Panda Protections Save Other Species Too

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Thanks, pandas! Conservation areas set aside to protect China’s national treasure also help to save many of China’s other one-of-a-kind species, new research reveals.

Pandas get disproportionate attention and conservation funding, but the new study, published online today (Sept. 16) in the journal Conservation Biology, offers some good news: The fuzzy-faced black-and-white bear is not surviving at the expense of other, less-cute species; instead, panda preservation creates a sort of conservation umbrella that benefits lots of species.

But the laserlike focus on pandas has left some gaps in protections for other animals, according to the new study. Amphibians, in particular, get less protection, the research found.

“Loving pandas is the right thing to do,” but China should be savvy in adding new panda protections in order to save as many species as possible, said study researcher Binbin Li, a doctoral student at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. [See Images of China’s Amazing Species]

“We should love beyond pandas,” Li told Live Science.

Protecting China’s species

China has been aggressive in protecting the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), setting up conservation and breeding programs with international cooperation. China lends pandas to zoos around the world, with the stipulation that surviving cubs can be called back to China. In August, panda twins were born at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., illustrating the success of this program. (One twin later died, as is common in panda multiple births.) [Photos: New Panda Twins Keep D.C. Zookeepers Busy]

The panda-loan program provides about $1 million per pair each year for the conservation of pandas inside China. (There are currently about 45 pandas on loan.) The country has also listed the panda as the top species in need of protection in China, and has established a National Panda Program with more than $12 million in funding from 2001 to 2030 for research, breeding, reserves and monitoring. No other species has such singular protections, though China is also home to endangered species like the crested ibis (Nipponia nippon), the Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis) and the Yangtze river dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer), the later two of which are listed as critically endangered.

China has also set aside almost 13,000 square miles (33,600 square kilometers) of nature preserves dedicated to saving panda habitat, Li and her academic adviser, Duke University’s Stuart Pimm, reported in their new paper. Li and Pimm wanted to know whether these nature preserves were effective at protecting other species, particularly animals found only in China, such as the fuzzy gansu hamster (Cansumys canus) or golden snub-nose monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana), the later of which is endangered.

Golden snub-nose monkeys live in bands of dozens to hundreds in forests between 4,900 feet and more than 11,000 feet (1,500 meters to 3,400 meters) elevation.
Credit: Binbin Li

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The researchers built a map of species’ habitats across China, paying attention to elevation ranges and vegetation types that can determine whether species will survive in each region.

The researchers found that panda range overlaps with the habitat for 70 percent of China’s forest bird species, 70 percent of its forest mammals and 31 percent of forest amphibians, and 96 percent of panda habitat falls within areas dubbed “endemic centers.” These are regions in the top 5 percent for the number of different species living in an area.

But there are gaps. Ninety-nine percent of amphibians with small habitat ranges in China are inadequately protected, the researchers found, as are 85 percent of amphibians with more extensive ranges. Particularly concerning were the species listed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature: 14 mammal species, 20 birds and 82 amphibians. The golden snub-nose monkey, listed as endangered by the IUCN, is one example, Li said. Also in more danger than previously believed are the Lifan sucker frog (Amolops lifanensis) and the Schmidt’s lazy toad (Oreolalax schmidti), she said.

Geography of protection

Most of the country’s threatened mammals live in China’s central Sichuan province and northern Yunnan province, while the threatened birds and amphibians were mostly found around the edge of the Sichuan basin, in Hainan and Yunnan provinces, and elsewhere in southeastern China. Few of these species are protected by national reserves, the researchers found, and the protections provided by a few local reserves are spotty.

The Daxiang and Xiaoxiang mountain ranges of Sichuan are particularly rich targets for protection, Li said. The areas are rich in species and unprotected by national reserves. Other hotspots lie in the Nan mountains of southeastern China, in Yunnan province (which borders Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam) and in Hainan, an island province east of Vietnam, the researchers wrote.

There are 132 mammal species, 117 birds and 250 amphibians that have more than 80 percent of their range within China’s borders, Pimm and Li found. Of those species, 65 mammals, 78 birds and 96 amphibians are threatened. Expanding panda protections — while also looking beyond panda habitat — could turn the tide for these species, they said.

“China’s biodiversity is exceptional; it’s extraordinary,” Pimm told Live Science. And China has only begun to explore the potential for nature-based tourism to its protected areas, he said.

“If we can engage the Chinese authorities,” he said, “we can protect an awful lot of species at the same time as protecting the panda.”

Ancient Human Size Fish Breathed with Lungs

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Before the dinosaur age, the coelacanth — a hefty, mysterious fish that now breathes with its gills — sported a well-developed lung, a new study finds.

This lung likely helped the fish survive in low-oxygen, shallow waters hundreds of millions of years ago, the researchers said. During the Mesozoic era, more commonly known as the dinosaur age, it’s likely that some species of coelacanth (see-leh-kanth) moved to deeper waters, stopped using their lungs and began relying exclusively on their gills to breathe, the researchers said.

This adaptation to deep water likely helped coelacanths survive the asteroid that slammed into ancient Earth and killed the nonavian dinosaurs, the researchers said. The fish’s gill- and lung-breathing relatives were not as lucky; during the Late Cretaceous period, about 66 million years ago, coelacanths living in shallow waters disappear from the fossil record, they said.

The hulking 6.5-foot-long (2 meters) fish has long baffled scientists. Fossils of the predatory fish date back to the early Devonian period, about 410 million years ago. The fish was thought to have gone extinct after the dinosaur-killing asteroid hit Earth, but living coelacanths were discovered off the coast of South Africa in 1938.

Today, there are two known species of living coelacanths that live in the deep waters near Mozambique and Indonesia. Scientists have collected and preserved entire specimens of these fish (which give birth to live young) over the decades, allowing researchers to study how the fish change from embryos to adulthood.

This image shows 3D reconstructions of the pulmonary complex of Latimeria chalumnae at different ontogenetic stages.
Credit: Brito et al. Nature Communications

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In the new study, researchers examined the curious lungs of one species of coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) at five different stages of growth. They scanned each specimen with X-ray tomography, a method that allows researchers to take multiple X-rays of an object, compile them and create a 3D image.

“Our results demonstrate the presence of a potentially functional, well-developed lung in the earliest known coelacanth embryo,” the researchers wrote in the study. However, as the embryo grows, its lung development slows, and it eventually becomes a vestigial (functionless) organ in the fish, they observed.

Interestingly, adult L. chalumnae have small, hard, flexible plates scattered around their vestigial lungs. It’s possible that these plates are similar to the “calcified lung” of fossil coelacanths, said Paulo Brito, one of the study’s researchers and a professor of zoology at Rio de Janeiro State University in Brazil.

“In fossil coelacanths, these plates surrounding the lung most probably had a function in lung volume regulation, moving over each other to accommodate volumetric changes,” Brito told Live Science in an email. “In extant [living] coelacanths, it represents a rudimentary anatomical structure.”

It’s possible that the lung became less developed as the coelacanth moved to deeper waters, but remnants of it still exist as a vestigial organ, the researchers said. However, as the lung shrank and became useless, a fatty organ that the fish uses for buoyancy control in deep waters grew and took over the space once occupied by the lung.

“Although we cannot know whether the fatty organ ever existed in fossil forms, due to its unique soft-tissue constitution, this organ in Latimeria has a function in buoyancy control,” the researchers said in the study.

Given that the coelacanth has evidence of “calcified lungs” in the fossil record, as well as a developing lung early in its embryonic development, it’s possible that the “lung is a primitive character[istic] in bony fishes,” Brito said. Lungs are also present in most ancient ray-finned fishes (a subclass of boney fishes), lungfishes and living lobe-finned fish (such as the coelacanth), as well as four-legged vertebrates, including amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds.

Surprise! Newfound Venomous Spider Drops in on Scientists

Most people likely wouldn’t react well to being surprised by a venomous spider, but recently, scientists at Booderee National Park, on the southern coast of Australia, were excited when a highly venomous funnel-web spider showed up unannounced.

Many species of funnel-web spiders, named for their funnel-shaped webs, are indigenous to Australia, but only one of these species, the Sydney funnel-web spider, is known to live in Booderee National Park.

Sydney funnel-webs (Atrax robustus) are ground-dwelling spiders with highly venomous bites that, before the development of an anti-venom, posed a serious medical risk to humans. Funnel-webs, including Atrax robustus, were believed to be responsible for at least 13 deaths in Australia before the anti-venom became available, in 1981. [Creepy, Crawly & Incredible: Photos of Spiders]

But the spider found along Australia’s southern coast by scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) wasn’t Atrax robustus. In fact, it might be a brand-new species of funnel-web spider, said Thomas Wallenius, a biologist at ANU’s Research School of Biology and one of the scientists who uncovered the arachnid.

“It’s remarkable that we have found this other species in Booderee National Park. It shows we still have a lot to learn about what’s out there in the bush,” Wallenius said in a statement.

The spider next to a large coin.
The relatively large funnel-web spider is about 2 inches, or 50 millimeters, long.
Credit: Stuart Hay ANU

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The nearly 2-inch-long (50 millimeters) specimen is fairly large for a funnel-web spider, the researchers said. And unlike the Sydney funnel-web, this critter lives inside of fallen trees, not in underground burrows. This suggests that the newfound spider belongs to the genus Hadronyche, which consists of funnel-web spiders that are saproxylic, or dependent on dead or decaying wood for survival.

When Wallenius found the spider, it was burrowed in its “lair,” a long web inside of a rotten log.

“They build a silk-lined burrow inside the hollow log, which can be up to 2 meters [6.6 feet] long. She had probably been living in there for 25 to 30 years,” Wallenius said.

That’s right: Funnel-web spiders aren’t just potentially deadly; they also live for an eerily long time. A study presented at the 22nd International Congress of Entomology in 2006 states that captive funnel-web spiders have a maximum life span of two decades.

The discovery of the (perhaps) previously unknown species of funnel-web spider comes on the heels of another exciting finding by ANU researchers. Last week, an ANU biologist discovered a rare, red-fanged funnel-web spider belonging to the species Atrax sutherlandi in Australia’s Tallaganda State Forest. This area, like Booderee National Park, is located in the southeastern state of New South Wales.

ANU ecologist Mark Wong uncovered the red-tinted arachnid while searching for funnel-web spiders under a rotting piece of wood.

“Almost instantly, the spider had rushed out of her silken lair with her legs raised and fangs greeting me with glistening venom,” Wong told Live Science in an email interview last week. “Taken aback by her colors, I knew there and then this was something special.”

While some members of the A. sutherlandi species have a bit of red tint on their bodies, this was the first time Wong and his fellow researchers had observed a specimen with red fangs.

The discovery of both the blood-hued funnel-web spider and its cousin, the log-dwelling spider in Booderee National Park, are part of a large study of biodiversity in New South Wales. The state is also home to many species of peacock spiders, which are much less venomous than funnel-web spiders, and arguably a whole lot cuter (some of them even dance).

Starving Polar Bear Photo Don’t Blame Just Climate Change

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Polar bears have become the fuzzy face of the impacts of climate change, with shrinking sea ice in the Arctic affecting how the bears normally roam and hunt. Now, after a photograph of an emaciated polar bear hobbling on ice went viral online, some people are wondering if global warming is causing these majestic creatures to starve.

Wildlife photographer Kerstin Langenberger snapped the now-famous photo of the gaunt polar bear and wrote a concerned Facebook post questioning the health of polar bear populations. Though it was widely circulated online, the photograph is misleading, said Karyn Rode, a wildlife biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska.

“I think you are always going to have animals in any population [that are] in poor conditions,” Rode said. This can be because they have an injury (as may be the case with the polar bear in the photo) or because the animal is old and has lost some of its canines, she said. [In Images: Polar Bears’ Shifting Diet]

Steven Amstrup, chief scientist at Polar Bears International, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to studying polar bears, agreed and added that seeing a skinny bear in the wild is not altogether uncommon. “We know that animals in the wild don’t live forever,” he said. “Polar bears, they don’t have natural enemies, so when they die it’s of starvation.”

There are 19 recognized polar bear subpopulations, but only two have been studied for long enough to show that changes in ice conditions are affecting the livelihood of some polar bears. Temperatures are rising in many regions of the world because high concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), are warming up the Earth’s atmosphere. The effects are most notable in the colder regions of the world since a large portion of the ice cover comes from frozen ocean water, or sea ice. Sea ice forms at colder temperatures than freshwater ice, so when things warm up, sea ice is the first thing to melt.

Sea ice is the home of polar bears’ major food source, ice seals, so when the sea ice disappears, so does the bears’ main way of getting meals. Rising global temperatures are forcing bears to spend more time on land and to go longer between meals. “The climate can only continue to warm as[carbon dioxide] concentrations continue to rise,” Amstrup said.

“There is a higher percentage of bears in this situation [starving] now because of sea ice retreat,” Amstrup said. “We have documented the populations in Alaska and the western Hudson Bay of Canada. We have shown in both places that we have seen poorer survival rates.”

Also, there are several polar bear populations that aren’t very well studied, so it’s impossible to say that polar bears are generally struggling because of climate change, Rode said. “There has been no study that I know of that said more bears starve specifically as a result of climate change,” she added. “There have been models of that, but there has been no empirical data to support that.”

Shrinking sea ice is causing polar bears to starve with higher frequency, but “[y]ou can’t say that any one individual is starving because of climate change,” Amstrup said.

As the climate warms and sea ice continues to decline, the frequency of starving bears is only going to rise — not because of climate change directly, but because the loss of sea ice is taking away their main food source, Amstrup added.

Some scientists have speculated that there is a chance polar bears may find alternative food sources on land, but a study published in April in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment by Rode, Amstrup and others found that the bears’ food prospects on land aren’t great.

While there are some viable nutrient sources available on land, such as bird eggs these aren’t present in the amounts that can sustain polar bear populations year round, Rode explained. Bird eggs are only available during the spring, when birds are breeding, so searching for food on land in other season won’t meet polar bears’ nutritional needs as easily. Which leaves the bears in a bit of a quandary, unless they can travel northward with sea ice retreat or find ways to hunt bigger game than bird eggs.

 

Bird Mummy’s Secret Why Raptor Was Force-Fed by Ancient Egyptians

Mummification wasn’t reserved for people in Egypt. The archaeological record is full of examples of cats, dogs, crocodiles and birds that were mummified and used as religious offerings to their corresponding animal gods, a practice that was popular from about 600 B.C. until around A.D. 250, well into the Roman period. Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, has made a living studying these animal mummies, and for her latest research, she examined the ancient remains of a European kestrel from the Iziko Museums of South Africa in Cape Town. [See Photos of Dog Mummies in Ancient Egyptian Catacomb

An X-ray revealed a mouse tail extending from the ancient bird’s stomach up through its esophagus.

Credit: Stellenbosch University, via Salima Ikram

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New imaging technologies have made it possible to see through mummies without butchering ancient corpses: Ikram and her colleagues used an X-ray computed tomography scanner at Stellenbosch University in South Africa to see the insides of the kestrel in 3D. The images revealed the bird’s stomach was stuffed with bones and teeth from at least two mice —one with its tail inside the raptor’s esophagus —and a partially digested sparrow.

The kestrel’s skeleton showed no signs of trauma. And whereas other bird mummies in Egypt had their gizzards removed or their beaks packed with food after death, this specimen also had no signs of evisceration. The kestrel was likely desiccated with natron (a naturally occurring soda ash) embalmed with resin and wrapped in bandages (in this case, quite haphazardly) with its stomach contents intact.

“We were extraordinarily surprised by the virtual autopsy as we had no expectation of any contents within the kestrel’s body,” Ikram said. “To learn that it choked was amazing.”

Ikram and her colleagues say it’s unlikely the kestrel accidentally or deliberately ate itself to death, as the birds are known to store food when they catch too much for a single meal. Rather, the bird likely had lots of help dying from its captors.

In Egyptian art, images show a variety of animals, from hyenas to geese, being force-fed by people, Ikram told Live Science. But this is the first time archaeologists have identified an animal mummy that died of overeating. The kestrel in the Iziko Museums might also be among the earliest evidence of falconry.

“The fact that wild birds that were not of use for food themselves were tamed and controlled provides an insight into Egyptian religious practices,” Ikram said. “The ability of the Egyptians to tame and control wild bird populations, and the possible use of these creatures in falconry, either as sport or in obtaining small game, is of interest as it documents the evolving relationship between humans and animals.”

The mummy arrived at the Iziko Museums in the early 20th century, but unfortunately the authors of the study don’t know where it came from. Ikram thinks it likely was unearthed in a catacomb or special burial linked with the sun god. Her team is going through the museum archives to try to trace the artifact to a specific geographic area.

Teenager infected with rat-bite fever from her pet rodent

A 17-year-old woman was infected with the rare, but treatable rat-bite fever, that developed from pet rodents that lived in her bedroom, report the doctors who treated her in the online journal BMJ Case Reports.

Rat-bite fever has been reported in writings dating as far back as 2300 years. It was originally described as a disease of the poor, but these days most cases occur in lab workers or in children with pet rodents.

The condition is often goes unrecognised and undiagnosed. Only 200 cases of rat-bite fever have been recorded in the USA since 1839.

Most cases of rat-bite fever involve a bite or scratch from a rodent, but there are several reports of infection without direct bacterial inoculation.

The young woman was admitted to hospital with pain in her right hip and lower back that had continued for two days and led to immobility. Over the proceeding two weeks, she had an intermittent fever, nausea and vomiting, and a pink rash on her hands and feet.

Her nausea and vomiting improved, but the fever continued, and she had tenderness of a joint in her pelvis, and pain in her right leg.

The doctors learnt that the woman had numerous pets including a dog, cat, horse and three pet rats. The rodents lived in her bedroom. One of these rats had died 3 weeks prior to onset of her symptoms.

A blood test returned positive for Streptobacillus moniliformis–the most common cause of ratbite fever.

The disease can have mortality as high as 13%, if left untreated. Fortunately, the woman underwent 4 weeks of antibiotics. After 5 days, her rash and fever disappeared, and the joint pain in her pelvis improved over the following weeks. She made a full recovery.


How You Can Help Fight Animal Cruelty

Animal cruelty is something that is close to many people’s hearts. Many think of it as an abuse that is akin to child abuse, since animals are also defenseless against the hands or neglect of humans.

It tends to rouse similar anger and outrage as well, and there are now many agencies that are set up to help prevent animal cruelty, and also shelters where rescued animals find solace and comfort from their abusive or neglectful environments.

Years ago, there were not even any laws set up to protect animals from abuse, and abusers were able to get away with doing just about anything they wanted without consequence.

Now, there are animal protection laws set up in almost every state, and if you are found guilty of inhumane treatment of an animal, you are subject to anything from fines to community service, to jail time.

While we’ve come a long way in legislating animal protection laws, there is still room for improvement, as they are not stiff enough penalties in most people’s eyes, and it seems that it’s still taken rather lightly.

While I’m not aligned with the extreme mentality of animal rights groups that preach vegetarianism and use tactics that I don’t deem appropriate to get their point across, I certainly admire what they are trying to do, which is drawing attention to the animal kingdom and getting the word out that our furry friends need our help when they do not have a voice of their own to defend themselves.

One can read about stories of inhumane treatment weekly in any newspaper, and some of the stories are enough to make one nauseous. There are stories of animals left in homes without food or water, in their own waste and crawling with fleas and ticks, stories of farm animals abandoned, neglected, underfed and abused, and horrifying tales of household pets being beaten, starved, deprived of care, and even killed at the hands of the very people who are supposed to take care of them, that all still need to be addressed.

There are some steps you can take to make sure you are not a silent voice in the quest to prevent animal cruelty, you just need to be aware of your surroundings and know what to look for.

You can report any suspicions to the local police, or if you have an agency that works with abused animals, you can call on them to investigate and rectify also, usually the APL (Animal Protective League) and other similar shelters and animal rights nonprofit organizations will be able to help as well.

Some of the signs to look for you may already know, as most people who are animal lovers have a built in instinct for knowing when an animal has been abused or neglected. Many animals who have been physically abused will be hand shy.

They will not want to come near you or any other person, and may be especially leery of their owners or react in an aggressive way toward them or others.

While this does not always indicate abuse, as some animals are just tempered that way, it is a good underlying factor to look at when determining if an animal has been physically abused.

If an animal has patches of fur missing or looks extremely thin, or even if they are overrun with fleas, this may indicate neglect. Another one to look for is animals that you see outside on extremely cold days, tied to a chain for hours without any warm shelter. This is dangerous and can be abuse if the animal does not have a place of shelter to retreat to.

Likewise if they are left chained outside for hours without food or water – water of course being the most vital of the two. Use your judgment, there are always animals that may be acclimated to certain situations, but if you consistently see this, and are suspicious it may be worth an investigation by an officer of an animal protection agency or the police department.

Of course the most obvious thing to look out for is actually witnessing an act of animal abuse. If you see a person physically assaulting an animal, please make sure you report this immediately, as this is the most blatant and obvious form of animal abuse and certainly warrants a report for investigation.

If we all do our part in preventing animal cruelty, we can make this world a better and safer place for our furry friends who entrust us with their life and well being. If we don’t look out for themHealth Fitness Articles, who will?

Sorry Cat Lovers Felix Doesn’t Need You

Dogs have owners, cats have staff.

Though the old joke is a stereotype of a feline’s independent nature, that trope may have some scientific backing.

Cats do not form the childlike dependence on humans that dogs do, new research suggests.

That doesn’t mean people’s feline friends don’t bond with them, said Daniel Mills, a veterinary behavioral medicine researcher at the University of Lincoln in England.

“This is not about whether cats love their owners,” Mills told Live Science. Rather, it just means that Felis catus doesn’t look to its human owners as a source of safety and security, he added. [Here, Kitty, Kitty: 10 Facts for Cat Lovers]

Strange situation

The new results are based on a test called the “Strange Situation.” In the test, which was developed for humans by psychologist Mary Ainsworth in the 1970s, researchers put a mother or primary caregiver and a baby in one room together and then asked the mother to leave as a stranger walked in to play. Ainsworth found that some tots would play joyfully while their caregiver was around, act fearful or distressed when the caregivers left, and then act happy when the mother figure returned. Those little ones were “securely attached,” Ainsworth said, meaning they saw their mom as a “safe base” from which to explore the world. By contrast, some youngsters seemed indifferent to their moms’ presence and absence, while others were tentative when approaching a returning mom, and still others showed a very erratic response.

Securely attached infants tend to do better in school, relationships and life in general than those with other forms of attachment, scientists have found.

A study published in 2013 in the journal PLOS ONE found that dogs similarly cling to their owners as a haven of safety when a threatening stranger is near. The researchers concluded that, just like human babies, these little fur babies could become securely attached to their caregivers. A small 2002 study suggested that cats could develop separation anxiety, but the findings weren’t carefully verified.

Self-reliant creatures

To see whether cats showed a similar puplike attachment, Mills and his colleague Alice Potter, who now researches companion animals at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in England, put cats in the equivalent of the Strange Situation. In the new study, owners left the cats in a room and a stranger then entered and tried to engage the kitties in play. The researchers selected cats whose owners said they were particularly attached to them.

Overall, cats lived up to their fickle reputation; they had quite variable behavior.

“The idea of developing behavior tests in cats is much harder than people perhaps realize,” Mills said. Researchers may “do a test and say, ‘Oh, this is the cat’s profile.’ If you do the test on a cat a few weeks or a few hours later, it’s different.”

The felines also showed no clear signs of attachment, other than slightly more frequent meows when the owner left them with the stranger, the researchers reported Wednesday (Sept. 2) in the journal PLOS ONE.

However, those meows could have been signs of frustration, a conditioned response, as cats tend to meow more if their owners chat with them, Mills said. The results suggest that, unlike dogs, cats don’t look to owners as a sort of security blanket. [Are Cats Smarter Than Dogs?]

Love among equals?

Ask any cat person, however, and they would swear that Mr. Whiskers does love them. They may be right, Mills said. The new findings simply mean cats don’t see their human companions as parentlike figures. For instance, in the Strange Situation test, parents don’t form a secure attachment to their babies because they don’t see their children as a “safe base” — but it would be wildly inaccurate to say that parents don’t love their kids. It may simply be that feline-human love is rooted in something other than dependence.

It’s also possible that cats simply don’t wear their emotions on their fur, so to speak, and that another test might better gauge their attachment to owners, Mills said.

Still, he thinks the findings do reflect a truth about cats’ independence.

“If you think about it, why should cats depend on people for safety and security?” Mills said. “Cats are naturally very independent hunters.”

By contrast, dogs hunt in packs, and so may naturally gravitate toward others when looking to meet their needs, he added.