Domestic dogs are derived from wolves, right? Maybe not. There is apparently a minority view that says that a better interpretation of behavioural, morphological and genetic differences between the domestic dog and the wolf is that the dog was domesticated from a now-extinct, pariah-like precursor, with occasional hybridization with wolves along the way. You can read more about this controversial view on Darren Naish’s zoological blog.
There’s an articleÂ in The Economist (subscription needed, but you can also read it here), of all places, on the storage of livestock semen for transportation. There are apparently chemical additives available that prolong the life of bull and boar sperm, but nothing yet for ram sperm. This is a pity because semen is a much more convenient and cheap way of moving genes about than transporting live animals, not to mention safer. Which is why the ministry responsible for agriculture in the UK asked the Institute of Zoology in London to have a look at the problem. They decided to start by working out how all sorts of wild species with long-lived sperm – from bats to sharks – achieve that feat. A promising mixture of proteins called sAPM (soluble apical plasma membranes) has been identified, but the details are still secret. Could this have implications for ex situ conservation of sheep genetic resources?
Well that’s a bit strong perhaps. What this article, based on an FAO report, does point out, however, is that the burgeoning global livestock sector produces 18% of global carbon dioxide emissions – which is more than transport. It is also having other serious environmental impacts. What to do? The report makes suggestions in the focus areas of reversing land degradation, increasing the efficiency of livestock production, and better water use. Genetic resources could of course contribute to all these.
If you had any doubts about the value of pollinators, this should help to dispel them. An article about the lengths that apiarists in Alaska go to to ensure a good supply of bees each spring.
Diversity is of course wonderful, but I sometimes wonder whether the urge to manipulate it can be taken too far.