywhere in the world.
There are different kinds in different places!
What kinds of living things and habitats can you think of near your school or home?