Owen the Hippo and Tortoise Mr. Mom

Repost from the old site.

I bet you did not know that the horrible Tsunami that hit South and Southeast Asia a while back, killing 275,000 humans, also hit Kenya. It did. There are lots of critters still running around in Africa that the increasingly advanced Africans have not yet killed off.

There are hippopotamuses and giant tortoises. These tortoises are really giant, not like our desert tortoises here in California that are about as big as a football.

During the tsunami, the baby hippo, Owen, 350 pounds, and its hippo Mommy (name and weight unknown) got swept down the Sabaki River into the Indian Ocean. Though hippos can swim ok, they don’t like floods and tend to die in them. Owen’s Mom got killed, and Owen landed in the Indian Ocean. Then the tsunami waves swept him ashore with lots of other critters.

Somewhere in all this mess, Owen landed on top of a giant tortoise, male, age 100, name unknown. He probably landed on his shell and they both rode the tsunami waves onto the beach where they both kicked back and caught some rays of exhaustion until they were rescued.

Even though the tortoise is a dude, Owen either could not figure that out or didn’t care. He decided that Tortoise was his new Mom. They bonded well, and Tortoise, though being a guy and all, does not mind being Mr. Mom. They eat, swim and sleep together.

Owen follows Tortoise just like he followed his Mom, and he growls at anyone who tries to approach Tortoise. Hippos stay with Mom for four years, so Owen will probably live at home for another few years before moving out.

I thought it was interesting that Owen showed so many advanced emotions in these photos. He shows tenderness, love and kindness, and appears to be trying to kiss Tortoise, though I can’t see how any animal could kiss a tortoise. Tortoise either also has advanced emotions, or has undecipherable reptilian emotions, or I’m hallucinating. But some tortoises do mate for life, which is awfully advanced behavior for a mere reptile.

Photos at the link.

Human Races and Subspecies

Repost from the old site.
A question that comes up all the time in race realist circles is whether or not the various races of man, however defined, can be considered to be subspecies. No reputable scientist considers the major human races to be separate subspecies of Homo Sapiens. At any rate, Homo sapiens himself is already a subspecies called Homo sapiens sapiens. There was H.s. neanderthalis , H.s. idaltu, probably H.s. rhodesiensis and finally, Homo sapiens sapiens.
So a human subspecies would be look more like a Neandertal, with dramatic differences between them and modern humans. Even Khoisans and Pygmies are much closer to the rest of us than Neandertal or Idaltu Man was.
This area is still quite controversial, but the only scientists and theorists who are suggesting that the differences between the races are great enough to constitute subspecies are racialists, many of whom are explicit racists. Almost all are associated with White nationalism and usually with Nordicism. Nordicists are best seen as Nazis.
You must understand the differences between races and subspecies. For instance there is the California kingsnake . There are no subspecies of the California kingsnake. However, there are numerous races, many of which look radically different from the California kingsnake norm. They are simply called races of the California kingsnake.
So races of humans and other animals are really a level even below that of the subspecies. They are not protected by the Endangered Species Act, and I’m not sure anyone cares about them all that much. They’re better seen as regional variants.
Subspecies are a variant of a species that only occurs in one limited geographical area in which no other subspecies of that animal reside. Hence, each subspecies is geographically isolated from the others such that interbreeding is rare to nonexistent. At some point, subspecies’ territories may start overlapping. They begin to interbreed a lot, since subspecies of a type are readily capable of interbreeding. Once their territories overlap and interbreeding begins, we often stop calling two types separate subspecies and wrap them into a single entity.
Subspecies were differentiated in the past based on a significant degree of anatomical difference. Nowadays, genetics is much more popular. The combination of significant anatomical and behavioral differences combined with significant genetic difference at some point is deemed great enough to warrant a subspecies split. These discussions are carried on very civilly in academic journals and after a bit of back and forth, a consensus of some sort is arrived at regarding whether or not two variants of a species differ enough to be called subspecies. At that point, the discussion typically dies.
In addition, new genetic discoveries now show that some subspecies are so far apart genetically that a good case can be made that they are actually full species and not subspecies. This argument is also written up carefully in a journal, and usually seems to be accepted if the argument is well thought-out. In addition to splitting, there is lumping.
Some variants of a species have in the past been divided into various subspecies. Some new analyses have shown that all of these subspecies definitions were in error, and in fact, the species is fairly uniform, with few to no subspecies instead of the 10-15 they had in the past. This argument also gets written up in a journal and passed around. Usually the new designation is accepted if the argument is well-crafted.
The species/subspecies question is not as wildly controversial among scientists as laypeople think. Designations change back and forth, all are based on good, solid science, and science simply coalesces around the paradigmatic view of a species as it may change over time. Science, after all, is always a work in progress.
The reasons that the California kingsnake races were not split into subspecies is because apparently the genetic differences were too small to warrant a split into subspecies. It is also possible that these races are widely distributed over the kingsnake’s territory, with no particular race holding sway in any certain locale. So probably all of these kingsnake races can not only interbreed like subspecies but they probably are actively interbreeding as they are probably not geographically segregated.
At some point, it is discovered that two animals, previously thought to be separate species, have interlapping territories and the two species are observed readily interbreeding. Since separate species cannot interbreed, once two species start interbreeding easily, science often decides that they are not separate species after all and instead that they are subspecies of a single species
At some level X, two living things are split into species. At some lesser level of genetic differentiation Y, a species is further split into subspecies. At some lesser level of differentiation Z, we can start talking about races. I believe that all of the various breeds of dogs and cats are races.
“Race” and “subspecies” are two terms often conflated in speech, even by biologists, but strictly speaking, they do have different meanings. I do not know any reputable biologist who thinks that any of the various extant human races or subraces, however defined, need to be preserved on solely anthropological grounds in order to preserve their phenotype.
The various human races have been changing all through time continuously.
North Africans were once pure African, now they are mostly Caucasian.
Northeast Asians looked like Aborigines until 9,000 YBP (years before present).
South Indians looked like Aborigines until 8,000 YBP.
Southeast Asians looked like Negritos and Melanesians until about 5,000 YBP.
Over 10,000 years ago, Amerindians looked like Aborigines. Between 7,000-9,000 years ago, they looked something like the Ainu or Polynesians.
Europeans looked like Arabs 10,000 YBP, like Northwestern US Amerindians 23,000 YBP and 30-40,000 YBP, they looked very strange, possibly resembling a Khoisan more than anything else. White skin only shows up 9,000 YBP in Europe.
Polynesians and Micronesians only show up in the past 2,000 years.
So all of the modern human races and subraces, however defined, have been continuously changing down through time. The notion that they are some kind of unique subspecies in need of conservation like Northern Spotted Owls is completely mistaken and has little basis in modern science.

The Sierra Nevada Red Fox

Repost from the old site.

The Sierra Nevada red fox (Vulves vulpes necator) has been rediscovered around Sonora Pass on August 11, 2010.

It was spotted by a camera that had been set up to monitor other wildlife in an area where Yosemite National Park, the Stanislaus National Forest and the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest all come together. The sighting was actually on the Humboldt-Toiyabe, not on the Stanislaus as many news reports had it.

Part of the confusion may have been that the sighting was near the border between the Humboldt-Toiyabe and Stanislaus Forests. I know that the fox was not seen right at Sonora Pass. Instead, I believe it was spotted in the area to the south of the pass. I am guessing that it was seen near the Leavitt Creek area.

Saliva analysis on a sock filled with chicken parts at the bait station confirmed that it was a Sierra Nevada red fox, and that it had a rare genetic signature previously only seen in museum specimens from the 1920’s.

This is the first proof of the Sierra Nevada red fox outside the Lassen area in a very long time. It’s great news!

The only confirmed population is a tiny population of only 20 foxes in and around Lassen National Park where the Northern Sierra meets the Southern Cascades.

This area has historically seen more sightings around Lassen than any other part of California (sighting map for Northern California). This concentration is focused in Lassen, Tehama and Shasta Counties in and around Lassen Park. There have also been a few sightings in Modoc, Siskiyou and Trinity Counties.

The existence of the Sierra Nevada red fox has recently been confirmed by a team led by John Perrine of UC Berkeley. The team has located a small population of 20 Sierra Nevada red foxes existing in and around Lassen National Park in the Cascades Range. A later study proved that these were Sierra Nevada red foxes and not Eastern Red Foxes, which are abundant at the lower elevations in California.

A good description of the Lassen study, along with several rare photos of the foxes, can be found here. In the Sierras, the Sierra Nevada red fox was typically found at about 9,000 feet, with one record at 4,000, another at 5,500 and another at 7,000 feet. In the Cascades, they are usually found at around 6,000 feet, dropping down to 4,000 feet in the winter and moving up to 8,000 feet in the summer.

A report by the DFG in 1987 said the Sierra Nevada red fox was endangered, but noted that sightings continue in the rest of the Sierra Nevada outside the Cascades within the traditional range of the species.

I am aware of some recent sightings on the East side near Mammoth Mountain at high elevations.

They reportedly still exist in Mineral King south of Sequoia National Park.

In the same region, there have been a number of sightings in the Sagehen Road area near Olancha on the Inyo National Forest in the past 12 years. The sightings were at the 4-6,000 foot elevation. This is near the South Sierra Wilderness Area. Map here.

There was a reliable sighting in 1993 at Sequoia National Park.

There have been sightings of the Sierra Nevada red fox in the past 30 years on the Sierra National Forest. In 1971, a Sierra Nevada red fox was sighted at Florence Lake at about 9,000 feet. In 1973, there was a sighting at Soda Springs near Mammoth Pool Reservoir at 4,500 feet. In 1987, there was a sighting along Highway 168 between Auberry and Shaver Lake at about 4,300 feet, a very low elevation. In 1991, there was a sighting at Papoose Lake north of Lake Edison at about 10,390 feet.

There have also been a few sightings in Yosemite Valley in the past decade or so.

The last documented sighting of a Sierra Nevada red fox as near Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park in 1990. This sighting was verified via photograph. The fox was photographed in the middle of winter at about 9,000 feet.

On the Stanislaus, there have been a number of sightings around the Emigrant Wilderness, in particular something called the Waterhouse Wilderness Study Area on the northwest edge of the Emigrant Wilderness.

In Mono County, Sierra Nevada red foxes have been reported from Bridgeport Valley.

In Nevada County near Lake Tahoe, there is a sighting from 1994 along Highway 89 north of Truckee.

In addition to the Lassen area, there is also a recent sighting around Antelope Lake and around Lake Almanor and Jonesville on the Plumas National Forest.

There are recent sightings around Little Lake on the northern edge of the Lassen National Forest.

There are recent sightings around Mount Shasta and around Glass Mountain on the Klamath National Forest.

There are also recent sightings around the Trinity River near Mount Eddy on the northern edge of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

There is also a recent sighting near Canby on the Modoc National Forest.

Between 1940 and 1959, 135 Sierra Nevada red fox pelts were taken by trappers, an average of 7 per year. That number dropped to 2 per year from 1970-1974. The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) banned all Sierra Nevada red fox trapping in 1974.

The Sierra Nevada red fox has declined drastically and desperately needs Endangered Species listing.

This cool paper by C. Hart Merriam shows that Sierra Nevada red foxes were formerly common at high elevations in the Mount Shasta area, that tracks were seen almost every day (!), but the foxes were very wary and never entered the traps the researchers had set. It is interesting that fishers were also present in this area at the time.

This report makes one wonder just what it is that has driven V. v. necator to near-extinction. I strongly suspect grazing.

One of the best historical sources on the Sierra Nevada red fox is this chapter from Joseph Grinnell’s hard-to-find Furbearers of California from 1937. One thing it makes clear is that the Sierra Nevada red fox was much more common in the first four decades of the century than it is now. You can view it here.

At the time of Grinnell’s writing, this fox was preying heavily on Sierra Nevada snowshoe hares and White-tailed hares, both of which are now pretty rare in the Sierras. I wonder if that is related to their decline? The decline of the White-tailed hare in the Sierra, formerly common on the East Side, is related exclusively to grazing.

All high-elevation grazing needs to be banned from the Sierra, as it is a catastrophe. Cows do not belong in high elevation meadows. We can start by getting rid of grazing in wilderness areas (Allowing grazing in wilderness areas was the only way that the Wilderness Act of 1964 could be passed).

I am not impressed with the ability of the US Forest Service to preserve wildlife in general, not to mention sensitive or endangered species. I spent years monitoring the Sierra National Forest, and the workers I met with were some of the most corrupt and dishonest people I have ever dealt with.

The mentality was devoted to resource extraction, and even wildlife biologists, botanists and fisheries specialists routinely issued “no significant harm” findings on virtually every single Environmental Assessment Report I saw.

Even less impressive is the CDFG, though at least their heads were in the right place. Individuals working with the DFG are good people, but the Commission is run by political clowns.

There are all sorts of species that need to be listed as threatened or endangered, but the DFG has hardly made even one such listing in the last decade. The DFG has been routinely denying petitions to list any species as threatened or endangered for a decade or so now.

Further, there are questions about how much a CA T& E designation even helps a species, as the DFG seldom intervenes to help even the species they have listed as T & E.

In the early 1990’s, the CA DFG produced some excellent volumes – Reptiles and Amphibians of Special Concern in California by Mark Jennings, Fish of Special Concern in California by Peter Moyne and Threatened and Endangered Species of California.

The reports by Jennings and Moyne listed numerous species that should be listed as species of special concern, threatened or endangered. To my knowledge, 15 years later, not a single one has been listed. A prime example is that the Sierra Nevada red fox, which the DFG even admitted in 2004 was critically endangered, is still listed as “threatened” instead of “endangered”.

Even a petition to uplist it will surely be denied. The game here has been to devastate the DFG with budget cuts, even during times when the state is flush with cash. Then the DFG gets to say that they don’t have any money to list any new species. Cool game, huh?

It seems every year, the DFG gets hammered with new budget cuts, and in lush years, the money never gets reinstated. Any environmentalist who is a fiscal conservative needs to have their head examined.

The FS complains of budget cuts too, but in contrast they are actively hostile to the environment. When I was monitoring them, their whole agenda was to let grazing and logging go on to the greatest extent possible and to deny all negative impacts on the environment of such.

Go into a local FS office and the whole place, even the wildlife biologists, is avidly listening to Rush Limbaugh! Most of them, including once again wildlife biologists who supposedly believe in evolution, are members of fundamentalist churches! Go figure.

Such is the state of things in the supposedly pro-environment US. Large majorities support the environmentalist agenda, but of course the Republicans and incredibly even the Clintonista triangulating Democrats are both very hostile to the environment. There is no logical reason for either party, especially the Democrats, to take this stance.

The only explanation is that both parties are dedicated to the corporate and pro-business agenda, and the entire rest of the population, even if that means 55-98% of the population depending on the issue, can just go to Hell.

References

CDFG. 1987. Sierra Nevada Red Fox: Five-year Status Report. California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, California, USA.

Grinnell, Joseph. 1924. Animal Life in the Yosemite. Berkeley: University of California Press, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

Kucera, T. E. 1995. Recent Photograph of a Sierra Nevada Red Fox. California Fish and Game 81:43-44.

Merriam, Clinton Hart. 1899. Results of a Biological Survey of Mount Shasta, California. Washington D.C.: U. S. Department of Agriculture, Division of Biological Survey.

Perrine, J. D., J. P. Pollinger, B. N. Sacks, R. H. Barrett, and R. K. Wayne. 2007. Genetic Evidence for the Persistence of the Critically Endangered Sierra Nevada Red Fox in Northern California. Conservation Genetics 8:1083-1095.

Southern California Edison Company. 2001. Final Technical Study Plan Package (FTSPP) for the Big Creek Hydroelectric Projects (FERC Project Nos. 67, 120, 2085, and 2175). Terrestrial Resources – Chapter 13 – Mesocarnivores. Rosemead, CA.

Wildlife Conservation Board. 2002. Report to the Legislature on the Wildlife Protection Act of 1990. Annual Report – Fiscal Year 2002-2003. Sacramento: State of California.

The Validity of Race as a Biological Construct

Repost from the old site. There is a lot of nonsense going around these days about the races of man, and how race is not a valid concept in humans. Sure it is. It can be seen as analogous to subspecies in animals and plants. A counterargument is that subspecies are limited to certain geographic areas, hence they do not interbreed. Indeed, but when their ranges do overlap, you do get hybrids.
Even full species can interbreed sometimes, and, as a fanatical birdwatcher, I have seen hybrid species of birds before.  In general, nowadays, genetic distance is used as a parameter to delimit species, subspecies and even geographic segments of species. Where none of those will do, we can use the term “race”, as you see below with California kingsnakes.
The average differences between some of the major human races may even be greater than the distance between some full species – this notion is controversial though. At any rate, race is clearly a biological reality in more ways than mere skin color.
It’s clear that race in humans is a warranted concept. The fear of it is only a fear that acknowledgment of the existence of race = racism. The project is to lie and deny that race exists for the greater good of a game called, “If you deny that race exists, racism will vanish.”
That this project with noble intentions is doomed is probable. We are what we are, and that is cavemen and cavewomen with suits and matching outfits.
Anyway, strictly biologically speaking, race is a valid concept.
Let us take for example a snake. I am a snake-o-phile, or whatever they are called. I love snakes.
Here in California there is a critter called the California kingsnake.
What is interesting about the CA kingsnake is that it lacks subspecies. Now, most snakes and many mammals and birds have subspecies.
But the CA kingsnake has things called “races” that are even below the level of the subspecies. They can look dramatically different from a regular kingsnake, but there is apparently not enough genetic variation there to cut them into subspecies, so they are just called races.
The notion of whether or not human races divide sufficiently to be called subspecies is not yet sorted out, with White Nationalists coming down on the side that the races really are subspecies, and everyone else not even wanting to touch the subject.
At any rate, to call the races races, below the level of subspecies, in a California kingsnake kind of way, is hardly going to be the end of the world. It’s not even a radical concept. Biologically speaking, it’s utterly banal.
Amazing that careers are destroyed over this stuff. How dumb can you get?