“Man Attacks Grizzly” and Other Leading Bleeding Stories

https://www.grizzlytimes.org/single-post/2020/07/26/%E2%80%9CMan-Attacks-Grizzly%E2%80%9D-and-Other-Leading-Bleeding-Stories

July 26, 2020

|David Mattson

My Google Alerts inbox has been flooded during the last week by an article making the rounds among national and regional media outlets with a title that virtually screams “Official: 7 Grizzly Bear Attacks This Year.” More matter-of-factly, the article leads off with the observation that “Wildlife officials have documented seven grizzly bear encounters resulting in injuries so far this year in the three-state greater Yellowstone region…” The article was authored by Mike Koshmrl, a journalist from Jackson, Wyoming, and subsequently circulated by the Associated Press.

I’m not altogether sure what motivated this article other than the perhaps obvious fact that 7 human injuries prior to the end of July is indeed a record for the greater Yellowstone area. Even so, the article comports with the tired truism that “if it bleeds, it leads,” in the somewhat dubious tradition of a seemingly endless series of books with titles such as “Bear Attacks” (times three), “Bear Attacks of the Century,” “Mark of the Grizzly,” “Bear Attacks: The Deadly Truth,” “True Stories of Bear Attacks,” ad nauseam. Sensationalized stories about grizzly bears “attacking” people never seem to exhaust the interest of either journalists or the public.

The central problem with this genre of journalism is that, while it may indeed be “news,” readers are rarely provided with a useful and realistic orientation to both grizzly bears and the risks of recreating and living among them. As such, the question inevitably arises whether this sort of semi-torrid journalism serves the public interest—the standard by which the Fourth Estate is putatively judged—or whether it is simply about making money.

Leaving this troubling question aside for the moment, Mike Koshmrl’s recent article on “bear attacks” exhibits three seminal and persistent problems typical of its genre. For one, the reported incidents are not put in context of actual risk. For another, details relevant to understanding the reactions of involved bears are rarely provided, much less usefully interpreted. And, finally, the semantics are universally troubling and inflammatory. So taking each of these issues in turn…

You Are Safer In Grizzly Bear Habitat Than You Are Crossing the Street

I recently waded through all of the data I could find (some of which I collected myself) pertaining to risks incurred by people on foot while recreating or living among grizzly bears, including risks of having a close encounter with a grizzly, experiencing an aggressive reaction, and, worst of all, being injured as a result. I reported what I came up with in a recent publication entitled “Effects of Pedestrians on Grizzly Bears.”

Without being exhaustive, these are the key results:

The odds of someone on foot being charged during a close encounter with a grizzly bear are small, even under conditions where bears are likely to be more reactive. In more open habitats with lower grizzly bear population densities typical of interior North America, 6% of documented close encounters resulted in some form of aggression by the involved bear, although much of this result was driven by a single study area where food-conditioned bears were implicated. Without this study, the percent of close encounters typified by aggression dropped to 4.5%.

Under all other circumstances, odds of people experiencing an overtly aggressive response from a grizzly were essentially nil, notably in Scandinavia, and so small as to not warrant direct study in most coastal areas of North America where people are concentrated in predictable locations at predictable times. As an example, Larry Aumiller reported only 8 “intense charges” during 21 years of close interactions with grizzly bears concentrated at McNeil River Falls in Alaska.

The odds that someone on foot will be mauled during a close encounter with a free-ranging grizzly bear are likewise so small as to almost defy calculation. For example, in Scandinavia where researchers directly approached brown bears (the same species as our grizzly) on literally hundreds of occasions, overt aggression was never documented, much less an attack. The same more-or-less holds true for coastal study areas in North America centered on areas of concentrated human activity along or near salmon spawning streams.

The best estimates for odds of injury during a close encounter with a grizzly bear in interior regions of North America come from Glacier National Park and from amalgamating results from multiple studies elsewhere. In Glacier, only 6 of 1000 encounters resulted in human injury. Everywhere else, only 3 in 1000 did. Kerry Gunther estimated an even lower 1 in 200,000 chance of injury for backcountry campers in Yellowstone National Park, although he calculated these odds based on total number of registered overnight users rather than on a per encounter basis.

Even so, managers and backcountry users are often interested in knowing the odds that an aggressive reaction by a grizzly bear—rather than just simply a close encounter—will result in human injury, realizing that odds of an aggressive reaction are small in the first place. With that proviso, roughly 6-8% of aggressions resulted in injury to a person on foot in interior regions of North America outside of Glacier National Park. In Glacier Park that figure was around 6-14%, depending on how aggression was defined by investigators.

Otherwise, as with aggressive reactions in general, encountering a grizzly bear in areas used less intensively by people is more hazardous for those involved, presumably because these encounters are more often registered by the involved bears as unpredictable threatening events. For example, given a confrontation, injuries were nearly 10-times more likely off-trail and 4-times more likely on low-use trail compared to on high-use trails in Glacier National Park.

Or, putting all of this another way, as a person on foot you are more likely to experience aggression, be attacked, and be injured upon encountering a strange dog—or even a car on a street—than you are wandering around among grizzly bears.

Surprise Encounters Lead to Defensive Reactions

So, what about the particulars relevant to understanding motivations of aggression from a grizzly bear? Adequate coverage of this topic would clearly fill a book—for example Steve Herrero’s seminal analysis of bear attacks in his book entitled…”Bear Attacks.” I also cover many of these particulars in the report I referenced earlier.

As a basic premise, though, there are three near-universal features of close encounters with grizzly bears that lead to aggression: (1) the bear is surprised at close quarters; (2) the bear is a female protecting her young; (3) the bear is guarding or perhaps appropriating food that it considers to be its own. The instances involving predation or maliciousness are a vanishing small minority of the total. None of this should surprise someone who has spent much time around grizzly bears, or animals of any sort for that matter—including parrots.

With these basics in mind, what about the grizzly bear-human encounters that resulted in injury this year—not just in the Yellowstone, but throughout the Northern Rockies? There have, in fact, been nine so far: 7 in Yellowstone and 2 in the Northern Continental Divide. And the pattern is strikingly consistent and clear.

In all cases the injuries resulted from close encounters that surprised the involved bear. No anomaly there. In fact, two of the incidents were triggered by the involved person almost literally colliding with the surprised bear—once involving a mountain biker and once involving a trail runner. Perhaps even more egregiously from the bear’s perspective, in two instances the involved person startled a bear that was bedded down—tantamount to entering someone’s bedroom unannounced. Four of the incidents involved females defending their young. No anomaly there. Six of the 9 incidents involved people who were alone. No anomaly there either. And finally, four of the incidents involved people who were off trail. Not surprising at all.

In other words, all of the human injuries this year were the result of a bear defending itself against a perceived attack or proximal threat. What’s truly surprising is that all the involved people managed to escape alive and, with the notable exception of the mountain biker, sustaining only minor injuries. This is, as always, perhaps the most remarkable feature of incidents where a grizzly bear attacks a person. Grizzlies are powerful. I’ve seen a number of instances where a grizzly bear took down and killed full-grown moose and elk. Grizzlies are almost never out to kill a person. They are almost always defending themselves, their space, their offspring, or a prized food. And they almost always show remarkable restraint in the process.

Some Reflections on Personal History

I haven’t kept a tally of my own close encounters with grizzlies, including instances where most people would have said they were “attacked.” Several of these encounters arose from unintentionally surprising bears in daybeds. Several involved females with offspring. Shear good luck or benevolence on the part of the bear prevented me from being included at some point on the list of people injured by a grizzly.

But I’ve never carried a gun, nor have I wanted to. I’ve concluded that being safe around grizzly bears is, if anything, contingent on being emotionally grounded, aware of my surroundings, attuned to unfolding situations and–as always–carrying pepper spray for last ditch self-defense. But there are no guarantees, just as there are no guarantees when I get behind the wheel of a car and head out on the highway.

To be honest, I’ve known bears that ended up killing people. But each of these bears had a back story. Thanks to human negligence, one had become used to eating food from campgrounds and off of people’s back porches. Another had routinely obtained food from backcountry campsites. Yet another had been pushed beyond the limits of endurance by a photographer—at the end of an acutely stressful year that involved the loss of two cubs.

My main point is straight-forward. In all of my immediate personal experience, grizzly bears have been aggressive only to the extent they were trying to defend themselves against a perceived threat or, on very rare occasions, perhaps out of rage at being trapped, immobilized, anesthetized, man-handled, tattooed, collared, and released, minus a tooth, in a semi-somnolent and acutely vulnerable state. In other instances, bears have pushed boundaries, sometimes tragically, to see if there might be a food reward, often because of past experiences where food had been obtained.

None of these bears was malicious or aberrant. And in every instance, human choices and behaviors were major factors in determining whether interactions were benign…or not.                       

Humans Are Attacking Grizzly Bears

Returning to this year’s human injuries, what we seem to have had is a series of incidents where the involved people were, by all reasonable standards, actually attacking the involved bear. The victims were out minding their own business trying to make a living, trying to take a nap, or trying to insure their offspring survived cub-hood, only to be attacked out of the blue by a human. “Bear Defends Itself Against Attacking Human.” Or, at least, that’s how the incidents would have been reported in a media outlet run by grizzly bears serving a grizzly bear audience.

Without belaboring the point, language matters. Narratives matter, especially when tacitly constructing culpability and blame. And we humans seem to take full advantage of our ability to broadcast narratives of victimhood as suits the purpose, especially in our relations with animals that lack our capacity for language.

In fact, “attack” bespeaks motivation and even criminality. Media articles that report on crimes frame events in terms of attacks by perpetrators intent on harming victims. An “attack” by a grizzly bear—whatever the circumstance or motivation—thus becomes a criminal act regardless of whether the journalist intends it to be read as such.

The upshot of articles such as the recent one making its rounds in the media is that people end up with an increasingly distorted view of grizzly bears and of the risks of living with them. …

Man-eating croc found dead in trap in Kelabakan


KOTA KINABALU: A 4m-long crocodile, believed to be responsible for the death of several people in Kalabakan, has been found dead on Saturday (July 18).

The reptile is believed to have died after taking the bait set up by wildlife officials following several deaths from crocodile attacks in the area.

Tawau Wildlife Department officer Sailun Aris said they set up the trap at the Kg Tanjung Sapi River on July 15 and found the crocodile trapped at about 1.30pm on Saturday.

“We believe this was the crocodile that attacked Sukrien Jesman Yusoff at the Kalabakan river on July 3 and Nur Hayati Talib, 50, on June 25, to name a few,” he said.

He said the trap at Kg Tanjung Sapi was one of several they set between July 5 and 15.

Sailun said families of crocodile attack victims were notified of the discovery, and they requested that the reptile be cut open.

“There were human hands (in its stomach), and they have been returned to the identified family. They will bury the remains,” he said.

The crocodile, which weighs 350kg, has been buried close to the area where it was caught.

‘We can’t blame animals’: how human pathogens are making their way into vulnerable wildlife

 Two little blue penguins (Eudyptula minor), the world’s smallest penguin species, on the rocks of St Kilda breakwater. Photograph: Douglas Gimesy/Photography Doug Gimesy, or, Picture: Doug Gimesy

Australian scientists have found evidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in about a dozen species, including bats, penguins, sea lions and wallabies

by Graham Readfearn Photography by Doug GimesySupported byAbout this content

Sat 18 Jul 2020 16.00 EDTLast modified on Sat 18 Jul 2020 20.11 EDT

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For 13 years now, scientist Michelle Power has been grabbing samples of human waste and animal poop from Antarctica to Australia to try and answer a vital question.

Has the bacteria in humans that has grown resistant to antibiotics – an issue considered to be one of the world’s greatest health challenges – made its way into wildlife?

The answer, it seems, is a resounding yes.

Associate Professor Michelle Power from Macquarie University Department of Biological Science.
  • Associate professor Michelle Power from Macquarie University Department of Biological Science.

“I don’t think there’s been an animal where we haven’t found it,” says Power, an associate professor at Macquarie University in Sydney.

The sorts of animals Power has chosen to look at most live close to humans or are urbanised – like possums – or animals that spend time with humans either in wildlife care facilities or in conservation breeding programs.

So far, Power says she has found evidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in about a dozen animals, including bats, penguins, sea lions and wallabies.

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“You have organisms moving from us, to animals, and then potentially back to us again,” she says. “At the moment it’s hard to track what’s coming back and forth, but we know humans have driven this emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

Power’s work on the issue started in 2007 when she looked at faeces samples of endangered brush-tailed rock wallabies being raised in captivity in New South Wales as part of conservation efforts.

About half the wallabies had antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their faeces. Those animals were released back into the wild.

In late 2009, Power fulfilled a romantic 20-year-old dream of travelling to Antarctica to do scientific research. The rather less romantic goal was to sample the human sewage from a research station there, and to “sneak up behind penguins and seals” and take their poo.

Penguins, Antarctic Peninsula
  • Penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula.

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But again, her findings revealed that bacteria from humans was making its way into the Antarctic wilderness, including antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Between 2017 and 2019, Power’s scientific colleagues together with wildlife carers have collected 448 poo samples from the little penguins of Philip Island and St Kilda, and from the penguins in zoos (one method to collect samples from wild penguins is to leave a piece of card near the entry to a nesting box because, Power says, they “like to poo out the door”).

Almost half the little penguins in captivity have antibiotic-resistant bacteria, compared with 3% of the wild population.

Researcher Ida Lundback, right, with the assistance of volunteer Naomi Wells, left, takes a faecal sample from a captured little blue penguin (Eudyptula minor) before returning it back to its burrow.
  • Researcher Ida Lundback, right, with the assistance of volunteer Naomi Wells, left, takes a faecal sample from a captured little blue penguin (Eudyptula minor) before returning it back to its burrow.

Power has also been part of an ongoing citizen science project encouraging others to do the faeces collecting – this timer the secretions of possums.

After analysing abut 1,800 samples so far, Power says the Scoop a Poop project has shown about 29% of Australia’s brush-tailed possums are carrying antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In 2019, Power was part of a study that found antibiotic resistance in grey-headed flying foxes – a species listed as vulnerable.

In research yet to be published, Power says she has found evidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in wild populations of Tasmanian devils.

So how did our bacteria get into the animals?

Power says about three-quarters of the antibiotics that humans take are actually excreted, ending up in wastewater systems. Places where antibiotics are manufactured are also potential avenues for escape of antibiotics.

And then there are the times when animals are taken into care, or raised in captivity and exposed to humans, and then released into the wild.

“We are seeing a variation in the prevalence [of antibiotic-resistant bacteria] across different wildlife species but why that is the case, we are not sure,” Power says.

An urban brush-tailed possum, Trichosurus vulpecula
  • Clockwise from top: An urban brush-tailed possum, a female grey-headed flying fox and an Australian sea lion.
An Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea), Sandy Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
A female grey-headed flying foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus) Yarra Bend Park. Kew, Victoria.

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Possums are a species that are highly urbanised, sometimes feed on the ground, and live and eat close to humans – close enough that many find homes in the roof space of Australian houses. But they tend to be solitary.

Flying foxes on the other hand hang around in trees in tightly packed camps that can run into the thousands. About 5% of wild grey-headed flying foxes had antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their excretions, compared with 40% of those in care facilities.

Power says: “Maybe the possums are getting closer to our organisms, but also they’re solitary species. Flying foxes on the other hand live up in trees but live in higher densities.”

According to the World Health Organisation, the emergence of bacteria resistant to antibiotics is one of the world’s greatest health challenges facing humans, making treatment of dangerous diseases ever more challenging.

But the impact of this bacteria on wildlife, Power says, “is the big unknown” and she says there’s no direct evidence yet that it’s doing harm.

Faecal sample from Australia Sea Lions (Neophoca cinerea) that has been plated on Chromacult media - a selective differential media that makes E. coli visible by showing it as dark purple.
  • A faecal sample from Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea) that has been plated on Chromocult media – a selective differential media that makes E coli visible by showing it as dark purple.

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She says: “The gene transfer of endemic bacteria could alter microbial communities and know more and more each day about the significance of friendly microbes to healthy immunity.”

Dr Wayne Boardman is a wildlife veterinarian at the University of Adelaide and the former head vet at London Zoo who has been collaborating with Power on research.

One big concern Boardman holds is that the antibiotic resistance could make it harder for vets to care for sick animals.

But also, he says, the bacteria and the genes associated with them that are being passed from humans to animals could then evolve and come back into the human population.

“It’s in the bacteria’s interest to try and protect themselves,” he says. “Whilst the risks are relatively small, they could be compounded over the years because we have more of these antimicrobial resistant genes occurring and then we get further and further into the mire.

Associate Professor Michelle Power from Macquarie University Department of Biological Science plates out a culture of E.coli taken from facial samples from Antarctic marine life (Wedell seal - Leptonychotes weddellii).
  • Michelle Power with a culture of E.coli taken from faecal samples from Antarctic marine life (Weddell seal – Leptonychotes weddellii).

“It’s a human induced issue. We can’t blame the animals. It’s only humans using antibiotics.”

Prof Clare McArthur, a behavioural ecologist at the University of Sydney, says Power has answered the first important question – are human bacteria being passed into our wildlife?

“The next questions is, does it matter,” she says. “I think of this from a gut perspective. We know that the gut biome is important and we know from humans that if you tweak it then things can go pear shaped in terms of our health.

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“In the back of my mind is the question – if they’re picking up antibiotic-resistant bacteria, is that altering their gut biome? We don’t have an answer for that yet.”

As for Power, she’s worried that wildlife picking up human pathogens could be another pressure on species already vulnerable.

“These bacteria are pathogens and they can cause diseases in us. I’m worried about wildlife health and what some of these resistant bacteria might mean for wildlife species, many of which are already vulnerable.”

A 72-year-old woman was gored by a bison at Yellowstone National Park when she tried to take a picture

https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/bison-gores-woman-yellowstone-trnd/index.html

Dave Alsup and Hollie Silverman, CNN • Updated 30th June 2020FacebookTwitterEmail

A woman was gored by a bison as she tried to take a picture of it in Yellowstone National Park.

(CNN) — A 72-year-old California woman was gored by a bison in Yellowstone National Park, a news release from the park said.The woman approached the bison to take a picture and got within 10 feet of it multiple times before it gored her on June 25, according to the release.She sustained multiple goring wounds and was treated by rangers before being flown to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center for further treatment.The news release said the woman approached the bison several times near her campsite at Bridge Bay Campground in northwest Wyoming before the bison charged.Related contentA woman suffers burns after illegally entering Yellowstone National Park, park officials say“The series of events that led to the goring suggest the bison was threatened by being repeatedly approached to within 10 feet,” Yellowstone’s senior bison biologist Chris Geremia said in the release.”Bison are wild animals that respond to threats by displaying aggressive behaviors like pawing the ground, snorting, bobbing their head, bellowing, and raising their tail. If that doesn’t make the threat (in this instance it was a person) move away, a threatened bison may charge,” Geremia added. “To be safe around bison, stay at least 25 yards away, move away if they approach, and run away or find cover if they charge.”The attack serves as a reminder that “wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are wild,” the release said.Park visitors must stay 25 yards away from all large animals in the park including bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes, the release said. If people encounter bears and wolves they should stay 100 yards away.Another woman was also gored at the park in late May only days after the park reopened to visitors following a closure for coronavirus.

I Just Hope There’s no Sparrow Hell

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I feel sad for the planet that people are so straight-jacketed and tongue-tied against ever whispering a word about the human overpopulation crisis.

People won’t hesitate to speak up if a non-human animal species becomes overpopulated (usually because humans have changed its environment and/or killed off its natural predators), but they continue to tiptoe around the issue of their own species overpopulation…

There’s way too many of us to be telling people, ‘just consume less and we’ll be fine.’ As popular as that might be to some of us, the human footprint is much too deep and heavy to get off so lightly.

 

Like cows in search of greener pastures, we’ve worn an indelible trail to our own demise. We’ve come so far on this narrow trail that it’s getting too late to turn back now…

 

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I’m reading a true story wherein the main character/victim is a mother who, though she has 2 kids already and then had her tubes tied, re-marries and wants to have more babies with her new husband. One of her eggs is in-vitro fertilized and she ends up having quadruplets (in addition to the 2 she already had). After she is murdered by her ex-husband, her younger sister (who has 4 kids of her own) helps take care of them…

Anyway, long story short, there’s too many humans now to just say. ‘Just buy a little less’ and we’ll all be ok’. That’s an oversimplification sort of like Gorge W. Bush telling people to go out shopping after 9-11. Good for the 7-11s in the world maybe, but not the full answer the Earth really needs right now.

In other words, until we address the overpopulation of humans, we may as well tell people to just go out and go shopping.

Until humans come down from their pedestal and decide that we are animals, beholden to the same laws of nature as any others, we’ll never escape the mess we’re in…

Wandering humpback whale likely killed in ship collision, says necropsy team

Dead whale shows signs of acute trauma, says veterinary professor

The lifeless body of young humpback whale was found drifting in the St. Lawrence River, near the Verchères archipelago, early Tuesday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)
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Preliminary results of a necropsy show a boat strike likely killed the humpback whale whose body was found drifting down the St. Lawrence River near Varennes, Que., early Tuesday, say veterinarians who are examining the carcass where it was hoisted from the water, in Sainte-Anne-de-Sorel.

The whale, vigorous when she was first spotted near the Jacques Cartier Bridge on May 30, drew hundreds of people to the Old Port to catch a glimpse of the rare sight. The whale was last spotted alive Sunday near Pointe-aux-Trembles, at the northeastern end of the island of Montreal and was then seen, lifeless, near Île-Beauregard, six nautical miles away.

Université de Montréal Prof. Stéphane Lair, a veterinary pathologist leading the team conducting the necropsy, said the whale had suffered trauma under its skin and in its muscles. The accumulation of blood in the whale also suggests that a collision fatally wounded the animal, said Lair.

Lair confirmed the young humpback was a female, between two and three years of age.

He said his team will analyze samples from the necropsy in the lab before confirming the cause of death in a month or two.

If indeed a boat did strike and kill the whale, Laird said, the vessel would have had to have been very large.

WATCH: Veterinarian on what he found in whale necropsy:

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Preliminary findings show whale was hit by boat

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The team led by Université de Montréal veterinary Prof. Stéphane Lair says early findings from the necropsy suggest the humpback whale was struck by a boat. Lair says a final diagnosis could take as long as two months. 0:30

“If they hit the whale during the night, there’s a good chance they might not have noticed it,” Lair said.

The whale had some skin damage from the time it had spent in fresh water, Lair said, but it otherwise looked to be in good health.

Humpback whales can survive a journey through fresh water for at least three weeks and return safely to the ocean, said Robert Michaud, the co-ordinator of the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network.

“We thought this animal could make it,” said Michaud, who is also the founder and scientific director of the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals, based in Tadoussac, Que.

Lair said he can’t yet confirm if the whale had been eating but said it is possible the whale, at least in the early part of her journey from salt water upstream to Montreal, could have been chasing schools of fish.

Michaud and his network had hoped they could help the whale return safely to her natural habitat, keeping close tabs on her until they lost track of the whale Sunday morning, he said.

A crew from the University of Montreal veterinarian school performs a necropsy on the whale in Sainte-Anne-de-Sorel, Que. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Humans and Neanderthals: Less different than polar and brown bears

https://phys.org/news/2020-06-humans-neanderthals-polar-brown.html

Humans and Neanderthals: less different than polar and brown bears
Credit: Kennis & Kennis Reconstructions

Ancient humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans were genetically closer than polar bears and brown bears, and so, like the bears, were able to easily produce healthy, fertile hybrids according to a study, led by the University of Oxford’s School of Archaeology.

The study, published 3 June in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows that the genetic distance values between humans and our ancient relatives were smaller than the distance between pairs of species which are known to easily hybridize and have fertile young.

Professor Greger Larson, Director of the Palaeogenomics & Bio-Archaeology Research Network (PalaeoBARN) at Oxford and senior author of the study says, “Our desire to categorize the world into discrete boxes has led us to think of species as completely separate units. Biology does not care about these rigid definitions, and lots of species, even those that are far apart evolutionarily, swap genes all the time. Our predictive metric allows for a quick and easy determination of how likely it is for any two species to produce fertile  offspring. This comparative measure suggests that humans and Neanderthals and Denisovans were able to produce live fertile young with ease.”

The long history of matings between Neanderthals, humans, and Denisovans has only recently been demonstrated through the analysis of ancient genomes. The ability of mammalian species, including , to produce fertile hybrid offspring has been hard to predict, and the relative fertility of the hybrids remains an open question. Some geneticists have even said that Neanderthals and humans were at the “edge of biological compatibility.”

So the team developed a metric using genetic distances to predict the relative fertility of the first generation of hybrids between any two mammalian species. They did this by analyzing genetic sequence data from different species that had previously been shown to produce hybrid offspring. By correlating the genetic distance with the relative fertility of the hybrid offspring, it was possible to show that the greater the evolutionary distance between any two species, the less likely it is that the  between them would be fertile. In addition, the team used the distance values to determine a threshold of fertility.

When the distance values between humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans were calculated, they were even smaller than the values between several pairs of species which are known readily and easily to hybridize—including  and , and coyotes and wolves. This suggests we could have predicted the existence of Neanderthals and Denisovans in our genomes as soon as the first genetic sequences were generated.

This proxy can also be used to predict the likelihood that any two mammal species can give birth to live hybrids, a useful tool that can be used in decisions about whether to place animals together in zoos.

Richard Benjamin Allen, joint first author of the study says, “Many decisions in  have been made on the basis that related organisms that produce hybrids in captivity should be prevented from doing so. Such an approach has not considered the significant role that hybridisation has played in evolution in the wild, especially in populations under the threat of extinction. Our study can be used to inform future conservation efforts of related  where hybridization or surrogacy programs could be viable alternatives.”


Scientists say an apocalyptic bird flu could wipe out half of humanity

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The coronavirus has killed over 365,000 people worldwide in just five months — but that’s nothing compared to what could be coming if humans don’t clean up their act when it comes to chickens.

In his new book, “How to Survive a Pandemic,” Dr. Michael Gregor, a scientist and physician who once testified for Oprah Winfrey in her “meat defamation” trial, warns that an apocalyptic virus emanating from overcrowded and unsanitary chicken farms has the potential to wipe out half of humanity.

Greger, a vegan, writes that “In the ‘hurricane scale’ of epidemics, COVID-19, with a death rate of around half of one percent, rates a measly Category Two, possibly a Three. … The Big One, the typhoon to end all typhoons, will be 100 times worse when it comes, a Category Five producing a fatality rate of one in two. … Civilization as we know it would cease.”

While environmentalists warned earlier this month that the world would face another stronger epidemic if we continue to have contact with wildlife, Gregor places the blame squarely on chickens.

“With pandemics explosively spreading a virus from human to human, it’s never a matter of if, but when,” Greger writes.

Citing the bird-based Spanish Flu outbreak of 1920, and the H5N1 outbreak in Hong Kong in 1997, Gregor writes, “the worry is that the virus never stands still but is always mutating. … This is the monster lurking in the undergrowth, the one that makes epidemiologists shudder.”

The Hong Kong outbreak, which originated in a bird market, “started with a three-year-old boy in Hong Kong, whose sore throat and tummy ache turned into a disease that curdled his blood and killed him within a week from acute respiratory and organ failure.” While only 18 people contracted that flu – a third of them died.

During that pandemic, the government killed 1.3 million chickens in an attempt to eliminate the virus – but there have since been two more outbreaks between 2003 and 2009 outside of China.

But with over 24 billion chickens on earth feeding the world, what can be done?

Gregor writes we have to change the entire system – away from large scale farms where chickens are fed antibiotics and are crammed together and pass diseases from one to another easily to smaller, free-range farms … and eventually not eating chickens or ducks at all.

“The pandemic cycle could theoretically be broken for good,” he writes. “Bird flu could be grounded.”

But until then, he warns, “as long as there is poultry, there will be pandemics. In the end, it may be us or them.”

Why I’m An Animal Rights Activist When There Is So Much Human Suffering In The World