Canned Meats of the World

I absolutely had to share this tour of canned meat from around the world that I ran across. Had to post the picture of my personal favorite, the brown curry mole crickets, though it barely won out over the BBQ flavor bamboo worms.

How many brands on this list have you eaten? I believe I’m at five. Not sure what that says about me.

Early Learning Experiences?

Darren recently sent me a delightful photo of his baby daughter Emma perusing some new work by paleo- artist Luis Rey, a fine scene of a Deinonychus killing a Tenontosaurus (brother Will works on Legos in the background).

Will she grow up to be a paleontologist or at least a naturalist? I find it quite possible, the more so since my mother sent me these three pics of me as a toddler, with no comment.

First, in front of the mostly adult library I had free run of (I read at three).

Second, with the largest revolver possible for a guy who could just about walk.

And, best: trying to ID a bug with the little Golden Guide to insects.

It appears I haven’t changed all that much in 55+ years!

Who Were the Cannibals?

More and more it has been suggested that we interacted little if at all with our close cousins the Neanderthals. Though there is still some controversy it mostly seems that we did not interbreed, finding each other too strange.

Some have wondered, more in literature than in science, if the appearance of our hairier relaatives made tehm the prototype for trolls and wild men– “Grendel”.

Now it seems we may have been their monster rather than they ours. A new study in the Journal of Anthropological sciences has found evidence of Neanderthal bones butchered like those of deer, and even Neanderthal teeth used as ornaments by our species.

“…Now the leader of the research team says he believes the flesh had been eaten by humans, while its teeth may have been used to make a necklace.

“Fernando Rozzi, of Paris’s Centre National de la Récherche Scientifique, said the jawbone had probably been cut into to remove flesh, including the tongue. Crucially, the butchery was similar to that used by humans to cut up deer carcass in the early Stone Age. “Neanderthals met a violent end at our hands and in some cases we ate them,” Rozzi said.”

Of course the conflict may have gone both ways– Neanderthals were physically stronger than Cro- Magnons. But it doesn’t look like we were friends, at least in Europe.

Wildlife research

I photographed this bison tangled up in its radio-collar in Yellowstone National Park a few weeks ago. Unfortunately these sights are becoming more common.

There is no doubt that the use of radio-telemetry collars revolutionized wildlife research and its use is now rather common. We’ve learned a lot about specific wildlife populations already, and the opportunities for research seem endless. But I’ve got to admit, I sometimes grow weary of wildlife telemetry and some of our other modern methods of wildlife study.

I long for the days of old when a naturalist/ecologist/biologist simply followed along at a discrete distance and observed an animal’s natural behaviors, taking notes and writing detailed journal entries about what was observed. This sort of recording of information gave us a much more intensely personal view of the life of individual animals of a species. I long for those first-hand accounts that are too often now discounted as simply “anecdotal.” It was reading these anecdotal accounts that captured my interest in animals as a young child, and later on as a teenager. At 16 years old, I was flunking high school science (utterly bored with studying cell structure) when my teacher let me do an extra-credit project. I read “Golden Shadows, Flying Hooves” by George Schaller detailing first-hand observations of a lion pride in Africa. I followed up on the book by writing my own report about animal behavior. That’s when I finally learned that science didn’t suck, as the school had me firmly believing prior to then.

Finding accounts like those recorded by Schaller is getting more difficult, but within minutes I can download hundreds of wildlife research reports based on GPS recordings taken with the assistance of radio-collars. There have been great improvements in technology, with lighter-weight transmitters allowing tracking of smaller animals, and additional battery power available to allow longer-term tracking of larger species.

Despite its cost, it seems that satellite telemetry is a really common tool for wildlife research projects in my region. This process generally involves capturing an animal once, installing the collar and letting the animal go, tracking the animal from an office far away via satellite upload. There is no repeat contact with the study animal unless it’s to retrieve the collar at the end of its use.

Open sores and hair loss are frequent adverse effects from the use of radio-collars and other telemetry devices, as are animal entanglements in the collars themselves. Ill-fitting collars cause wounds and infections, and I’m afraid I’m seeing these effects more often.

This pronghorn was getting rubbed raw by its loose collar. It’s a bad situation with the frigid temperatures we had this winter.

Behavioral effects of the use of radio-collars seem to be dismissed, but collared moose in Norway keep in groups separate from non-collared moose. Brightly-colored collars on deer have resulted in higher harvest rates by deer hunters able to see these colors from a distance. Water and ice build-up under and around collars has been an issue as well.

While we’re learning about wildlife populations with the increase in telemetry, we’re also losing a vital connection with the animals subject to the research. I see lots of collars in use these days, but my encounters with biologists in the field are now extremely rare. Somehow, I’m sure we’re losing something here.

I took these photos last month in the Star Valley area of western Wyoming. This trumpeter swan was being beat by its sliding neckband as it moved its head to feed.

Space Archaeology

A professor and grad student from LSU (you should be proud, Matt!) have an op-ed in the LA Times calling for the preservation of historic sites off-planet, such as Tranquility Base on the moon. Good forward thinking.

Also a priceless item in the comments. One commenter wants verifiable photos of Tranquility Base to prove the landings didn’t take place on a soundstage, as conspiracy theorists have maintained for 40 years.

NPR / Monsanto Wedding

The American broadcast company National Public Radio and the global agri-chemical giant Monstanto made rumors of their courtship official in a lovely ceremony held earlier today.

NPR reporter Daniel Zwerdling travelled to India to cover an apparent organic farming counter-revolution in that country. Monsanto came along for the ride.

For sure, the so-called Green Revolution in industrial agriculture is hard to explain in any one piece of writing; it is, in large part, the story of contemporary world affairs as developed since the second world war. To tackle the issue head on, one would need to devote a lifetime’s literary output to the problem.

So I’ll accept some glossing over. But we can do better than ask the Monsanto press desk for a good quote, can’t we?

“Environmental groups in India estimate that more than 300,000 farmers like Sharma have switched to organic growing methods in recent years, or have started the transition from conventional to organic farming. Comparisons between India and the U.S. are difficult because their economies and cultures are so different. But consider this: India has about three times the population of the U.S., but 30 times more organic farmers than the U.S.

“Sharma’s story symbolizes the dilemma that developing countries are facing around the world: What’s the most sustainable way to grow enough food? The answers will eventually affect people from India to Indiana, because the world’s population is booming — and if fast-growing countries like India can’t feed themselves, it could trigger more global instability.

“Agribusiness leaders and many government officials are convinced that genetic engineering will help prevent a world food crisis. Firms like Monsanto Co. have been inserting genes from animals and bacteria into plants so they can grow faster with less water and resist insects. “Monsanto’s India spokesman, Christopher Samuel, says the company’s advances will double the yields of major crops over the next 20 years, while reducing the amount of land, water, fertilizer and pesticides needed — in the process ‘protecting the environment and its natural resources,’ he says.”

This assertion is taken at face value–reducing land,water, fertilizer use compared to what? Or compared to when? At what other costs?—And somewhere near this point in the audio version of the story, a Monsanto-produced voiceover warns against the coming catastrophe of world hunger and lauds Monsanto’s efforts to keep it at bay through better chemistry.

Although Zwerdling acknowledges the source of that voiceover, he fails to mention, in this piece at least, Monstanto’s financial support of NPR.

When NPR is not granting the vast agribusiness corporation uncritical airtime for its propaganda, it is sending a subtler message about the doubtful future and general backwardness of a life without industrial chemicals:

“In the courtyard of his house in the village of Chaina, Sharma reviews his balance sheets.”‘Our rice yields under the organic system are almost as good as before,’ he says, as his wife scoops up cow manure with her hands and pats it into disks to fuel the cooking fire. ‘And we’re spending much less money on inputs, since we’re not buying pesticides and fertilizer — although labor costs have increased.'”

I don’t know. Is it just me, or doesn’t this whole silly organic movement just seem like too much trouble?