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Des chats vikings révèlent que nos félins de salon sont de plus en plus grands

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Un texte de Renaud Manuguerra-Gagné

Le chat est un bel exemple de domestication : en 10 000 ans, il est passé de chasseur solitaire à maître incontesté des foyers. Au départ, on appréciait les chats pour leur capacité à chasser les rongeurs loin des récoltes, alors que maintenant, c’est essentiellement pour des raisons affectives.

Entre ces deux étapes, il nous manque des éléments importants, non seulement en ce qui concerne leur cheminement, mais également en ce qui a trait à la façon dont ils ont pu changer en fréquentant les humains.

Or, une étude montre que cette proximité aurait bénéficié aux chats (Nouvelle fenêtre) d’une manière unique dans l’histoire de la domestication en leur permettant de croître en taille.

On ne parle pas ici d’une prise de poids liée à un phénomène d’obésité : depuis leur domestication, les chats semblent avoir vu leur taille augmenter de 16 % par rapport à leurs lointains ancêtres.

Plus surprenant encore, cette découverte a été possible grâce au lien particulier qui s’est établi entre ces félins… et les Vikings, ces guerriers et explorateurs scandinaves qui ont lancé des raids partout à travers l’Europe pendant une partie du Moyen Âge.

De l’Égypte au Danemark

Le chat domestique vit en compagnie des humains depuis au moins 9500 ans, mais les différentes espèces que l’on retrouve aujourd’hui descendent principalement des animaux domestiqués en Égypte en l’an 1500 avant notre ère.

Selon des travaux publiés en 2017 (Nouvelle fenêtre), les Égyptiens pourraient avoir spécifiquement sélectionné les chats ayant le comportement le plus docile. En ne laissant se reproduire que les animaux les moins agressifs ou les moins solitaires, ils ont progressivement transformé cet animal sauvage et indépendant en une espèce moins farouche.

Ces chats se sont alors dispersés facilement à travers l’Europe en étant embarqués sur les bateaux afin d’y contrôler les rongeurs. C’est ainsi que des chats ayant des origines génétiques égyptiennes se sont retrouvés au Danemark dès le 2e siècle. Leur nombre a considérablement augmenté au début de l’âge des Vikings, entre le 8e et le 11e siècle.

Les Vikings appréciaient particulièrement les chats parce qu’ils protégeaient de la vermine leurs bateaux et leurs fermes. Et aussi, leur pelage était utilisé dans la fabrication de vêtements chauds.

On voit huit crânes de chats disposés sur une surface blanche.En haut à droite, on retrouve deux crânes de chats de l’époque des Vikings (les plus petits). En bas à droite, deux crânes de chats modernes (les plus gros). Photo : Anne Birgitte Gotfredsen

2000 ans d’histoire féline

Contrairement aux os d’autres animaux de ferme, les ossements de chats sont rares en archéologie.

Or, des ossements ont été trouvés en forte concentration dans des régions nordiques. Ceux utilisés dans cette étude provenaient de fosses communes au Danemark où les chats étaient enterrés après récupération de leur pelage. Ils étaient en nombre suffisant pour étudier l’évolution de ces animaux de la fin de l’âge de bronze jusqu’au 17e siècle.

En comparant les tailles des os anciens avec ceux de chats modernes, les chercheurs ont remarqué que nos félins étaient 16 % plus grands que leurs ancêtres ayant côtoyé les Vikings, et ce, autant dans la longueur des pattes qu’au niveau de la mâchoire.

Cette tendance est à l’inverse de ce qui est normalement observé lors d’une domestication animale. Les chiens, par exemple, sont en moyenne 25 % plus petits que leurs cousins sauvages, les loups gris.

Pour le moment, il est difficile de dire pour quelle raison une telle croissance n’a été observée que chez les chats.

L’une des possibilités serait que la domestication a entraîné un changement dans les gènes des chats permettant une plus forte croissance. Des études devront toutefois être faites pour confirmer cette hypothèse tout en s’assurant que cette tendance s’applique également aux chats ailleurs que dans les pays scandinaves.

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Canadian tech diversity and inclusion in the spotlight

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Diversity and inclusion are hot-button issues, but for all the attention they get, there’s still work to be done in the tech sector, according to a recent Gartner blog.

Citing a range of challenges that include pay inequity, lack of diversity in corporate management, and difficulty recruiting diverse talent, the blog suggests three possible remedies for organizations trying to become more diverse and inclusive: having a long-term plan but focusing on one aspect that will make the most benefit, setting targets and making leadership accountable, and committing resources.

The call for such strategies finds support in a report from the Brookfield Institute revealing that Canada’s technology sector has a disappointing track record when it comes to inclusion and equity, with women “four times less likely to be employed in the sector than men, and earning on average $7,300 less than men in technology jobs.”

The findings are just as grim in a January 2020 report funded by Canada’s Future Skills Centre. According to this document, despite corporate commitments to diversity, “decades of initiatives designed to advance women in technology have scarcely had an effect: The proportion of women in engineering and computer science in Canada has changed little in 25 years.”

And women are not the only disadvantaged group, says the report. “The under-employment of skilled immigrants and under-representation of women and other groups in the ICT industry suggests that recruitment and retention policies and practices of the very firms complaining about this [skills] gap may be contributing to the problem.”

Until we do a better job of addressing inclusion and diversity, career opportunities will continue to be limited for women, internationally educated professionals, racialized minorities, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. In addition to being a very human issue, this is also one that perpetuates the ICT skills gap by failing to tap into a supply of well-qualified labour.

On the bright side, there are technology companies and organizations across Canada that are truly determined to create opportunities for those who are under-represented in the digital talent pool. There is also an opportunity to recognize their efforts during Channel Innovation 2021: Adapting to the New Customer Experience, a 2.5-hour, virtual event on April 28, 2021.

A showcase for independent software vendors (ISVs) and Canadian channel innovators, the Channel Innovation 2021 celebration will take place on CIA-TV, a unique ITWC platform that allows the audience to take in the show, download related content and videos, and network in live breakout rooms. There are six award categories, including the C4 Award for Diversity and Inclusion. Nominating is simple. Whether a self- or third-party nomination, there are only two main questions to answer and an opportunity to include a supporting document or image.

Winning entries will be announced during the celebration and profiled in the Channel Daily News Magazine and in Direction Informatique, ITWC’s French-language publication devoted to the Quebec marketplace. They will also receive a digital badge for use on their websites and on social media to help gain industry-wide recognition and end-user exposure.

The media attention and recognition are reason enough to vie for this honour, and we always need things to celebrate during a global pandemic, but the real value in awards for diversity and inclusion is in setting an example for others to follow. The news is full of the ways we are falling down when it comes to equity in the IT sector. Let’s take some time to highlight the success stories and encourage other tech innovators to step up.

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Leading Canadian tech entrepreneur Saadia Muzaffar to give virtual keynote in Peterborough on March 9

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In celebration of International Women’s Day, one of Canada’s leading female tech entrepreneurs will be giving a virtual keynote for residents of Peterborough and the Kawarthas on Tuesday, March 9th at 7 p.m.

The Innovation Cluster is hosting Saadia Muzaffar as part of its ‘Electric City Talks’ series.

Muzaffar is a tech entrepreneur, author, and passionate advocate of responsible innovation, decent work for everyone, and prosperity of immigrant talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She is the founder of TechGirls Canada, a hub for Canadian women in STEM, and co-founder of Tech Reset Canada, a group of business people, technologists, and other residents advocating for innovation that is focused on the public good.

In 2017, Muzaffar was featured in Canada 150 Women, a book about 150 of the most influential and groundbreaking women in Canada. Her work has been featured in CNNMoney, BBC World, Fortune Magazine, The Globe and Mail, VICE, CBC, TVO, and Chatelaine.

Muzaffar’s March 9th talk, entitled ‘Redefining Term Sheets: Success, Solidarity, & The Future We Want’, will inspire women to achieve success in all areas of life, including in business by providing strategies for obtaining funding.

“It is impossible to explain how women only get 2.2 per cent of funding for their ventures while we constitute a majority of the population, without acknowledging long-standing structural and systemic bias,” Muzaffar says, describing her talk. “Women know these odds in our bones because we feel them in too many boardrooms, banks, media advertisements, and venture competitions — yet women are the fastest-growing demographic in new businesses.”

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ARK’s Cathie Wood joins board of Canadian tech firm mimik

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ARK Invest’s Cathie Wood is joining the board of Canadian technology company mimik.

Vancouver-based mimik is an edge computing company that effectively turns devices like phones into private cloud servers. It has already teamed up with Amazon Web Services and IBM on edge computing – two of the bigger players in the space.

The AWS partnership gives software developers access to mimik’s cloud platform. Together, edge devices including smart phones, tablets, and Internet of Things (IoT) products can act as extensions of the AWS cloud. With the IBM partnership, mimik’s technology will be included in automation and digital transformation across manufacturing, retail, IoT and healthcare.

All of mimik’s business lines fit in with Wood’s broad ‘next generation internet’ thesis, one of her big five investment themes. The company itself is private and Wood is not an investor. 

However, as Citywire noted in January, Wood has hinted in interviews that ARK is exploring the launch of a private markets strategy. 

Wood joins a relatively high profile board at mimik. Other members include  Allen Salmasi, a pioneer in mobile technology who was previously with Qualcomm, and Ori Sasson, managing director of Primera Capital, who was an investor in VMWare and other technology companies.

‘I’ve always believed in backing founders who are at the forefront of innovation,’ Wood said in a statement on her decision to join mimik. ‘At mimik, [they] have built a foundation for the next generation of cloud computing.’ 

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