Showing posts with label Europe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Europe. Show all posts

December 19, 2013

Blog Stew in Abandoned Houses

¶ Kind of a fairy-tale ambiance, if your idea of fairy tale runs to weasels, fog, and decay: "Forest Animals Living in Abandoned Houses." From Finland—where is the Southern Rockies version?

¶ A guide to telling what is eating your livestock.

¶ Colorado College professor Walt Hecox gets an environmental-policy award.

¶ Always topical: Survival Mom's guide to "50 Last-Minute Ways to Prepare for an Emergency." A lot of it is about water.

December 18, 2013

No Blog Stew, Please, We're Neanderthals

¶ Ongoing study of Neanderthal DNA genes in modern humans, including adaptation to UV light: 
Interestingly, the authors note, the geographic distribution of the Neanderthal genomic region suggests that UV-light mutations were shown to be lost during the exodus of modern human from Africa, and reintroduced to Eurasians from Neanderthals. “Overall, it is still very controversial whether there is more Neanderthal DNA contributions to Asians than Europeans, as we have evidence to argue against this,” said Lin. “Although in the case of the Hyal2 variant, it did indeed have a higher frequency in Asians.
¶  Another study suggesting that Neanderthal people did bury their dead, as opposed to the notion that modern archaeologists misinterpreted bone deposits:
The findings center on Neanderthal remains first discovered in 1908 at La Chapelle-aux-Saints in southwestern France. The well-preserved bones led its early 20th-century excavators to posit that the site marked a burial ground created by a predecessor to early modern humans. However, their conclusions have sparked controversy in the scientific community ever since, with skeptics maintaining that the discovery had been misinterpreted and that the burial may not have been intentional.

October 05, 2013

Bison, Bears, and Wolves . . . in Europe

That buffalo (bison) in the photo banner up top is part of a private herd at the Wolf Springs Ranch in Huerfano County, Colorado. Where he is grazing is historic habitat, but the herd was re-introduced and built up by a wealthy rancher, Tom Redmond.

His distant relatives in eastern Europe, once almost extinct, are making a managed comeback in Poland and Belarus. So are some other species that seemed likely to be preserved only in museums and heraldry, says The Telegraph:
The European bison, which was extinct in the wild in Europe at the start of the 20th century, has increased by more than 3,000 per cent after a large-scale breeding and reintroduction programme. It now has particular strongholds in Belarus and Poland.
Brown bear numbers have doubled and the grey wolf population of Europe quadrupled between 1970 and 2005.
There were also sharp rises in numbers of several species of bird, including the Svalbard breeding population of the barnacle goose, the white-tailed eagle and the Spanish imperial eagle.
But tell me, did someone at The Telegraph use a stock photo of North American bison? Compare to these.For a moment I wondered if someone was cross-breeding our bison, but I don't think so. The website of the European Bison Conservation Center says, "The [captive breeding] program should ensure separation of the pure Lowland and the Lowland-Caucasian lines and avoid hybridization with any other related species."


May 22, 2013

Mediterranean Diet: The Dark Side

You have the olive oil, of course, and the seafood and the vegetables.

And the golden orioles, the nightingales, and the corncrakes. The larks and the finches, yum yum.

Call it a quirk of geography. Birds that migrate from Europe to Africa must cross the Mediterranean Sea, north to south or south to north. They are tired after that flight, easy to trap and kill, be it in Egypt, the Greek islands, Crete, Sicily, or the south of France.

In Egypt, for example, 
A few scattered nets along the coast have metastasized into a nearly impenetrable wall of traps, stretching almost without break from the Gaza strip in the east to the Libyan border in the west. Conservative estimates set the annual death toll of migratory birds in this area at 10 million, but others say it is probably an order of magnitude more.

In some areas, especially near Libya, the birds are caught for subsistence, by people who currently have no other way to feed themselves, but the vast majority, perhaps 80 percent of the birds trapped, are sold in markets as a pricey delicacy or hocked to high-end restaurants in Cairo for up to five euros for each slight songbird. 
This Mediterranean taste for songbird pasta sauce came to America and contributed to the shaping of American hunting regulations. Just as Americans were trying to move away from the "shoot everything" approach to conservation-guided hunting, along came the Italians (mainly) who got jobs, bought shotguns, took a train ride out into the country, and started shooting chickadees.

Louis Warren, writing in The Hunter's Game: Poachers and Conservationists in Twentieth-Century America, devotes a chapter to this cultural conflict:
Because Italian immigrants hunted birds, they were considered a principal threat to bird life and therefore an incipient cause of this potential apocalypse. In the minds of many, immigrants represented as much a threat to American nature, especially American birds, as they did to the social order of American cities. William T. Hornaday, the president of the New York Zoological Society and one of the most famous conservationists of the era, captured conservationists' fears of Italians in his widely read tract, Our Vanishing Wildlife: "Let every state and province in America look out sharply for the bird-killing foreigner; for sooner or later, he will surely attack your wild life. The Italians are spreading, spreading, spreading. If you are without them to-day, to-morrow they will be around you." 
In 1903, the influential conservation magazine Forest and Stream published an article, "The Italian and the Birds," noting,
Once I examined the contents of a bag that one of a party of three Italian hunters [in Massachusetts] carried and found nearly fifty birds, including two or three quails, which at that season were unlawfully taken, and among the song birds that constituted the greater portion of what the bag contained were several chickadees, a bird that with its feathers off is not much larger than an English walnut. I have learned that the Italians are in the habit of killing and eating chickadees and all other song birds, and for this purpose will snatch the young from their nests before they can fly.
Today, hunting regulations in America are better respected, and what transgressions take place usually take different forms. The French may even stop eating songbirds too.

Unfortunately, contemporary Egypt is a pretty dysfunctional nation that cannot even feed itself. (To think that Egypt fed parts of the Roman Empire at one time!) So bird conservation is pretty far down the to-do list, after massacring Coptic Christians and what-not.

February 10, 2013

The Question of Neanderthal/Modern Coexistence Contnues

Lately we have been told that the tip of the Iberian peninsula was the last European home of Neanderthal people, even as modern humans were spreading everywhere else.

Anthropologists have speculated how the two groups might have interacted.

A new group of researchers, however, argue for an earlier end to Neanderthal occupation:
The scientists, by applying this new method, assure that the Neanderthal occupation of the sites did not last until as late as previously thought; instead it should be placed approximately 45,000 years ago.
Read more here at Heritage Daily.  How this affects the issue of Neanderthal DNA in our bodies is another question, apparently.

May 18, 2012

Were Neanderthals Domesticating Dogs?

Since they hunted large animals, I have often wondered if Neanderthal people had dogs. The conventional answer has been no:
Until 2009, dogs were believed to have been domesticated about 17,000 years ago, long after Neandertals were already extinct.
Now some paleontologists are re-thinking that.
None of these ancient dog skulls date exactly to the period of modern human–Neandertal overlap, but the domestication process must have been underway even before the first identifiable dog entered the fossil record. The rapidly developing consensus is that dogs were domesticated during the period when both modern humans and Neandertals [new spelling] lived in Europe. So far, all of these early dogs are from modern-human sites. Several lines of evidence suggest that dogs and wolves were especially revered by those humans.
 More on ritual burial of dogs and calculations from Finland on dogs' utility in hunting large animals. (Hat tip, Patrick Burns.)

May 06, 2012

A Documentary of the Dreamtime

I own the book. I have now watched the film. I realize that I am unlikely to ever see the cave.

(Maybe the last is all right, because it spares me the experience that you, too, may have had of finally visiting some famous site and reacting, "I thought it would be bigger!")

Detail from the panel of horses at Chauvet Cave.
How could some Aurignacian-period hunter, shouldering his haunch of horse meat, imagine that future people would look back on his era while thinking, "That was the real time."

I look at those pictures with a quasi-religious awe. Some scholars apparently think that one artist did the best stuff, such as the panel of horses, but even the lesser work shows a sure hand. It is not scribbled or cartoonish.

The question remains  —  how did Old Master-quality drawing skills seemingly just pop up c. 30,000 years ago?

And biologically accurate too. 

Where is the student work? Drawn on rock surfaces outdoors, where it long since washed away?

(Rethinking that statement a day later — perhaps the filmmakers and still photographers give us a false idea by focusing on the best work. Consider this from an article in Natural History: " In some cases, we see a sophisticated, realistic painting next to a rather crude sketch, perhaps a copy of the original by an apprentice.")

The easy walk-in entrance to the cave was erased by a rockslide about 20,000 years ago, and then the cave sat sealed, dark, and damp, growing its formations, until three French cavers found it in 1994 So it was visited sporadically for ten thousand years, the carbon-dating suggests.

Ten thousand years. Ten thousand years when the world was, in a sense, intact. Ten thousand years outside of history—shared with large animals. 

Even if it was a world where you had to watch for cave bears, wolves. and lions and where if you made it to forty, people probably called you “Old-Timer,” it was a world that made sense to its inhabitants.

As director Werner Herzog muses, we are locked into history, but they were not. Hence my borrowing of the term "Dreamtime" for when they lived.

December 08, 2011

Ja, a "Western" Catholic Mass in Central Europe

"Western wear" as we know it is mainly a post-World War Two creation of the Country & Western music industry and the rodeos. Some stockmen still largely ignore the look. The Old West did not have it.

But in Austria . . . Austria! . . . it can be ecclesiastical. Sort of. Some Roman Catholic observers are very upset. They seem equally bothered by the Confederate battle flag as by the cigarettes. (Would "Yeehaw!" be considered a "pious ejaculation"?)

I don't exactly have a dog in that fight. I just did not know that the concept of "cowboy church,"  not uncommon around here, had been exported — and had swum the Tiber to boot.

February 04, 2011

Abstract Landscapes

"How abstract can a landscape become while remaining a landscape?" asks Dutch photographer Gerco de Ruijter.

You can do close-ups of erosion in New Mexico—or photograph man-made landscapes in the Netherlands that do indeed verge on the abstract.

November 30, 2010

What Killed the Cave Bears?

Sometimes when I want to wallow in nostalgia for lost and long-ago times, I pull out a coffee-table photo book of paintings from Chauvet.

There is a sketch on the right, student work from L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts des Grottes, no doubt.

Such bears are long-gone, and while many would suspect that Cro-Magnon hunters with spears did them in, some scientists still seek other explanations for their disappearance.

Climate change? Housing shortage? High-tech tools are being deployed in the search for answers.

However, if the Cro-Mag boys killed one, they quite likely ate it. Did they make bear dumplings? Or did that recipe have to wait for the Neolithic, when, if you are in the Paul Shepard camp, you assert that everything went downhill.

June 20, 2010

Some Italian Locovores and a "Battalion" of Dogs



Note the silver-haired gent with the "30 odd 6 calibre" rifle. The people at Plum TV try to include hunting in their genteel lifestyle programming, but they don't speak Gunny. Click at lower right for full-screen version.

(Via Suburban Bushwhacker.)

March 07, 2010

Italian SAR is Piste Off

Search and Rescue (SAR) teams in the Italian Alps are increasingly unhappy with out-of-bounds skiers, reports the Times of London.

The official reponse? More rules:

In a crackdown on “avalanche tourists”, Michela Vittoria Brambilla, the tourism minister, announced that she was drafting strict rules, similar to the Highway Code, to govern off-piste skiing. 

Yeah, that'll work.

February 06, 2010

First the Aurochs, then the Cave Bear



Italian scientists plan to re-create the extinct giant bovine aurochs.

"We were able to analyse auroch DNA from preserved bone material and create a rough map of its genome that should allow us to breed animals nearly identical to aurochs," said team leader Donato Matassino, head of the Consortium for Experimental Biotechnology in Benevento, in the southern Campania region.

"We've already made our first round of crosses between three breeds native to Britain, Spain and Italy. Now we just have to wait and see how the calves turn out."


I suppose Ted Turner would want a few on his ranches. Maybe he could buy a new spread in Poland for his aurochs herd.