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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Is culture unique to us human animals?.....Turns out the answer is no.............We know that Great Apes, Chimps, Ravens, Bees, Wolves, Coyotes, Pumas and many other animals, birds and insects can "PASS ON INFORMATION AND BEHAVIOURS TO OTHERS IN THEIR FAMILY AND EXTENDED FAMILY"............"Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises are right up there next to us in their cultural abilities"...................."Culture and nature are inextricable entwined"!!!

Alison Gopnik
Wall street Journal; August5-6, 2017

Whales Have Complex Culture, Too

Culture isn’t uniquely human: New research examines the sophisticated ways that whales pass on songs and food preferences.

How does a new song go viral, replacing the outmoded hits of a few years ago? How are favorite dishes passed on through the generations, from grandmother to grandchild? Two new papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examine the remarkable and distinctive ability to transmit culture. The studies describe some of the most culturally sophisticated beings on Earth.
Or, to be more precise, at sea. Whales and other cetaceans, such as dolphins and porpoises, turn out to have more complex cultural abilities than any other animal except us.
For a long time, people thought that culture was uniquely human. But new studies show that a wide range of animals, from birds to bees to chimpanzees, can pass on information and behaviors to others. Whales have especially impressive kinds of culture, which we are only just beginning to understand, thanks to the phenomenal efforts of cetacean specialists. (As a whale researcher once said to me with a sigh, “Just imagine if each of your research participants was the size of a 30-ton truck.”)

One of the new studies, by Ellen Garland of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and her colleagues, looked at humpback whale songs. Only males sing them, especially in the breeding grounds, which suggests that music is the food of love for cetaceans, too—though the exact function of the songs is still obscure.
The songs, which can last for as long as a half-hour, have a complicated structure, much like human language or music. They are made up of larger themes constructed from shorter phrases, and they have the whale equivalent of rhythm and rhyme. Perhaps that’s why we humans find them so compelling and beautiful.
The songs also change as they are passed on, like human songs. All the male whales in a group sing the same song, but every few years the songs are completely transformed. Researchers have trailed the whales across the Pacific, recording their songs as they go. The whales learn the new songs from other groups of whales when they mingle in the feeding grounds. But how?
The current paper looked at an unusual set of whales that produced rare hybrid songs—a sort of mashup of songs from different groups. Hybrids showed up as the whales transitioned from one song to the next. The hybrids suggested that the whales weren’t just memorizing the songs as a single unit. They were taking the songs apart and putting them back together, creating variations using the song structure.

The other paper, by Hal Whitehead of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, looked at a different kind of cultural transmission in another species, the killer whale. The humpback songs spread horizontally, passing from one virile young thing to the next, like teenage fashions. But the real power of culture comes when caregivers can pass on discoveries to the next generation. That sort of vertical transmission is what gives human beings their edge.
Killer whales stay with their mothers for as long as the mothers live, and mothers pass on eating traditions. In the same patch of ocean, you will find some whales that only eat salmon and other whales that only eat mammals, and these preferences are passed on from mother to child.
Even grandmothers may play a role. Besides humans, killer whales are the only mammal whose females live well past menopause. Those old females help to ensure the survival of their offspring, and they might help to pass on a preference for herring or shark to their grandchildren, too. (That may be more useful than my grandchildren’s legacy—a taste for Montreal smoked meat and bad Borscht Belt jokes.)
Dr. Whitehead argues that these cultural traditions may even lead to physical changes. As different groups of whales become isolated from each other, the salmon eaters in one group and the mammal eaters in another, there appears to be a genetic shift affecting things such as their digestive abilities. The pattern should sound familiar: It’s how the cultural innovation of dairy farming led to the selection of genes for lactose-tolerance in humans. Even in whales, culture and nature are inextricably entwined.

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