Very high levels of dog introgression into wolves in Central Italy

A black Italian wolf. The black trait originated in dogs and was transferred to Italian and North American wolves through introgression.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I consider dogs to be a form of gray wolf.  I do not consider Canis familiaris to be a valid taxon, because of cladistics and because of the gene flow between domestic dogs and wolves.

The extent of this gene flow was largely denied in much of the literature on wolves.  But last year, it was discovered that the majority of Eurasian wolves have recent dog ancestry. This gene flow has been going on for a while, and although people do get a bit worked up about domestic animal genes filtering into a wild species, it has been shown that the melanism in wolves that is conferred by a dominant allele originated in a Native American dog that was living in the Yukon or the Northwest Terrtories thousands of years before Columbus. Further, this melanistic allele is associated with higher immune responses, and there is evidence for natural selection favoring black individuals following a distemper outbreak.

In a paper released this week in the European Journal of Wildlife Research found extensive crossbreeding between dogs and wolves in agricultural landscapes in Central Italy.  The authors estimate that about half of all wolves in this region have recent dog ancestry, and they think it is because humans have disturbed wolf habitat to have agriculture.

Of course, humans, wolves, and dogs have been living in Italy alongside agriculture for thousands of years. Dogs and wolves have been mating ever since there was a population of somewhat domesticated wolves.

Further, European wolves are much better adapted than North American wolves to living in agricultural areas.  It may simply be that North Americans are much more likely to kill wolves that appear in agricultural areas and that this is what has created this asymmetry. But North American wolves tend to be in remote areas, where they rarely encounter dogs. Thus, there is not as much gene flow between dogs and North American wolves as there is between dogs and Eurasian wolves.

There is a lot of gene flow between dogs and coyotes in North America, and this finding does make sense. Coyotes do live in agricultural and urban areas much more easily than large wolves do.

I don’t think it worth becoming alarmed that dogs and wolves are mating in the wild.  Dogs have lots of interesting mutations that could be of great use to wolves as they adapt to more and more human-dominated planet. If the dog alleles are deleterious, nature will select against them, but if they are advantageous, they will help wolves thrive into the future.

So it is quite short-sighted to think of wolves as being a some sort of pure entity that must be kept free of “foreign” alleles.  If it were more widely accepted that dogs were just a domestic form of gray wolf, we would have a much easier time accepting a more holistic understanding to how these populations can continue exchange genes and adapt to new challenges.

 

Natural History

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10 Ways We Stay Healthy As a Family

10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family
This post is in partnership with MegaFood®, but all opinions are my own.

I think I speak for a lot of women when I say that when it comes to health and wellness, we tend to yo-yo back and forth between focusing on either our families or ourselves. In my case (and in the case of most friends with whom I discuss this), we spend most of our energy trying to make sure our children/families are healthy, and then we realize we are neglecting ourselves and make sudden moves toward our own wellness journeys (that more often than not quickly shift back to our kids). It’s almost like our plates are so full that we can only focus on one or the other (and, again, most often in a lopsided manner where we as women come last).

As cliche as it sounds, while deep in breath work at a recent yoga class, I started thinking about how important it is to me for my entire family – myself included – to create balance with our health and wellness routines. I decided that we needed to sit down and have a family meeting (which I’ll fully admit is a freaking circus with little ones, but can still be successful) to come up with ways we could focus on being as healthy as possible as a family. I figured that the act of us brainstorming ways to make healthy choices alone would be a great lesson for the kids and jumpstart all of us into a more balanced health and wellness routine, but I didn’t realize just how well things would go in terms of us actually implementing our plans!

It’s been pretty awesome to work together as a family to make health choices, and it’s honestly brought us closer in many ways. So I felt compelled to share with you guys some of the things we’ve been doing, in hopes of helping some of you as well!

10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family

1. We prepare meals together.
Okay, so this definitely doesn’t happen for every meal (because schedules!), but we make a conscious effort to prepare one meal together each day. Sometimes this just means having the kids crack an egg for breakfast, spread almond butter on a sandwich for lunch, or help toss a salad for dinner. But taking that time to be intentional and create a meal as a family slows us all down and helps us avoid fast and processed foods, while also teaching our kids (and reminding us!) that preparing our own food is usually the healthiest way to eat.

2. We eat our meals together.
Aside from lunch on the weekdays when I’m working and/or the kids are at school, we sit down and eat our meals together at the table every single day. (When my husband is on the road with the band, we Facetime during our meals as often as we can.) We eat slowly, take our time, and enjoy our food. Even on the days where we get take-out or eat foods that aren’t the healthiest, the mental benefits of enjoying a meal together as a family are priceless.

10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family
10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family

3. We intentionally exercise everyday.
Every person in our family does at least one form of physical activity a day, either together or on our own. As a family, we often go for walks or go to the pool and swim together, play soccer together, and sometimes even do work out videos together during the cold weather months. We also each have our own activities: I take yoga classes and sometimes run, my husband runs almost everyday, my daughter takes several dance classes a week, take swimming lessons, and plays soccer, and my son takes multi-sports classes and plays soccer. We make sure that every single day, we are participating in at least one activity that keeps our bodies moving.

10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family
10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family

4. We all take the proper multivitamins for each of us as individuals.
This one is so important! Even when following a health-conscious diet, it can be challenging to get the proper vitamins that support each of our individual health needs (for me as a woman, for my husband as a man, and for my little ones as kids). This is why we all take MegaFood Multivitamin Soft Chews.

I take the MegaFood Women’s Multivitamin Soft Chews, which in just one (delicious!) Mixed Berry Flavor chew supports optimal health and wellbeing for women through the proper daily dose of Vitamins A, C, D, E, and B vitamins to support energy*, and nourishing organic cranberry.

My husband takes the Men’s Multivitamin Soft Chews, which comes in a Tropical Flavor (his fave) chew and provides B vitamins for energy* along with valuable vitamins and minerals and and farm-fresh food like organic turmeric.

The kids take the MegaFood Kids Multivitamin Soft Chew, which is made to support healthy growth and development by supplying proper supplemental nutrition for kids 4 and over via a super yummy grape flavor chew.* With a 5 mg blend of real oranges, cranberries, and blueberries along with antioxidant vitamins C, E, and beta carotene, the Megafood Multi Chews for kids help fuel their active days.*

I trust and adore the MegaFood brand for many reasons (their supplements are made with real food and added nutrients and are award-winning!), but I especially love that they have certifications like non-GMO, organic, tested for 125+ herbicides and pesticides (amazing!), gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, kosher, dairy-free and soy-free. They are the first supplement company to have their entire product line certified glyphosate residue free, too. I am also a huge fan of the fact that they focus on sustainability by working with farmers who share a commitment to organic and regenerative agriculture. They are an integral part of our family’s commitment to being a healthy as we can be!

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family

5. We get outside and play.
I can’t tell you how many studies I’ve read on the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of kids participating in free play outdoors, but it holds true for adults as well! We were so grateful to finally move into a house with a yard a year and a half ago, and we take full advantage of getting out there and playing together everyday. We also have a park close by, and love exploring our local nature preserves. I feel at my very best when I spend time outside, and I can tell my kids do as well.

6. We grocery shop together.
I’ll be honest – it is infinitely easier if my husband or I go to the grocery store alone. But we do make sure we go at least once a week as a family. It’s a great way to teach our kids the importance of choosing whole, healthy foods by talking to them about reading labels, buying organic produce, avoiding processed foods, etc. It also forces us to set an example (we can’t exactly tell the kids they can’t buy sugar-filled cereal for breakfast then buy a box of doughnuts for ourselves).

10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family

7. We go to the doctor and dentist regularly.
It’s so easy to put off physicals and dental exams when you have a hectic schedule. My husband and I were both admittedly terrible about this before we had kids. These days, we realize how important it is (more important than anything else!) to take this time. We go to the dentist together as a family every 6 months, and we each see the doctor once a year as well. No excuses!

8. We drink lots of water.
My kids used to complain incessantly about drinking water. But then we started to make sure they saw us doing it throughout the day out of our reusable water bottles, and suddenly they wanted to do it too. Now all four of us carries our water bottles with us everywhere we go. We keep them on our bedside tables at night as well.

10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family

9. We cheer each other on.
Mental health is just as important as physical, and being supportive of your loved ones is, in my experience, one of the best ways to encourage one another in to feel loved and important in general. I’ve also found that when we’re cheering each other on in our efforts to be healthy, it motivates us to keep it up! My husband and I do everything we can to be at our kids’ practices and games, dance recitals, fields days, etc., and we make sure they know how proud we are of their efforts. The kids and I attend all of my husband’s races. My daughter even comes with me to yoga class and tells me how proud she is of me for taking care of myself. We also cheer each other on when we’re working in the garden to grow our own veggies, and celebrate when we harvest. It makes a difference!

10. We practice gratitude.
This is another big one. Every morning as soon as we wake up, and every night when we go to bed, we share one thing for which we’re grateful. I have found that starting and ending my day with gratitude (even if I have to force it) genuinely helps me feel less anxious and more happy throughout my day, and helps me sleep better as well. It’s so easy to focus on what we don’t have (trust me, I am guilty of this on a regular basis), but it is genuinely incredible to see the difference in your mental wellbeing when you start to focus on what you do have and express gratitude for it. Sharing it with each other in our family is one of the most important ways for us to focus on our mental health.

10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family
10 Ways to Stay Healthy As a Family

There you have it, my friends! As the change in seasons approaches and we adjust to a new school year, making our health as a family a priority feels more important than ever, and even just typing this out to share with you guys motivates me to want to continue to work hard on it. If you have other ideas for ways to focus on staying healthy as a family, please comment below. I’d love to hear them! And if you haven’t yet tried MegaFood Multivitamin Soft Chews, I highly recommend them!

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Deadly Blue Green Algae: Keeping Your Dog Safe

This week has been hotter than hot here in Texas–so, of course, nothing is more fun than to take the dogs for a swim. Sadly, this week has been tragic for several pet families due to dog deaths…



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Papers

dare papers

Natural History

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8 Pupsicle Recipes: How to Make a Popsicle for Dogs!

We all remember the childhood joy of cooling down with a Popsicle on a hot summer day. Our dogs also love a frozen dog treat–and it’s super easy to make a popsicle for dogs–just…



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7 Tips for Conquering Summertime Laundry

This post is in partnership with Samsung, but all opinions are my own.

I’m admittedly not a neat or organized person by nature, and I basically abhor housework. You know what I do like though? A nice, clean, pretty house. I might not like the act of making it that way, but I sure do like the finished product. And the first room we remodeled in our home after we bought it was the laundry room, for this very reason. See, I kind of think that a nice, clean, pretty house starts with laundry. Laundry, especially if you have kids, seems to take over the entire house, strewn everywhere from the floor to beds to tables and more. And I knew that in order to keep our house in a state where there was even the possibility of it looking nice, we needed a new washer and dryer that worked really well, and a more functional laundry room. It made a big difference.

Then summertime rolled around, and many of my laundry challenges seemed to return, but in a whole new way. Summer means a lack of structure (kids out of school = mayhem), outdoor activities galore, sticky/dirty/dripping/melted foods, and a whole lot of sweat. Summer is messy. Summer is wet. Summer is dirty. Summer is stinky. Summer is the high season for laundry. But thanks to lots of practice, experimenting, and my beloved Samsung AddWash Front-Load Washer and Samsung 7.5-cu Gas Dryer, I feel like I’ve been able to conquer summertime laundry like a champ this year.  And today, I’m doing to share some of my tips with you!

7 Tips for Conquering Summertime Laundry

1. Put your summertime laundry in the machine immediately.
After enough wet towels piled up in our car and/or on the laundry room counter after pool days, it was time for a change in our system. We have a rule around here now, and wet swim suits and towels go into the washing machine immediately. There is no hitting the ground. The same holds true for t-shirts dripped with ice cream and grass stained shorts and sandy swim trunks. This tip makes summer laundry so much easy. Trust me on this.

7 Tips for Conquering Summertime Laundry

2. Steam wash those stains.
Let’s get real here. No one has time for keeping up with pre-treating summer stains. I can’t tell you how many of my daughter’s cute little sundresses have been covered with chocolate ice cream and watermelon drippings, and immediately running to get the laundry soap to pre-treat just isn’t first on my list this time of year. Thankfully, our Samsung AddWash Front-Load Washer uses the power of steam to remove stains, making pre-treatment unnecessary. I also absolutely love how our Samsung washer releases steam from the bottom of the laundry tub (most washers release from the top), because it allows every item in the load to get saturated. The best!

3. Use vinegar to combat mildew smell.
As much as we try to get wet beach towels into the machine and washed right away, there always seems to be a loan towel left outside for days (or more) that inevitably starts to smell like mildew. Yuck. Thankfully, adding a cup or two of vinegar to the washer makes the smell disappear in one cycle.

7 Tips for Conquering Summertime Laundry
7 Tips for Conquering Summertime Laundry

4. Fold right out of the dryer. 
Building a counter for our washer and dryer, was one of the best design decisions we made, because it makes it so easy to fold immediately. But even if you don’t have a counter, setting up a small table or just folding right on top of your washer and dryer works fine as well. I used to transfer everything to a laundry basket and bring the laundry upstairs to fold on the bed, which meant it actually didn’t get folded for hours (or, if we’re being honest here, days) and ended up a wrinkled mess. Now we fold right after a load is done drying, right there on the counter. This is a game changer, especially for summer beach towels, which end up taking over our laundry this time of year.

7 Tips for Conquering Summertime Laundry
7 Tips for Conquering Summertime Laundry

5. Let the kids help.
Okay, maybe that should read “make the kids help.” My kids are little and actually like helping with the laundry though, and it’s a great way to (1) add structure to summer days (which my kids need) and (2) get laundry done more quickly.

7 Tips for Conquering Summertime Laundry

6. Add a touch of summer to your laundry room.
Perhaps this seems a little unnecessary, but to someone like me who just operates better in a space that feels aesthetically pleasing, it makes a difference. I love putting fresh cut flowers from our garden in as many rooms as possible during the summer months, but especially in places like the kitchen and laundry room where the most housework takes place. It’s a simple way to brighten up the space with one of the best parts of the season (flowers!), and makes chores just feel more enjoyable. (Try it and you may just become a believer.)

7 Tips for Conquering Summertime Laundry

7. Get the right washer and dryer.
This is the most important tip and one I can’t stress enough! When we moved into our home, the washing machine and dryer that came with the house worked okay (or so we thought), but we knew we needed to get machines that were more efficient. We ended up choosing a Samsung AddWash Front-Load Washer and Samsung 7.5-cu Gas Dryer, and I am telling you guys, they are my favorite appliances I’ve ever owned. Truly. It’s been a full year since we got them and they’ve made laundry infinitely easier year-round, but especially in the summertime. I love everything about the washer – from the super speed (we can do a full load in 30 minutes and it comes out just as clean as an hour long cycle) to the AddWash™ door, which allows us to throw in forgotten pieces of laundry during a cycle (which happens constantly in the summer months) instead of having to do a whole additional load. And the dryer’s steam wrinkle away and steam sanitize cycles are true summertime lifesavers. We’re also big fans of the dryer’s vent sensor, which detects duct blockages and reminds us to clean our vent (something we tend to forget in the chaos of summer). I’m so grateful we have both of them!

7 Tips for Conquering Summertime Laundry

There you have it friends: my tips for conquering your summertime laundry! If you have any to add, I’d love to hear them. May the rest of your summer be full of adventures in the sunshine, lazy outdoor evenings, and lots of fresh, clean laundry.

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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What is a Starbucks Puppuccino?

Do you love Starbucks? Your dog might, too! A Starbucks Puppuccino (some people mistakenly call it a Puppachino) is an item on the chain’s Secret Menu–and it’s just for dogs. A…



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Not-So-Basic Basic Refried Bean Tacos

This post is sponsored by General Mills, but all opinions are my own.

Even if you’ve only stopped by here on occasion, you probably know how much I love tacos. Honestly, I’ve always been a little shocked that “taco” wasn’t my first word as a baby. (It was “moon,” but that’s a whole different kind of post. #hippiechild) And I’ve shared a lot of taco recipes here over the years, because, well, I eat a lot of tacos. From sweet potato and yogurt avocado sauce tacos to loaded breakfast tacos spilling over with eggs and potatoes, I’ve pretty much made (or at least eaten) them all. But in this house, there is one taco recipe that is our staple meal, especially in the summertime. It’s the one kind of taco that everyone in the family loves eating, and while it’s not some extravagantly complicated, eccentric recipe, it’s perfect. Some might call them basic, but once you taste them, you know they’re far from it.

Not-So-Basic Basic Refried Bean Tacos
Serves 5-6

1 package Old El Paso Stand ‘N Stuff Shells (10 Count)
1 can Old El Paso Traditional Refried Beans (16 oz)
2 cups soy “beef” crumbles (optional; may substitute ground beef, or exclude it all together)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1-2 fresh tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup large black olives, sliced
shredded romain lettuce
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, heat Old El Paso Traditional Refried Beans over low heat. Add spices to beans and stir. (If using soy crumbles, heat in a skillet according to package instructions.) While beans are heating, heat Old El Paso Stand ‘N Stuff Shells in oven as directed on package, and prep toppings (tomatoes, olives, lettuce, and cheese). Once beans and shells are heated, divide beans (and soy crumbles, if using) evenly between shells, then tops each with cheese, tomatoes, olives, and lettuce. We like to serve with homemade guacamole or fresh sliced avocado topped with salt and pepper. So good!

When I was growing up, we made good old fashion refried bean tacos just like this, and it was my favorite meal. It’s been so much fun to recreate them into a family tradition with my kids. There is nothing better than making the tacos together, sitting outside on our patio, and eating them up on a summer night! (My daughter calls taco nights with this yummy recipe our summer fiestas. The best!) The recipe is so quick and easy too. Every time we’re at Walmart, we’re sure to stock up on Old El Paso Stand ‘N Stuff Shells and Old El Paso Traditional Refried Beans so we have plenty on hand for our frequent taco nights. We love Old El Paso Stand ‘N Stuff shells because of their amazing crunch, the fact that we can fit so much goodness inside of them, and because they stand on their own (with sure does make less mess with these little ones.) And Old El Paso Traditional Refried Beans are so full of flavor and add the perfect textured based to our beloved tacos. (We also love Old El Paso Gluten Free Crunchy Shells and Old El Paso Super Stuffer Shells, also both available at Walmart!)

I hope you guys love our not-so-basic basic taco recipe as much as we do!

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Sweet Summer Vacation

Sweet Summer Vacation

Before Robbie and I had kids, we traveled pretty consistently, both with his job (most of you already know this, but he’s the stage manager for a band and works on tour half the year) and on our own. And while we still travel quite a bit with the kids (both on road trips several times a year and by plane two or three times a year), it’s much less. Much, much less.

Last winter, we decided we were going to take a vacation this summer, just the four of us, no matter what. It wasn’t going to be visit anyone or for a work campaign for me or to tag along with him to work (which, let’s face it, aren’t vacations for him at all because he is busy the entire time). We’d never taken a real vacation that was just about our little family, and it just felt necessary. Then spring passed, and summer arrived, and there was still nothing in the works. Vacations are expensive, and they take a lot of planning with kids and job schedules and all that, and it seemed like our well meaning plans weren’t realistic.

But then I had an idea. Around 1 AM one night while lying in bed when Robbie was on tour, I remembered how a friend of Robbie’s in the hotel business has been recently transferred to Clearwater Beach, Florida. And despite the fact that July was the only time Robbie would have a week off for a vacation and that it is genuinely the worst time of the year to visit Florida (so, so hot), I started researching Clearwater Beach and was smitten. (I mean, give anyone in this family a nice sandy beach and an ocean and we are beyond happy.) A few phone calls and some airline points later, and our trip was officially planned.

As you read this, we’re already high in the sky on our way there. And for once, I’m actually going to take a real vacation from work too, so there won’t be any posts here, and my Instagram will likely be just a bunch of nonstop Stories (because let’s face it, I’m an oversharer and even a real vacation can’t stop me.)

I’d love to hear about any trips you’ve taken or will be taken this summer. (Aside from a couple of short road trips, this is it for us. Essley starts kindergarten in 3 weeks!) And if you’re curious and want to see some of the travels we’ve taken in the past (like our trip to Mexico in December for Robbie’s work, as seen in the photo in this post), click here.

Happy summer vaca!

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Our New Baby

We added this adorable 4-month old Vizsla to our family today. We want to name her something to do with the color red, and have narrowed it down to the choices below. Which is your favorite? Until next time, Good day, and good dog!


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