Raymond Pierotti

Associate Professor
Vertebrate Evolutionary Ecology 
Ph.D., Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Phone: (785) 864-4326
Fax: (785) 864-5860

1. This is an image of Siberia about 20,000 years ago, but it could just as easily be Kansas or Missouri at the same period of time.

2. Most of the Birds and Mammals are shared between the Nearctic and Palearctic region, because these two realms have been connected repeatedly, especially during the Pleistocene when Beringia between Eastern Siberia and Alaska connected the two continents

3. Despite the fact that many people consider Beringia as a path by which North America was invaded by a number of Old World Species, including modern humans, it is clear that the size and nature of this land area was not a land bridge, but a wide cold prairie over which many species roamed, some crossing from Asia into North America (Mammoth, Wooly rhinoceros, Red Deer, Moose, Lions, Cheetahs), whereas many others (Wolves, Bears, Horses, Camels) invaded Asia from North America.


4. Algirdas Knystautas 1987 The Natural History of the USSR McGraw Hill New York page 32. The primary biomes that I will discuss are The Taiga, The Montane Steppes, and the Mixed Forest, because these are the classic Biomes of Siberia.

5. Lawrence is located in an ecotonal region between the Prairie and the Eastern Deciduous Forest, which used to start in Western Missouri and run all the way to the Atlantic Coast. Ecotones tend to have higher biodiversity because they contain faunal elements from each of the blending habitat types.

6. The Tiger in some ways is the spirit of the Taiga, although it has never been a common resident of this habitat type.

7. The Lynx is the most widespread large cat in the world, with a distribution from Spain to Labrador. Same species in both Asia and North America. The Snow Leopard is the dominant predator of the Montane areas, and is found from Mongolia to Kazakhstan and south to Tibet

8. The wolf was almost certainly the first species “domesticated” by humans. This may have happened as long ago as 100,000 years. The (sub)fossil record of dogs supposedly goes back only about 12,000 years but that means animals that were distinctly and clearly not wolves. It is likely that humans and wolves lived together in close relationships for 80 or 90 thousand years without changing the basic appearance of wolves.

9. On left is Tamaskan Dog from Northern Part of European Russia. On Right are Siberian Huskies in their purest form. Both are probably domesticated wolves. These represent the types of “dogs” that humans have lived with for long periods of time. Contemporary domestic dogs retain juveniles traits into adulthood (sexual maturity) and many species do not truly mature to the level of independence

10. Russians pay careful attention to breeding and breed many forms that Americans don’t, like foxes These experiments assumed that behaviors, like tameness were traits that could be selected for like milk or meat production

11. This was one of the first experiments to demonstrate that selecting for changes in behavior could also lead to changes in morphology and appearance. Selection was actually on developmental features rather than on behavior because “tamer” animals were those who were most juvenile (slower developing) in several traits. What surprised people even more is that this took only about 5-10 generations for these changes to take place. A similar sort of breeding effort may have produced the recognizable “domestic dogs” of 15,000 ybp.

12. Forms on the left were produced by Fur Industry. Those in center and on right are naturally occurring variants In most of US and In England, only the classic Red Fox morph appears. This work on foxes shows that any species can be selectively bred, but you cannot always be sure what you might get. The traits selected for are quantitative traits, not classic Mendelian traits and affect many features of the organism at once.

13. Siberians live closely with their nonhuman counterparts and in many cases they have established quasi-domesticated relationships, which includes most of the large ungulates. This relationship is better described as commensalism than as domestication, which implies complete dominance by humans. Commensals are species that live together because both benefit from the interaction and both retain a degree of independence. They live together in many case because they want to, not because they have to. If these animals were released back to nature they could live with little difficulty aside from the risk that they might trust humans too much.

14. Many of these species show up in the art of the Indigenous peoples, like the camel with attitude on the left and the tiger attacking an Elk.

15. Many Siberian cultures depend upon close relationships with large ungulates that determine their ways of life and much of their cultural traditions. Horses are Native to North American and moved into Asia relatively recently. They are the only species of North American ancestry to have been domesticated, but not in North America. They are the only truly domesticated animal of the Siberian large ungulates.

16. Some apparently obvious candidates, e.g. zebras and buffalo have bad tempers and stand up for themselves. See Chapter 9 of Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs and Steel.

17. On Left is the Maral or Red Deer, which is the same species as American Elk or Wapiti. The right is the Eurasian Elk, which we call Moose. Both Moose and Wapiti are names given by Indigenous Americans.

18. Saiga antelope used to be abundant, millions lived on the steppe, until some figured that their horns could be sold as a substitute for rhinoceros horn. Hundreds of thousands were slaughtered, often harvested by machine gunning them from trucks. The Amur Leopard is the world's most endangered  large carnivore, with fewer than 40 individuals left.

19. The only antelope with a trunk, both males and females possess this feature, which helps to warm air before it passes into nasal passages. Should be the symbol of the steppes, but has been heavily impacted, especially by hunting males for their horns (females lack these).

20. Siberian Tigers were holding their own until the collapse of the Soviet Union, when poaching to sell to China became one of the few ways to earn money in the Primorye. Red Pandas are sort of a cross between a small bear and a cat, but are related to raccoons.

21. The largest cat in the world and larger than any other terrestrial carnivore but Grizzly (Brown) and Polar Bears, both of which also occur in Siberia. Some have apparently been put to work shoveling snow in the cities.

22. The Brown Bear is the same species as American Grizzly, but generally less aggressive. The Moon Bear or Asiatic Black Bear is a unique genus, but occupies a niche similar to the American Black Bear.

23. Musk Deer are widespread throughout the Taiga, but are killed for their scent glands, plus their canines are sold as souvenirs. The Roe Deer used to occur all throughout Asia, and hangs on in reasonable numbers anywhere that forests persist.

24. Only the males have these large canines, which are used in display and occasionally in combat. Males are taken for meat and their musk glands which are used in perfume manufacture.

25. There are still some wild reindeer and yaks, that is there are some that have no commensal relationship with humans.

26. Siberian Weasel is almost like a ferret and its fur is used for trim on coats. The Sable is a close relative of the American fisher and Marten, but it has the richest fur of any mammal but the sea otter.

27. Sturgeon are taken for caviar, which are their eggs. The Nerpa, or Baikal Seal, is one of the few aquatic mammals to spend its entire evolutionary history in Freshwater, living in Lake Baikal the world’s deepest lake.

28. The Capercailie is the most sexually dimorphic bird in the world, with males being about three times as large as females. It is an ecological equivalent of the American Wild Turkey. The Eagle Owl is a large predator of the Taiga, and are often active during the day.

29. In Central Asia Golden Eagles are used to hunt wolves, especially on the Steppe.

30. Cranes are a scared bird in Siberia and everywhere in the world but the US where it is possible to obtain a license to shoot them, and we wonder why we have a troubled spirit as a nation. Steller’s Sea Eagle is one of the largest Eagles in the world, it is like a Bald Eagle on steroids. 

31. Amur Leopard Cat is a small predator that takes mostly birds and small mammals. The Raccoon Dog is truly a dog of the mixed forests, even though it looks superficially like a raccoon

32. In hamsters females are larger and more aggressive than males, one of the few species of mammal where this pattern is found. 

Wild Russia