By CARY NEEPER
Formerly of Los Alamos
We are learning so much about animals lately … however, I’m not sure I should recommend the book I just finished reading—Ten Million Aliens by Simon Barnes, New York, Marble Arch Press, 2014.
It’s a fun read—overloaded with side-comments, personal critiques (not always irreverent) and fascinating anecdotes, as well as hard core lists of vertebrates and invertebrates (in alternating chapters) with their surprising talents.
“It’s by disagreeing that scientists find things out.” is an example of the author’s side comments. “Sharks need to pass plenty of water over their gill slots in order to breathe…” hence most sharks must keep moving in the water. That’s an example of the hardcore information, like “There are 20,000 species of bees…in the same order as wasps and ants. Fair warning: This is a 480-page book. More current animal news recently surfaced in the New York Review, April 15, 2018, page 16—“Raised by Wolves” is a review of three books about wolves and dogs. It tells us that there is “…unequivocal evidence of a relationship between humans and canines…” that is 26,000 years old. Also, American indigenous cultures have stories of us humans sharing with dogs.
Geneticists tell us that wolves’ and dogs’ “…lineages split between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago.” No wonder DeeDee and Scooter (our Los Alamos dogs) were so sensitive to my tone of voice. No wonder most of the small dogs here in our retirement home are so eager to greet us, though we don’t see them very often.
Did our early ancestors learn something of social ethics from their canine acquaintances?
I think our kids did, growing up with their own pets and the family dogs and birds. I would agree that human and canine “…cooperation and mental benefits…” (were) “…profoundly shaped by both species.”
In conclusion, the 3-book review describes the training of dogs to stay very still for an fMRI. Amazing! Recent studies conclude that “…animal experience…things much like we do.” Gregory burns, author of What’s It Like to Be a Dog: and Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience reports that it is astonishing how very different species use similar areas of the brain for the same tasks.
Astonishing? When other studies indicate that we are all related—children of Earth, gifted with similar talents and challenges? Evidence now suggests that complex life probably happened only once here. Maybe it is more rare in the universe than we have imagined. Time to treasure our moments and take good care of our beautiful planet.