Invertebrate numbers nearly halve as human population doubles.
The decline of birds
might have something to do with this recent news that half the insects (and spiders, crustaceans, slugs, worms) are gone.
"I had heard about this film through various channels off and on through the years. It had gotten to the point where it was almost apocryphal in my mind.... Nobody knew where it was, nobody had ever seen it, but I was aware it existed. It was like the holy grail
." said Wayne Petersen, director of the Massachusetts Important Bird Areas program for Mass. Audubon on the archival footage of the extinct heath hen discovered, restored and premiering at the Mass Audubon Birders Meeting this month. [more inside]
The Mammoth Cometh.
"Bringing extinct animals back to life
is really happening — and it’s going to be very, very cool. Unless it ends up being very, very bad." [Previously, Via]
In his 1996 book The Song of the Dodo, David Quammen observed that if you destroy most of a habitat and leave only a small patch of wilderness behind, you have effectively created an island—and islands, for complex ecological reasons, sustain far fewer species and far more extinctions than mainlands. Now watch things get complicated. At the same time that our logging, mining, farming, road-building, suburban-sprawling species is turning the entire planet into an archipelago, “global trade and travel do the reverse: they deny even the remotest islands their remoteness.”
The result, as Kathryn Schulz reports
, is that we are living through The Sixth Extinction
A beaver is alive and well in England
, about 800 years after the last one was seen alive.
Of course the big question remains: Where the heck did the beaver come from
It looks like axolotls are gone forever.
This may not mean much to you if you aren't into amphibians, but if you read Mad Magazine back in the day the word might conjure up some memories
, or even a poem. [more inside]
has recently visited
the Awa- Guaja, a hunter gatherer people who are on the verge of extinction
Brazil has sent in the armed forces
to try and protect their lands and the animals that live there from illegal logging
is an artist who has made reconstructions of extinct creatures' vocal tracts
, extrapolating from extant species and fossil remains. The Extinction Orchestra
. [more inside]
The Lost Bird Project
documents the stories of five North American birds driven to extinction in modern times and sculptor Todd McGrain
's road-trip to memorialize them. (via
Extinction got you down? Try de-extinction! Our species has played a role in the extinction of ... many other species. But now some scientists are proposing a radical turn of the tables: Bringing lost species back from the dead. How to Resurrect Lost Species
. [more inside]
The Guinea Worm, which causes Guinea Worm disease (or Dracunculiasis
) is on track
to be the first parasitic disease eliminated
. And with only a water filter
. [more inside]
DNA analysis has confirmed the death, by poaching, of the last Javan rhino in Vietnam.
This marks the official extinction of the Vietnamese subspecies of Javan rhinoceros. The entire species is now represented by just 35 individuals from the Indonesian subspecies, all of whom reside in Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia.
"Mountain of Dinosaurs" (1967)
A Russian cartoon, directed by Rasa Strautmane
. WARNING: things don't end well for the Dinosaurs. [via
"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]
"In 1920, the brothers Lutz and Heinz Heck, directors of the Berlin and Munich zoos, respectively, began a two-decade breeding experiment. Working with domestic cattle sought out for their 'primitive' characteristics, they attempted to recreate 'in appearance and behavior' the living likeness of the animals’ extinct wild ancestor: the aurochs
. 'Once found everywhere in Germany,' according to Lutz Heck, by the end of the Middle Ages the aurochs had largely succumbed to climate change, overhunting, and competition from domestic breeds." [more inside]
Dr. Nick Bostrom
puts the probability of an existential event
wiping out humanity in this century at 10-20%.
Each time we make one of these new discoveries we are putting our hand into a big urn of balls and pulling up a new ball---so far we've pulled up white balls and grey balls, but maybe next time we will pull out a black ball, a discovery that spells disaster. At the moment we have no good way of putting the ball back into the urn if we don't like it. Once a discovery has been published there is no way of un-publishing it.
(Dr Bostrom, previously on Metafilter
Islands make up only about 3% of the earth's land area but host about 20% of all species and 50 to 60% of endangered species
. The biggest threat to islands
are invasive species, mainly rats
, but also pigs and cats, who feed on nesting birds and native plants. New Zealand has been the innovator in clearing islands of rats
because of its endangered populations of flightless birds which are vulnerable. One species of flightless parrot, known as the kakapo
, has only 131 individuals
left in the "wild" - they are closely guarded 24x7 on Codfish Island
, their nests surrounded by rat traps and cameras vigilantly on the lookout for invaders
. [more inside]
Agony and Ivory.
"Highly emotional and completely guileless, elephants
mourn their dead—and across Africa, they are grieving daily as demand from China’s 'suddenly wealthy' has driven the price of ivory
to $700 a pound or more. With tens of thousands of elephants
being slaughtered each year for their tusks, raising the specter of an 'extinction vortex,' Alex Shoumatoff travels from Kenya to Seattle to Guangzhou, China, to expose those who are guilty in the massacre
—and recognize those who are determined to stop it."
Cats are apparently the culprits behind several avian extinctions worldwide. So, are cats bad for the environment?
William Temple Hornaday was an early--and probably a founding--member of the American conservation movement, and was also director of the National Zoological Park. He wrote a tremendously bitter and accurate report for the U.S. National Museum in 1894 on the extermination of the American bison, an absolute head-shaker, detailing the history of the bison in North America and its destruction at the hands of sportsmen, hunters, mindless dolts and many others who massacred tens of millions of the animal ("murdered" is the word Hornaday uses constantly). To put the whole issue in perspective, Hornaday issued a famous map showing the shrinkage of the North American bison herd, setting out the enormity of the issue instantly on one piece of paper, a summary of hundreds of pages of bad stories and big numbers.
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
Don't continue fooling yourself
. The earth is growing and expanding rapidly. Despite plate tectonics' popular acceptance in the 60s, Samuel Warren Carey
, the father of modern expansion tectonics, was publicly promoting his theories of an expanded earth
as late as 1981. One of the theory's most prominent modern spokesmen is comics artist Neal Adams
, who has created a number of informative videos
about a new model of the universe
that even manages to explain why the dinosaurs died out
. [more inside]
In the year 2182 -- 172 years time -- there's a 1 in 1000 chance
that we might be hit
by a very large asteroid. With two centuries advance notice, will we be able to develop effective asteroid deflection techniques
? [more inside]
Adapted from the book "Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food" for the New York Times. A pretty bleak look at the state of world wide tuna fishing.
"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
Attenborough's Pitcher, an "Udderly Weird Yam," a two-inch phallic mushroom already immortalized on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me
, and the "Bombardier Worm" ("Chaff worm" would seem a more accurate name) are just four of the newly described species making the International Institute for Species Exploration's totally arbitrary Top 10 New Species list
. [more inside]
'You are being shagged by a rare parrot'.
Stephen Fry and zoologist Mark Carwardine have been revisiting the animals on the edge of extinction which Douglas Adams described in Last Chance to See
. Here they make the acquaintance of an amorous kakapo
This is a metaphor for something
In 2000, the Spanish Pyrenean Ibex
(a type of mountain goat) went extinct. In early 2009 it was brought back to life
, the first time an extinct species has been "successfully" cloned. The newborn bucardo died of respiratory failure minutes after birth, setting a second extinction record.
Bats sleep upside down. They hang by their feet. They have little claws. They use echolocation to catch bugs. They are the only mammals that fly. They sleep during the day. They are dying
. [more inside]
of Americans say global warming is real and poses a threat to humanity. Which is good because if the global temperature raises by 4 degrees
we're all dead. However only 44 percent would be willing to face any financial hardship in the name of a solution.
, papaya, honey locust, paw paw, persimmon,
and many more
: fruits that have outlasted the gomphotheres
and other megafauna
. These "anachronistic fruits" can be a key to understanding their intended consumers
. And even more