"Priceless or Worthless?" is a handsomely photographed report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature identifying the 100 most endangered animals, plants, and fungi (9 MB PDF) on the planet and what needs to be done to save them. [more inside]
The red-crested tree rat (Santamartamys rufodorsalis), not seen in over a hundred years, made an unexpected, nonchalant appearance at the El Dorado Bird Reserve in Colombia a couple of weeks ago. Witnesses are unavailable for comment, being too busy with squeals of "Awwwwwww" to respond to questions. Press release here; high-res photos heEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
This species was around seventy-six million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the continents were splitting. The impact of a colossal space rock wiped out the dinosaurs but did not finish them off, even though their habitat was close to 'ground zero'. They survived the super-hot "greenhouse Earth" of the Eocene, major changes in global ecosystems, and the Ice Age (take that, Scrat). They have grooved teeth which inject venom into their prey; very strong limbs which end in long sharp claws. They have only three native predators. However this 'living fossil' called the Solenodon could soon be wiped out by mongoose, people and wild dogs. [more inside]
"Bryn the pygmy rabbit died in 2008, marking the end of her genetic line. This subpopulation lost its sagebrush habitat as the land was developed for agriculture ... In an off-exhibit room at the Oregon Zoo, the staff was quiet, even reverent, as they brought in Bryn. She was one of two Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits left, and since both were old females, this was a solemn occasion." Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species
The amazing story of the coelacanth is one of the wonders of the living world that inspires marine biologists such myself. Coelacanths, part of the offshoot lineage of fishes known as "lobed finned ", are very different from typical "ray finned" fishes that you usually think of. Their bizarre lobed fins are thought to be an intermediate step between fish fins and amphibian legs. Scientists had known that these weird fish existed because of fossils for over a century, but we believed that they went extinct 65 million years ago... until a South African fisherman caught one in 1938. [more inside]
Endangered Species Act Protections Restored by President Obama. Previous regulation made it easier to start projects without consulting scientists.
What Is A Species? "To this day, scientists struggle with that question. A better definition can influence which animals make the endangered list."
Four endangered gorillas were found shot dead in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a conservation group announced today. For all the evil bastards that do this, there are many, many more good people fighting the good fight to help keep gorillas healthy. One, even has a blog.
Amphibian Extinction Crisis: "For the first time in modern history, because of the way that humans are impacting our natural world, we're facing the extinction of an entire class of organisms....This is not the extinction of just a panda or a rhino, it's a whole class of organisms." Original declaration of the Amphibian Conservation Summit (pdf). More details in the BBC and San Francisco Chronicle. Previously.
What animals are endangered? (2006, updated from 2004) One in four mammals. One in three amphibians. Raw data and photos behind what others call the mass extinction crisis. Polar bears expected extinct in 25 years. In a little good news, Great Apes may be granted human rights in Spain (like the mountain gorilla -- all 660 that remain). In other news, without salmon, widespread bankruptcy expected in California's fishing industry. Me? I can only afford an electric sheep.
The Endangered Species Act marked its 30th anniversary this December. Some say we need it while others say we need to change it. Whatever its faults, many species have benefited from it.