History writ large at Electric Politics
* Inspired itself by a soundbite once used by Tony Blair.
As is the case with a lot of people, I’m never really happy when I listen back on myself talking in interviews – I always wish that I’d said things differently, or explained them better – but overall it’s pretty good and George was great fun to talk to. We spoke about the evolution of domestic dogs, about brain size and intelligence, about speculations on smart dinosaurs and the future evolution of humans, and also on cryptozoology, sasquatch and dinosaur extinction. There are a few parts of the interview where I become confused and lose my train of thought, and there’s a hilarious segment where I totally lose the plot in trying to explain the history of domestic horses. Cringe.
For the record, the deal with horses in North America is that, while members of the genus Equus were numerous and important there in the Pleistocene, they later became extinct (to quote R. Dale Guthrie (2003): ‘equid species dominated North American late Pleistocene faunas in terms of abundance, geographical distribution, and species variety, yet none survived into the Holocene epoch’ (p. 169)). Meanwhile, Asian steppe horses were domesticated about 6000 years ago (probably in or around Ukraine and Kazakhstan [nod to Steve Bodio]), apparently from several different groups of wild horses (Bennett & Hoffmann 1999, Pennisi 2001, Vilà et al. 2001), and not until the 16th century did Spanish conquistadors reintroduce horses to the Americas. The descendants of these animals, the feral American horses known as mustangs, were being killed for pet food as recently as the 1960s and, despite the 1971 Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act, remain persecuted today. About 42,000 currently live wild in
Anyway, you can listen to and/or download the interview – History writ large – here. It’s a long interview, at 85 minutes or so. Many thanks to George for the invitation, and for the opportunity to do this.
On another subject, thanks to those who have made recent donations to the blog: it’s really appreciated, and helps immensely. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get enough funding to become a full-time blog writer, but sadly I don’t think that’s an option.
Coming soon: that inconvenient seal, obscure dinosaurs of the Kimmeridge Clay, more on pterosaurs, temnospondyls, and more cryptic intermediates in agamas. For the latest news on Tetrapod Zoology do go here.
Refs - -
Bennett, D. & Hoffmann, R. S. 1999. Equus caballus. Mammalian Species 628, 1-14.
Guthrie, R. D. 2003. Rapid body size decline in Alaskan Pleistocene horses before extinction. Nature 426, 169-171.
Pennisi, E. 2001. Horses domesticated multiple times. Science 291, 412.
Vilà, C., Leonard, J. A., Götherstrom, A., Marklud, S., Sandberg, K., Lidén, K., Wayne, R. K. & Ellegren, H. 2001. Widespread origins of domestic horse linages. Science 291, 474-477.