Tag Archives: carnivore

Hungry Hyenas Help Human Health

Image Credit: flowcomm, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped

Public health and economic benefits of spotted hyenas Crocuta crocuta in a peri-urban system (2021) Sonawane et al., Journal of Applied Ecology, https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.14024

The Crux

The natural world provides as with a laundry list of health services, from cleaning the water we drink to providing blueprints for cutting edge medicine. Yet on this list of ecosystem services, carnivores often get left by the wayside. One such carnivore is the spotted hyena, which can be found roaming the outskirts of many towns in eastern Africa. The hyenas are adept scavengers, and clear away massive amounts of discarded meat every year, potentially preventing the spread of carcass-borne diseases like anthrax and tuberculosis.

Yet as with many predators, hyenas have often been feared, whether as a result of their historical association with evil spirits or more recent unfavourable portrayals. In a world where carnivores like wolves, dingoes and bears are often feared and driven off, providing proof of the benefits they bring is crucial. So that’s what today’s researchers set out to do.

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Brains Over Brawn

Image Credit: Kevin Pluck, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped

Brain expansion in early hominins predicts carnivore extinctions in East Africa (2020) Faurby et al, Ecology Letters, https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.13451

The Crux

We’ve covered humans and their harmful effects many times here on Ecology for the Masses (see my recent breakdown from last month). Despite all of the colorful examples of our current effects on the wildlife of our planet, a significant amount of research has implicated Homo sapiens as the driver of the extinction of some of the megafauna of the prehistoric world, events that happens millions of years ago. Another possibility is that we as organisms (hominins, not Homo sapiens specifically) have been impacting other species for a very, very long time.

Today, East Africa is home to the most diverse group of large carnivores on the planet (though it is still less diverse than what was once seen in North America and Eurasia). Millions of years ago East Africa had an even more diverse assemblage of large carnivores, including bears, dogs, giant otters, and saber-toothed cats. The change in climate since that time may have caused the decline in large carnivore diversity, but another explanation is the rise of early hominins (our ancestors). Using fossil data, the authors of today’s paper wanted to figure out if it was indeed early hominins that drove many large carnivores extinct.

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The Ecology of Pokemon

Image Credit: Detective Pikachu (2018)

Over 2 weeks, we go into the physiology of everyone’s favourite (or at least the one your parents know) Pokemon, Pikachu, and look at the horrifying world they inhabit. How would people evolve on this world? Is Pikachu a carnivore? What the hell is up with animal ethics here?

The World of Pokemon

01:46 – Obligatory Sonic the Hedgehog Thoughts
04:35 – The World of Pokemon
41:14 – Riddick on the World of Pokemon

The Physiology of Pikachu

01:52 – The Physiology of Pikachu
27:30 – Vet’s PSA (Neutering Your Pets)

Ecology of a Forest God

Image Credit: The Ritual, 2017

In our discussion of 2017’s The Ritual, we stumble through a large confusing forest riddled with large spinous processes and patches of burnt skin. Should you hang a corpse up in your front garden? Probably not. Not good for the soil.

00:28 – SciComm & the Insect Apolcalypse
07:16 – The Norse Gods in Cinema
15:04 – Ecology of the Forest God
43:43 – The Forest God v. Beowulf

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