Buddy’s DNA Results are In!

Recently I told you about Buddy, our neighbors’ dog and, ever since he arrived, best friends with Irie and Tiki. He’s already quickly become best buddies with our new puppy Barli (and…

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That was nothing short of excellent. Thank you.

That was nothing short of excellent. Thank you.

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Sudden Weight Loss in Dogs: Signs and Symptoms

Sudden weight loss in a dog that is not attributable to increased exercise or activity should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian. Some dogs do experience cyclical weight changes because they live in seasonal climates and are exercised and walked less during the cold winter months.

To be healthy, a dog should have sufficient fat covering the ribs. …
Dog’sHealth.com Blog

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Canis mosbachensis and the origins of the modern Canis species

African golden wolf

What we do know about the origins of Canis species is much more hotly-contested than what we know about the evolution of our own species. The earliest fossils of the genus are roughly 6 million years old, and the oldest species in the “wolf lineage” is Canis lepophagus, which lived in the American Southwest and Northern Mexico 5 million years ago.  This species is often posited as the direct ancestor of the coyote, and it may have been a direct ancestor of all the entire wolf-like canid lineage.

Of course, recent discoveries that have come from full genome comparisons make things a little complicated. With the discovery that coyotes diverged from gray wolves as recently as 50,000 years ago, the linear evolution from Canis lepophagus to Canis latrans is probably invalid.  Further another full genome study that used a single Israeli golden jackal (Canis aureus) as the outgrouping sample to determine when dogs and gray wolves split, revealed that this particular jackal diverged from gray wolves less than 400,000 years ago.

Both of these dates are far more recent that the millions of years that are assumed to separate these wolf-like canids from each other. Of course, more work must be done. We need more studies on coyote genomes, but these researchers have come across what could be the most important discovery in our understanding of the evolution of Canis species. Depending upon the study, coyotes and gray wolves were thought to have diverged between 700,000 to 1 million years ago, and this assumption is used to calculate when other Canis have diverged.

Now, this assumption always did bother me, because if Canis lepophagus leads directly to Canis latrans, where do wolves fit in?  Because in order for that model to work, gray wolves have to evolve from a very small coyote-like ancestor with very few transitions in between. It always just seemed to me like it was unworkable.

Further, there is a whole host of literature on the evolution of gray wolves in Eurasia, and in most European literature, there is a general acceptance of how gray wolves evolved from a smaller wolf called Canis mosbachensis.

Wolfgang Soergel, a German paleontologist at the University of Tübingen, discovered Canis mosbachensis at a site near Jockgrim in 1925. The animal is sometimes called the “Mosbach wolf,” which means it was found in the Mosbach Sands, where many fossils from the Middle Pleistocene have been found.

Mark Derr was particularly interested in this species in his How the Dog Became the Dog.  He points out that the earliest dated fossils of this species are 1.5 million years old and come from the ‘Ubeidiya excavations in Israel.  The most recent Canis mosbachensis remains in Europe are about 400,000 years old, after which time they were replaced by Canis lupus.  Derr speculated about the relationship mosbachensis might have had with early hominin species, which were also well-known from that site, and suggested that they might had some kind of relationship.

Further, there is a growing tendency among paleontologists to group Canis mosbachensis with another wolf that was its contemporary. This wolf, called Canis variabilis, was discovered at the Zhoukoudian Cave System in China in 1934. Its discoverer was Pei Wenzhong, who became respected paleontologist, archaeologist, and anthropologist in the People’s Republic of China. It was a small wolf with a proportionally smaller brain, and it has long been a subject of great speculation.

And this speculation tends to get lots of attention, for this cave system is much more famous for the discovery of a type of Homo erectus called “Peking Man.”  It is particularly popular among the people who insist that dogs are not wolves, which is about as scientifically untenable as the “birds are not dinosaurs” (BAND) clique of scholarship.

Mark Derr and as well as more established scholarship have begun to group variabilis and mosbachensis together. Variablis has also been found in Yakutia, and it may have been that varibablis nothing more than an East Asian variant of mosbachensis.

These wolves were not large animals. They varied from the size of an Eastern coyote to the size of an Indian wolf. They were not the top dogs of the Eurasian predator guild.

Indeed, they played second fiddle to a larger pack-hunting canid called Xenocyon lycaonoides, a large species that is sometimes considered ancestral to the African wild dog and the dhole, but the recent discovery of Lycaon sekoweiwhich was a much more likely ancestor of the African wild dog, suggests that it was more likely a sister species to that lineage.

Although canids resembling Canis lupus have been found in Alaska and Siberia that date to 800,000 years ago, anatomically modern wolves are not confirmed in the Eurasian faunal guild until 300,000-500,000 years before present.

I’m throwing a lot of dates at you right now, because if the modern Canis lupus species is as recent as the current scholarship suggests, then we can sort of begin to piece together how the entire genus evolved.

And we’re helped by the fact that we have an ancient DNA study on a Yakutian “Canis variablis” specimen. This specimen would have been among the latest of its species, for it has been dated to 360,000 years before present. Parts of its ancient mitochondrial DNA has been compared to other sequences from ancient wolves, and it has indeed confirmed that this animal is related to the lineage that leads to wolves and domestic dogs.  The paper detailing its findings suggests that there is a direct linkage between this specimen and modern dog lineages, but one must be careful in interpreting too much from limited mitochondrial DNA studies.

360,000 years ago is not that far from the proposed divergence between gray wolves and the Israel golden jackal in genome comparison study I mentioned at the beginning of the post.

This really could suggest something a bit controversial and bold. It make take some time for all this to be tested, but it is a hypothesis worth considering.

I suggest that all this evidence shows that Canis mosbachensis is the ancestor of all interfertile Canis, with the possible exception of the Ethiopian wolf.

If the Ethiopian wolf is not descended from that species, then it is a sister taxon. It is not really clear how divergent Ethiopian wolves are from the rest of interfertile Canis, but their divergence estimates currently suggest that it diverged from the rest of the wolf-like clade 1.6 million years ago, which is just before Canis mosbachensis appears in the fossil record.

If that more recent date holds for the split for the Eurasian golden jackal, then it is almost certain that this hypothesis is correct.  The Eurasian golden jackal may be nothing more than a sister species to a great species complex that includes the coyote, gray wolf, dingo, and domestic dog that both derived from divergent populations of Canis mosbachensis. 

The exact position of the Himalayan wolf and the African golden wolf are still not clear. We do know, though, that both are more closely related to the coyote and gray wolf than the Eurasian golden jackal is, and if its split from the gray wolf is a recent as less than 400,000 years ago, then it is very likely that all of these animals are more closely related to the main Holarctic population of gray wolves than we have assumed.

The recent divergence of all these Canis species is why there is so much interfertility among them.

And if these animals are as recently divergent as is inferred, their exact species status is going to be questioned.

And really should be, at least from a simple cladistics perspective.

More work does need to be done, but I don’t think my hypothesis is too radical.

It just seems that this is a possibility that could explored.



Natural History

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Arthur – the dog who crossed the jungle to find a home – by Mikael Lindnord—a review

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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I am ethically opposed to BSL for all of the reaso…

I am ethically opposed to BSL for all of the reasons outlined above, specially that it encourages discrimination of pit bulls by other powers.
However, this article is written in such a way that it’s not outright lies, but it is certainly designed to mislead. SFACC does not put people in a position as to force them to surrender their pet bc they can’t afford to spay or neuter. The way this is written is incredibly misleading and irresponsible. SFACC will not keep someone’s pet because they cannot afford to redeem them. They work out payment plans. They have the power to refuse to give someone a pet that they can’t pay for, this is true. But it simply isn’t done (unless there are extenuating circumstances that lead them to believe this is in the dog’s best interest).
Additionally, the legislation was put into place because the mayor at that time wanted to ban pit bulls outright. While this version of BSl certainly is not great, it’s vastly better than banning these precious babies altogether.

While I too am against BSL, and understand where Bad Rap is coming from, it’s pretty hard to be against spay neuter for a dog breed that is disproportionally homeless. Personally I wish that it was mandatory spay and neuter for all dogs.

Bad Rap, you’re better than this. You have the moral high ground-don’t squander it by being misleading and misinformed. Additionally, SFACC didn’t write the law. Maybe you should be more critical of the legistlators at city hall and less critical of the men and woman working hard every day to keep the animals of San Francisco safe and who support the pet guardians of San Francisco in countless ways.

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Hairy hopefuls cue up for casting call

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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Links I Love, Right Now (+ A Life Update)

Happy Friday! In case you missed my post last week, I took about a week off from the blog due to what I’ll label as a seriously crappy headspace (that resulted from yet another canceled trip due to a sick kid and a general feeling of being very overwhelmed). While I did continue to work during this “break” (because as those of you who work in content creation know, it’s the emails, campaign applications, contracts, phone meetings, tax/record keeping work, and social media posts that take up the majority of your time), taking some time off from the blog alleviated some of the pressure I’d been putting on myself consistently so far in 2018 to squeeze unrealistic amounts of work into short periods of time. It honestly only took three days for me to feel good again after weeks of feeling pretty terrible. It’s amazing how easy it was. On Friday I worked in the morning and then Essley and I had a girl’s day at a children’s museum, followed by shopping. On Saturday I had a lazy morning with my family, worked on getting Essley’s bedroom redesign started, then went to a movie with Robbie that night. On Sunday I had breakfast with a dear friend, and then spent the afternoon visiting a family member who is in a residential treatment facility (and doing great), followed by a pizza party at home with the kids. Even though I did a lot and there wasn’t much relaxation involved, it felt luxurious because it wasn’t about work and deadlines and stress. And while the only reason I was able to do it was the fact that my husband was home and not on tour last week (so I had help with the kids and less pressure to get my work done in increments), and it’s not something I can do on a regular basis, it was a great reminder that sometimes just a small step back can make a massive difference.

That said, this was a great week for me to actually get to enjoy a little late night time on the internet (rather than only being here to work work work), which means I found some gems I can now share with you through a Links I Love post. So here we go.

I loved this piece on raising kind kids. So much. And honestly, I needed to read it. Lots of important reminders.

Pistachio butter, where have you been all my life?

If I had an endless supply of money to spend on shoes I’d take these gorgeous slide sandals (seen in top image) in all three colors, but because I don’t, I have my eye on the tan ones. So pretty.

The new Queer Eye on Netflix is my new late night lover (after my darling husband, of course). I can’t get enough. If you haven’t seen it yet (do it! do it!), this New Yorker piece explains it well.

I have a really exciting partnership coming up in a couple of months that involves our new backyard (which is currently in pretty bad shape). I’ve been obsessing over outdoor decor as a result. This black and white kilim pouf and rattan candle hurricane holders need to come live with us, immediately.

Theses tassel earrings are like all my favorite jewelry things rolled into one.

Pediatricians are calling for universal depression screenings in teens, which I think is absolutely wonderful. I hope it happens.

A mysterious forest full of shoes. (The things I find interesting, man.)

These are the coolest sunglasses. (And only $ 20!)

When it comes to sharing my political views (and boy do I have them) on the internet, I save them for my personal Facebook page, but I found this list of companies who have cut ties with the NRA this week quite interesting.

How about this 13 year old soon-to-be rockstar at the Olympics Closing Ceremonies?

This romper brings tears to my eyes in the best of the ways. Hurry up, summer.

Robbie is actually off again this weekend (a very rare occurrence this time of year), so we’re going on a date tonight. Tomorrow night he is taking Essley to a daddy daughter dance (I mean….), and Sunday morning she and I get to go to her good friend’s birthday party. After that, it’s one of my favorite evenings of the year – the Oscars. Ironically, the only time I have ever missed an Oscars in my life was one year when I was actually in LA and staying close to the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars take place. I have a degree in acting and love movies, so I make a whole evening out of it. As my husband says, “it’s Melissa’s Super Bowl.” I can’t wait.

Whatever your plans, I hope you have the weekend of your dreams. See you Monday, with a post that talks a little more about my stress issues lately and how one of the ways I’ve taken care of myself is through underwear. Yep. Stay tuned.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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For your research, Steph: "Having a pit bull…

For your research, Steph:

"Having a pit bull … and three kids is not acceptable because we're not going to deal with the consequences of losing a life," Newsom said.

He appointed a task force led by Carl Friedman, the city's director of Animal Care and Control, and members of the mayor's office, the police department, fire department, health department and city attorney's office, and gave the group 10 days to produce a report.

Friedman said the task force will likely consider breed-specific permits and mandatory spaying and neutering of aggressive dogs." And that they did.


We don't need to be convinced that mandatory spay/neuter is an outdated, ineffective idea and welcome you to follow the success of the the honey-not-vinegar approach that our group has been enjoying in the East Bay.

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Reality sets in

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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