Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dog Remains Found With Ancient Humans' Stuff

Somebody had this up on FB, regarding human/dog connections
A dog jaw bone fossil found in a Swiss cave may be the oldest evidence of human-canine companionship.
*A jaw fragment found in a Swiss cave dates between 14,100-14,600 years ago.
*Researchers claim it's the earliest evidence of a domesticated animal.
*Older fossils recently identified as dogs may have been wolves.
Every dog has its day, but that day took more than 14,000 years to dawn for one canine. A jaw fragment found in a Swiss cave comes from the earliest known dog, according to scientists who analyzed and radiocarbon-dated the fossil.

Dog origins remain poorly understood, however, and some researchers say that dog fossils much older than the Swiss find have already been excavated.

An upper-right jaw unearthed in 1873 in Kesslerloch Cave, located near Switzerland's northern border with Germany, shows that domestic dogs lived there between 14,100 and 14,600 years ago, say archaeology graduate student Hannes Napierala and archaeozoologist Hans-Peter Uerpmann, study co-authors at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

"The Kesslerloch find clearly supports the idea that the dog was an established domestic animal at that time in central Europe," Napierala says.

Researchers have also found roughly 14,000-year-old dog fossils among the remains of prehistoric people buried at Germany's Bonn-Oberkassel site.

Older fossil skulls recently identified by other teams as dogs were probably Ice Age wolves, Napierala and Uerpmann argue in a paper published online July 19 in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. That includes a 31,700-year-old specimen discovered more than a century ago in Belgium's Goyet Cave and reported in 2009 to be the oldest known dog.

Paleontologist Mietje Germonpré of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels, who directed the analysis of the Goyet fossil, stands by his conclusions. "The Kesslerloch dog is not the oldest evidence of dog domestication," he says.

Numerous wolf fossils lie near alleged dog remains at Kesslerloch Cave and Goyet Cave, raising doubts about whether either site hosted completely domesticated animals, remarks archaeologist Susan Crockford of the University of Victoria in British Columbia. She regards the Swiss jaw as an "incipient dog" in the early stages of domestication from wolves.

Scientists disagree about how and when dogs originated, other than that wolves provided the wild stock from which dogs were bred. One investigation of genetic diversity in modern dogs and wolves concluded that domestication occurred in southeastern Asia, whereas another placed canine origins in Eastern Europe or the Middle East (SN: 4/10/10, p. 12).

Napierala and Uerpmann suspect that, however the DNA studies pan out, they will show where wolves originated, not dogs. In their view, dogs were domesticated from local wolf populations in various parts of Europe, Asia and perhaps northern Africa sometime before 15,000 years ago.

The Kesslerloch dog jaw and its remaining teeth are considerably smaller than those of wolves recovered from the same site, the scientists say. A space between two of the fossil dog's teeth indicates that domestication must have reached an advanced phase at that time, they argue. During initial stages of domestication, jaws shrink in size faster than teeth, producing dental crowding. Later in the domestication process, teeth get small enough to leave spaces.

Canine fossils from Goyet and several other sites older than Kesslerloch Cave fall within the size ranges of modern and ancient wolves, Napierala adds. Relatively short, robust snouts on the older fossils, initially cited as evidence of domestication, may denote an adaptation of wolves to hunting large Ice Age game, he holds.

Ancient dogs had shorter, broader snouts, wider mouths and wider brain cases than wolves, responds Germonpré. Brain studies indicate that dogs' retinas became reorganized to focus on the central visual field, perhaps to assist in tracking human faces, at the same time that selective breeding produced shorter noses, he says.

Dogs older than the one at Kesslerloch Cave were relatively large, although not as large as wolves, Germonpré argues. Those dogs have been unearthed at sites that have yielded huge numbers of mammoth bones. People living in those areas may have used dogs to haul mammoth meat from kill areas and as sentinels, he proposes.

Napierala and Germonpré agree that a resolution of this debate demands the dogged pursuit of additional canine fossils.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Oldest Stash In The World

Scientists Find 2,700-Year-Old Pot

Scientists have discovered two pounds of a dried plant that turned out to be the oldest marijuana in the world. Inside one of the Yanghai Tombs excavated in the Gobi Desert, a team of researchers found the cannabis packed into a wooden bowl resting inside a 2,700-year-old grave. It was placed near the head of a blue-eyed, 45-year-old shaman among other objects like bridles and a harp to be used in afterlife.

At first, the researchers thought the dried weed was coriander. Then they spent 10 months getting the cannabis from the tomb in China to a secret lab in England. Finally, the team put the stash through “microscopic botanical analysis” including carbon dating and genetic analysis, and discovered the stash was really pot.

The fact that the weed had a chemical known for psychoactive properties called tetrahydrocannabinolic acid synthase, or THC, led scientists to believe the man and his community probably used it for medicinal and recreational purposes. According to professor Ethan Russo of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Botany, someone had picked out all the parts of the plant that are less psychoactive before placing it in the grave, therefore the dead man probably didn’t grow his hemp merely to make clothes.

If aged like wine, pot users might now be in heaven. But the weed had decomposed over the years, so no one would feel any effects if they smoked the artifact today.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Another Type of Lead Pipe to Avoid
80beats: Smoke Weed and Keep Alzheimer’s Away
Reality Base: Man Denied Lifesaving Transplant Due to Marijuana Use

Image: flickr/ BodhiSativa Photography

Love a Dog (or Cat). It's Good for You

Pet Love Defends Against Depression
Those with beloved pets will tell you how much it picks them up at the end of a bad day to see that furry face waiting at the door.

Anything relaxing or enjoyable helps boost endorphins and other mood-boosting neurochemicals. It also lowers stress chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine that can interfere with sleep and create patterns of negative thinking and depression.

Studies have shown that pet owners with terminal diseases are less likely to suffer from depression. This is particularly true of those who have a close bond with their pets.

Pets Lower Incidence of Allergies and Asthma
Contrary to expectations, pet owners actually have less allergies and asthma than people who are not exposed to animal fur and dander. Research conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that infants raised in a dog-owning house from birth had fewer allergies and eczema by the time they were a year old than newborns who came home to a pet-free household.

Infants who were exposed to dogs showed 19% incidence of allergies, while 33% of the pet-free children had allergies at one year of age. Infants with dogs also had higher levels of certain immune system chemicals.

Pets Improve Heart Health
A Queen's University (Belfast) study shows that heart attack patients who own dogs are 8.6% more likely to be alive a year after a heart attack than those who do not own a pet. Cat owners are statistically more likely to survive ten years after a heart attack than people who live without pets.

The same study says that pet owners are less likely to get ordinary sicknesses like the flu and tend to have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol. Men who own pets, in particular, have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels – key indicators for heart disease – than men who don't have any pets.

Another study, done at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis, reports that cat owners are 30% less likely to experience heart attack.

For heart failure patients, even a 12-minute visit with a dog noticeably improved heart and lung function.

Alzheimer's and Schizophrenia
Pets, particularly dogs, are often recommended for their therapeutic benefit to people suffering from schizophrenia. Studies have shown that pet-owning Alzheimer's patients "have fewer anxious outburts" (Davis).

Some insurance companies even ask elderly patients whether they have a pet – and lower their premiums if they do.

Pets and Exercise
Last, but not least, pets give their owner plenty of exercise. Since most modern diseases are linked to a combination of dietary factors and lack of exercise, a daily walk with Fido can be hugely significant in improving your health and lowering risks factors for almost every disease.

The health benefit of owning pets isn't a reason, in and of itself, to get one – if you're not prepared for the time and the financial responsibility of owning a pet, don't bother. But for those who already love and cherish animal friends, it's just one more reason to appreciate all they give.

Davis, Jeanie Lerche, "5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health,", accessed March 5, 2009.

Hodai, Beau, "Study: Dogs improve health of their human companions,", January 23, 2007.

Mundell, E.J., "Cats Help Shield Owners From Heart Attack,", February 21, 2008.

Of Further Interest:
Buying a Pet for an Elderly Person Means Extra Caregiver Duties
Giving an elderly person the gift of a pet is a thoughtful act. Consider what kind of pet would suit the older person and any extra work for the caregiver.

Read more at Suite101: Studies Show Pets Improve Your Health: Cats, Dogs, Other Animals Boost Owner's Immune System, Mood and More

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

We All Scream For Ice Cream...

A new ice cream van with tasty treats specifically for canines will have man's best friend howling with delight.

Instead of offering the traditional vanilla whip cones topped with a flake, these frozen feasts contain gammon and chicken ice cream - complete with a crunchy canine biscuit bone.

A team of scientists investigated the perfect combination of temperature, texture and taste, ensuring the treats would be delicious to dogs and completely safe.

Read more:

Seriously, England is starting to out-innovate America in fields that the US once dominated, like sandwich-ology and food truck-ology. We make the Double Down, and they're like, slag off, Yankees. Here's a lasagna sandwich. We make a pizza bustaurant, and they're like, gormy Codswallop! Here's the world's first ice cream truck exclusively for dogs.

Debuting on Saturday at the Boomerang Pets Party in Regents Park, London, according to the Daily Mail, the K99 van will be serving up two "flavours" — "dog eat hog world," "a gammon [ham] and chicken sorbet topped with a biscuit and served in a cone," and "canine cookie crunch," a combination of mixed dog biscuits and ice cream." And as an added treat, the van will be playing the Scooby Doo theme song. It's the Mutt's nuts!

· Every dog has its day... [Daily Mail]

Large "Puppies" ... With Trunks

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cannabis's Long, long History

Probably it was among the first 'grasses' to be domesticated...15-20 THOUSAND years ago on the vast trans-asian steppe...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

More Advice To Keep Your Critters From Harm and Stress

From HSUS: To protect your pet on the Fourth of July, take these precautions:

Resist the urge to take your pet to fireworks displays.

Do not leave your pet in the car. With only hot air to breathe inside a car, your pet can suffer serious health effects—even death—in a few short minutes. Partially opened windows do not provide sufficient air, but they do provide an opportunity for your pet to be stolen.

Keep your pets indoors at home in a sheltered, quiet area. Some animals can become destructive when frightened, so be sure that you've removed any items that your pet could destroy or that would be harmful to your pet if chewed. Leave a television or radio playing at normal volume to keep him company while you're attending Fourth of July picnics, parades, and other celebrations.

If you know that your pet is seriously distressed by loud noises like thunder, consult with your veterinarian before July 4th for ways to help alleviate the fear and anxiety he or she will experience during fireworks displays.

Never leave pets outside unattended, even in a fenced yard or on a chain. In their fear, pets who normally wouldn't leave the yard may escape and become lost, or become entangled in their chain, risking injury or death.

Make sure your pets are wearing identification tags so that if they do become lost, they can be returned promptly. Animals found running at-large should be taken to the local animal shelter, where they will have the best chance of being reunited with their owners.

If you plan to go away for the holiday weekend, read our information on Caring for Pets When You Travel.

How To Calm Your Furry Dependents This Week

Over the years, I have grown increasingly ambivalent about the "celebration" of American "independence." It seems to me to have metastasized from localized, homey, mid-summer festivals into a consumer-driven, military propaganda wargasm, where jingoistic exceptionalism gets replenished, and the populace is rebaptized in imperial jizm.

And there is that matter of the shifting firefights of fireworks and firearms wantonly detonated throughout at least the preceding week by the drunks and kids. Which part the dogs detest as much as--if not more than--I detest the deification of 'traditional values.' So I am ever alert for good suggestions, and the following (linked) page offers no small number of possibly useful ideas:

We may love the 4th of July, but it can be a nightmare for our canine companions. The rumbles and booms of fireworks often elicit mild to severe anxiety, causing signs such as drooling, pacing, panting and hiding. The Humane Society of the United States has offered great safety tips for the 4th. I’d like to add advice on easing the fear associated with all the noise and hoopla. Each individual tip may be enough for your pooch, but in severe cases of anxiety, all may be necessary. They work well together.

1. Allow your dog to go where he feels safe. This may be in the basement or under a table. Stay with him if you can.

2. Put one drop of therapeutic grade lavender essential oil in the palm of your hand, then rub it down your dog’s spine. Start at the top of the head and go all the way to the tail. Be sure to use pure lavender, not the perfume quality found at most bath and beauty stores. If she doesn’t completely calm in 3 to 4 minutes, repeat the application. You can re-apply a third time if she is still fearful.

3. Play calming music at a low volume. There’s no need to overcome the loud fireworks — that will over stimulate your dog. I was proud to be the research coordinator for Through A Dog’s Ear: Music to Calm Your Canine Companion, so I stand by its effectiveness. This music has a physiologic calming effect. You can also play it in between anxiety events, when you and your dog are in a peaceful state. This will add a classical conditioning effect to the calming properties. You can go to for free music downloads in time for the 4th.

4. Some dogs respond to snug fitting jackets like Thundershirt or Anxiety Wrap. The tight fit gives them a sense of comfort.

5. Stay calm! I know some pets exhibit destructive behaviors during these events, but don’t become angry. The fear associated with punishment will only worsen an already difficult situation.

6. Energy therapies are also extremely effective in calming animals. You may want to consider taking a course in Healing Touch for Animals, animal Reiki or massage so that you can assist your own pet.

Many cats are also frightened of fireworks, and will retreat to their own safe places. Cats are lucky enough to fit into tiny corners in far away closets! You can also use the calming music, energy therapy and lavender for them. With the lavender, use one drop one time only. If they are really excitable — frothing, shaking, hair standing on end (gee, that sounds like a trip to the vet) — you can apply another drop. NOTE: Most essential oils are not safe for cats, so please use only pure lavender.