Charles Darwin found these foxes on the voyage of the Beagle, so they were named after him. Their native name is zorro chilote.
They are described as charismatic and bold around people. After meeting one of them on Chiloé island in 1834, Darwin described them as “more curious or more scientific, but less wise, than the generality of his brethren”. In other words, Darwin’s foxes are very curious and observant, but not as wise as other fox species.
Darwin’s foxes are not actually foxes. True foxes belong to the vulpes genus, and these foxes belong to the lycalopex genus. They share this genus with the Sechuran fox, the hoary fox, the pampas fox, the culpeo, and the chilla. It was believed for a long time that the Darwin’s fox was a subspecies of the chilla, but they are now classified as a different species.
While most South American fox species prefer open grassland or scrub areas, Darwin’s foxes prefer dense forests. They are endemic to Chile, meaning they are only found there, with most individuals found on Chiloé island and in the Valdivian Coastal Range.
In these forests, Darwin’s foxes hunt for small animals like rodents and lizards along with fruit, eggs, beetles, and carrion. They are not strictly nocturnal, diurnal, or crepuscular, so they just hunt when they want to.
Like almost all other fox species, Darwin’s foxes prefer to live alone, only living in pairs during the breeding season and when they have kits.
Due to habitat loss, feral dogs, and being hunted for their fur, Darwin’s foxes are highly endangered with less than 1,000 individuals left. Conservation efforts have grown their population by small amounts but they are still in danger of extinction.
I rate this very curious fox 18/10. They may be “less wise” than other foxes but their charisma makes up for that
(1) Jono Dashper (2) Unknown (3) Maxime Legare-Vezina (4) Kevin Schafer
More than 5 billion people would die of hunger following a full-scale nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, according to a global study led by Rutgers climate scientists that estimates post-conflict crop production.
"The data tell us one thing: We must prevent a nuclear war from ever happening," said Alan Robock, a Distinguished Professor of climate science in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University and co-author of the study. Lili Xia, an assistant research professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers, is lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Food.
Under even the smallest nuclear scenario, a localized war between India and Pakistan, global average caloric production decreased 7% within five years of the conflict. In the largest war scenario tested—a full-scale U.S.-Russia nuclear conflict—global average caloric production decreased by about 90% three to four years after the fighting.
Crop declines would be the most severe in the mid-high latitude nations, including major exporting countries such as Russia and the U.S., which could trigger export restrictions and cause severe disruptions in import-dependent countries in Africa and the Middle East.
These changes would induce a catastrophic disruption of global food markets, the researchers conclude. Even a 7% global decline in crop yield would exceed the largest anomaly ever recorded since the beginning of Food and Agricultural Organization observational records in 1961. Under the largest war scenario, more than 75% of the planet would be starving within two years.
What feels so strange about growing plants, and making friends with plants, and generally being aware of my ecosystem, is that it's not a "head" knowledge, it's a "hands" knowledge.
It feels strange for me, at least. My formative years were spent in a homeschool co-op that was roughly 50% anti-vaxxers, so in spirit, I'm the sort that has yelled "just believe science!" until my throat hurt. I've clung to peer-reviewed papers, as an abstract concept, as the sole beacon of truth in a dark world, and found Facebook groups full of people that thought just like me: if it's not proven, if it's not science, it's false, and science is truth.
There are online communities of people who "believe in science," and t-shirts that affirm the wearer to "believe in science." This is not the worst place you can be, in a world where people believe things like "eating lemons makes your blood more alkaline, which cures cancer" and "polio was renamed to ALS in order to hide the fact that polio vaccines don't work."
However, science is not a doctrine. It's a process. It points to truth, but it doesn't produce truth as an end result. There is no end result. The results are endless, actually.
What word do I use to describe what I've been doing? I'm gardening, sure, but that makes it sound like I do things to plants, when mostly, the plants do things to me. I'm learning about the living things already around me. I've learned to identify so many plants, and I know about what role they serve in the ecosystem.
"Gardening" is a difficult word because it means planting things in the ground and tending to them, but plants plant and tend themselves. So since we have to use the word "gardening," we have to think of plants as either belonging to a garden or not, depending on whether a human put them there. Plants either grow on their own or a human, a "grower," "grows" them. Isn't it weird how that verb is transitive?
However, I understand now that even knowing the name of a plant is, in some way, "gardening" it, because it affects my behavior toward that plant, which is the thing that "gardening" is, just in a different amount.
Humans can transport seeds and plants, supplement nutrients and water, but this is just participation. A gardener doesn't create plants, they help them to grow. So it follows that any act of "helping" is also gardening—thinning out a stand of wild plants, moving a wild plant from one spot to another, choosing not to mow a wild plant down.
I have more of something than I used to. The thing that I have more of now is knowledge, but a lot of this knowledge isn't facts. Ecology is a science. Scientists study ecosystems. It is possible to know facts about ecosystems. But ecosystems are not made of facts.
I know that most people desperately need to know more about the ecosystems around them. They need to know about the plants and trees near them. I think this is literally essential to saving the world as we know it. But they don't need to learn facts—not just facts. They need to learn something Else.
For the past several months, I have been learning things that are not facts. I hesitate to call them skills. But they are like skills. Both gardening and plant identification are impossible to fully teach from a book or a written resource, because you have to know not what something is, but what it is like.
I rely on my senses—feeling the suppleness of a twig, the dampness of potting soil. Identifying plants is so hard starting out because the qualities that identify them best have to be experienced.
Back when I was first learning to identify trees, I discovered that there was a black walnut tree at the end of our road. I was just then entering the extremely frustrating reality of how many plants there are and how few photos of them at all growth stages exist on the internet. I didn't know what a fucking "petiole" was. Leaves all just looked like leaves and I wanted to cry.
But I tore a twig from one of the trees down at the end of the road, and I instantly knew it was a black walnut tree! And I couldn't describe to you how. I caught a whiff of the smell of the crushed leaves, and it pulled up a memory of the walnut trees at the farmhouse when I was a child, dropping their heavy green fruits all over the grass. I'm not even sure how to describe the smell. It's very fresh and spicy, but earthier and less "clear" than the word "fresh" would suggest.
And I identify a lot of plants in ways that you can't just...depict. Alianthus altissima, tree-of-heaven, is hard to draw or photograph in a way that lets you see through the picture what makes it distinctively Alianthus altissima. The best way to identify it is by its odor. Tear off a leafy twig and smell it—it smells exactly like peanut butter and the mustiness of a damp basement.
I am learning things that don't exist in books, that are specific to my immediate surroundings. The specific community of organisms found in my backyard, what they're doing. How my plant and animal neighbors are related, and how their relationships change.
I am learning just how little we know. There are so many plants, so many local plant communities. There are more relationships in an ecosystem than there are scientists that could possibly study them. I look up a question about a particular plant and there's just...nothing.
I have to use my own knowledge, my own observations. I have to do tiny science every day, where Big, Capital S Science can't help me. "Is this non-native plant harmful enough that it is better to get rid of it even if I can't replace it yet, or is it providing enough benefits to other organisms that it is better to let it stay?" Sometimes no website or book or article can answer this. Constantly I encounter this kind of question, and I have to observe and decide myself. I have to trust that I can be taught by my ecosystem, and that this knowledge is, in its own way, valid.
It is uncomfortable to be here. I want to convey my knowledge to others, but it sometimes feels almost pseudoscientific, superstitious. I want to be rational and rely on the experts, and teach other people to do so; I know that what "seems" right often isn't, and that personal observations are flawed, even useless, in many areas. But not only are these fuzzy, instinctual observations sometimes all we have, they are an essential skill that is needed to save our world.
There's also the fact that research doesn't happen fast enough to function all alone as a guide. Invasive species lists on state websites are basically decades out of date and not regionally specific enough. The Callery/Bradford pear tree, bane of my existence, is not "officially" designated an invasive species to my knowledge, and there is relatively little research on its role as an invasive species, but it is declared invasive, primarily by common consensus that it's Satan in tree form. Crowding and shading out other mid-succession shrubs and trees, forming thick, almost monoculture masses of ugly glossy foliage replacing whatever else would have grown there.
And the severe threat of the Bradford pear is specific to my region; its particular severity may be specific down to the square mile of land I live on. Some scientists may be studying it, but they're not studying my state, my county, my neighborhood.
It's insane how many TYPES of forests there are. You would think that within a specific biome and climate, a forest is a forest is a forest, but no. There are a bajillion specific associations of trees with specific relationships that form special ecosystems. It's insane how many types of moth there are, too. And it really blows your mind to look up a moth's host plants and read that we're not really sure of the full range of plants its caterpillars can eat.
You'll be reading something and it will say "We don't know this" but you will know, because you've seen it—and then you think to yourself, well, isn't that what people say about Nessie and Bigfoot and little green aliens? Can we trust what we observe for ourselves? Can we trust people to know what they see?
Maybe not—but we have to.