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robertogreco : mammals   13

Opinion | Wrap Your Mind Around a Whale - The New York Times
"The facts of a blue whale seem improbable; it is hard to wrap your mind around an animal with jaws the height of a football goal post. Those jaws are not just the ocean’s utmost bones (to borrow from Melville) but the utmost bones in the history of life on Earth.

And yet these superlative whales haven’t been huge that long. In fact, they emerged just about 4.5 million years ago, coinciding almost perfectly with the human era.

We are living right now in the age of giants. Blue whales, fin whales, right whales and bowhead whales are the largest animals, by weight, ever to have evolved. How did this happen? And what does this tell us about how evolution works?

Fossils show that the earliest whales were more obviously mammalian — they had four legs, a nose, maybe even fur. They had bladelike teeth and lived in habitats that ranged from woodlands with streams to river deltas, occasionally feeding in the brackish waters of shallow equatorial coasts. And they were the size of a large dog."
whales  nature  multispecies  history  naturalhistory  evolution  scale  size  oceans  mammals  via:lukeneff  foreden 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Big Discovery in a Tiny Mammal-Like Skull Found Under a Dinosaur’s Foot - The New York Times
"In 2006 a team of paleontologists in Utah were examining the fossils of a large dinosaur when they discovered beneath its foot a tiny skull unlike anything they had seen in the area.

Now, scientists have found that the fossilized cranium belonged to an ancient relative of modern mammals that once scurried around North America some 130 million years ago. The new species, called Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch, is a member of an extinct group of animals known as the haramiyids, which some researchers think bridged the transition between reptiles and mammals."
classideas  2018  mammals  naturalhistory  dinosaurs 
may 2018 by robertogreco
On the Wildness of Children — Carol Black
"When we first take children from the world and put them in an institution, they cry. It used to be on the first day of kindergarten, but now it’s at an ever earlier age, sometimes when they are only a few weeks old. "Don’t worry," the nice teacher says sweetly, "As soon as you’re gone she’ll be fine. It won’t take more than a few days. She’ll adjust." And she does. She adjusts to an indoor world of cinderblock and plastic, of fluorescent light and half-closed blinds (never mind that studies show that children don’t grow as well in fluorescent light as they do in sunlight; did we really need to be told that?) Some children grieve longer than others, gazing through the slats of the blinds at the bright world outside; some resist longer than others, tuning out the nice teacher, thwarting her when they can, refusing to sit still when she tells them to (this resistance, we are told, is a “disorder.”) But gradually, over the many years of confinement, they adjust. The cinderblock world becomes their world. They don’t know the names of the trees outside the classroom window. They don’t know the names of the birds in the trees. They don’t know if the moon is waxing or waning, if that berry is edible or poisonous, if that song is for mating or warning.

It is in this context that today’s utopian crusader proposes to teach “eco-literacy.”

A free child outdoors will learn the flat stones the crayfish hide under, the still shady pools where the big trout rest, the rocky slopes where the wild berries grow. They will learn the patterns in the waves, which tree branches will bear their weight, which twigs will catch fire, which plants have thorns. A child in school must learn what a “biome” is, and how to use logarithms to calculate biodiversity. Most of them don’t learn it, of course; most of them have no interest in learning it, and most of those who do forget it the day after the test. Our “standards” proclaim that children will understand the intricate workings of ecosystems, the principles of evolution and adaptation, but one in four will leave school not knowing the earth revolves around the sun.

A child who knows where to find wild berries will never forget this information. An “uneducated” person in the highlands of Papua New Guinea can recognize seventy species of birds by their songs. An “illiterate” shaman in the Amazon can identify hundreds of medicinal plants. An Aboriginal person from Australia carries in his memory a map of the land encoded in song that extends for a thousand miles. Our minds are evolved to contain vast amounts of information about the world that gave us birth, and to pass this information on easily from one generation to the next.

But to know the world, you have to live in the world.

My daughters, who did not go to school, would sometimes watch as groups of schoolchildren received their prescribed dose of “environmental education.” On a sunny day along a rocky coastline, a mass of fourteen-year-olds carrying clipboards wander aimlessly among the tide pools, trying not to get their shoes wet, looking at their worksheets more than at the life teeming in the clear salty water. At a trailhead in a coastal mountain range, a busload of nine-year-olds erupts carrying (and dropping) pink slips of paper describing a “treasure hunt” in which they will be asked to distinguish “items found in nature” from “items not found in nature.” (We discover several plastic objects hidden by their teachers along the trail near the parking lot; they don’t have time, of course, to walk the whole two miles to the waterfall.) By a willow wetland brimming with life, a middle-school “biodiversity” class is herded outdoors, given ten minutes to watch birds, and then told to come up with a scientific hypothesis and an experimental protocol for testing it. One of the boys proposes an experiment that involves nailing shut the beaks of wild ducks.

There is some dawning awareness these days of the insanity of raising children almost entirely indoors, but as usual our society’s response to its own insanity is to create artificial programs designed to solve our artificial problems in the most artificial way possible. We charter nonprofit organizations, sponsor conferences, design curricula and after-school programs and graphically appealing interactive websites, all of which create the truly nightmarish impression that to get your kid outside you would first need to file for 501(c)3 status, apply for a federal grant, and hire an executive director and program coordinator. We try to address what's lacking in our compulsory curriculum by making new lists of compulsions.

But the truth is we don’t know how to teach our children about nature because we ourselves were raised in the cinderblock world. We are, in the parlance of wildlife rehabilitators, unreleasable. I used to do wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, and the one thing we all knew was that a young animal kept too long in a cage would not be able to survive in the wild. Often, when you open the door to the cage, it will be afraid to go out; if it does go out, it won’t know what to do. The world has become unfamiliar, an alien place. This is what we have done to our children.

This is what was done to us."



"If you thwart a child’s will too much when he is young, says Aodla Freeman, he will become uncooperative and rebellious later (sound familiar?) You find this view all over the world, in many parts of the Americas, in parts of Africa, India, Asia, Papua New Guinea. It was, of course, a great source of frustration to early missionaries in the Americas, who were stymied in their efforts to educate Indigenous children by parents who would not allow them to be beaten: “The Savages,” Jesuit missionary Paul le Jeune complained in 1633, “cannot chastise a child, nor see one chastised. How much trouble this will give us in carrying out our plans of teaching the young!”

But as Odawa elder and educator Wilfred Peltier tells us, learning -– like all human relationships –– must be based in the ethical principal of non-interference, in the right of all human beings to make their own choices, as long as they’re not interfering with anybody else. As Nishnaabeg scholar and author Leanne Betasamosake Simpson tells us, learning –– like all human relationships –– must be based in the ethical principal of consent, in the right of all human beings to be free of violence and the use of force. Simpson explains:
If children learn to normalize dominance and non-consent within the context of education, then non-consent becomes a normalized part of the ‘tool kit’ of those who have and wield power… This is unthinkable within Nishnaabeg intelligence.


Interestingly, the most brilliant artists and scientists in Euro-western societies tell us exactly the same thing: that it is precisely this state of open attention, curiosity, freedom, collaboration, consent, that is necessary for all true learning, discovery, creation."



"We no longer frame people as either “civilized”or “savage,” but as “educated” or “uneducated,” “developed” or “developing” (our modern terms for the same thing). But we retain the paternalistic attitudes of our forebears, toward our children and toward the “childlike” adults we find all over the world — a paternalism in which the veneer of benevolence is underpinned by the constant threat of violent force.

Control is always so seductive, at least to the "developed" ("civilized") mind. It seems so satisfying, so efficient, so effective, so potent. In the short run, in some ways, it is. But it creates a thousand kinds of blowback, from depressed rebellious children to storms surging over our coastlines to guns and bombs exploding in cities around the world."
education  unschooling  children  childhood  carolblack  attention  culture  society  learning  wildness  wild  wilderness  thoreau  ellwoodcubberley  williamtorreyharris  schooling  schools  johntaylorgatto  outdoors  natureanxiety  depression  psychology  wellness  adhd  mindfulness  suzannegaskins  openattention  miniaodlafreeman  paulejeune  wilfredpeltier  leannebetasamosakesimpson  consent  animals  zoos  nature  johannhari  brucealexander  mammals  indigenous  johnholt  petergray  work  play  howwelearn  tobyrollo  chastisement  civilization  control  kosmos  colonization  colonialism 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Frans de Waal: The Bonobo and the Atheist | Chicago Humanities Festival
"Frans de Waal, recognized for his expertise on primate behavior and social intelligence, has produced some of his field’s most influential research. Having observed chimpanzees soothe distressed neighbors and bonobos share their food, he is convinced that the seeds of ethical behavior are found in primate societies. The translation to humans—their closest living relatives—is a natural step: are we by nature selfish and aggressive, or cooperative and peace-loving, and how have these traits evolved? Join him for a far-ranging exploration of the origins of morality."
fransdewaal  morality  religion  science  ethics  behavior  2015  via:anne  primates  animals  charlesdarwin  bonobos  conflictresolution  chimpanzees  darwin  reconciliation  cats  domesticcats  mammals  emotions  social  empathy  atheism  multispecies 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Robert Sapolsky discusses physiological effects of stress
"In addition to numerous scientific papers about stress, Sapolsky has written four popular books on the subject—Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, The Trouble with Testosterone, A Primate's Memoir and Monkeyluv. Many of his insights are based on his 30-year field study of wild African baboons, highly social primates that are close relatives of Homo sapiens. Each year, he and his assistants follow troops of baboons in Kenya to gather behavioral and physiological data on individual members, including blood samples, tissue biopsies and electrocardiograms.

"We've found that baboons have diseases that other social mammals generally don't have," Sapolsky said. "If you're a gazelle, you don't have a very complex emotional life, despite being a social species. But primates are just smart enough that they can think their bodies into working differently. It's not until you get to primates that you get things that look like depression."

The same may be true for elephants, whales and other highly intelligent mammals that have complex emotional lives, he added.

"The reason baboons are such good models is, like us, they don't have real stressors," he said. "If you live in a baboon troop in the Serengeti, you only have to work three hours a day for your calories, and predators don't mess with you much. What that means is you've got nine hours of free time every day to devote to generating psychological stress toward other animals in your troop. So the baboon is a wonderful model for living well enough and long enough to pay the price for all the social-stressor nonsense that they create for each other. They're just like us: They're not getting done in by predators and famines, they're getting done in by each other."

It turns out that unhealthy baboons, like unhealthy people, often have elevated resting levels of stress hormones. "Their reproductive system doesn't work as well, their wounds heal more slowly, they have elevated blood pressure and the anti-anxiety chemicals in their brain, which have a structural similarity to Valium, work differently," Sapolsky said. "So they're not in great shape."

Among the most susceptible to stress are low-ranking baboons and type A individuals. "Type A baboons are the ones who see stressors that other animals don't," Sapolsky said. "For example, having your worst rival taking a nap 100 yards away gets you agitated."

But when it comes to stress-related diseases, social isolation may play an even more significant role than social rank or personality. "Up until 15 years ago, the most striking thing we found was that, if you're a baboon, you don't want to be low ranking, because your health is going to be lousy," he explained. "But what has become far clearer, and probably took a decade's worth of data, is the recognition that protection from stress-related disease is most powerfully grounded in social connectedness, and that's far more important than rank.""

[via: “The last 150 years has seen a profound increase in human free time. Baboon studies give us clues to what that means pic.twitter.com/VXS5zfuPFX” https://twitter.com/aza/status/578464289834434560

“Links for the last tweet
Free-time increase http://bit.ly/1C8DS9b via @MaxCRoser
Baboons http://news.stanford.edu/news/2007/march7/sapolskysr-030707.html … via The Primate's Memoir”
https://twitter.com/aza/status/578469675308216321 ]
2007  robertsapolsky  stress  physiology  work  mammals  intelligence  elephants  whales  animals  emotions  depression  health 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The American Scholar: Joyas Volardores - Brian Doyle
"Consider the hummingbird for a long moment. A hummingbird’s heart beats ten times a second. A hummingbird’s heart is the size of a pencil eraser. A hummingbird’s heart is a lot of the hummingbird. Joyas volardores, flying jewels, the first white explorers in the Americas called them, and the white men had never seen such creatures, for hummingbirds came into the world only in the Americas, nowhere else in the universe, more than three hundred species of them whirring and zooming and nectaring in hummer time zones nine times removed from ours, their hearts hammering faster than we could clearly hear if we pressed our elephantine ears to their infinitesimal chests.

Each one visits a thousand flowers a day. They can dive at sixty miles an hour. They can fly backwards. They can fly more than five hundred miles without pausing to rest. But when they rest they come close to death: on frigid nights, or when they are starving, they retreat into torpor, their metabolic rate slowing to a fifteenth of their normal sleep rate, their hearts sludging nearly to a halt, barely beating, and if they are not soon warmed, if they do not soon find that which is sweet, their hearts grow cold, and they cease to be. Consider for a moment those hummingbirds who did not open their eyes again today, this very day, in the Americas: bearded helmet-crests and booted racket-tails, violet-tailed sylphs and violet-capped woodnymphs, crimson topazes and purple-crowned fairies, red-tailed comets and amethyst woodstars, rainbow-bearded thornbills and glittering-bellied emeralds, velvet-purple coronets and golden-bellied star-frontlets, fiery-tailed awlbills and Andean hillstars, spatuletails and pufflegs, each the most amazing thing you have never seen, each thunderous wild heart the size of an infant’s fingernail, each mad heart silent, a brilliant music stilled.

Hummingbirds, like all flying birds but more so, have incredible enormous immense ferocious metabolisms. To drive those metabolisms they have race-car hearts that eat oxygen at an eye-popping rate. Their hearts are built of thinner, leaner fibers than ours. Their arteries are stiffer and more taut. They have more mitochondria in their heart muscles—anything to gulp more oxygen. Their hearts are stripped to the skin for the war against gravity and inertia, the mad search for food, the insane idea of flight. The price of their ambition is a life closer to death; they suffer more heart attacks and aneurysms and ruptures than any other living creature. It’s expensive to fly. You burn out. You fry the machine. You melt the engine. Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old.

The biggest heart in the world is inside the blue whale. It weighs more than seven tons. It’s as big as a room. It is a room, with four chambers. A child could walk around it, head high, bending only to step through the valves. The valves are as big as the swinging doors in a saloon. This house of a heart drives a creature a hundred feet long. When this creature is born it is twenty feet long and weighs four tons. It is waaaaay bigger than your car. It drinks a hundred gallons of milk from its mama every day and gains two hundred pounds a day, and when it is seven or eight years old it endures an unimaginable puberty and then it essentially disappears from human ken, for next to nothing is known of the the mating habits, travel patterns, diet, social life, language, social structure, diseases, spirituality, wars, stories, despairs and arts of the blue whale. There are perhaps ten thousand blue whales in the world, living in every ocean on earth, and of the largest animal who ever lived we know nearly nothing. But we know this: the animals with the largest hearts in the world generally travel in pairs, and their penetrating moaning cries, their piercing yearning tongue, can be heard underwater for miles and miles.

Mammals and birds have hearts with four chambers. Reptiles and turtles have hearts with three chambers. Fish have hearts with two chambers. Insects and mollusks have hearts with one chamber. Worms have hearts with one chamber, although they may have as many as eleven single-chambered hearts. Unicellular bacteria have no hearts at all; but even they have fluid eternally in motion, washing from one side of the cell to the other, swirling and whirling. No living being is without interior liquid motion. We all churn inside.

So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one in the end—not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words I have something to tell you, a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in the thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children."
2012  briandoyle  via:jenlowe  animals  nature  birds  hummingbirds  numbers  time  repetition  metabolism  biology  hearts  whales  bluewhales  mammals  anatomy  lifetimes  scale  size  life  speed  velocity 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Bird as Symbol in Current Culture - Natasha VC
"Here’s what I despise about the mass bird adoption, it glamorizes frailty. It’s Victorian in its idealization of the dainty and ruffled. Further, especially for women, you are the frailer sex, you are not allowed to operate weapons in combat and if a teenage boy wanted to over power you he probably could. You are also at nature’s mercy, far more so than men…

You wanna pick a spirit animal? Pick one that bleeds, that has hair, FUR! fur like your crotch and your arm pits, and all over your boyfriend’s chest (god willing), pick one that fucks with hip thrusts, and nurses its young from its swollen tits, but still has the ability to tear other creatures to shreds. One that poses some credible threat on the food chain.

You are existing in the twilight of an empire. The long standing edifices of authority are disintegrating and in the din of this collapse you choose to identify with a lipless worm eater? Grow up, be a mammal."

[via: http://plsj.tumblr.com/post/6083866115/you-wanna-pick-a-spirit-animal-pick-one-that ]
feminism  birds  animals  mammals  human  humans  fragility  nature  bodyimage 
june 2011 by robertogreco
The science of fun
"But the best argument for fun and play happens when you take it away. Deny play to young mammals and the consequences are colossal. This has been demonstrated powerfully in rats, with some of the most significant new science coming out of Canada. "What's been shown repeatedly, if you prevent juvenile rats from engaging in rough and tumble play, you get animals who have cognitive problems, emotional problems and they're socially incompetent. "In short, stop rats from horsing around and you get socially-awkward, troubled, dumbo rats. Worse still, male rats who never play become bad lovers....Fun is the brain's workshop. "If you look at countries with the lowest amount of recess time, and scholastic achievement, there's almost an exact correlation," says Pellis. "The U.S., which has the lowest recess rates, often does the worst" in scholastic achievement. It might even be the brains of children grow more at recess than in the classroom."

[via: http://www.wonderlandblog.com/wonderland/2009/11/play-makes-you-a-good-citizen.html ]
science  play  fun  intelligence  recess  schools  schooling  us  achievement  unschooling  deschooling  tcsnmy  lcproject  learning  mammals  research  cognition  neuroscience 
november 2009 by robertogreco
Rapid eye movement (sleep) - Wikipedia
"The function of REM sleep is not well understood; several theories have been advanced...Memory-related theories...Stimulation in CNS development as a primary function" ... "REM sleep occurs in all mammals (excluding the Bottlenose Dolphin and the Echidna). It appears that the amount of REM sleep per night in a species is closely correlated with the developmental stage of newborns. The platypus for example, whose newborns are completely helpless and undeveloped, has more than seven hours of REM sleep per night.[citation needed] Newborn dolphins and their mothers sleep very little or not at all the first month.
sleep  rem  srg  dreams  dreaming  animals  mammals  glvo 
september 2008 by robertogreco
Desert Cottontail - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [or possibly http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brush_Rabbit]
"The Desert Cottontail is not usually active in the middle of the day [but the one outside my window is, although it might be a brush rabbit], but it can be seen in the early morning or late afternoon. It mainly eats grass, but will eat many other plants, even cacti. It rarely needs to drink, getting its water mostly from the plants it eats or from dew. Like most lagomorphs, it is coprophagic, reingesting and chewing its own feces; this allows more nutrition to be extracted."
lajolla  animals  rabbits  nature  sandiego  mammals  tcsnmy  wildlife 
august 2008 by robertogreco
3quarksdaily - Monday Musing: The Grey, and the Gold
"There is so much great stuff on TV these days, it's almost unbelievable. Case in point: the craziest, most astoundingly compelling nature documentary I've ever seen, Ultimate Enemies."
television  tv  film  documentary  animals  biology  behavior  mammals  elephants  lions 
july 2007 by robertogreco
A Fellow Mammal Leaves the Planet - New York Times
"after a fruitless six-week expedition...seeking the last members of the rarest cetacean species of all, a white, nearly blind dolphin called the baiji, Lipotes vexillifer. The dolphin is now considered, at best, “functionally extinct.”
animals  earth  environment  extinction  dolphins  mammals  biology  science 
december 2006 by robertogreco

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