Future help for humans with speech impairments

By using computers, scientists have discovered the brain activity that precedes vocalization in Seba’s short-tailed bats. This species is important to study since they use a vocal range produced through their larynx to communicate with other bats. What is of interest to scientists is that besides this species of bat, only songbirds and humans use this method.

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Since bats use sonar navigation to maneuver and to find food as well as vocalizations to communicate with other bats, their brain activity is an important clue to help understand human vocalizations.

Julio C. Hechavarria at the Institute for Cell Biology and Neuroscience at Goethe University, investigated brain activity preceding vocalization in Seba’s short-tailed bats and were able to identify a group of nerve cells that create a circuitry from the frontal lobe to the corpus striatum in the interior of the brain. When this neural circuit fires off rhythmic signals, the bat emits a vocalization about half a second later. The researchers were able to predict, based on the rhythmic signals, if the bats were about to utter echolocation or communication vocalizations.

According to Dr. Hechavarria, “. . . we know that the corresponding brain networks are impaired in individuals who, for example, stutter as a result of Parkinson’s disease or emit involuntary noises due to Tourette syndrome. We therefore hope that by continuing to study vocal behavior in bats, we can contribute to a better understanding of these human diseases.”

Australian Dingo is its own species

Dr. Bradley Smith from Central Queensland University has conducted a study that proves that the Dingo is not a variety of domestic dog, feral dog, or other wild canids such as wolves, but is its own species.

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image from free google stock

Dr. Smith also says that “Further evidence in support of dingoes being considered a ‘wild type’ capable of surviving in the absence of human intervention and under natural selection is demonstrated by the consistent return of dog-dingo hybrids to a dingo-like canid throughout the Australian mainland and on several islands.”

He goes on to say that there is scant evidence that any canid species are interchangeable with Dingoes even though most canids can successfully interbreed with them.

This is an interesting statement to consider. How does it apply to other hybrids such as dog/wolf mixes and donkey/horse mixes? It also brings into question the theory that dogs are descended from wolves. Is it possible that the ancestor of the dog was a canid sub-species and not a wolf just as the dingo is its own species?

Roaming cats worry their owners

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter, found that owners who allow their cats to roam freely outdoors worry about their cat’s safety. Why then do they let their cats roam? The study shows that many cat owners feel that their cats need to roam and hunt. They feel that a cat would not be happy or fulfilled if they are kept indoors.

 

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A feral kitten we rescued a few years ago. We found her in the road on a cold, snowy Christmas eve. She was adopted to a good home. 

Unfortunately these sentiments can be detrimental to a cat’s health and even it’s life. Cats do not need to be free outdoors to roam and hunt. Cats can and do live a happy and productive life indoors. It is up to the owner to provide interactive toys or play with their cat to satisfy the cat’s need to hunt and attack prey.

Cats also need companionship, either from another animal or their owners. Most cats are very social although not in the same way as dogs are.

There are videos made for cats to watch. If a cat owner feels strongly that their cat should spend time outdoors there are cat containment systems that allow a cat to go outdoors and be safe. You only need to google “cat outdoor yards” or “cat containment systems” to find a wide variety to meet your cat’s needs.

There are a number of reasons why a cat should not be allowed to freely roam outdoors. Being outdoors, even in a city or urban environment subjects the cat to predators which can range from dogs, other cats, hawks, foxes, coyotes and other wild animals that will attack a cat either aggressively or defensively. There are also evil people who make it a sport to trap and torture or kill cats.

If a cat kills wildlife, they are exposed to various parasites and diseases. If they come in contact with other outdoor cats, they can be exposed to various cat borne diseases which could be fatal. If a cat kills and ingests some of the blood of a rodent that has eaten rodent poison, the poison in the rodent’s blood can kill the cat.

Being exposed to injury, diseases and parasites, can make the cat sick and cost the owner multiple veterinarian bills. Not to mention subject the cat to preventable suffering and death.

If the cat is not spayed or neutered, letting it roam freely will cause pregnancy and add to the feral cat population. Contrary to what many people think, feral cats do not live a good life. They are subjected to all the above-mentioned diseases and death. Most feral cats do not live past kittenhood and if they do, only live about two very harsh years, struggling to find food, water, warmth and to fend off predators.

In conclusion, there is no positive reason to let a cat roam freely outdoors. There is every reason to trap, spay, neuter and adopt feral cats.

Pilot whale groups have their own dialect

In a new study by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has found that short-finned pilot whales living off the coast of Hawaii have their own vocal dialects. This discovery may help researchers understand the whales’ complex social structure.

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By using genetic material scientists have determined that the smallest family of whales, referred to as a unit, are directly related. We would call it the immediate family. Next is the cluster which would be the extended family, such as aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. When a group of clusters gather it forms a community, such as a neighborhood.

Understanding their social structure will help scientists understand the life and nature of the whale. They have a close-knit relationship which is evident by mass beaching. If the leader of a group beaches, the rest will follow.

Although the pilot whale is not on the endangered list, they do have risks. They are hunted in many countries and research suggests that they are sensitive to human made noise.

It would be a super thing if we could find a way to understand the language of whales as well as other animals. This latest research is one more step in that direction.

Animal related injuries account for over 1 billion dollars of health care

What may be surprising to many people is that most of the injuries are due to non-venomous insect and spider bites, about 40%. Dog bites only accounted for about 25% of the injuries. About 13% were caused by hornet, wasp and bee stings.

The dollar amount does not include doctor’s fees, outpatient charges, lost productivity, and rehabilitation.

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Over half of the costs associated with animal injuries included dog bites, non-venomous insect and spider bites, and bites from venomous snakes and lizards.

Death due to injuries is rare, only .02% with the highest rate of death due to rat bites, with venomous snake/lizard a close second and third was by dogs.

People over the age of 85 were six times more likely to be admitted to hospital and 27 times more likely to die after their injury.

It seems that while people are careful around dogs and other animals, they should be more aware of the reptiles and insects that they may encounter. This is especially true of ticks that carry several diseases that can make a human or animal seriously ill or even bring about their death.

Sue Bulanda’s books

With the holidays fast approaching I thought I would post a list of the books that I have written. All but two of my books can be ordered from my website (www.sbuland.com) by clicking on the “books” tab. If you want a book shipped outside of the USA please email me for the correct postage. If you order my listed books you will get an autographed copy. I only have a few copies of Soldiers in Fur and Feathers so if you want that please email me first to see if I have any more. This book is out-of-print, so do not order it from my website.

K9 Obedience Training: Teaching Pets and Working Dogs to be Reliable and Free-Thinking.  This book shows you how to teach a dog the basic obedience that is the foundation for all other training. The methods used in this book allow the dog the freedom to think for themselves rather than perform in a robotic method where creativity is discouraged. Free-Thinking is necessary for all working dogs who cannot be trained for every situation that they encourage. Obedient disobedience is also covered. The book also explains what not to do and why. It includes basic handling and grooming techniques that are necessary for a well socialized dog. Some fun tricks are included.

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K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting: Practical Solutions to Common Search-Dog Training Problems – explains the typical training problems and offers solutions that SAR dog handlers encounter when training their dogs. The solutions apply to all disciplines in canine search and rescue. It explains how the puppy stages of development can have lasting effects on the behavior and training of a dog. Often people adopt an older dog to train and do not understand why the dog behaves the way it does, this book gives insight to those issues. Although K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting: Practical Solutions to Common Search-Dog Training Problems is written for the SAR dog handler, the information contained in it applies to many training issues that are not related to SAR.

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Soldiers in Fur and Feathers: The Animals That Served in WWI – Allied Forces: A unique, collection of accounts about many different animals that served in WWI. There are many rare photos. What is especially interesting about this book is that it includes many of the mascots that the soldiers kept. Some went into the trenches with the men. For example, there is an account about how a cat saved the life of a soldier, how a pair of geese slated to be Christmas dinner wound up being kept as mascots, and one soldier had a huge Golden Eagle as a pet. WWI was a transitional war from animal power to mechanization, therefore many species of animals served, such as oxen, horses, mules, camels, pigeons, and dogs in many capacities.

2012: Second Place Winner Non-Fiction, National League of American Pen Women; Finalist for the Alliance of Purebred Dog Writers Arthur Award, Certificate of Excellence for the Cat Writers Association of America.

Soldiers in Fur and Feathers

Faithful Friends: Holocaust Survivors Stories of the Pets Who Gave Them Comfort, Suffered Alongside Them and Waited for Their Return: This is the only book written about the animals of the Holocaust victims, recording a part of history that has been overlooked. Some of the stories are sad and some joyous, but all are a part of history. Learn about Nicholas the French Bulldog owned by a woman who was part of the French resistance, and how he came to tour with the German army. Also, the dogs who somehow survived the war and were reunited with their owners and many other stories about dogs and cats.

2012: Dog Writers Association of America, Maxwell Award.

Certificate of Excellence Cat Writers Association, 2012; National League of American Pen Woman 2nd place non-fiction, 2012.

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God’s Creatures: A Biblical View of Animals: explains the role that animals play in the Bible and how God uses them. It explores the nature of animals and miracles that involve them. The book explores many of the miracles that involve animals. It answers questions such as, do animals go to heaven, do they know and obey God, can they be evil?

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Boston Terriers, a book all about this wonderful breed of dog. Learn about their care, training and personality. The book has fun sidebars that give personal accounts of Boston terriers.

First Place Maxwell Award for the Dog Writers Association of America, 2002. (only available on-line)

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Ready: The Training of the Search and Rescue Dog: Adopted worldwide as the training book for SAR dogs. This book has been in print since 1994 and is in its second edition. It gives the SAR dog handler a training plan for all disciplines of canine search and rescue.

First place for the National League of American Pen Woman’s biannual contest, 1996. Also nominated best book of the year, 1994 Dog Writers Association.

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Ready to Serve, Ready to Save: Strategies of Real-Life Search and Rescue Missions: is about actual search and rescue missions giving the reader inside information about how searches work. It is useful as a tabletop training exercise for SAR units.

2000 Award winner for the National League of American Pen Women contest.

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Scenting on the Wind: Scent Work for Hunting Dogs: helps the hunting enthusiast understand how weather, wind and terrain features affect scent. It is a great aid for people who compete in field trials or who do any kind of scent work with dogs.

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Real Estate Today, Seller Beware! – is how to save money when selling your house. Available on Amazon

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Squirrels eavesdrop on bird chatter

It is always amazing to learn how different species work together. A recent study showed that grey squirrels listen to the chatter of birds to determine if there is danger or if it is safe.

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Anyone who watches birds at a bird feeder will recognize the chatter of birds that are content and feel safe. Squirrels also respond to bird chatter to see if it is safe to raid the bird feeder or forage in the area. If the birds react to danger, the squirrel also reacts. By the same token, if the birds return to their normal “all is safe” chatter, the squirrels also assume it is safe.

This brings up interesting questions about how many other animals communicate in this way. I have noticed a difference in my pet budgies reaction to the safe chatter of songbirds when I have a window opened. They seem to chatter more then when they are by themselves. The only other time my birds are as vocal is when they like the music I am playing. Interesting to say the least.

Parasite from cats killing sea otters

For decades scientists have been studying why some California sea otters are dying. Recently researchers led by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have linked feral and domestic cats as the source of Toxoplasma that is killing sea otters.

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photo from pixabay

The parasite forms egglike stages referred to as oocysts. Feral cats eat rodents and birds that have the oocysts in their bodies. From there the oocysts live in the cats until they are passed through the cat feces. The feces are washed into the sea and live in the kelp. Then snails eat the oocysts and the sea otters eat the snails.

People who own cats can help by keeping their cats indoors. Cat feces should not be flushed into septic or public wastewater systems since they will cycle back into the ground.

The oocysts are also washed into the waterways by rainwater, therefore preserving wetlands, forests and grasslands will help keep the parasite and other pollutants out of the oceans. Managing storm water runoff and replacing pavement with permeable surfaces will help.

If all cat owners in California, especially those who live near the ocean, do what they can to help, we can reduce the death rate of sea otters.

Dogs and bones

UCLA evolutionary biologist Blaire Van Valkenburgh has spent over 30 years studying broken teeth in carnivores of all kinds. She has come to the conclusion that broken teeth in carnivores that lived thousands of years ago to the present, are linked with food availability. Her conclusion is that as food becomes less available, carnivores will eat more of the kill, leaving less of it. This includes eating the bones. She maintains that when there is enough food a carnivore will not eat bones to protect their teeth. If a carnivore has broken teeth, they cannot kill and eat food as well.

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Why is this important to us? Her study shows that given a choice; carnivores will not chew on bones. This includes wolves, coyotes, foxes and other similar canids. So it brings up the question, is it wise to give our pet dogs bones to chew on? I have always maintained that it is not a good idea to give dogs bones to chew on. That it is not what they would do given the choice. Most dog bones are scented or stuffed to get the dog to chew it. Dogs that are aggressive chewers have broken their teeth on bones.

Some of the risks to giving a dog bones are:

Broken teeth

Mouth or tongue injury

The bone can get caught on the lower ja

The bone can get stuck in the esophagus, windpipe, stomach, and/or the

Intestines

Bones can cause constipation

Bones can cause severe bleeding from the rectum

Bones can poke holes in the stomach and intestines causing a bacterial     infection

And while I am writing this article, I will warn my readers that it is also dangerous and unnatural to feed dogs any form of rawhide from any type of animal, as well as antlers. These things can kill your dog or cause intestinal blockage requiring surgery. There is also the risk of toxins and decay that is associated with the processing of rawhide. The main source of rawhide is from slaughterhouses where cows and horses are butchered. Much of it is processed in China where they do not have the regulations that exist in other countries. So the best thing is to be careful about what you let your dog chew.

Humpback whale saves a researcher

I recently read a very interesting story in All Creatures: The Animals Who Share Our Lives, (July/Aug 2019) about an encounter with a humpback whale. What intrigued me was the intelligence and compassion that the whale showed to a research diver.

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image from pixabay

Nan Hauser a whale biologist who is the president of the Center for Cetacean Research and Conservation, was snorkeling by the Cook Islands in the Pacific Ocean when this incident took place in 2017.

A humpback whale swam right toward her and started to push her in such a way that she wound up on the whale’s head. Then the whale tried to put her under his pectoral fin. When the whale realized that she could not breathe under his fin, he lifted her up out of the water. While out of the water Ms. Hauser saw a female humpback whale aggressively slapping the water with her fin, which whales do to frighten away a predator.

Ms. Hauser then noticed another very large shape in the water. It turned out that it was a 15-foot tiger shark coming directly for her. The whales saved her life that day. But the story doesn’t end there. A little over a year later Ms. Hauser was out with another research team in a boat. The same male humpback whale swam next to the boat, put his head out of the water and looked at Ms. Hauser. He did not pay attention to anyone else.

This is not an isolated incident since it is not unusual for whales to protect members of other species. What does this tell us about whales? It shows many aspects of an animal’s mind and feelings. If you think of all the implications that acts of kindness such as these imply, it is truly amazing. The whale had to recognize that there was danger to another species. Then it had to gently protect the species at risk. In the case of Ms. Hauser, the whale had to have an understanding that humans cannot breathe underwater even though they may have seen them in scuba gear, breathing underwater. It shows a form of caring, compassion, and the fact that the whale remembered her a year later, shows that the whale specifically remembered Ms. Hauser. There is so much we do not know about animals and so much to learn.