Saturday, May 12, 2018

ALFIE'S CORNER: What Can Human Mothers (and Everyone Else) Learn from Animal Moms?

By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | May 12, 2018 08:54am ET

Mother's Day celebrates the accomplishments of human mothers, but how do moms across the animal kingdom cope with the demands of pregnancy, birth and child rearing?

In "Wild Moms" (Pegasus Books, 2018), author, biologist and mother Carin Bondar investigates motherhood in the natural world, sharing the strategies used by numerous species to bear and nurture their offspring.

The challenges of motherhood in the wild are daunting — everyday survival concerns such as avoiding predators and finding food are amplified when a female has a little one (or several) to protect and nourish. In some social animals, such as lions or gorillas, new threats can even emerge from the animal's own community, as dominant males often kill infants sired by other males, when they take over a group.

And some obstacles are unique to individual species. In humans, our comparatively narrow pelvises are excellent for upright walking, but they aren't the best fit for our babies' large skulls, making birth more difficult and dangerous than it is for our closest living primate relatives. Meerkat females that hope to reproduce must first prove themselves as the dominant female in their group, or forfeit raising their own young to help the "queen" with her litters.

Many animal mothers also face the tough decision of having to choose between their offspring, nurturing one and neglecting another, so that the fittest — and the mother herself — will have a better chance at survival.

In her book, Bondar takes on these and other fascinating aspects of motherhood — from dolphin moms teaching newborns how to swim (and breathe); to lion "communes" where groups of mothers nurse each others' cubs; to mourning practices among chimpanzees for deceased infants. Bondar recently spoke to Live Science about the vast diversity of mothering approaches in the animal kingdom, revealing many surprising parallels to the practices of human mamas.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Live Science: Being a mother is hard work — more so for some than for others. What are some of the harsh realities of animal motherhood that might make human mothers think, "I don't have it so bad after all?"

Carin Bondar: Just based on the length of gestation, an elephant is a good example. They're pregnant for nearly two years, so by the time they actually give birth, they've already lent their bodies to this offspring for a lengthy period. And if that offspring dies — which often will happen in the animal kingdom — that's such a significant investment that's just gone. [For How Long Are Animals Pregnant? (Infographic)]

For birthing, humans do have it pretty bad, but not as bad as the poor hyena, which has to give birth through her pseudopenis. This is basically a long tube — picture a foot-long hot dog, and you have the idea. She has to give birth to two cubs through that, and for first-time moms the rate of death is significant — it's something like 30 percent — and the asphyxiation rate for cubs is extremely high. For decades, it's been one of the great mysteries of hyena biology — why would they evolve this structure that make birthing so difficult and so dangerous? But the social benefits to having this pseudopenis are thought to be more important than the cost of giving birth.

For the early phase of mothering, all primate moms have it pretty difficult, and that's because primate moms have babies that are so needy — ours are among the neediest — but they're also very complicated. Apes have personalities to consider as well as basic survival behaviors, and primate moms often have a very steep learning curve when it's their first time.

This is very similar to human moms — at least, to me. I was in a state of shock for many months after I had my first child; I had no idea what to do! I was kind of comforted to learn that other primates have this very steep learning curve as well, it's not like you get it right your first time, like, for example, a duck mom. The babies hatch and she just goes, "Hey, follow me over here!" They have the genetic mechanisms in place to parent, and they know what they're doing. It's not like that for monkeys and apes.


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Bella Vasta is the dynamic personality behind Jump Consulting. After starting her pet sitting company while attending college at Arizona State University, she went full speed ahead growing her business to become nationally and locally award winning, boasting with employees. Throughout the years, Bella has been known to blaze her own trail through the pet industry, carving out a path that many have followed. She has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Huffington Post, NBC, ABC, FOX, NPR, and more. Bella sold her pet sitting business for over six figures, and now lives out her passion to inspire, motivate, and challenge business owners through her coaching, consulting, speaking, and podcast. I was lucky enough to get to interview her! Grab a snack, put your feet up and listen in! Listen to "PET EDU - MARY OBERDIER" on Spreaker.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Deaf, partially blind dog stayed with lost 3-year-old girl who wandered away from home

Monday, April 23, 2018, 2:06 PM

A deaf and partially blind dog can add hero to its list of tricks after it stayed overnight with a lost 3-year-old girl who wandered away from her home and into the Australian wilderness.

Max, a 17-year-old breed of cattle dog known as a blue heeler, followed the child over a mile away from their New South Wales house on Friday night and stuck by her side as temperatures dipped into the 50s and rain poured down onto them, according to reports.

The girl's grandmother and rescuers found the pair the following morning after a fruitless search of the rural area the day before, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. The missing girl, Aurora, was heard calling out and was then discovered with protector at about 8 a.m. on Saturday.

Kelly Benston, Aurora's grandmother's partner, said that after the child's voice was heard, rescuers and the grandma, Leisa Bennett, tried to follow the sound until they ran into Max, who then led everyone to her.

"I shot up the mountain," said Bennet, "and when I got to the top, the dog came to me and led me straight to her."

More than 100 volunteers and police officers were dispatched in the search.

Max was declared an honorary police dog by local authorities for his gallant efforts.