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Climate Change May Have Driven Dog Evolution

The Gilmer Free Press

It’s possible that a shifting climate millions of years ago helped make dogs what they are today.

In a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications, researchers report that based on the analysis of wolf and dog remains dating back to 40 million years ago, it’s likely that the animals developed their unique approach to hunting in response to changes in their habitat.

Forty million years ago, dog ancestors living in what’s now North America (continents were a lot cozier at the time) looked more like mongooses than our modern pets. In fact, the group that would one day schism into cat ancestors and dog ancestors had yet to truly split. These animals were well-suited for a warm, heavily wooded climate — which was the climate of North America at the time.

But things were changing.

The planet started to warm rapidly at this time, and eventually the lush forests of the region gave way to open grasslands.

[What the history of dogs tells us about civilization in the Americas]

According to the new study, wolf ancestors developed an important adaptation — a change in their elbows, which turned them from predators that relied on the element of surprise to predators that could chase down their prey with endurance running — along the same timeline as the habitat changes caused by global warming.

“It’s reinforcing the idea that predators may be as directly sensitive to climate and habitat as herbivores,“ study author Christine Janis, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University, said in a statement. The influence of climate change on herbivores — prey animals — has been well documented, and it makes sense that predators would adapt as well. But based on the timing of the adaptations, the researchers say, it seems likely that wolf ancestors were responding directly to the environment, as opposed to responding to the adaptations of their prey.

“There’s no point in doing a dash and a pounce in a forest,“ Janis said. “They’ll smack into a tree.“

In wolf ancestors, the elbow changed from allowing paws to swivel — which is important for grabbing and tackling prey — to keeping the paw more stable, which is important for long-distance running.

Meanwhile, cats maintained their tried-and-true method of ambushing prey, using quick bursts of sprinting to tackle startled beasts.

Since the domesticated dog doesn’t spend much time fending for itself out in the wilds of North America, it is of course unlikely that human-driven climate change will make any notable change to them — elbows or otherwise. But for the wolf, that remains more of an open question.

~~  Rachel Feltman ~~

Bon Appétit: Gem Wedge Salad

The Gilmer Free Press

Ingredients:

4 servings

  For the vinaigrette
  1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon achiote paste (recado rojo; see headnote)
  1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  1 1/2 teaspoons mirin
  1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  1 1/4 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
  1/4 cup water
  1/3 cup canola oil

  For the salad
  4 heads little gem lettuce, trimmed and quartered (about 12 ounces total)
  1/2 cup cooked corn, preferably grilled (from 1 ear)
  1 small green tomato or 4 small tomatillos, cut into small dice (husk and rinse the tomatillos)
  3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  1/4 cup cow’s- or sheep’s-milk ricotta cheese (not low-fat), for garnish
  Baked or fried tortilla strips, some crushed, for garnish (about 1/3 cup; may substitute lime tortilla chips)


Directions:

For the vinaigrette: Combine the achiote paste, lime juice, mirin, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, mustard and water in a mini food processor; puree until smooth. With the machine running, gradually add the canola oil to form an emulsified vinaigrette. The yield is 3/4 cup.

For the salad: Combine the lettuce quarters, corn and tomato in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil. Season with the salt and toss to coat evenly.

Divide the lettuce quarters among individual plates. Garnish with the corn and tomatoes from the mixing bowl. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette over each portion, then place three 1-teaspoon dollops of the cheese around the salad. Top with the tortilla strips.

10 Ways to Make Sharing a Bathroom Easier

The Gilmer Free Press

During the morning rush before school or work, the bathroom can easily become a crowded war zone cluttered with toothbrushes and hair products.

But sharing even a tiny bathroom doesn’t have to be an ordeal.

So jostling roommates and family members, take heart: Here are 10 ways to make bathroom coexistence easier, from bigger investments like double sinks and updated showers to easy tricks and affordable gadgets that maximize space and minimize clutter.


LOOK HIGH AND LOW FOR STORAGE SPACE

“The main thing is take a fresh look at your space and make use of unutilized areas,” said Betsy Goldberg, home director at Real Simple magazine. An under-the-sink expandable organizer (like one at The Container Store) fits around the drainpipe to make the most of an often forgotten space, she said. An inconspicuous shelf (Ikea) can also be hung above the doorway. Stashing things out of the way creates more elbow room around the mirror and sink.


MAKE CABINETS DO MORE

Keep smaller items in order with the right wall cabinets and organizing tools. Goldberg recommends MagnaPods (The Container Store), which fit easily on the inside of cabinet doors to hold makeup tubes and brushes upright and out of sight. And don’t forget that medicine-cabinet shelves are adjustable. “People usually keep the shelves wherever they are, but just adjusting the shelves can help make cabinets much more efficient,” she said. Acrylic display boxes (Nile Corp.) also help maximize space.


OUST THE EXTRANEOUS

“If you’re going to share a bathroom, it’s important to move all non-essentials out. Toilet paper can go in a trunk in the hallway outside the bathroom or on a shelf installed above the bathroom door,” Goldberg said. “Towels can be rolled and put in neutral straw baskets in a narrow console in the hallway. The bathroom is prime real estate, and hampers are so bulky they would be better off in bedroom closets or the hall.”


BE SAVVY ABOUT SORTING

“If you can, give each person a drawer of their own,” Goldberg said. “But when keeping things in a shared medicine cabinet, it’s easiest to store things if you keep like with like, instead of separating things by person.”


CLEAR THE COUNTERS

For hair dryers and other styling tools, the Blow Away Vanity Organizer (OrganizeIt.com), keeps things up and out of the way. Essentials can also be hung on humidity-resistant Command Hooks, available at many hardware stores and other retailers.


CONSIDER THE KIDS

If kids are sharing a bathroom with adults, they might do better with low hooks than towel bars; that way, they can put things back themselves, said Cheryl Dixon, head of brand and trade marketing at Grohe America.


IF YOU CAN REMODEL, SEE DOUBLE

“Double sinks are the most important features in shared bathrooms,” said Goldberg.

And showers can be customized to each person’s height and spray preferences, Dixon said. “Do you want a hand shower or head shower? Choosing one with different spray settings helps a lot and makes sharing a shower much easier,” she said. Digital-technology faucets remember user settings for each person’s preferred water temperature and flow.

Dixon noted that her company’s Retrofit shower, with exposed piping, lets you change out the whole shower if need be without breaking the wall. “It just fits right onto the existing plumbing,” she said.


COOPERATE AND CLEAN

It might help to schedule bathroom times, and every person using the bathroom should learn to clear the drain and change the toilet roll, says Leslie Josel, author of “What’s the Deal with Teens and Time Management.”

“If the family gets into a few basic habits like this, the whole experience will be easier for everyone,” she says.


SET THE MOOD

Consider colors, materials, flooring and lighting that might spruce up the room. “These are a really low-cost way to redo a bathroom. Just pay attention to décor as you would any other room in the house,” Dixon said. “Soft celadon, creamy yellow or pure white with colorful accents give the bathroom more of a spa feel.”


ADD LITTLE LUXURIES

Small touches like warming towel racks, and plush, high-quality towels and bath mats can add a lot to a bathroom, says Dixon.

“Also consider candles and nice lotions and hand wash. And flowers accentuate any room in the house,” she says. “Little luxuries can completely change the feel of a bathroom, and everyone in the family will enjoy them.”

Second Cancers Are On The Rise; 1 in 5 U.S. Cases Is A Repeat

The Gilmer Free Press

Second cancers are on the rise. Nearly 1 in 5 new cases in the U.S. now involves someone who has had the disease before.

When doctors talk about second cancers, they mean a different tissue type or a different site, not a recurrence or spread of the original tumor.

Judith Bernstein of suburban Philadelphia is an extreme example. She has had eight types over the last two decades, all treated successfully.

“There was a while when I was getting one cancer diagnosis after another,“ including breast, lung, esophageal, and the latest — a rare tumor of her eyelids, she said. “At one point I thought I had cancer in my little finger.“

About 19 percent of cancers in the United States now are second-or-more cases, a recent study found. In the 1970s, it was only 9 percent. Over that period, the number of first cancers rose 70 percent while the number of second cancers rose 300 percent.

Strange as it may sound, this is partly a success story: More people are surviving cancer and living long enough to get it again, because the risk of cancer rises with age.

Second cancers also can arise from the same gene mutations or risk factors, such as smoking, that spurred the first one. And some of the very treatments that help people survive their first cancer, such as radiation, can raise the risk of a new cancer forming later in life, although treatments have greatly improved in recent years to minimize this problem.

Psychologically, a second cancer often is more traumatizing than the first.

“I think it’s a lot tougher” for most people, said Julia Rowland, director of the federal Office of Cancer Survivorship. “The first time you’re diagnosed, it’s fear of the unknown. When you have your next diagnosis, it’s fear of the known,“ and having to face treatment all over again.

Robert Ulrich, 58, a contractor and building inspector in Wasilla, Alaska, said that when doctors told him in 2013 he had advanced colon cancer, two decades after he had overcome Hodgkin lymphoma, it was like “they put a time stamp on your existence ... it makes your head spin.“

He is making end-of-life plans while fighting the disease with aggressive chemotherapy.

“My outlook on it is, I got 30 years out of the first go-round which gave me an opportunity to raise my family and enjoy my bride. So whatever time I get forward here I consider free time,“ he said. “You hope for the best and you prepare for the worst.“

Imagine what it has been like for Bernstein, 72, the Philadelphia-area woman who has had skin, lymphoma, breast, two types of lung, esophageal, thyroid and now the eyelid cancer, a form of lymphoma.

“I’m not going to tell you I’m some uber human being,“ Bernstein said. She went to a psychiatrist after one diagnosis and “spent four days very upset” after the latest one.

But she said that exercising has helped her feel well through treatments, and that having endured many tragedies among her friends and family has given her resilience. “Some people just can grieve and deal with it” when faced with challenges like cancer, she said.

“She is so upbeat,“ said Barbara Rogers, a nurse practitioner at Fox Chase Cancer Center who has treated Bernstein for more than a decade. For most patients, “it is harder the second time around, or third or fourth ... like, ‘Oh, God, not again.‘“

Medically, second cancers pose special challenges. Treatment choices may be more limited. For example, radiation usually isn’t given to the same area of the body more than once. Some drugs also have lifetime dose limits to avoid nerve or heart damage.

“The body has a memory for the radiation or chemotherapy” and can’t endure too much of the same type, said Dr. Alan Venook, a colon and liver cancer expert at the University of California, San Francisco, who treats Ulrich, the Alaska man.

A second cancer means doctors need to assess genetic risk to the patient and possibly the family, Venook said.

“We’ve failed if a woman who had a BRCA1 mutation and had breast cancer develops colon cancer,“ he said.

The gene mutation means she should be monitored and screened often enough for other cancers to have any precancerous colon growths removed, he said.

Experts have this advice for cancer survivors:

—Have a formal survivorship plan, a blueprint for the future that includes a detailed summary of the treatment you received and what kind of monitoring is needed.

“Anyone who’s had a first cancer needs to understand what kinds of symptoms they need to be alert to and what kind of medical follow-up” they need, said Elizabeth Ward, an American Cancer Society researcher who authored a recent report on second cancers.

—Don’t neglect screenings for other forms of cancer besides the one you were treated for. Make sure to get any recommended tests such as colonoscopies, mammograms or HPV or Pap tests.

—If you get a second cancer, “take a deep breath,“ Rowland said. Treatments improve every day, and there are more resources, including social media, for support, and doctors are more used to treating cancer more than once.

“No one’s giving up on you,“ she said.

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