A Joe Biden presidency means the return of a long-held tradition of pets in the White House.
The President-elect and his wife have two dogs at present: Champ and Major. They are German Shepherds. Champ, who was then a puppy, was given to Joe Biden in 2018 by his wife. Major was fostered and then adopted, also in 2018, from the Delaware Humane Association.
Here is another picture of the two dogs. This time featuring Mrs Biden.
So GSD Major will be the first shelter dog that from January, 2021 will reside in the White House.
When one quietly reflects on the span of time that dogs and humans have been together, something in the order of 40,000 years, it’s no surprise that dogs have evolved to be our closest companion.
But the BBC proclaimed that:
The analysis reveals that dog domestication can be traced back 11,000 years, to the end of the last Ice Age.
So that rather confused me.
But read the full article from the BBC before I comment further.
Dogs are humans’ oldest companions, DNA shows
By Paul Rincon
Science editor, BBC News website, 29th October, 2020
A study of dog DNA has shown that our “best friend” in the animal world may also be our oldest one.
The analysis reveals that dog domestication can be traced back 11,000 years, to the end of the last Ice Age.
This confirms that dogs were domesticated before any other known species.
Our canine companions were widespread across the northern hemisphere at this time, and had already split into five different types.
Despite the expansion of European dogs during the colonial era, traces of these ancient indigenous breeds survive today in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania.
The research fills in some of the gaps in the natural history of our close animal companions.
Dr Pontus Skoglund, co-author of the study and group leader of the Ancient Genomics laboratory at London’s Crick Institute, told BBC News: “Dogs are really unique in being this quite strange thing if you think about it, when all people were still hunter gatherers, they domesticate what is really a wild carnivore – wolves are pretty frightening in many parts of the world.
“The question of why did people do that? How did that come about? That’s what we’re ultimately interested in.”
To some extent, dog genetic patterns mirror human ones, because people took their animal companions with them when they moved. But there were also important differences.
For example, early European dogs were initially diverse, appearing to originate from two very distinct populations, one related to Near Eastern dogs and another to Siberian dogs.
But at some point, perhaps after the onset of the Bronze Age, a single dog lineage spread widely and replaced all other dog populations on the continent. This pattern has no counterpart in the genetic patterns of people from Europe.
Anders Bergström, lead author and post-doctoral researcher at the Crick, said: “If we look back more than four or five thousand years ago, we can see that Europe was a very diverse place when it came to dogs. Although the European dogs we see today come in such an extraordinary array of shapes and forms, genetically they derive from only a very narrow subset of the diversity that used to exist.”
An international team analysed the whole genomes (the full complement of DNA in the nuclei of biological cells) of 27 ancient dog remains associated with a variety of archaeological cultures. They compared these to each other and to modern dogs.
The results reveal that breeds like the Rhodesian Ridgeback in southern Africa and the Chihuahua and Xoloitzcuintli in Mexico retain genetic traces of ancient indigenous dogs from the region.
The ancestry of dogs in East Asia is complex. Chinese breeds seem to derive some of their ancestry from animals like the Australian dingo and New Guinea singing dog, with the rest coming from Europe and dogs from the Russian steppe.
The New Guinea singing dog is so named because of its melodious howl, characterised by a sharp increase in pitch at the start.
Greger Larson, a co-author from the University of Oxford, said: “Dogs are our oldest and closest animal partner. Using DNA from ancient dogs is showing us just how far back our shared history goes and will ultimately help us understand when and where this deep relationship began.”
Dogs are thought to have evolved from wolves that ventured into human camps, perhaps sniffing around for food. As they were tamed, they could then have served humans as hunting companions or guards.
The results suggest all dogs derive from a single extinct wolf population – or perhaps a few very closely related ones. If there were multiple domestication events around the world, these other lineages did not contribute much DNA to later dogs.
Dr Skoglund said it was unclear when or where the initial domestication occurred. “Dog history has been so dynamic that you can’t really count on it still being there to readily read in their DNA. We really don’t know – that’s the fascinating thing about it.”
Many animals, such as cats, probably became our pets when humans settled down to farm a little over 6,000 years ago. Cats were probably useful for controlling pests such as mice, that were attracted by the waste generated by dense settlements. This places their domestication in cradles of agriculture such as the Near East.
“For dogs, it could almost have been anywhere: cold Siberia, the warm Near East, South-East Asia. All of these are possibilities in my mind,” Pontus Skoglund explained.
I decided to review the Wikipedia page on the origin of dogs. At last the discrepancy became clear. The difference between divergence and domestication. (My emboldening.)
The genetic divergence between dogs and wolves occurred between 20,000–40,000 years ago, just before or during the Last Glacial Maximum (20,000–27,000 years ago). This timespan represents the upper time-limit for the commencement of domestication because it is the time of divergence but not the time of domestication, which occurred later. One of the most important transitions in human history was the domestication of animals, which began with the long-term association between wolves and hunter–gatherers more than 15,000 years ago.
So that explains a great deal.
But it nevertheless remains the fact that they are our longest, dearest companion.
We were listening to the radio early on Tuesday morning and the BBC News played a tribute to the recent death of Dave Greenfield. Here’s a little bit of that BBC News piece:
The Stranglers keyboard player Dave Greenfield has died at the age of 71 after testing positive for Covid-19.
Greenfield died on Sunday having contracted the virus after a prolonged stay in hospital for heart problems.
He penned the band’s biggest hit, Golden Brown, a song about heroin, which went to number two on the UK singles chart in 1982.
The Stranglers bass player Jean-Jacques “JJ” Burnel paid tribute to Greenfield as a “musical genius”.
He said: “On the evening of Sunday May 3rd, my great friend and longstanding colleague of 45 years, the musical genius that was Dave Greenfield, passed away as one of the victims of the Great Pandemic of 2020.
“All of us in the worldwide Stranglers’ family grieve and send our sincerest condolences to [Greenfield’s wife] Pam.”
Drummer Jet Black added: “We have just lost a dear friend and music genius, and so has the whole world.
“Dave was a complete natural in music. Together, we toured the globe endlessly and it was clear he was adored by millions. A huge talent, a great loss, he is dearly missed.”
There’s more to read but I wanted to republish one of the photographs taken:
Then to close my tribute to Dave here’s a beautiful rendition of that most famous song – Golden Brown.
Parkinson’s is a progressive condition affecting the brain, for which there is currently no cure.
Existing Parkinson’s treatments can help with some of the symptoms but can’t slow or reverse the loss of neurons that occurs with the disease.
Terazosin may help by activating an enzyme called PGK1 to prevent this brain cell death, the researchers, from the University of Iowa, in the US and the Beijing Institute for Brain Disorders, China, say.
When they tested the drug in rodents it appeared to slow or stop the loss of nerve cells.
To begin assessing if the drug might have the same effect in people, they searched the medical records of millions of US patients to identify men with BPH and Parkinson’s.
They studied 2,880 Parkinson’s patients taking terazosin or similar drugs that target PGK1 and a comparison group of 15,409 Parkinson’s patients taking a different treatment for BPH that had no action on PGK1.
Patients on the drugs targeting PGK1 appeared to fare better in terms of Parkinson’s disease symptoms and progression, which the researchers say warrants more study in clinical trials, which they plan to begin this year.
Lead researcher Dr Michael Welsh says while it is premature to talk about a cure, the findings have the potential to change the lives of people with Parkinson’s.
“Today, we have zero treatments that change the progressive course of this neurodegenerative disease,” she says.
“That’s a terrible state, because as our population ages Parkinson’s disease is going to become increasingly common.
“So, this is really an exciting area of research.”
Given that terazosin has a proven track record for treating BPH, he says, getting it approved and “repurposed” as a Parkinson’s drug should be achievable if the clinical trials go well.
The trials, which will take a few years, will compare the drug with a placebo to make sure it is safe and effective in Parkinson’s.
Co-researcher Dr Nandakumar Narayanan, who treats patients with Parkinson’s disease said: “We need these randomised controlled trials to prove that these drugs really are disease modifying.
“If they are, that would be a great thing.”
Prof David Dexter from Parkinson’s UK said: “These exciting results show that terazosin may have hidden potential for slowing the progression of Parkinson’s, something that is desperately needed to help people live well for longer.
“While it is early days, both animal models and studies looking at people who already take the drug show promising signs that need to be investigated further.”
“The patients are quite lucky not to have been more seriously injured given that goannas can be quite savage,” another ambulance worker told ABC, adding: “It doesn’t happen every day, that’s for sure.”
The dog was earlier reported to have died, but ABC later reported that it had survived the attack.
Now I wasn’t sure what a goanna was but thanks to Wikipedia (and not the only source), we find:
Goanna refers to some species of the genus Varanus found in Australia and Southeast Asia.
Being predatory lizards, goannas are often quite large, or at least bulky, with sharp teeth and claws. The largest is the perentie (V. giganteus), which can grow over 2.5 m (8.2 ft) in length.
Not all goannas are gargantuan. Pygmy goannas may be smaller than the arm of an adult human. The smallest of these, the short-tailed monitor (Varanus brevicuda) reaches only 20 cm (8 inches) in length. They survive on smaller prey, such as insects and mice.
Goannas combine predatory and scavenging behaviours. A goanna will prey on any animal it can catch and is small enough to eat whole. Goannas have been blamed for the death of sheep by farmers, though most likely erroneously, as goannas are also eaters of carrion and are attracted to rotting meat.
Most goannas are dark-coloured, with greys, browns, blacks and greens featuring prominently; however, white is also common. Many desert-dwelling species also feature yellow-red tones. Camouflageranges from bands and stripes to splotches, speckles, and circles, and can change as the creature matures, with juveniles sometimes being brighter than adults.
Like most lizards, goannas lay eggs. Most lay eggs in a nest or burrow, but some species lay their eggs inside termite mounds. This offers protection and incubation; additionally, the termites may provide a meal for the young as they hatch. Unlike some other species of lizards, goannas do not have the ability to regrow limbs or tails.
Seafaring dog Boonrod is heading to a new life in Khon Kaen with his new owner — one of the oil rig workers who rescued him from the ocean in a story that captured international attention.
“We’re leaving,” owner Vitisak Payalaw posted in a message on the Boonrod Facebook page on Saturday evening.
Mr Vitisak, an planner of Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production, met Boonrod — in Thai — on Saturday for the first time since the team found him to an oil platform in the Gulf of Thailand about 220km from the shore in Songkhla on April 12.
How Boonrod got there remains a mystery, but it is believed that he must have fallen off a trawler. After helping rescue the deepwater dog, Mr Vitisak offered to be his new owner.
The exhausted animal was brought ashore on April 15 and lodged at Dog Smile House, a shelter in Hat Yai district of the southern province, with financial support from the US oil firm and Watchdog Thailand, a non-profit group.
Boonrod appeared delighted to see Mr Vitisak and the other members of the oil rig team who rescued him.
Mr Vitisak said he was taking annual leave from his work at the oil platform to transport the dog to his home in Khon Kaen, almost 1,500km from Hat Yai. The house in the northeastern province has been prepared to accomodate a new resident, the Chevron employee added.
Mr Vitisak asked for privacy and requested that well-wishers not visit his new pet at his parents’ home in Khon Kaen. But fans are welcome to greet Boonrod when he walks the dog, he added.
He also encouraged other animal lovers to adopt pets if they can.
The story of Boonrod was carried by global news agencies, including CNN. He can be followed on his Facebook page.