If Pets Had Thumbs



Have you ever wondered why we have thumbs? Do you think only humans have thumbs?  What if all animals had thumbs? Our thumbs are an example of an adaptation.  Our hands evolved over time (much like our eyes and other distinct features) to serve a purpose critical to our survival as a species.

Our thumb is what makes our hands so useful and distinct.  It is an opposable thumb, which means it can flex towards our other fingers, allowing us to hold and grasp objects. You can tell it is opposable because you can touch the tip of your thumb to each of your fingertips.  Your cat may have five toes on each paw, but their “thumb” is not in opposition to the other toes meaning your cat can’t grab things like you can. Some cats, called polydactyl cats, have more than 5 toes on their paws!

We evolved to have this type of thumb so that we could pick up and hold tools.  Tools were essential to our survival during our evolution because they helped us hunt, build, protect our families, etc.  Our closest animal relative, the chimpanzee, also has opposable thumbs as well as most ape species. They are able to use rudimentary tools, peel bananas, efficiently climb, and build shelters all thanks to their thumbs!

It isn’t just monkey’s and apes that have opposable thumbs. Koalas, giant pandas, opossum, and frogs in the Phyllomedusa family are some more examples of animals with opposable thumbs.  All these creatures have one thing in common:  they all climb!  Climbing was so important to their survival that the evolution of an opposable thumb was essential.  Having thumbs helps them in a lot of ways. Imagine a panda grasping some bamboo, their main food, and you can see how the thumb benefits them.  Opossums actually have thumbs only on their back feet specifically to help them climb super-fast.  This is helpful for avoiding predators.

Can you imagine what your pets could do if they had thumbs? Instead of fetch, you could play catch with your dog because he would be able to catch and throw! I bet he could turn the doorknob and let himself out in the yard by himself too!  Take a few minutes and imagine what life would be like if all our pets had thumbs! What about the opposite?  Is there anything you would no longer be able to do without a thumb?


Does your dog really, truly understand you?

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Does your dog really, truly understand you? 

Dogs Understand Human Words and Intonations!

It is both what you say and the way that you say it that matters when it comes to communicating with man’s best friend, research has revealed.

In a recent research study done at the Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest in Hungary, scientists scanned the brains of dogs while each was played the sound of their trainer’s voice, and discovered that our canine companions only experience a sense of reward when both the words and intonation indicate praise.

Attila Andics, the lead researcher states that the results were “very exciting and very surprising.” 

Andics and colleagues describe how they trained 13 dogs over a period of months to lie motionless inside an fMRI machine, in order to probe how they process human speech. Four different recordings were played with either praise words (such as “well done!”) or neutral words (such as “however” or “nevertheless”) coupled with either a high-pitched intonation indicative of praise, or a neutral intonation.

“From this research, we can quite confidently say if they only hear you then it is not only how you say things but also what you say that matters to them,” said Andics.


To read more about this research please visit: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/aug/30/dogs-understand-both-words-and-intonation-of-human-speech

Are Pit Bulls Inherently Dangerous? Science Says No…

Image By:  GuideYourPet – https://guideyourpet.com/pitbull-vs-wolf/

The Maryland Court of Appeals recently deemed pit bulls and pit bull mixes “inherently dangerous,” but many animal experts and dog advocates believe the court’s ruling may have been too extreme.”Inherently dangerous” implies that all pit bulls are, through genetics or their environment, born with a vicious streak. But studies are showing that the science does not seem to support this.  

For example, a University of Pennsylvania study on dogs found that the top three biters of humans were actually smaller dogs: Dachshunds, Chihuahuas and Jack Russell terriers.

Pit bulls didn’t always have such a bad rap. In the early part of the 20th century, this breed was in fashion and became quite popular as a family pet. “The Little Rascals,” a series highlighting child actors, even featured a spunky pit bull. Have the dogs then changed over the years? Some have with the help of their owners & genetic science. 

“It is possible to breed in or out certain traits, with some dogs purposefully bred for fighting,” Jennifer Scarlett, a veterinarian who is also co-president of the San Francisco SPCA, told Discovery News.

She said that studies on foxes suggest that a trait possibly affecting personality can appear in just two to three generations. Pit bulls & any other breed of dogs that are bred using this genetic science seem to be more aggressive against other dogs, but not necessarily humans. Scarlett, said that countless pit bulls nationwide are highly socialized and well trained, never hurting anyone. Much then comes down to the owners, and therein lies the real problem.

Scarlett indicated that at least one study is underway to see if certain factors predict if a segment of the population is at greater risk for being attacked by a dog. Anecdotally, socioeconomic factors, whether or not a dog has been spayed or neutered, and whether or not a dog has been socialized and trained, appear to predict attacks.

Read the full story on Discovery.com