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Variations on a Theme

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On Laelaps, Brian Switek considers the fate of Smilodon, a saber-toothed hypercarnivore that roamed through ancient Los Angeles. Although textbook descriptions of such animals are usually cut-and-dried, Brian writes that “genetic, anatomical, or behavioral variations are grist for natural selection’s mill,” and so individuals within a species can vary considerably over space and time. On Tetrapod Zoology, Darren Naish discusses the peculiar babirusa, a beast that looks like a pig, incorporates “deer-like slender legs and a multi-chambered stomach,” and has horn-like canine teeth growing from its snout. Babirusas display a wide range of morphology across their Indonesian habitat—and a male babirusa even begat hybridized offspring with a domestic pig in a zoo. Finally, on Gene Expression, Razib Khan reports new efforts to raise the Aurochs from the dead. Using preserved genes as a guide, breeders will “hunt for the variants in modern cattle strains” in an attempt to recreate the phenotype and genotype of this extinct piece of meat.

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