More than 100 new species identified; many are spiders, wasps and ants prizzly
December 17, 2010 9:16 PM Subscribe
Discoveries spanning five continents and three oceans cap the United Nations' International Year of Biodiversity
posted by infinite intimation (8 comments total)
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(Many of which are little things
[list of the described species
])Global biodiversity surveys over the past few years have provided increasing evidence that our planet is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. Plants, animals, and microorganisms are disappearing thousands of times more rapidly than they have for more than 65 million years, and for the first time in Earth's history, human activity is the predominant force behind this mass extinction. As governments and conservation organizations around the world attempt to stem this tide of disappearing species, they face a number of formidable challenges, but perhaps the greatest among them is this—we have only documented and described an estimated 10 percent of the species on Earth, and it's hard to save a species when you don't know that it exists.
In an effort to help address this critical need for data about the diversity and distribution of life on our planet, scientists from the California Academy of Sciences have spent the past year exploring some of the most diverse—and often most threatened—habitats on Earth, searching for new species and creating comprehensive biodiversity maps. In 2010, these scientists have added 113 new relatives to our family tree, including 83 arthropods, 20 fishes, four corals, two sea slugs, two plants, one reptile, and one fossil mammal. The new species were described by a dozen scientists from the California Academy of Sciences along with several dozen international collaborators.
California Academy of Sciences has a visualizations page.
This is an 'infographic' on endangered species (not from CAS).
And this isn't even starting to think about the impact of things like the Rise of the Prizzly
(or the 34 other potential arctic hybrids).
"The "prizzly" bear and other animal hybrids are threatening Arctic biodiversity and could lead to extinctions
, according to a commentary in this week's Nature journal
It "imperils species through interbreeding as well as through habitat loss," authors Brendan Kelly, Andrew Whiteley and David Tallmon argue. "As more isolated populations and species come into contact, they will mate, hybrids will form and rare species are likely to go extinct. As the genomes of species become mixed, adaptive gene combinations will be lost."
Kelly, a researcher at NOAA's National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Juneau and his colleagues have identified at least 34 possible hybridizations that could occur among animals in and around the Arctic.
Despite the problems with such hybrids, this is actually the semi-good news. The bad is that most cross-species matings don't even produce any viable offspring, so adult polar bears, whales, porpoises and other animals could mate multiple times and still die without having reproduced.
"But hybridization driven by human activities tends to occur quickly and to reduce genomic and species diversity," Kelly and his team write. "When mallard ducks were introduced to New Zealand in the 1860s, they began mating with native gray ducks. Now few, if any, pure native populations remain."