Uncia uncia (Panthera uncia)

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Photograph by Dan Stodola.

Photography contest, Honorable Mention.

Stodola.SnowLeopard.jpg

Uncia uncia (or Panthera uncia) - Snow Leopard, Brookfield Zoo, Illinois.

50 Comments

Is it a coincidence that as soon as you installed Snow Leopard, I was getting “500 Server Error” messages when trying to access articles?

Did you forget to apply the post-installation patches? :)

Got to love the beauty of these creatures!

I find it impossible to look at life forms and not be in awe. How could anyone yawn at such amazing beauty and dismiss it as the by-product of “random” mutation.

“It just so happens to be THAT way because 10 million alternative paths of natural SELECTION didn’t eventuate – ho hum…move along…nothing special happening here.”

Every week or two during summer in I find the need to move snakes which have decided to take up residence (and be closer to the mice) in the chicken enclosure.

Many days I find myself just sitting and observing all these beautiful creatures and thinking… OF COURSE THEY ALL HAVE EGG DNA!

Lion (IRC) PS – It’s illegal in .au to kill snakes. They get moved on 1 kilometer further into the state forest using proper snake handling tongs. After that the kookaburras and goannas gotta eat too.

Ahhh Cowardly Lyin’ Lion (so named before he was banned from Pharyngula) has decided to troll here too? *grabs popcorn*

SebastesMan said:

Ahhh Cowardly Lyin’ Lion (so named before he was banned from Pharyngula) has decided to troll here too? *grabs popcorn*

Notice how he makes a grossly inaccurate strawman of “evolutionists” with which to attack, also.

Lion IRC -

I find it impossible to look at life forms and not be in awe. How could anyone yawn at such amazing beauty and dismiss it as the by-product of “random” mutation.

1. Non sequitor. The fact that the animal evolved is not related to whether or not we find it beautiful.

2. Direct falsehood. The writer implies that people who understand the theory of evolution do not appreciate the beauty of the animal as he does. Yet the mere presence of the photograph implies the exact opposite to any reasonable observer.

“It just so happens to be THAT way because 10 million alternative paths of natural SELECTION didn’t eventuate – ho hum…move along…nothing special happening here.”

3. Erection of a straw man. Silly words falsely attributed to opponents to allow irrelevant “rebuttal”.

Hi Sebastesman, It’s not trolling. I really DO think that and I support dialogue between people of different views.

Stanton accuses me of using a strawman but I did not use the word evolutionist. It’s amazing how many people rush to grab the boots off an imaginary strawman, put them on and say…..”that’s me….he must be referring to me…Lion is making insinuating remarks about me”

How ironic to shout…”objection your honor! I am the strawman he is referring to.”

Harold calls it a non-sequitur when it is not even remotely an attempt at such. It is just combining two different themes/ideas into one communication. There’s no rule book strictly laying out the conditions under which it is OK to go from one point to another without fear of the non-sequitur accusation.

See also the claim that I said something DIRECTLY false which included the phrase….”the writer implies”…. PAHLEEEESE!

I said “I find it impossible…” I asked ….”How could anyone….”

If Harold could and can and does then he is in agreement with ME that “awe” is a suitable word for something another person might describe as no big deal – just the way it is.

I will sit and wait for someone familiar with evolution to dispute that what we see in biology….” happens to be that way because 10 million alternative paths of natural SELECTION didn’t eventuate.”

I understood it was one of Mr Dawkins 5 thought bridges. Number 3 if I am not mistaken. Lion (IRC)

Lion IRC said:

Hi Sebastesman, It’s not trolling. I really DO think that and I support dialogue between people of different views.

What sort of dialogue do you want to foster by making grossly inaccurate and insulting descriptions?

Stanton accuses me of using a strawman but I did not use the word evolutionist.

Except that creationists always use the slur of “an evolutionist sees no value in life because it is the result of random chance”

It’s amazing how many people rush to grab the boots off an imaginary strawman, put them on and say…..”that’s me….he must be referring to me…Lion is making insinuating remarks about me”

How ironic to shout…”objection your honor! I am the strawman he is referring to.”

Is this how you dismiss criticism and hostility when you use the epitaphs of “Christ-killer,” “terrorist,” or “devil-worshiper” to address Jews, Muslims, or Wiccans, also?

I will sit and wait for someone familiar with evolution to dispute that what we see in biology….” happens to be that way because 10 million alternative paths of natural SELECTION didn’t eventuate.”

People who are familiar with Evolutionary Biology immediately recognize this particular non-sequiter to be utter nonsense. And even if (or when) someone parses an explanation on why your non-sequiter is nonsense in terms simple enough even for you to understand, you’re still going to dismiss us for no logical reason. Which was why you were banned at Pharyngula.

How could anyone yawn at such amazing beauty and dismiss it as the by-product of “random” mutation.

No one who knows anything about evolution thinks that the snow leopard is the product of random mutation alone. Hence you were accused of setting up a straw man.

I have no doubt that you believe what you write; so much the worse for you. If you continue to post such inapt comments and show no ability to listen or to learn, then I will send all your comments and most if not all responses to the bathroom wall.

Hi Stanton,

What’s with all the labels? I don’t dismiss criticism – I listen to it intently.

I have never used the term “Christ-killer” and I reject ALL dialogue based on insults and slurs on either side. I have no hostility. You have me mistaken for someone else. (See! That’s how I dispose of a strawman. Not by jumping up and down.)

Now, watch how I dispose of Matt Young’s strawman.

“….thinks that the snow leopard is the product of random mutation alone.”

Err….excuse me Matt, I think you may have misread my post. Could you please note that I did not say “alone”. I said by-product OF so called “random” mutation.

See! How hard was that?

Lion (IRC)

YEC here. This is a pretty kitty. Just a big version of house ones I know. in fact all cats are the same cat family. Indeed i would add the marsupial and other orders of cat looking creatures to the cat family. As a biblical creationist who sees kinds just coming off the ark i would presume the cat was not on the ark as we know see it but rather a type of a bigger order of creature. Many creationists would not see it that way but pre-flood and post flood diversity suggests that what kinds are is not just the present, even if striking, divisions in creatures. I suspect Noah would not of recognized the modern cat creaure.

I think I should contemplate devolution all the way back to the very FIRST “random” mutation from which all life is a “by-product”

Lion IRC -

I absolutely stand by my original post and find your response to be unconvincing.

Stanton accuses me of using a strawman but I did not use the word evolutionist.

So your odd claim is that a deliberate and obvious misrepresentation of a view others are associated with, in such a way as to make it appear trivially invalid (when in fact you have no arguments against in its true form), is only a “strawman” if the word “evolutionist” is used.

Sorry, that’s what a “strawman is, whether or not you use the term “evolutionist”.

It’s amazing how many people rush to grab the boots off an imaginary strawman, put them on and say…..”that’s me….he must be referring to me…Lion is making insinuating remarks about me”

How ironic to shout…”objection your honor! I am the strawman he is referring to.”

You further claim, apparently, that people shouldn’t object to the creation of a straw man distortion, unless they are specifically pointed out as individuals.

Even when it is obvious that they belong to the class of people whose views the strawman is intended to distort.

Harold calls it a non-sequitur when it is not even remotely an attempt at such. It is just combining two different themes/ideas into one communication. There’s no rule book strictly laying out the conditions under which it is OK to go from one point to another without fear of the non-sequitur accusation.

Actually, there is a very easy rule by which to avoid non sequitors.

Non sequitors only arise when relationships between statements are asserted, which are logically false.

For example, the human concept of beauty is not dependent on whether the object regarded was magically created or arose naturally. A natural snowflake pattern may be beautiful. A magically created pile of dog business would probably still be ugly. Therefore, to claim that people would fail to find a snow leopard beautiful because the species evolved rather than being magically poofed into existence, is an absurd non sequitor. Deny your guts out, but your first post is still at the top of the page.

Simply avoid asserting logically false relationships, and you will easily avoid non sequitor, by definition.

See also the claim that I said something DIRECTLY false which included the phrase….”the writer implies”…. PAHLEEEESE!

I said “I find it impossible…” I asked ….”How could anyone….”

It is interesting that you attempt - unsuccessfully - to use legalistic denial based on weasel-wording.

If Harold could and can and does then he is in agreement with ME that “awe” is a suitable word for something another person might describe as no big deal – just the way it is.

I’m not a fan of Ronald Reagan, but he did have a way with words, and as he once said - “There you go again”.

Even in the midst of your squirming, you keep trying to get away with the implied claim that people who understand evolution would feel less “awe” (or whatever), than you do, with regard to the photograph.

The reality, of course, is that people who feel a subjective sense of the beauty of nature are MORE likely to be drawn to the biological sciences.

As I noted above, someone who accepts the theory of evolution took that photo and the administrators of this site posted it here.

I will sit and wait for someone familiar with evolution to dispute that what we see in biology….” happens to be that way because 10 million alternative paths of natural SELECTION didn’t eventuate.”

I’m very familiar with the theory of evolution and I can’t even make enough sense out of this to dispute it.

If I understand it at all, it is a trivial statement that, according to “biology”, we see the world we see because something else didn’t happen (with some misuse of terms like “natural selection” and “eventuate”, and some meaningless numbers, thrown in).

That’s true, we do see what we see because something else didn’t happen, but that’s also true according of any other field of study, under almost any philosophical view.

I understood it was one of Mr Dawkins 5 thought bridges. Number 3 if I am not mistaken.

I googled “Richard Dawkins five thought bridges” and couldn’t find anything remotely resembling this (not that I particularly care about everything that Richard Dawkins has to say).

He did say something about “five bridges” in a lecture, but it was in the context of scientific discoveries that were important to the modern understanding of evolution.

The snow leopard is not a by-product of anything; it is a product of evolution by natural selection and other mechanisms. So are Mr. Lion and Mr. Byers, not to mention Mr. Stanton and me.

I am willing to entertain intelligent discussion of evolution, but not fatuous comments about “random” mutations and “by-products” enclosed in quotation marks. I will send further substance-free remarks and their responses to the bathroom wall.

The comment by Mr. Harold crossed mine in the mail, so to speak. I will let it stand, but I ask everyone to please not feed the trolls. As we have noted previously, they never learn, and their only purpose seems to be to get a reaction.

Artists and philosophers have recognised for thousands of years that beauty consists of many things, often held in tension, but that one of them is perfection of form to function.

Movement pared down to an essential minimum becomes graceful. Economy becomes elegance. Simple line expresses strength. To be perfectly satisfying, decorated richness, no matter how baroque, should be harmonised with simple underlying form. Extraneous elements should be eliminated, or at least gathered up and resolved in some purposeful way.

There’s no saying why we find all beautiful things beautiful. The lexicon is not exhaustive. Yet those elements are part of it.

And if perfection of form to function is an element of beauty, then it really isn’t difficult to see why evolution would create beautiful things. If you want to find God, look for Him in the reflection that it is so, and the result is beautiful in our eyes.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

It’s exciting to finally see my pic up on the thumb.. but why THIS of all things should attract the trolls… I guess I gotta be mature and not respond to the marsupial cat business, right? But.. ARGH! It gets under my skin enough seeing people that can’t tell the difference between Amur Leopards (another favorite camera target of mine) and Cheetahs.

Perhaps at some later point we could get a picture of a hyena up side by side with, say, an African Wild Dog and we could discuss the issues of similarities and differences? Yes, I hear people call African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus, not a feral species at all despite what the name suggests) Hyenas all the time.

I object most strenuously to Apple appropriating the name of this animal to label their latest minor OS variant. I’m not trying to start up an OS war, I’m aware of the faults of the MS OS line and could go into great detail about them, but as you can guess I am a PC and my message to Apple is “Stay away from my leopards!” What can I say.. I’ve spent enough time photographing them that I feel sort of possessive about them.

If they pick Clouded Leopard as their next release I’ll really be steamed. But I doubt that’ll happen, the name just isn’t quite as clean and evocative.

Dan, is it true that individual snow leopards won’t mate with other individuals they don’t know?

I remember reading about how they’re extremely difficult to breed in captivity, and one pair that successfully bred only did so because they were raised together since cubs.

Hi Dan Stodola,

LOL - fair enough.

A picture of a snow leopard wins an award. People rightly admire the beauty of the subject. (And yes, the skills of the photographer play a small part as well.)

I make a comment contrasting the alleged unthinking, unknowing, unintelligent process of evolution with the awe displayed by its observers - an interesting juxtaposition I thought.

I observed that mutation = horse and natural selection = cart and I would have thought hundreds of evolutionists would have shouted in my direction if that were NOT the case.

Clearly I have misunderstood what sort of comment would befit a post under this thread. You refer to some unnamed trolls (me?) and I would dearly love to see an example of a post from a theist which would qualify as non-trolling.

eg…. Dear Lion IRC, Here is an example theist post you COULD have written…..

….Lovely picture. It really makes me want to learn more about evolutionary biology so that I can take part in an intelligent discussion but unfortunately for me I am a backward thinking theist and will probably “never learn” But that’s not the fault of all the kindly people here who are so willing to help. I just hope people don’t think all theists are trolls….

Lion (IRC)

Stanton:

Honestly I wouldn’t know about that. I could see about trying to track down a big cat keeper to ask, but that’d take a little while and this thread would be dormant by the time I got an answer.

I should specify that I’m not with the zoo in any way. I go there a lot, as a wannabe wildlife photographer it’s the best way to find a wide variety of interesting targets, and I like to learn a little something about my favorite subjects, but I’m still just an enthusiastic visitor.

I do know that they have at least one pair that they’re hoping to breed. I’ve seen one mating, but so far I don’t think any offspring have resulted. A little googling seems to show that they originated in different facilities and only arrived at Brookfield later, the female in 2004 and the male in 2005. So at least these two weren’t raised together.

They’ve thought Jade, the female, might have been pregnant before, but either she actually wasn’t or there were complications or something. No babies survived long enough to be reported to the public (Brookfield tends not to publicize failures due to the negative attention they get from animal rights groups), anyway.

According to the paper that my google search turned up, this may be the last year Jade is likely to become pregnant. After this she’s out of the prime breeding range and the chances diminish.

So I’m hoping the recent snow storm has them feeling frisky and that they’re getting busy. So to speak. I want to hear about the impending pitter patter of little snowshoe feet.

Incidentally, I believe that this individual is either Jade or her mate, Biscuit. I can’t tell the sexes apart without getting a view of their naughty bits, and I haven’t found any other means to recognize individuals yet.

I find it interesting that most of the above arguments suppose that evolution made a beautiful animal. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I happen to find many “ugly” creatures–such as deep sea dragonfish or anglerfish–to be gorgeous (my girlfriend thinks I’m nuts). I also find this picture to be beautiful, in a different way and for different reasons.

Evolution is a process that has zero to do with the subective perception of beauty by an observer from another species… well before we started manipulating domesticated species anyhow.

SebastesMan said:

I find it interesting that most of the above arguments suppose that evolution made a beautiful animal. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

True enough. I suspect that mountain goats have an entirely different view of how beautiful a snow leopard might be.

Matt Young -

This is my final comment on a Lion IRC post; I leave it up to your judgment whether to let it stand or send it to the bathroom wall. I promise not to even read any more of his comments after this :).

“Lovely picture. It really makes me want to learn more about evolutionary biology so that I can take part in an intelligent discussion but unfortunately for me I am a backward thinking theist [insert appropriate term] and will probably “never learn” But that’s not the fault of all the kindly people here who are so willing to help.”

All we need to do here is take out the word “theist”, and replace it with a suitable term (“creationist”/”bigot”/”authoritarian ideologue”/etc), as I have illustrated, and the quote becomes 100% accurate.

As we all know, many if not most theists accept the evidence for evolution.

Stevaroni -

I have often wondered why we humans find these large predators, who are potentially dangerous to us, to be so beautiful. I personally have a pretty strong “beautiful” reaction to big cats.

Maybe it’s because when we see them relaxing in their majestic glory, it usually means that they’re not hungry, and therefore not hunting us :).

harold said:

Stevaroni -

I have often wondered why we humans find these large predators, who are potentially dangerous to us, to be so beautiful.

I was just pondering this the other day.

I have a bird feeder in my backyard and over the years I seem to have attracted a small group of white-winged doves that wait for me politely in the morning.

I have also attracted a small raptor, possibly a young red-tailed hawk, that seems way too interested in “my” doves.

Ordinarily, I would look upon this powerful, graceful, bird as an interesting, attractive addition to my backyard environment. I’m not sure why, but there’s a definite affinity to identify with apex predators, and this one is certainly wonderful to watch as it wheels overhead.

But this one is also eating my pigeons, which puts it in an entirely different light.

A buddy of mine may have borrowed this idea: when you see snow leopard kill its prey, it’s subjective whether or not the leopard is ‘beautful’, but the prey is most certainly, objectively, dead. I thought that was an interesting perspective.

All we need to do here is take out the word “theist”, and replace it with a suitable term (“creationist”/”bigot”/”authoritarian ideologue”/etc), as I have illustrated, and the quote becomes 100% accurate.

Sigh. I will leave the comment because it is typically accurate. Theists are more than welcome to post comments on any threads that I moderate. Those who make ignorant comments about evolution and who never learn when corrected, however, are not welcome, though they are always given the opportunity.

Discussions with Lion aside, I do find these particular leopards impressive. I’ve had the fortune of encountering leopards in South Africa and literally got my breath caught in my throat both times - and those were your “garden variety” savannah leopards, not the snow leopards which are considerably heftier. I was particularly amazed at the snow leopard’s ability to cling to near vertical rock surfaces - with a kill in mouth. Truly a magnificent organism. Pity that evolutionarily speaking, it is not very fit.

Lion IRC said:

I will sit and wait for someone familiar with evolution to dispute that what we see in biology….” happens to be that way because 10 million alternative paths of natural SELECTION didn’t eventuate.”

Lion (IRC)

I would say that 10 million is isn’t particularly accurate - likely on the high end by several orders of magnitude - but aside from that I see nothing wrong in general with the description. The fact is, the organisms we see exist as specimens in a unraveling tapestry that includes a number of specimen groups that went extinct. So? Doesn’t take away from the awe any given specimen may inspire in some other specimen (some of us that is). In fact, given the awareness of the number of related and unrelated specimens that didn’t make it allows me to appreciate the ones that are here all the more.

Robin said:

Truly a magnificent organism. Pity that evolutionarily speaking, it is not very fit.

Are niche organisms less fit by definition? It seems to me that by that standard, any creature with a narrow or niche environmental tolerance would be less fit by default. For example, The Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) is stenothermal (thrives within a narrow range of temperatures)yet it thrived just fine until man came along and ate it to endangered status, and now with global climate change, it could get worse for the species. Were those cod any less fit to begin with? .…And don’t even get me started on polar bears

Dear Dan,

What kind of lens and exposure setting did you use? My wildlife shots only rarely come out this clean, though I’m reluctant to spend the money on a truly “professional” lens.

Thanks.

Again, let me stress that I was in a zoo. This is shooting fish in a barrel compared to “real” wildlife photography. You can get much closer to animals than you could in the wild, plus, at least for me, the kinds of animals I can find in the nearby outdoors are a lot smaller than what I can find in the zoo. And the bigger the target the farther away you can be for a given focal length.

My gear was a Canon 30D digital SLR camera and the Canon 70-200F4L lens (not the stabilized version). Yeah, that’d probably qualify as a professional lens, it has the signature white finish that Canon uses to distinguish their higher end lens line that also makes anyone using it highly conspicuous. Among the less expensive Canon L lenses, though, a popular first L lens from what I understand. The shot was taken at 200mm. I don’t want to get into this, but the camera was a 1.6x crop factor body, so take that into account as you wish.

Exposure was F4.5 and 1/800th of a second, ISO 400. The 70-200 F4 is pretty sharp wide open, so I could afford to shoot that way.

Honestly.. it’s not that clean. Every single one of my snow leopard shots have been taken through a thick glass viewing window. I give Brookfield all due credit, they keep their viewing glass in pretty good shape (except for the lion window, that thing is so scratched up it looks chemically etched, I don’t know what from). But any glass will degrade an image. The human eye may not see it, but the camera will. But for the snow leopards its my only choice other than shooting from a much longer distance away through a mesh fence material.

This shot was taken in the winter, the window was probably cleaner than it would have been on a warmer day when hordes of children would have been through, pressing their noses against the glass. But.. all of my snow leopard shots show loss of sharpness and fine detail due to the glass.

MACROEVOLUTIONISTS THINK TWO FAMILIES OF LIZARDS EACH HAD A MALE AND FEMALE SNOW LEOPARD AT THE SAME TIME AND IN THE SAME AREA SO THEY COULD MEET AND REPRODUCE–ALL BY RANDOM CHANCE!

THEY HAVE NO EVIDENCE THIS HAPPENED. NO MONKEY HAS EVER HAD A BABY HUMAN AND NO HUMAN WILL EVER HAVE A BABY X-MAN! THE BIBLE SAYS THINGS REPRODUCE AFTER THEIR OWN KIND AND THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS HAPPENS!

Sigh.

yum install Jesus said:

MACROEVOLUTIONISTS THINK TWO FAMILIES OF LIZARDS EACH HAD A MALE AND FEMALE SNOW LEOPARD AT THE SAME TIME AND IN THE SAME AREA SO THEY COULD MEET AND REPRODUCE–ALL BY RANDOM CHANCE!

THEY HAVE NO EVIDENCE THIS HAPPENED. NO MONKEY HAS EVER HAD A BABY HUMAN AND NO HUMAN WILL EVER HAVE A BABY X-MAN! THE BIBLE SAYS THINGS REPRODUCE AFTER THEIR OWN KIND AND THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS HAPPENS!

Poe. Nobody’s that stupid.

Poe. Nobody’s that stupid.

Don’t bet on it. The bozo is a geocentrist, too.

MACRO BIBLICAL LITERALISTS THINK TWO NAKED HUMANS EACH ATE AN APPLE AT THE SAME TIME AND IN THE SAME AREA SO THEY COULD MEET AND REPRODUCE–ALL BY RANDOM CHANCE!

THEY HAVE NO EVIDENCE THIS HAPPENED. NO APPLE HAS EVER BEEN FOUND AND NO ARK HAS EVER BEEN FOUND THE BIBLE SAYS THINGS REPRODUCE AFTER THEIR OWN KIND AND THIS IS OBVIOUSLY NOT TRUE! TOO BAD FOR THE HOLY APPLE AND THE MAGIC FLOOD

yum install Jesus said:

MACROEVOLUTIONISTS THINK TWO FAMILIES OF LIZARDS EACH HAD A MALE AND FEMALE SNOW LEOPARD AT THE SAME TIME AND IN THE SAME AREA SO THEY COULD MEET AND REPRODUCE–ALL BY RANDOM CHANCE!

THEY HAVE NO EVIDENCE THIS HAPPENED. NO MONKEY HAS EVER HAD A BABY HUMAN AND NO HUMAN WILL EVER HAVE A BABY X-MAN! THE BIBLE SAYS THINGS REPRODUCE AFTER THEIR OWN KIND AND THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS HAPPENS!

Awesome.. what was that? Looks like giving too much $$$$$ to the church and Biblical “institutions” deprive homes for getting proper education, an a keyboard with a working “Caps Lock” Key..

Fear the talking sneak… BTW, your Lord loves inbreeding… fact!

What a beautiful animal. It makes me want to go back in time and smack some caveman heads. ‘Look guys, I know domesticating that wolf over there is a lot easier because it’s a pack animal, but speaking for your decendents, we’d really, really appreciate it if you spent the extra time and effort needed to domesticate that large, awesome cat instead.’

apt-get purge crazy4jc && apt-get clean && apt-get autoclean

Dang, it’s still there!

eric said:

What a beautiful animal. It makes me want to go back in time and smack some caveman heads. ‘Look guys, I know domesticating that wolf over there is a lot easier because it’s a pack animal, but speaking for your decendents, we’d really, really appreciate it if you spent the extra time and effort needed to domesticate that large, awesome cat instead.’

I dunno. We have two cats in the house, and while they’re usually loving, adorable pets, every once in a while they give me that certain appraising “cat” look and I suddenly get very, very grateful that I’m not the size of a Barbie doll.

harold said:

LA magically created pile of dog business would probably still be ugly.

It all depends on your perspective.

If you were a dung beetle, then it would be a vast windfall, literally manna from God, which, in this case really is dog spelled backward.

Again, it’s always dubious to ascribe motive to nature, since “benefit” and “cost” are so inextricably tied to the point of view of the observer.

“What immortal hand or eye dare frame thy fearful symmetry?”

(Runs away and hides.)

NJ said:

Poe. Nobody’s that stupid.

Don’t bet on it. The bozo is a geocentrist, too.

Has he challenged heliocentric YECs? How about those ultra-accommodationist OECs? Or the “practically Darwinists” at the DI who accept common descent?

SebastesMan said:

Robin said:

Truly a magnificent organism. Pity that evolutionarily speaking, it is not very fit.

Are niche organisms less fit by definition? It seems to me that by that standard, any creature with a narrow or niche environmental tolerance would be less fit by default. For example, The Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) is stenothermal (thrives within a narrow range of temperatures)yet it thrived just fine until man came along and ate it to endangered status, and now with global climate change, it could get worse for the species. Were those cod any less fit to begin with? .…And don’t even get me started on polar bears

I don’t think of the snow leopard as a niche organism, though I suppose it is. The issue, as I see it, is that once an organism because highly specialized, the propensity for extinction goes way up because the specific environmental conditions that allow for such specialization have a way of not being stable. And in the snow leopard’s case, it’s gestation period coupled with it’s range needs (which leads to scarcity) means that the leopard has a very low reproduction rate. Any kind of change - a particularly harsh winter for instance that kills off or moves a lot of prey - can lead to the extinction of the species. That to me indicates that it isn’t very fit compared to other predators that have more adaptable qualities.

eric said:

What a beautiful animal. It makes me want to go back in time and smack some caveman heads. ‘Look guys, I know domesticating that wolf over there is a lot easier because it’s a pack animal, but speaking for your decendents, we’d really, really appreciate it if you spent the extra time and effort needed to domesticate that large, awesome cat instead.’

Hear hear! I want a lynx!!

Stevaroni -

It all depends on your perspective.

If you were a dung beetle, then it would be a vast windfall, literally manna from God, which, in this case really is dog spelled backward.

Of course I agree, and there are many creatures beside dung beetles who would take that perspective, possibly including some members of our own species. If fact, if William Dembski signs it and calls in “information theory”, it might sell for $21.95 a pile.

But beetles like natural dog dung just as much, so my original point (things don’t have to be “created” to be beautiful, and “created” things can be “ugly” to some observers) still stands.

Robin and Eric -

The word “fit” isn’t really a big part of the lexicon of modern biology any more, at least not on my side of the Atlantic, so I won’t get involved in arguing whether high specialization and/or vulnerability to extinction are markers of low “fitness”.

I will note that although individual big cat species (which are often defined in terms of morphology and habitat, and easily able to reproduce with other cat species) can come and go, the group as a whole has been highly adaptable and persistent for many thousands of years.

There is only one big cat that really gets along with humans in a “pet” role, historically, and it’s the cheetah (not coincidentally a very social cat), which is unfortunately endangered. It would be very obnoxious to keep a cheetah as a pet today - cheetah lovers should support the Cheetah Conservation Fund http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheeta[…]rvation_Fund

Dan Stodola said:

Again, let me stress that I was in a zoo. This is shooting fish in a barrel compared to “real” wildlife photography. You can get much closer to animals than you could in the wild, plus, at least for me, the kinds of animals I can find in the nearby outdoors are a lot smaller than what I can find in the zoo. And the bigger the target the farther away you can be for a given focal length.

My gear was a Canon 30D digital SLR camera and the Canon 70-200F4L lens (not the stabilized version). Yeah, that’d probably qualify as a professional lens, it has the signature white finish that Canon uses to distinguish their higher end lens line that also makes anyone using it highly conspicuous. Among the less expensive Canon L lenses, though, a popular first L lens from what I understand. The shot was taken at 200mm. I don’t want to get into this, but the camera was a 1.6x crop factor body, so take that into account as you wish.

Exposure was F4.5 and 1/800th of a second, ISO 400. The 70-200 F4 is pretty sharp wide open, so I could afford to shoot that way.

Honestly.. it’s not that clean. Every single one of my snow leopard shots have been taken through a thick glass viewing window. I give Brookfield all due credit, they keep their viewing glass in pretty good shape (except for the lion window, that thing is so scratched up it looks chemically etched, I don’t know what from). But any glass will degrade an image. The human eye may not see it, but the camera will. But for the snow leopards its my only choice other than shooting from a much longer distance away through a mesh fence material.

This shot was taken in the winter, the window was probably cleaner than it would have been on a warmer day when hordes of children would have been through, pressing their noses against the glass. But.. all of my snow leopard shots show loss of sharpness and fine detail due to the glass.

Just a note: A nature photographer I work with (warblers and other birds, mostly) bought a camouflage t-shirt from an army-navy store to wrap his large Canon lens with. A little velcro, some cutting and stitching and it goes on and off easily.

Cheap trick, but it works.

You know, I knew this kid when I was growing up…he would make stories up out of thin air and just keep going on and on, building the story as he went, and just the look in his eyes as he did this, you could see he half believed everything he was saying. Mr Byers, you remind me of that kid.

Didnt take long to class that kid as a useless moron, no need to be taking up any more of my time. Its a shame, I realise now this is a more common mental disorder than I had thought.

Long time lurker, rare poster. Keep up the good work folks! I will crawl back under my rock now.

Robert Byers said:

YEC here. This is a pretty kitty. Just a big version of house ones I know. in fact all cats are the same cat family. Indeed i would add the marsupial and other orders of cat looking creatures to the cat family. As a biblical creationist who sees kinds just coming off the ark i would presume the cat was not on the ark as we know see it but rather a type of a bigger order of creature. Many creationists would not see it that way but pre-flood and post flood diversity suggests that what kinds are is not just the present, even if striking, divisions in creatures. I suspect Noah would not of recognized the modern cat creaure.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on January 11, 2010 12:00 PM.

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