At the Aquarium by Cathy Beylon

By Cathy Beylon

Twenty-nine illustrations of creatures in recreations in their traditional habitats contain seahorses, a dolphin, fiddler and horseshoe crabs, seals, and different aquatic animals.

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Yellowstone's superintendent, Robert Barbee, and others have complained of the attention lavished upon "charismatic megafauna" at the expense of the ecosystem that sustains all life in the park, and are doing what they can to educate the public. ) But, still, outraged visitors recently demanded to know why park officials did nothing to help a hapless bison that fell through the ice in full view of tourists. Many biologists argue that in the absence of the predatorsboth Indian hunters and wolveswho had once kept the elk populations in check, overgrazing will continue; they have suggested that park rangers shoot animals that exceed the natural carrying capacity of the land.

Questions have also been raised about the validity of this research, which was carried out in the Soviet Union in the 1960s. That of course is a separate issue, but one that does seem to warrant further investigation. ) Page x But I think that the basic objection slightly misses the point. The key conclusion that I was trying to draw from the results of this experiment (assuming that the research was well conducted and accurately reported) is simply this: relatively few genes are involved in controlling the very dramatic physical and behavioral changes that have taken place in the descent of domestic animals.

And when the time came for it to die, they still Page xix packed it off to market, in spite of the seductive sentimentality that would make those of us less wise, but no more humane, do otherwise. It was a lesson in how much we have simply forgotten in our civilized lives, where the harsh rules of nature almost never intrude. We have forgotten how to face life without losing a grip either on our humanity or on reality. This book was born in part of my experiences as an impostor farmer; in part of my fascination with archaeological and behavioral research that is beginning to reveal domestication of animals as a natural product of evolution; and in part of my anger at the simplistic stereotypes of man and nature that are being purveyed by an ever more confrontational animal rights movement to an ever more urban audience.

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