Posted at 8:46 am
The Lost Wolves of Japan, by Brett Walker
The Lost Wolves of Japan is a first-rate academically-oriented text that combs through the natural and cultural history of wolves on the Japanese archipelago. Author Brett Walker is a professor of history at Montana State University who specializes in Japanese history; this book was published by the Univ. of Washington Press. He used historical research methodologies to frame an inquiry into what the Japanese wolf was, and what led to its extinction. If you like historical detail, this book serves it up in helping after generous helping.
Walker explores many different themes in The Lost Wolves of Japan, most of which are centered around people, culture, wolves and nature. He pokes and prods the relationships of these entitites to each other by using various historical lenses. He examines the near-myth of Japanese “oneness” with nature; the culture of the Ainu (an indigenous people group in the Japanese archipelago) and their spiritual reverence for wild wolves, and their close relationship with domesticated hunting dogs; how early Japanese naturalists classified the wolves and mountain dogs that populated their islands; the Japanese government’s quest to modernize their society through ranching during the early years of the Meiji Restoration (ca. 1868); and theories of wolf extinction.
Posted at 10:15 pm
A raccoon dog. (Yes, it's real!) They now live in China, but evolved in North America.
Make no mistake, canids are a homegrown North American phenomenon. And like many things American, canids were exported across the globe and took firm root in every continent. A lot of attention has been focused recently upon the origin of domestic dogs. No one doubts they came from wolves, but where exactly did wolves come from, and who are their immediate fossil relatives? These were the questions swirling in my head when I dragged my pappasan chair onto the back deck, settled in, and read “Dogs: Their fossil relatives and evolutionary history” over the course of two afternoons. (Probably could have read it in one day if I hadn’t spent so much time taking notes.) It was written by Xiaoming Wang and Richard Tedford, and illustrated by Mauricio Anton.
To be fair, this is not an easy read unless you like learning about extinct species, ancient climates and environments and don’t mind piecing together relationships in your head. It’s not entirely angled at an academic audience, but it’s also not entirely angled at a lay audience; it’s more like a hybrid approach that aims a few notches down from scientific journal writing and a few notches above what you might read in Discovery magazine. Continue reading
Posted at 11:14 pm
The larger of these two pencil urchins was exposed to currrent CO2 levels; the smaller was exposed to the highest CO2 levels in the study. (Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
I reported and wrote this post for Science in the Triangle, where it appeared first:
Unlocking causes of past mass extinction events is a nifty – if not controversial – trick. But forecasting the future while also explaining the geologic past is even niftier. And that is just what a new study attempts to do by documenting experimental effects of ocean acidification upon shelled marine invertebrates.
The study, published Dec. 1 in Geology and led by a University of North Carolina scientist, reports a spectrum of positive to negative responses across seven major groups of calcifying marine organisms. It also offers supporting evidence for understanding patterns of past mass extinction — and survival — seen 251 million years ago at the Permian-Triassic boundary. Continue reading