Pondering Human exceptionalism in an animal world – From the author of bizarre zoology blog
Throughout his whole life, Jay has had a strong passion for learning about and interacting with animals. He has read numerous books, attended lectures, visited museums, and communicated with fellow researchers in hopes of advancing his knowledge pertaining to the fields of Zoology, Cryptozoology, Paleontology, and Anthropology. He took a term course on Anthropology during his Junior year of high school and is employed at a local zoological park. He has also gained experience in the natural world through hunting, hiking and other outdoor activities. Jay’s future goals include obtaining a PhD in a related field. His work has been recognized by notable scientists such as zoologist Dr. Karl Shuker, zoologist Dr. Edward Bousfield, physical anthropologist Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum, and primatologist Michael Reid.He also has experience in nature through hunting and other outdoor activities. His future goals include obtaining a PhD in a related field. His work has been recognized by notable scientists such as zoologist Dr. Karl Shuker, zoologist Dr. Edward Bousfield, physical anthropologist Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum, and primatologist Michael Reid.
While in British Columbia last May as a student of the Canisius Ambassadors for Conservation program, a recurring topic of discussion was the substantial influence that the consumption of salmon by black bears and brown bears has on terrestrial ecosystems. Bears consume salmon selectively to optimize their intake of fat, and the caloric energy remaining in the discarded carcass or spread through ursine feces provides a foundation for the flourishing of biodiversity on streamsides and coastlines. Gene & Quinn (2006) demonstrated that a staggering 70 percent of the nitrogen within trees along streamsides and coasts originates from partially eaten salmon. During our hikes, we were frequently reminded to reflect upon the flow of nitrogen throughout the groves of awe-inspiring temperate rainforest. This inspired a deep appreciation for the enormity of species interactions occurring around me, an emotional manifestation of biophilia that culminated with our observations of a black bear while on a boat tour off the coast of Vancouver Island. This sight of such an impressive animal against a gorgeous backdrop of green, with the bear-salmon synergy in mind, served as a reminder of the magnitude of beauty that we have the potential and indeed the duty to conserve despite our anthropocentric blunders. For my first article for the Bear Trust International e-newsletter, I knew I had to attempt to instill in readers the same profound feelings that this unforgettable sight compelled in me. It is my sincere hope that my piece, titled, “New Study Illuminates the Bear-Salmon Synergy,” will succeed in this manner. With college in full swing and my internship with Bear Trust occupying the majority of my free writing time, my articles here will be scant. Please subscribe to the quarterly e-newsletter here for more content from this fantastic group, as well as my own writing. It is my goal to apply an anthrozoological lens to bear conservation to improve our interspecies interactions, and to spread the same reverence for bears that I felt so viscerally in British Columbia. The full article is featured here: New Study Illuminates the Bear Salmon Synergy.
I have reproduced an excerpt below that is especially applicable to the theme of this blog…
Many people put an unconscious distinction between the world as experienced by our daily lives and society’s activities, and what we perceive as the ‘natural world’ or domain of the animals. At the basis of this dichotomy, there is ‘Nature’ and then there is humanity, with a clear divide being drawn due to humankind’s alleged special traits that have largely been demonstrated to be of trivial novelty by modern animal cognition research. With the natural environment being outside of our immediate concerns and instead acting as the backdrop to our species’ progress, countless short term concerns take precedence over the imperative of fostering a healthy biosphere. Nonhuman animals are often placed in the distant categories of pests to drive out of our properties, food to consume on our plates, or curiosities to gawk at in the local zoo. When it comes to our nonhuman kin and the environment, humankind certainly acts in a peculiar and often contradictory fashion. We launch exhaustive searches for extraterrestrial intelligence in the far reaches of our galaxy while ignoring the complex minds of the nonhuman species with whom we share our planet (de Waal 2016). Stretches of forest just like those that our hominid ancestors inhabited are cleared for lumber or farming, despite their vital role in providing the very oxygen that we breath. Yet we decorate our cities with green spaces, paint animals on the walls of our newborn children’s rooms, and share a considerable amount of resources with the small carnivores that we welcome into our homes as pets. In a beautiful testament to humankind’s moral reach, ecotourism agencies characterizing wildlife as natural heritage worthy of living space and protection are beginning to outpace industries capitalizing on the death and commoditization of such species. The sphere of human compassion is gaining in its inclusion of our planet’s nonhuman life with recognition of both their inherent value and our reliance on the ecosystem services they provide, but there is still plenty to consider about the past, present, and future of our coexistence.Read More »
I have no intention for this blog to act as a regular news source, but I will occasionally cover current zoological issues or findings if I feel that I can offer any sort of valuable commentary. This is an example of a brief news-oriented article. A paper published last Wednesday in Nature titled Revised stratigraphy and chronology for Homo floresiensis at Liang Bua in Indonesiaproposes a new date for the diminutive-bodied and small-brained hominins uncovered in 2003. Rather than attempt to summarize the paper, here is the abstract:
Homo floresiensis, a primitive hominin species discovered in Late Pleistocene sediments at Liang Bua (Flores, Indonesia)1, 2, 3, has generated wide interest and scientific debate. A major reason this taxon is controversial is because the H. floresiensis-bearing deposits, which include associated stone artefacts2, 3, 4 and remains of other extinct endemic fauna5, 6, were dated to between about 95 and 12 thousand calendar years (kyr) ago2, 3, 7. These ages suggested that H. floresiensissurvived until long after modern humans reached Australia by ~50 kyr ago8, 9, 10. Here we report new stratigraphic and chronological evidence from Liang Bua that does not support the ages inferred previously for the H. floresiensis holotype (LB1), ~18 thousand calibrated radiocarbon years before present (kyr cal. bp), or the time of last appearance of this species (about 17 or 13–11 kyr cal. bp)1, 2, 3, 7, 11. Instead, the skeletal remains of H. floresiensis and the deposits containing them are dated to between about 100 and 60 kyr ago, whereas stone artefacts attributable to this species range from about 190 to 50 kyr in age. Whether H. floresiensis survived after 50 kyr ago—potentially encountering modern humans on Flores or other hominins dispersing through southeast Asia, such as Denisovans12, 13—is an open question.
This is probably the article from my prior work of which I am most proud.
Phylogeny, which can defined as the study of the evolutionary history and relationships amongst the animal kingdom, is one of the branches of zoological research which most captivates me with its complex and often unexpected nature. In the earliest article published on the Blogger-based Bizarre Zoology blog, I made brief reference to an obscure phylogenetic hypothesis which I first caught word of in paleozoologist Dr. Darren Naish’s Tetrapod Zoology Book One. This was done with the intention of introducing the sorts of topics which would form the focal point of my writing, yet I did so quite poorly in that I neglected to elaborate beyond a few sentences. To kick things off after this blog’s relocation, I have chosen to return to this topic which has been given scant attention in scientific literature but just enough to grab hold of my taste for all that is bizarre and zoological. This is the fascinating albeit tenuous link proposed between Dinocerata and Lagomorpha, something which may not sound so interesting unless you are familiar with the animals grouped within these taxonomic orders.