martes, 29 de noviembre de 2016

Has any species of animal become extinct in the past 20 years?

Sadly, many. So many that scientists are talking about a massive extinction induced by humans, the sixth in the history of life:
Accelerated modern human-induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction

The last animals added are:
2015 — Eastern Cougar, Puma Concolor Couguar
2013 – Formosan Clouded Leopard, Neofelis nebulosa brachyura
2012 — Pinta Island Tortoise, Chelonoidis abingdoni
2011 — Vietnamese Rhino, Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus

2009 — Christmas Island Pipistrelle, Pipistrellus murrayi
2007 — Chinese Paddlefish, Psephurus gladius
2007 — Yangtze River Dolphin, Lipotes vexillifer
etc, etc.
If you want to visit this sad list, here is the link:
Here's Every Single Animal That Became Extinct In The Last 100 Years
As a meta-analysis, a study published by experts from Stanford, Princeton and the University of  California-Berkeley declared the world’s vertebrates are going extinct  114 times faster than the natural rate of extinction.

domingo, 27 de noviembre de 2016

If birds are dinosaurs, then why aren't all vertebrates fishes? Are they only dinosaurs when speaking cladistic, or also Linnaean?

 I understand that, with clades, birds are dinosaurs, but when considering clades, birds are fishes, cnidarians, et cetera. This distinction is next to useless for the general purposes of language, where calling everything a bacteria would be meaningless. Thus, for the purposes of casual language, are birds really dinosaurs?

Another question of Quora, if you read these entries you already know that I considered the site interesting before they chose quantity (traffic) instead of quality. They also have a politic of top writers (those who attract more readings) that has made havoc with the level of answers related to animals and ethology.
However, I once wrote on Quora this text. Enjoy...

Birds are dinosaurs for both systems of classification.
Birds are dinosaurs from both viewpoints, although it carries some problems for Linnean classification (1). And don't missunderstand me, I do really like Linnean classification and prefer that it be the first one to be taught to children because it is a great description of the world as we see it, such as Cladistics can't be by definition, because they have to include features of extinct organisms. Here in Spain children are introduced to classification overly early, in the first grades of Primary, and how could they understand the links between reptiles and birds that Cladistics bring when they are under 10 years?.
Coming back to dinosaurs, it is a group that was not defined on the range of characters we can observe on a living animal that include external features such as appearance, skin traits (having fur, feather, glands, layers...), metabolism traits (such as weter they could maintain a level of internal temperature independently of enviromental conditions or not, chambers in the heart, etc), skeletal morphology and others. It wasn't possible because the description was made from the fosil remains that only depicted skeletal features (2), hence all the group was typed from some few relevant skeletal traits. There is not way of comparing how they descripted mammals, birds and reptiles with the way they did with dinosaurs.
What happened is that accordingly with that key skeletal features, birds must be included into the dinosaur group (from a Linnean viewpoint) or are in the dinosaur clade (from a Cladistic one). Birds fulfill all the "must to" to be named dinosaurs by their own and not as derived from dinosaurs. Of course that there is a lot of polemics sorrounding this point, for some anatomist birds display very original adaptations to flight that would tell them apart from more "primitive" dinosaurs (3). Some even maintain that they could derive from an earliest ancestor that was only related to dinosaurs, but was not a dinosaur (4). I think that the scientits that defend those viewpoints have failed to demonstrate that birds lack the skeletal characters that make them dinosaurs, so far at least; in fact the critics I link bellow are debunked. Probably we will see more of this polemic in the following years, and this is the kind of discussions I like, because in spite that they can be really boring for taxonomists, for general public show some really interesting features of the animal studied. And also, it is like a real scientific soap opera on the internet.
But for the purpose of casual language, birds can be called birds, and we can forget for a while that they are dinosaurs.
Finally, in our dayly life, as far as we are not interested in the evolutionary history of some organism or some feature in some organism, I think it is more useful, and amazing, talking about them in the way we see and experience our present world, and here is where Linnean classification makes the best role. Do you see those beautiful long legged horses as fishes?. Indeed, nobody does. The insistence of calling birds dinosaurs come from the fact that the polemics between supporters and the remaining detractors of birds as dinos still continues, nothing is more noisy than a battle field.
__ Links and an introduction to some problems and controversies derived from dinosaurs classification. I only recomend point 1 and 4 to dino freaks.
(1) Well, this point is annoyingly long, I agree. But as I have seen so many people confused with the idea that dinosaurs are birds, I like to explain why they feel so stranged with it.
The problems that Linnean classification must face due to that birds are actually dinosaurs derive from that dinosaurs include animals that highly resemble reptiles and others that, well, are birds.
For the lay person the problem can be post as "So when we think about the term dinosaur, what are we thinking about a bird or a reptile, or both?". In fact the matter reminds me the Necker cube , an optical illusion in what we can see the same drawing of a cube looking up, down or both alternately.
Regarding dinosaurs, there is not such dilema, as I have told in the text, dinosaurs were defined on different basis than any living animal Class (reptiles and birds are Classes accordingly to Linnean classification), so there is not contradiction in that dino groups animals from both Classes. It is a little uncomfortable for Linnean supporters, but not a nuclear misile that will destroy the concept.
Cladistics supporters, on the other hand, have more strong feelings about the Linnean Class reptilia (i.e reptiles). Some schools of thought would like to redefine it in a way that includes birds. But they also have to face their own problems, because it is not clear how to group the different extant types of reptiles accordingly to evolutionary characters. For the moment reptiles are a nightmare for evolutionary biologists and cladistics zealots, good for the old brave scaled animals. Who wants that their children are told that birds an reptiles are the same at the tender age of seven?. I don't.
In fact dinosaurs are not the only group that defy the traditional Linnean grouping, just the most popular. If Synapsid would have been so know as dinos, we would have assisted to a long and vively discussion about wether they are retiles or mammals or what. Finally synapsid were split from reptiles.
I have brought about the example of synapsid to talk about the complexity of classifying extinct animals that depict characters that make them close to two different Linnean Classes, species or whatever. In the end, making classifications is drawing borders that looked from an aerial perspective seem to be very clear, but the closer you get to these borders, the more artifitial and debatable they appear. This is the lesson that we, lay people, can draw from the problems with classifying dinosaurs.
(2) What is the scientific diagnosis of what is a dinosaur, and what is just another archosaur? Several skeletal characteristics are currently used as diagnostic dinosaurian features. You may also view a large-screen picture of a dinosaur skeleton for a lesson in anatomy : Morphology of the Dinosauria
(3) Are birds dinosaurs? New evidence muddies the picture (bear in mind that the objections exposed in this article are nowadays debunked).
(4) Longisquama (debunked. But I really find Longisquasma amazing, in spite that I only see the head half of an animal skeleton over some feathered thing).

sábado, 26 de noviembre de 2016

What are some amazing moments of bonding between animals from different species?

I love this question on Quora because I love animals. I find it uplifting, so let's have a nice moment. Enjoy...

1)  Mzee is a Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea), a species which habitat is in the Seychelles. Owen is exactly what you could expect from a hipoppotamus.

 Let's start with one of the most surprising pals I had never expected. Because one of them is a reptil, and the other a mammal. You may think that in this case the bond could only flow in one direction (from mammal to reptil), very probably, but it was fundamental for the well being of the young mammal.
Owen and Mzee

They live in the Haller Park in Kenya. In December 2004, tthe terrible tusnami separated Owen, then a juvenile hippo, from his herd. he was rescued and carried to the Haller Park Rescue Center. Having no other hippos to interact with, Owen immediately attempted to  bond with Mzee, whose large domed shell and brown color resembled an  adult hippo. They formed an odd friendship that continued until 2006,  when it was determined that Owen had grown too large to safely interact  with Mzee. Today they live in separated enclosures, and Owen is doing a great job in socializing with other hippos, which reveals that the effect of the perceived bonding with the tortoise was very positive for the young mammal.

2) Whales interacting with dolphins: Sperm Whales 'adopt' a deformed dolphin, and whales giving dolphins a lift.

These kind of bondings can occur in the wild. Despite they can be temporal, we can't deny that they defy our understanding of humans as the only ones that can understand another species's animal suffering and help them, and also...what puzzles me more...that they enjoy playing with another species.

Let's start by an amazing example, this video depicts a very rare interaction between sperm whales and an  adult bottlenose dolphin with a spinal malformation (i.e. scoliosis).  This represents the first time this type of non-agonistic (friendly)  interaction has been recorded for sperm whales. We published a  description of these interactions in the scientific journal "Aquatic  Mammals".

Surprising, isn't it?. But what if I tell you that scientists have filmed whales playing with dolphins...playing, not harrasing or bullying.

Whales give dolphins a lift.

Many species interact in the wild, most often as predator and prey. But  recent encounters between humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins reveal  a playful side to interspecies interaction. In two different locations  in Hawaii, scientists watched as dolphins "rode" the heads of whales:  the whales lifted the dolphins up and out of the water, and then the  dolphins slid back down. The two species seemed to cooperate in the  activity, and neither displayed signs of aggression or distress.

3)  Adopted pets can form bonds incredible strong, because they know what is not to have them. When there is a disability included in the equation, the bondings are truly impresionant.

I've talked about wild animals in a rescue center, and wild animals in the wild, but the greatest source of these unthinkable bondings are just average people homes

Pwditat the rescued straycat and Terfel the blind dog:

 And, on the other hand, Murdock the blind adopted cat and the family dog who adopted him as his best friend (the name of the dog wasn't mentioned in the article).

Here are the links to know more about them.

4) There is an entire channel of NatGeo dedicated to tell this kind of stories.
Here is the story of a ten y.o hen and a very handicapped toy dog, that are best buddies:

martes, 22 de noviembre de 2016

Why are poop-throwing chimpanzees more intelligent?

Ok, some questions on Quora are incredibly funny. And, ah, oh, yes...some field studies too bizarre.
This is one of the first things I wrote on Quora, be patient with my English, I was starting, and also forgive me some typos...but poo throwing chimps and intelligence, is there anything more exciting?.


Are there -not handycapped- chimps that can't poop throw ?.
The paper says that better poop throwers were more intellegent becaus:

After making their  discovery regarding the parts of the brain that appear to be involved in  better throwing in chimps, the team tested the chimps and found that  those that could throw better also appeared to be better communicators  within their group, giving credence to their idea that speech and  throwing are related. Interestingly, they also found that the better  throwing chimps didn’t appear to posses any more physical prowess than  other chimps, which the researchers suggest means that throwing didn’t  develop as a means of hunting, but as a form of communication within  groups, i.e. throwing stuff at someone else became a form of self  expression, which is clearly evident to anyone who has ever been  targeted by a chimp locked up in a zoo.
(source, the same paper you mentioned, Researches find poop-throwing by chimps is a sign of intelligence)

And here you have the causes, in the same paper:
- It has been  hypothesized that neurological adaptations associated with evolutionary  selection for throwing may have served as a precursor for the emergence  of language and speech in early hominins.
-These results suggest  that chimpanzees that have learned to throw have developed greater  cortical connectivity between primary motor cortex and the Broca's area  homologue. It is suggested that during hominin evolution, after the  split between the lines leading to chimpanzees and humans, there was  intense selection on increased motor skills associated with throwing and  that this potentially formed the foundation for left hemisphere  specialization associated with language and speech found in modern  humans.

(source, the same paper you mentioned, Researches find poop-throwing by chimps is a sign of intelligence)

In a nutshell, the development of precisssion in poop throwing is associated with the cortical connectivity in brain structures essential for language in humans.

The easy joke is language came from the appropiate use of poop.
But, if you ask me, the study goes very far in use of chimp natural behaviour to analyse early human development. As chimp can´t not use a very structurate group of sounds, due to morphology issues, for me there is a human biass in analyse their behaviour in this study.

domingo, 20 de noviembre de 2016

Is biology against equality?

 "Evolution selection of mammals are done by selecting the males. Such circumstances made polygamic male mammals significantly stronger and possibly smarter than their female counterparts.This is observed in chimps, lions etc"is this true?Because I'm not sure people who say that are against equality

 The question as it was posted.
Someone requested me to anwer this bizarre question. Well, not so bizarre if you think on a female student whose teacher of biology is taking advance of his position to impose a distorted vision of the role of sex and gender among animals. Pure garbain. I really got upset when some stupid quoran told this anonyme question maker that they was being childish. 

My answer, go to learn about animals and you will discover that your rules are not universal and that the role of sex is far more complex that you thought. And fire that stupid teacher. 

Dicho de otro modo, que despidan a ese profesor, y que alguien mande a la mierda al gilipollas que insultó a quien quiera que hiciera esta pregunta. Creo que ese alguien voy a ser yo...mucha gente que pretende escribir en Quora dándoselas de estudiante, licenciado, etc...son gilipollas.

A message for the anonyme op who a2aed me this:
I know you have unfollowed your question, and all I can do is to imagine what you had in mind. The quote has a grammal mistake, and also you could have explained your point more clearly, but I won't give it too many importance, not everybody here was educated in English, I wasn't educated in English, either. But I don't know wether you think the quote makes sense or not.
It doesn't.
If you are a young female student and have had to endure some stupid sexist insinuations in your biology tuitions, think on this, you are not the first one. Question your proffessor's intenttions. Stay strong and cold minded. And if you like biology, go on. It is incredibly varied and interesting, it has surprises for all of us, and it is experimenting a revolution in the way of regarding female mammals in the last years. 

First off, Biology is not nature, it is  a science that studies a part of nature, life and living organisms branched in numerous subdisciplines that are defined by the scale at which those organisms are examined. Nature, on the other hand, is is the natural, physical, or material world or universe, it is life and the physical world at the same time. It is very important to make this distinction, which is in fact the cornerstone of this answer. You may not confuse our natural world with the science that studies it.
A science is a is a methodical system of acquiring knowledge, that seeks to explain the events of natural world in a reproductible way by other researhers working under the same conditions. In the case of Biology, the main stages of this method are observation and experimentation, and interpretation of the data acquired.
Although observation and experimentation are not free of flaws and assumptions, it is interpretation the most problematic part, because the uncoscious preconceptions, bias and assumptions afect it in a degree we can not predict.
Biology, biologists and description of the observational data made by biologists is not rid of assumptions, especially when it comes to matters that are important for our conception of the world, and the two main ones are the role of sexes (sadly, for some even of races) in human society and the connection of humans with the rest of animals. Put it in another words, you won't read more vivid discussions and more arrogant asumptions regarding biologic topics than in those two themes. Nobody will give so much thinking and energy to the way of feeding of mites or the reproduction of lichens. But when it comes to these two cathegories everybody seems to have something to say, no matter how much they really know about the science, the natural world, and all the incredibly intricated kind of complexities the study of animals, and mammals has.
I repeat, nobody is aware of how much their assumptions interfere the conclussions they make about the data proportioned by observations, and very few have take the job of looking for when did this theory of male rivalry conducting evolution started. It results that it started in the very writings of Darwin, who was assuming the preconceptions of the society he lived in:
Less widely known is that many evolutionists, including Darwin, taught that women were biologically and intellectually inferior to men. The intelligence gap that Darwinists believed existed between males and females was not minor, but of a level that caused some evolutionists to classify the sexes as two distinct psychological species, males as homo frontalis and females as homo parietalis. Darwin himself concluded that the differences between male and female humans were so enormous that he was amazed that ‘such different beings belong to the same species’ and he was surprised that ‘even greater differences still had not been evolved.
Darwin concluded that males were like animal breeders, shaping women to their liking by sexual selection. In contrast, war pruned weaker men, allowing only the strong to come home and reproduce. Men were also the hunting specialists, an activity that pruned weaker men. Women by contrast, ‘specialized in the “gathering” part of the primitive economy.’
Sexism is not absent in the story of teaching of the evolution theory.
The female inferiority doctrine is an excellent example of the armchair logic, a logic derived from our assumptions imposed to the interpretation of data. Do you see that what Darwin theorized based upon his own preconceptions is exactly the core of the phrase quoted in the question?. Can you see it?.
Darwin taught that the differences between men and women were due partly, or even largely, to sexual selection. A male must prove himself physically and intellectually superior to other males in the competition for females to pass his genes on, whereas a woman must only be superior in sexual attraction. Darwin also concluded that ‘sexual selection depended on two different intraspecific activities: the male struggle with males for possession of females; and female choice of a mate.’
In Darwin’s words, evolution depended on ‘a struggle of individuals of one sex, generally males, for the possession of the other sex.’ (Darwin, C., The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, 1897 edition, D. Appleton and Company, New York, p. 108, 1859.).
Those old victorian sexist prejudices absorbed in the understanding of biology of so many generations and appearing now, as of 2016, in this stupid phrase and in this interesting question. Memes. Dawkins had it right. Memes percolating in our collective unconscious.
Now that I have stablished the difference between nature and its study, the existence of unconscious bias in our way of understanding data acquired by observation of experiments, and he origin of assumption of that evolution is driven by selecting males...which is way much more than the former answers have done, I will take a time for a laugh. The rest of the answer is as painfully long and complex to explain as this part, so let's make a stop.

"[...] Such circumstances made polygamic male mammals significantly stronger and possibly smarter than their female counterparts.This is observed in chimps, lions etc". This is pissing, isn't it?. Absolutely!

Oh, you think that this is not fair...just cherrypicking?. What do you think that people propossing that selecion of males drives mammal evolution do?. Cherrypicking, no more. Worse, they can't give you a single study carried out on all poligamic mammal species that shows that evolution is made selecting males. NOT A SINGLE STUDY THAT BACKS THIS CONCLUSSION. Cope with it. There are not such studies.

Let's go again with the boring explanation.
"Evolution selection of mammals are done by selecting the males. Such circumstances made polygamic male mammals significantly stronger and possibly smarter than their female counterparts.This is observed in chimps, lions etc"
I'm going to be very clement here, and assume that the first phrase refers to polygamic mammals as well. It is more difficult to make a case against the phrase assuming that we are talking about polygynic species than in any other possibility, and I going to refer to this case. Also, I will forget about the pissing part of smarter males from now on.
To start off, we are talking about mammals. What all mammals have in common is that every single individual depends on their mother in the first part of their lives. We could think that those mammals produce equal number of male and female offspring, and that they invest the same work in rearing them up. But this is not always true.
Within species, mothers also often subtly adjust sex ratios to advantage themselves. Since the variance in male reproductive success is usually higher, it makes sense for mothers to produce more sons when they expect to have highly successful offspring, and more daughters when they don't. Boars, for instance, produce extra extra sons in small litters (when the mother can invest more) and extra daughters in large litters. Mother marsupials, including antechinus and brushtail possums, are thought to produce more sons to avoid competing with their daughters. Female bighorn sheep produce more sons when they are older and conditions are poor, but only breed every second season. The net outcome of this sort of individual-level bias is usually still a 50:50 sex ratio.
Here we examine the extent to which parental investment in red deer (Cervus elaphus) and other polygynous mammals matches these predictions. We conclude that, in several mammals, mothers invest more heavily in individual sons than daughters.
So we have here some evidences that point that parents make different choices accordingly to the possible reproductive success of their offspring accordingly to its sex. And they can favourite male over female or viceversa in function of the ecological factors. Parental selection of both sexes.
The matter is even more complicated, although infanticide commited by males due to sexual conflict is very estudied and divulgated (Infanticide (zoology), it is the known case of males killing the cubs when entering in a pride) there are other kinds of infanticide such as those commited by non maternal females due to sexual and resource competence (female rats will eat the kits of strange females for a source of nutrition, and to take over the nest for her own litter (wikipedia Infanticide (zoology). Mother rats also kill their own if they are deformed or wounded, to allow them to allocate resources to their other offspring. Why killing infants can benefit animals. Dominant females meerkats are known to kill subordinates' young, and they too have been known to kill a top female's young if they have a litter of their own. But male meerkats do not get blood on their paws. Why killing infants can benefit animals). Those killings don't select males, they kill all the youngs, if you follow my reasoning.
The pression of intraspecifical agression to youngs has lead to different strategies in order to protect the offsprings, one of them used by many female primates is paternity confusion where female primates mate with multiple partners so the males don't know who is the father. But they also have to have a look upon nearby females:
The adaptive function of copulation calls in female primates has been debated for years. One influential idea is that copulation calls are a sexually selected trait, which enables females to advertise their receptive state to males. Male-male competition ensues and females benefit by getting better mating partners and higher quality offspring. We analysed the copulation calling behaviour of wild female chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) at Budongo Forest, Uganda, but found no support for the male-male competition hypothesis. Hormone analysis showed that the calling behaviour of copulating females was unrelated to their fertile period and likelihood of conception. Instead, females called significantly more while with high-ranking males, but suppressed their calls if high-ranking females were nearby. Copulation calling may therefore be one potential strategy employed by female chimpanzees to advertise receptivity to high-ranked males, confuse paternity and secure future support from these socially important individuals. Competition between females can be dangerously high in wild chimpanzees, and our results indicate that females use their copulation calls strategically to minimise the risks associated with such competition.
Oops, female female competition in chimpanzees!.
With all these facts together, similar enviromental selective pressure, gestation and lactation periods, parental choices, female infaticide and female-female competition...the question is how can anybody say that selection is made only on males?. Is Higher male variance in reproductive success enough to contrarest all the above pressures and make the selective pressure on females insignificant?. There is only a way to make a case for it. A great study with the sufficient number of species and individuals to demonstrate it. And do you know what?. Nobody has done it.
So the believing in a greater selective pressure over males is just that, a believing. The theory was coined in the very first years of the evolution theory debate and it has never been properly demonstrated.
There are only two exceptions in which the statement of a higher selective pressure over mammals males make sense:
- Harmful mutations on the X chormosome.
- Poultry and cattle: Where the asumption of "evolution done selecting the males" has some sense, is specifically in my speciality, agronomy. In fact I was also taught this same concept, but it is false. What it is true is that under non natural circumstances, where the animals can't make their own choices of reproduction, i.e. cattle and factory farm animals, it is more efficent to select the sperm of the males that have had very productive offspring (milky cows, meat cattle, egg laying chicks...), because you can very cheaply collect it, filter it in the way you can obtain many doses out of the original one, conserve it and sell it. This is the sense of this concept for an agronomist, and it makes sense. But it is not the real world under natural selection :).
Final worlds about equality in humans and finally about nature:
So what? Equality of the sexes does not mean that women want to be as strong or as large as males on average! It means equality of rights and opportunities. Biology and evolution has nothing to do with human rights. A male lion that dethrones the king of the pride kills his cubs. It's what lions do: infanticide. If a bigger man kills a woman's husband so he can marry her and then kills her children, it's a crime. My point is, don't go invoking biology as justification for human behavior considered criminal, immoral or unacceptable. It's not going to help you much. Here's an undeniable fact of human biology: we are highly social animals with complex and changing culture.
Does nature take care about equality?. No. In fact there are terrible reproductive strategies for both males and females in nature.
Do we humans have to care about equality?. Yes, this concept is a product of our social evolution which is a product of our evolutive history, as it is the science of Biology. Nature is the whole picture, like the cosmos, biology is our way of making cosmology. (sorry, I needed to give some visual reference, I have a sort of visual brain).

viernes, 18 de noviembre de 2016

Why do so many huskies have heterochromia?

Very interesting question. It is obviously due to a evenly distribution of melanin between the two eyes.  In huskies it always includes one eye blue (1).

The reason is that this breed was developed by inbreeding together with the standards of the breed allowing blue eyes, and also heterochromia (for example malamute's standard is brown eyes, and heterochromia is not allowed), so the condition is not restricted by those standards.

Genetically, there are four ways of getting blue eyes in dogs, three of them related to the color of the coat causing white spots, patterns or diluted patterns, and only one that it is not linked to the coat. This last form is what huskies have and hence the color of the eye doesn't interefer with the normal pattern of the breed.
Breeders say that this is caused by a single gene, but i don't see they prove it in any way, because they don't tell wether it is a dominant character, codominant or recesive. So, i just tell what they say, but i don't give it entire credit.
This is the explanation given:

Lastly, blue eyes can be inherited as a completely separate gene,  unaffected by coat colour. This gene is, however, rare. It occurs  occasionally in the Border Collie and similar breeds, but mainly it's  seen in the Siberian Husky. Huskies can have one or both blue eyes, regardless of their main coat colour,  ranging in shade from almost white to sky blue. This is particularly striking when seen on black dogs.

Now, this only explains why do they inherit blue eyes independently of the pattern of the fur, but not why they have different eye color. And this last is very important, as they have the same genes in all their body, it seems that the development of the melanin is inhibited in one eye, and not in the other. This is not that strange (2). But what factor causes this inhibition is what remains unexplained, and I have found information regarding this issue.

Here is a good site about dog genetics:
Dog Coat Colour Genetics

(1) Blue eyes are due to the Tyndall scattering of light in the eye, a phenomenon similar to that which accounts for the blueness of the sky called Rayleigh scattering. There are not blue pigments in the dogs eyes. Eye color is thus an instance of structural color and varies depending on the lighting conditions, especially for lighter-colored eyes.

(2) Heterochromia is very frequent in cats that have some form of albinism (there are various genes that lead to complete or partial inhibition of color in cats). This seems indicates that the "enviromental" factors opering during the development of both eyes are independent, although coat patterns tend to be very simmetrical.
I find this exciting to study the development of the fetus, and perhaps it could give us some ideas to understand some newborn defects such as cleft palates.
As i told it is a very-very interesting quesion and I wish I knew more about this.

What hybrid animals are fertile?

 There is a very interesting phenomenon called hybrid speciation by which hybridation between two different species leads to a third one. Needless to say that this process occur because the (sufficient number of) hybrids are fertile.
 Although this type of speciation is more common in plants than in animals, there are some animals species that can be listed in this category (as DNA tests have shown):

  • Lonycera fly (Lonicera fly), most likely to be the hybrid of blueberry maggot and snowberry maggot. They feed on honeysuckles, that are also a type of berry, not very innovative in this sense.

  • Great skua or perhaps Pomarine skua (Great skua) : DNA tests have found a great similarity with the genetics of the pomarine skua, despite they look very different. Many  ornithologists now believe either that the Great Skua originated as a  hybrid between the pomarine skua and one of the southern-hemisphere  species , or that the  pomarine skua evolved from hybridization of the great skua and one of  the small Arctic species. In this case it is still on controversy which species came first.
Great skua

Pomarine skua.
(I had curiosity about how dissimilar they are).

  • Clymene dolphin, formerly known as the short snouted spinner dolphin (Clymene dolphin): Anatomical and behavioral traits suggested that this species is a hybrid of the spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) and the striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), and DNA testing has shown that it is indeed a hybrid species.

jueves, 17 de noviembre de 2016

What is the difference between humans and the other animals?


We are animals, a kind of them.
If we want to focus the question from a scientific viewpoint, all we can do is to look for some characteristics that are unique or singularly developed in us that differentiate us fro other animals (in the same way as every animal group has its range of singularities).

I think that language, hands and precission in throwing large objects are the basis we used to develope our extraordinarily complex, and probaply absurdly complicated (fooled by ourselves) in many ocassions, societies and systems of knowleadges.
The reference to curly hair could be understood as an eccentrity by many people, but it really puzzless me, the proud sufferer of a unmanegeable curly hair.

The more I know about animals, the  less I'm impressed by human animals, but we have some evolutionary  curiosities that are not very often regarded.

  • Language as a basis of creating a mental state and a community sharing advances made by others.  Do you think that humans are incredible because we have gone to the  Moon?. But you haven't, neither have I. And you couldn't, like me. You  and me have the notion of humankind going to the Moon because language  has created the mental state that enables this conception, in spite that  only 11 or 12 men, and no woman, have walked on the Moon.  Also, these  ten some men could get to the Moon theirselves because a lot of people  were able to share their knowledge and techonology using language. There  is not another animal in the Earth that have the abbility to use  language in such powerful ways


I add that I forgotted to mention the extraordinary ability to discover and invent patterns in the observation of our world.

martes, 15 de noviembre de 2016

La dama desaparece

El blog me sirve para fijar ideas, para que no pasen volando...pero para hacerlo es mejor que no las guarde como borrador, porque no las publico. Así que para obligarme a sacar esto, lo hago público antes de terminarlo. Dicho de otra manera, esto es un borrador y lo iré modificando más tarde.

Este es un post que gira en torno a las expresiones y definiciones. Llevo tiempo intentando encontrar un nombre para estas damas que desaparecen, y lo mejor que se me ha ocurrido es "mujeres pájaro" -que tampoco me parece demasiado bueno-. Mujeres pájaro por contraposición a lo que conocemos como hombres pájaro, porque fue una mujer la que inventó el puenting según sus propias leyenda. Mujeres pájaro porque parece que las mueve el viento y las empuja fuera de la vista y el conocimiento una vez que han aportado algo importante a la cultura. Sus obras permanecen y muy seguramente se las atribuímos a hombres, el olvido es tan fuerte que no podemos concebir que eso fue hecho por mujeres.

Pero hay más expresiones que me persiguen y que debo mencionar pero no sé muy bien cómo. El dichoso techo de cristal, sabemos lo que es. A las mujeres nos sobran los techos pero nos falta un suelo firme donde pisar, no sabemos cuánto de nuestra historia, o de otras, fue hecho por mujeres. Nos falta una narración en la que se nos haga ver que las mujeres siempre han inventado, aportado e ideado, y que esas contribuciones permanecen, a pesar de que no sepamos que fueron hechas por mujeres. Ese suelo fue labrado, paradójicamente, por las mujeres pájaro. 

El suelo...a las mujeres nos falta historia... 

La animación con la que se resume el propóstio del podscat es una obra maestra de uso de la imagen a favor de transmitir el mensaje. Se abre una puerta que permanecía obstinadamente cerrada. Entra una mujer representada por el símbolo de lo femenido, sobre la que el que se proyecta un foco rojo. A sus pies aparece un hoyo nada más franquear la puerta, y cae al mismo desapareciendo. La dama desaparece. Es una token lady, una mujer señuelo.

Me cuesta mucho fijar una idea. No me refiero a que se me ocurran, y no entro a analizar si las tengo con más o menos frecuencia, sino a poder darles cierta nitidez y permanencia. Y ya el colmo es poder definirlas.
Pues ahora tengo una por ahí, en fase de quedarse quieta y empezar a hacerse nítida, pero todavía sin poder delimitarla o contarla de forma clara. El caso es que me ha caído bien, y es de esas que me gustaría llevar a cabo a pesar de que no sabría ni por donde buscar los datos necesarios para hacerlo...pero estoy empezando por el final. El comienzo sería intentar explicarla...allá voy.

Me gustaría buscar a las mujeres que dieron comienzo o participaron en el inicio de tradiciones culturales que damos por algo hecho hoy en día. En nuestra cultura o cualquier otra.

Es decir, no se trata simplemente de buscar mujeres inventoras, cocineras, envenenadoras, pintoras, compositoras, constructoras o paridoras que hicieron algo interesante a lo largo de la historia. Que merecen que se hable de ellas. Pero lo que creo que quiero hacer es salirme de esa línea de horizonte, darle la vuelta a la perspectiva como se la daríamos a un calcetín, y mirar a cualquier tradición que tengamos y poder decir que esta idea existe gracias al trabajo de una o muchas mujeres. Creo que es interesante plantearnos que las mujeres han contribuido a este mundo que vivimos y usamos y desafiar esa idea inconsciente de que todo lo han creado los hombres (idea a la que contribuyen nuestro lenguaje con el neutro o mejor dicho indeterninado y el plural en masculino, nuestra lectura de la historia con lo que se quiere recordar y considerar importante y lo que se da por secundario o se pretende olvidar sin más, nuestro arte que refleja y refuerza el papel de la mujer como objeto y no como creadora del mismo, nuestras instituciones académicas que seleccionan a muchos más académicos que académicas, y un larguísimo etc). Creo que rescatar las historias de las mujeres que crearon algo no debería ser el único objetivo de una revisión feminista de la cultura dado que no es suficiente por si mismo para desterrar el concepto de que se trata de hechos y mujeres excepcionales y que por tanto son la excepción. Cambiando el punto de vista e investigando sobre lo creado y aportado de lo que nos valemos hoy en día se pondría más fuerza en la idea de que lo que consideramos norma y normal puede venir de la creatividad de las mujeres; y de la capacidad de la misma para asociarse y llevar ideas a cabo (frente al concepto de excepciones que la otra forma de analizarlo puede transmitir).

Qué tiene que ver el salto Bunji con esto de buscar a las mujeres perdidas detrás de las tradiciones culturales o las prácticas y objetos de uso cotidiano.

Esta idea, como todo, tiene su orígen en algo, y en este caso es una leyenda que explica como surgió la tradición del salto Bunji en la isla de Pentescostés, en el archipiélago de Vanuatu, que es un archipiélago, y un pais -cosa que no sabía-, a medio camino de Nueva Guinea y Australia. Si vais por ahí traedme algún recuerdo.

El caso es que los Pentescostanos son gente que tiene las ideas muy claras, es mejor ser hombre que mujer, los hombres son los que lo hacen todo y son clave para la fertilidad de la tierra. Para asegurarla tienen el rito del salto Bunji desde hace más de 2000 años. En cuanto empieza a brotar la cosecha del Ñame los hombres construyen unas torres de madera que llegan a alcanzar más de 25 metros.

Se trata de hombres muy orgullosos de serlo, que se suben a la torre con un taparrabos que más bien cumple la función de exhibir el pene para no dejar ninguna duda de que los tienen, ya que los necesitan para feertilizar la tierra.

Durante dos días consecutivos de celebraciones acompañadas de bailes y cantos rituales, varios hombres elegidos por cada pueblo de la isla, se subirán a la torre para saltar al vacío, sujetos por los tobillos con unas lianas que impedirán que se estrellen contra el suelo. Las lianas tienen que ser 10 cm mas cortas que la profundidad del salto para que éste no sea mortal.
El salto es un ritual que si se realiza sin complicaciones, garantiza una buena cosecha de yam para el año siguiente. Las fechas del ritual tienen que ser avaladas por los jefes tribales y se considera de mal augurio no cumplir esta tradición. (La isla de Pentescostés y el salto Bunji)

Saltar desde estas torres está prohibidísimo para las mujeres, por supuesto, bajo un muro infranqueble de tabús y miedo a la mala cosecha.

Sin embargo según su propia leyenda, esto fue idea de una mujer. Pensadlo un segundo, una mujer invntó el puenting. Pues sí, estos aguerridos hombretones que no podrían ser más fanáticos de los penes que niños de primaria haciendo sus primeros graffitis reconocen a las claras que detrás de todo esto hay una mujer, y que ya se encargaron ellos de adueñarse no sólo de la idea sino de toda posibilidad de ejecutarla:
El primer salto fue iniciado por la mujer de Tamalie, que rehusó consumar el matrimonio y escapó de su esposo, que la seguía ansioso. Tratando de escapar de él, la mujer se subió a lo alto de un árbol y se lanzó al vacío cuando su esposo intentó alcanzarla. Tamalie se lanzó a su vez tras ella pero se mató al estrellarse contra el suelo mientras que su mujer salió ilesa al haberse atado previamente las lianas del arablo alrededor de los tobillos. Desde entonces, la tradición ha sido la prerrogativa masculina.
(La isla de Pentescostés y el salto Bunji)

No sólo ha sido prerrogativa masculina, sino que según oí en un programa de viajes celebran este cambio de roles de poder como el triunfo de la astucia masculina sobre la femenina. Esta es una ventaja de este sistema cultural rabiosamente masculino que tienen por ahí, que lo cuentan a las claras, y se me ocurrió pensar que, oh vaya, y si esto pasa, ha pasado o está pasando en muchas otras culturas a lo largo de la historia de la humanidad, y a lo ancho de la tierra...
Entonces habría un montón de tradiciones, objetos y prácticas cotidianos ideados por mujeres de los que se ha apropiado una visión masculina de los mismos, sea o no tan descarada como esto de las torres de salto y el puenting con lianas.

No estoy cegada por la magia del relato, se trata de sólamente una leyenda, posiblemente la mujer de Tamalie, y el tal Tamalie no tuvieron nada que ver con las torres de ramas desde las que se lanzan estos fertilizadores de las cosechas de ñame. Pero lo que no cambia es que en esta cultura no tienen problema en imaginar que una mujer tuvo la primera idea y que lo hizo para huír de un hombre que es al que se recuerda y rinde homenaje, porque sólo él tiene el derecho a que su nombre se transmita de generación en generación. ¿Querría esta mujer que se la nombrara por el hombre del que huía?, seguramente no. Sin embargo es lo único que tenemos para darle un contexto en su familia y sociedad.

¿Por qué no buscar a estas mujeres?. Cherchez la femme, buscad la cultura.
Colateralmente, buscad a las mujeres, entended vuestra cultura

Las token ladies de Gladwell.

Colateralmente, buscad a las mujeres, entended vuestra cultura.

 Aquí debo comenzar por decir quién es Malcon Gladwell. Según la Wiki es un periodista, ensayista y sociólogo canadiense que ha escrito varios libros de divulgación en los que combinan historias interesantes con investigaciones de sociología y filosofía igualmente atractivas y novedosas. Es uno de los proponentes de revisar la historia desde nuevas perspectivas para entender mejor el trasfondo cultural que la hizo posible así como nuestra propia colección de presupuestos asumidos sin cuestionarlos. Por supuesto el hombre es también objeto de numerosas críticas.
En eso no entro, verdaderamente mi ignorancia del mundo de las letras es horrible, y Gladwell reúne una buena cantidad de cualidades que le hacen candidato a ser totalmente desconocido para mi, digamos que es un tipo con el que me tropecé leyendo un blog que enlazo desde aquí porque me gusta. 

Lady Elizabeth Southerden Butler (née Thompson) by Lady Elizabeth Southerden Butler (née Thompson).jpg
Elisabeth Thompson
The_Roll_Call, 93.3 × 183.5 centimetros de drama épico de la mano de Elisabeth Thompson

 El caso es que me llamó la atención esto de replantearse cómo contamos la historia y fui a su web que, oh casualidad, se llama Revisionisthistory y allí me encontré con este podscat: The lady vanishes. Es un audio del mismo Gladwell en el que examina el fenómeno del (la) señuelo, token en inglés, por el que el éxito de una intrusa en un sector marcadamente masculino sirve para para perpetuar la discriminación contra las mujeres, no para aliviarla. ¿Sabeis quién fue Elizabeth Thompson?...pues yo tampoco lo sabía. En 1874 esta mujer consiguió exponer su cuadro Calling the Roll After An Engagement, Crimea (The Roll Call)  en la entonces muy británica y no menos misógina Royal Academy of Arts, una institución que no admitía mujeres. El cuadro fue adquirido ni más ni menos que por la reina Victoria. ¿Sirvió esto para abrir el camino a las pintoras británicas?, pues no, ni siquiera le sirvió de mucho a su autora a pesar de que durante un corto periodo de tiempo gozó la fama de una celebrity victoriana. A Elisabeth le faltaron dos votos para ser elegida miembro de la dichosa academia, y siguió con su vida que incluyó un matrimonio con un oficial, cinco hijos y todos los trabajos derivados de estas circunstancias y los numerosos traslados a los puestos a los que se destinaba a su marido. La notoriedad de Elisabeth se desvaneció con el tiempo y nisiquiera se la menciona en las memorias del marido.
Una vez que asimilas esta historia comienzas a ver Elisabeths Thompson por todas partes. afirma Gladwell, son esas mujeres que no dejan el campo de juego más fácil para otras, e incluso lo hacen peor al dar a los que están en el poder una excusa para cerrar la puerta de nuevo a más mujeres. Bueno, quiero ser justa con Elisabeth Thompson, y entrar en un análisis en el que Gladwell no, la intención de E.T no era dificultar la situación a otras mujeres, simplemente se la usó de esta manera. El podscat, interesante, ameno y original, analiza las causas psicológicas detrás de la generación y aceptación de este fenómeno del señuelo, lo recomiendo.

El caso es que me he preguntado mucho por la relación entre las Token ladies y las Bid ladies que me interesan a mi, y creo que tiene que ver con el hecho de que no vemos a las mujeres como creadoras de costumbres o conocimientos que perduren. Asumimos incoscientemente que las ideas y las instituciones son obra de hombres porque las mujeres que contribuyeron a ellas volaron o cayeron en la trampa de ser señuelos. Seguramente la historia de numerosos fenómenos culturales está copada de birds y tokens.

Al final del audio de media hora, Galdwell se pregunta si Hillary Clinton podría convertirse en una token lady, si sus compañeros políticos serían tan sexistas como los australianos lo fueron con la ex- primera ministra, Julia Gillard. Ahora sabemos que no es así, no será presidenta de Usa, pero la pregunta que nos queda pendiente de contestar es por qué los medios la llaman Hillary mientras al rival le llaman Trump.

Sobre las alas de las bird ladies 

En la literatura científica y, sobre todo después de Newton, es conocidísima la frase del título. Con esta expresión estar subido a hombros de gigantes se quiere indicar que lo que una persona haya podido conseguir se debe a la aportación de sus compañeros y en el caso de la ciencia que la obra de un científico o un filósofo ha conseguido dar un salto, o alcanzar un nivel superior, gracias a las aportaciones de otros colegas que le precedieron. (Sobre la frase a hombros de gigantes).

Parafraseando la frase de Newton, el mundo también se ha construído sobre las alas de las bird ladies, y cómo no, sobre las espaldas de las token ladies. Esta es una historia no contada, una realidad a la que estamos empezando a poner nombre y por tanto sitio en nuestra forma de entender el mundo, una perspectiva mental que todavía estamos intentando descubrir.

He buscado mucho para encontrar algunas birds y por tanto la cultura que ayudaron a crear, pero no me está resultando nada fácil por una serie de fenómenos que en realidad se refuerzan entre si: apenas hay datos, no interesan más que en ciertos sectores y para colmo yo no tengo muchos conocimientos de historia ni de antropología.

Sin embargo algo sí que he podido encontrar, lamentablemente todo ligado a nuestra cultura occidental, salvo lo del vuelo de la mujer de Tamalie que he contado antes.

Arte rupestre

¿Pinturas rupestres pintadas por mujeres? Los autores de las huellas rupestres eran en su mayoría mujeres, lo que desmonta la teoría de que los primeros artistas eran hombres. 
Parece que la visión machista del mundo de la pintura es muy poderosa y ha afectado también a los antropólogos. ¿Cómo podrían ser las pinturas rupestres obra de mujeres si representan animales y escenas de caza? parece ser su único argumento científico.
Huellas de manos en la cueva de Altamira (visto en

 Este concepto se ha puesto en tela de juicio por diversos antropólogos, cabe destacar los trabajos de Margaret Conkey. Además, el arqueólogo Dean Snow, de la Universidad del Estado de Pensilvania (Estados Unidos), analizó las huellas de manos encontradas en ocho cuevas de Francia y España. Así, tras comparar la longitud de algunos dedos, basándose en las teorías de John Manning (un biólog británico que reveló que la longitud relativa de los dedos es diferente en hombres y mujeres: las mujeres suelen tener los dedos anular e índice de aproximadamente la misma longitud, mientras que el dedo anular de los hombres suele ser más largo que el índice), ha determinado que el 75% de las huellas eran femeninas. Hay cientos de huellas en las paredes de cuevas de todo el mundo, mezcladas con representaciones de animales (bisontes, renos, caballos, mamuts). Este tipo de pinturas se encuentran en cuevas de Argentina, África, Borneo y Australia, pero las más conocidas están en el sur de Francia y Norte de España y tienen entre 12.000 y 40.000 años de antigüedad.
Contrariamente con la noción tradicional de que estas pinturas se relacionaban sólo con la caza, algunos estudiosos defiende que la mayoría fueron pintadas por chamanes que entraban en trance para intentar conectar con el mundo espiritual.

Una interpertación de una mujer pintando bisontes. Me gustaría conocer al autor para darle crédito aquí.

Claro, me podeis criticar que no hay nada claro sobre esto, y que en realidad no sabemos quien pintó esto. De acuerdo, pero no olvidemos que durante más de un siglo hemos asumido que las pinturas son obras en exclusiva de hombres, sin tener ninguna evidencia científica de lo mismo. En esta nueva noción sí que se está usando la ciencia para establecer hipótesis. Así que lo más cuestionable es nuestra suposición de que esto lo hacían hombres, y sólo hombres.

Herramientas y armas 

¿Por qué nos creemos sin rechistar que los hombres son los que iniciaron el uso de herramientas y armas? De nuevo nos encontramos ante una suposición sin demostrar, y si es cierto lo que no enseñan nuestros parientes primates, muy posiblemente estas técnicas fueron ideadas y mejoradas por las mujeres.
La visión tradicional que nos transmiten los arqueólogos es profundamente dualista, con las mujeres dedicadas a la recolección de plantas y los hombres usando lanzas para la caza. Debo comenzar por decir que hay estudios antropológicos que señalan que el mayor aporte de calorías en los grupos de cazadores recolectores lo hacen las mujeres a través de las plantas que colectan, y la caza es algo más esporádico con menor peso en este aporte a la alimentación. Os dejo a vosotros que os informeis por vuestra cuenta sobre este punto.
Sin embargo lo que me interesa aquí es cuestionar que fueran los hombres, y solo ellos, los primeros en manipular y fabricar herramientas, incluyendo armas.
Para ello me baso en las observaciones de los primatólogos, cosa que no creo que hagan muchos antropólogos pero este blog se llama vadebichos y yo he dicho muchas veces que somos animales y que observándolos nos estamos estudiando a nosotros mismos.

Los primates son conocidos por el uso de herramientas para recolectar, cazar, limpiarse, llevar agua, guarecerse de la lluvia, demostraciones sociales e ¡incluso usándolas como muñecos!.

La foto la saqué de aquí.
En un ejemplo muy común de cherrypicking el titular del artículo se pregunta si las chicas
prefieren naturalmente las muñecas y los chicos los camiones
basándose en las observaciones del uso de palos como
muñecos en hembras adolescentes de chimpacé. Sin embargo
no se cuestionan por qué las hembras usan herramientas más
a menudo, o si las armas deberían prerrogativa femenina
basándose en los datos de los estudios que encontraron mayor
frecuencia del uso de lanzas entre las hembras de chimpacés.
A young chimpanzee holds a stick.A young chimpanzee holds a stick.A young chimpanzee holds a stick.

El caso es que se han hecho estudios en los que se establece que las hembras de bonobos y chimpacés usan herramientas con mayor frecuencia que los machos (Gruber, T., Clay, Z. and Zuberbühler, K. (2010). "A comparison of bonobo and chimpanzee tool use: evidence for a female bias in the Pan lineage"). 

Un bonobo en el zoo de san Diego usando un palo para capturar termitas
En gorilas salvajes, el primer uso de herramientas se ha documentado en hembras. En 2005 una hembra usó una rama a modo de bastón para medir la profundidad de un charco que pretendía vadear (los gorilas tienen muchos más problemas que nosotros para mantenerse a flote porque su porcentaje de grasa corporal es muy inferior. Esto es extensivo al resto de los primates y da que pensar).

Créditos de la foto: Breuer et al

Respecto a las armas, los chimpacés afilan palos hasta convertirlos en lanzas para cazar animales de menor tamaño como gálagos ó algún reptil descuidado. Esto se ha considerado el primer ejemplo de uso sistemático de armas en otra especie distinta a la nuestra, por ejemplo (Sophie A. de Beaune, Frederick L. Coolidge, Thomas Wynn, eds. (2009). Cognitive Archaeology and Human Evolution. Cambridge University Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-52176-9778.). En realidad no arrojan estas lanzas, sino que los usan como punzones que meten en los agujeros de los árboles en los que duermen los gálagos, y los remueven hasta que logran atravesar a un desgraciado gálago que sacan ensartado en esta lanza punzón. Este comportamiento es mucho más frecuente en hembras, especialmente hembras adolescentes, según este estudio de Jill Pruetz en los chimpacés de Fongoli, Senegal ( "Chimpanzees 'hunt using spears'". BBC. February 22, 2007. Retrieved August 11, 2013.).
Aprovecho para decir que estos chimpacés singulares están amenazados por la acción humana. Diveros autores señalan la conveniencia de separarlos en su propia especie, de forma similar a como se hizo con los bonobos, para forzar su conservación.

No están tan estrechamente emparentados con nosotros, pero resulta muy curioso que el único comportamiento descrito como uso de herramientas para cazar entre cetáceos, el llamado sponging de los delfines mulares de Shark Bay, Australia, está protagonizado en su mayor parte por hembras (Smolker, R.A.; et al. (1997). "Sponge Carrying by Dolphins: A Foraging Specialization Involving Tool Use?". doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.1997.tb00160.x.).
Para documentaros en mayor profundidad sobre el uso de herramientas en animales la wikipedia en inglés tiene un buen artículo:

Brujas, empirismo, botánica y medicina

Vamos a olvidarnos de todas las películas y relajarnos con la idea de que la gente del pasado era gente que afrontaba muchos problemas prácticos semejantes a los nuestros. Esta idea es muy difícil de asumir para mi, y no creo que sea la única, así que puedo entender las reticencias a dejarse llevar por este pensamiento...iremos despacito.

Estamos en una aldea, la comunicación con otras poblaciones es complicada por los pocos caminos, los asaltos y en ciertos momentos y lugares las restricciones al desplazamiento de los aldeanos. Pero nosotros sufrimos nuestra inevitable carga de miembros dislocados, heridas, accidentes, embarazos y partos, deseados o no, esterilidad, infecciones, etc. En nuestra aldea todos somos analfabetos, la cultura queda relegada a monasterios y universidades, muy lejos de nuestro alcance. En éstos generaciones de letrados se dedican a copiar las obras clásicas, y sus opiniones sobre medicina apenas divergen de lo que se escribió más de mil años antes, pero eso a nosotros no nos afecta.

A quién vamos a acudir para que nos alivien los dolores de muelas, nos recoloquen los miembros dislocados, nos induzcan un aborto, nos alivien un mal embarazo, nos den algún remedio para bajar la fiebre del niño pequeño, el de dos años.

Pues en muchas ocasiones ese alguien era la bruja local, una mujer que gracias a la transmisión oral de conocimientos así como a la investigación empírica (ensayo y error) sabía de anatomía, infecciones, fiebres, botánica y posiblemente algo de mezcla de unguentos y también sabía bastante de sus convecinos.

¿Quienes eran estas brujas?.
La mayoría de las condenadas en esos días, eran de todas las edades y condiciones, y de diversas confesiones religiosas, con frecuencia parteras o curanderas, pues los remedios de estas últimas se basaban en una farmacopea tradicional, consistente en brevajes y también en infusiones o decocciones de raíces y de hierbas, o sea lo que se conoce como « fitoterapia». La población de entonces, esencialmente rural, no tenía otro recurso para intentar tratar algún mal que recurrir a estos procedimientos ancestrales, los que claro, a la consideración de personas más cultas daban que pensar en la magia y en la brujería.
Un medio horrible y despiadado de saber a ciencia cierta si una mujer era una bruja, consistía en tirarla al agua con las manos y los pies atados, para así dificultar el nado. Como en teoría, una bruja era más liviana que el agua, si flotaba y no se ahogaba era rápidamente rescatada y quemada viva, mientras que si por el contrario la mujer se ahogaba, ello era prueba que había muerto inocente.
Hans Peter Duerr, profesor de etnología de origen alemán, en su obra Nudité et pudeur: Le mythe du processus de civilisation, estima que esta práctica tan chocante por la exhibición y la crueldad que provocaba, fue afortunadamente poco utilizada. Sin embargo, varios textos y dibujos reflejan que el procedimiento señalado se aplicó al menos varias decenas de años durante la Edad Media.
Por lo general, las mujeres de clases privilegiadas escapaban a este tipo de acusaciones y de persecuciones, aún cuando un escándalo salpicara a un personaje importante en la Corte, pero esa no fue la situación en el llamado caso de los venenos, episodio ocurrido en París entre 1670 y 1682, y que implicó la acusación y muerte de varias decenas de personas. Por su parte, Catalina de Médici no vaciló en utilizar este tipo de acosos y de procesos para eliminar a algunos personajes políticamente molestos, en oportunidad de ejercer las sucesivas regencias en nombre de sus hijos menores, entre 1559 y 1574.
La creencia en las brujas y los procesos de brujas realmente comenzaron a ponerse en duda en forma más o menos generalizada a partir del fin del siglo XVII.

Estadística en la medicina y Florence Nightingale

Se la considera una pionera en la aplicación de los métodos epidemiológicos y en la utilización de modelos estadísticos en salud pública. Cabe destacar su visión para saber cómo han de ser manipulados los datos, tratando de obtener información fidedigna, y cómo presentar estos datos mediante simples gráficos. Desarrolló el diagrama conocido como “coxcomb”, diagrama de las causas de mortalidad en el ejército durante la guerra de Crimea.

Ética medioambiental y Rachel Carson.

El área académica de la ética ambiental surgió como respuesta al trabajo de científicos como Rachel Carson que con su libro Primavera Silenciosa (1962) denunciaba el efecto medioambiental de los pesticidas de uso agrícola, la publicación del Informe del Club de Roma Los límites del Crecimiento (1972) o el Informe Brundtland (1987)