Sunday Mammalfest

One of the world’s most interesting topics is which mammals are best at climbing trees.

Clouded leopards are intermediate in size between small cats (like domestic cats) and big cats (like leopards). These ones, however, are babies.

Clouded leopards are intermediate in size between 'small cats' (like domestic cats) and 'big cats' (like leopards). These ones, however, are babies.

One factor involved is the ability to move headfirst downwards in ways other than falling. Most mammals don’t have the right sorts of legs to hold on while doing this, so to descend they have to either jump or come down tail-first, which is slow.

Most arboreal squirrels, however, can climb downwards headfirst, as, as I’ve posted about before, so can one genus of mongoose, the slender mongoose.

I’ve recently learned that this trait is also shared with a small number of cats, three in particular. The clouded leopard and Bornean clouded leopard (recently divorced) use this ability in hunting monkeys and gibbons in South-East Asia. Their local names often translate as “Tree Branch Tiger”, which sounds cool.

The other comes from central and south America and is much smaller, the margay. Now there is a problem with posting photos of margays, which is that the internet cannot distinguish margays from ocelots. It also has trouble distinguishing margays from oncillas. So I make no promises: all I can guarantee is that the picture below shows some kind of small spotty American felid:

The elusive and beautiful something

Revolution, Reform, and Abolition

I did a post a little while back about revolution, so I thought I might try one or two about reform. What sorts of reform should be supported, which opposed, which ignored?

This is actually something that comes up separately in a number of areas. Two examples are eating animals and assaulting migrants, though both cases the issue is not phrased so much in terms of ‘revolution’ as much as ‘abolition’. Let’s take, for example, abolitionism about meat.

A commonly encountered reformist thought here is that demanding full abolition is unrealistic, because that policy is not going to be accepted in the foreseeable future – and if one is ‘all or nothing’, then one will get nothing. It’s much more sensible to accept gradual piecemeal reforms, each of which is a step in the right direction: things like new regulations on cage size, more humane methods of slaughter, higher welfare standards, etc.

But this misses the point. Obviously it’s foolish to look for ‘all or nothing’. We have to focus on gradual steps. But gradual steps can be in two very different directions.

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