Posts Tagged ‘Extinction’

Caribbean Monk Seal Gone Extinct From Human Causes, NOAA Confirms

June 9, 2008

After a five year review, NOAA’s Fisheries Service has determined that the Caribbean monk seal, which has not been seen for more than 50 years, has gone extinct—the first type of seal to go extinct from human causes.

Monk seals became easy targets for hunters while resting, birthing, or nursing their pups on the beach. Overhunting by humans led to these seals’ demise, according to NOAA biologists.

The last confirmed sighting of the seal was in 1952 in the Caribbean Sea at Seranilla Bank, between Jamaica and the Yucatán Peninsula. This was the only subtropical seal native to the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

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New Zealand Bird Outwits Alien Predators

June 8, 2008

New research led by Dr Melanie Massaro and Dr Jim Briskie at the University of Canterbury, which found that the New Zealand bellbird is capable of changing its nesting behaviour to protect itself from predators, could be good news for island birds around the world at risk of extinction.

The introduction of predatory mammals such as rats, cats and stoats to oceanic islands has led to the extinction of many endemic island birds, and exotic predators continue to threaten the survival of 25 percent of all endangered bird species worldwide

[…] But their study on the bellbird, an endemic New Zealand bird, has identified the ability of a previously naïve island bird to change its nesting behaviour in response to the introduction of a large suite of exotic mammalian predators by humans.

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Priority Regions For Threatened Frog And Toad Conservation In Latin America

May 12, 2008

Nearly 35% of all amphibians are now threatened of extinction raising them to the position of the most endangered group of animals in the world. Decline of amphibian populations and species is ongoing due to habitat loss, fungal disease, climate shift and agrochemical contaminants. These impacts are even worse to frogs that reproduce in water bodies such as streams and ponds.

Despite of that, no study ever proposed key broad-scale regions for conserving these species till now. Rafael D. Loyola and his colleagues propose now a priority set of areas for the conservation of frogs and toads in Latin America. The study, published in this week’s PLoS ONE, is unprecedented in terms of not only the proposition of key-conservation areas, but also because it shows that the inclusion of species biological traits, such as reproductive modes, affects the performance of area-prioritization analyses.

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Trouble In Paradise: Global Warming A Greater Danger To Tropical Species

May 7, 2008

Polar bears fighting for survival in the face of a rapid decline of polar ice have made the Arctic a poster child for the negative effects of climate change. But new research shows that species living in the tropics likely face the greatest peril in a warmer world.

A team led by University of Washington scientists has found that while temperature changes will be much more extreme at high latitudes, tropical species have a far greater risk of extinction with warming of just a degree or two. That is because they are used to living within a much smaller temperature range to begin with, and once temperatures get beyond that range many species might not be able to cope.

“There’s a strong relationship between your physiology and the climate you live in,” said Joshua Tewksbury, a UW assistant professor of biology. “In the tropics many species appear to be living at or near their thermal optimum, a temperature that lets them thrive. But once temperature gets above the thermal optimum, fitness levels most likely decline quickly and there may not be much they can do about it.”

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Dwarf Cloud Rat Rediscovered After 112 Years of “Extinction”

May 3, 2008

A team of Filipino and American scientists have rediscovered a highly distinctive mammal — a greater dwarf cloud rat — that was last seen 112 years ago. Furthermore, it has never before been discovered in its natural habitat and was thought by some to be extinct.

The greater dwarf cloud rat (Carpomys melanurus) has dense, soft reddish-brown fur, a black mask around large dark eyes, small rounded ears, a broad and blunt snout, and a long tail covered with dark hair. An adult weighs about 185 grams.

“This beautiful little animal was seen by biologists only once previously — by a British researcher in 1896 who was given several specimens by local people, so he knew almost nothing about the ecology of the species,” said Lawrence Heaney, Curator of Mammals at the Field Museum and Project Leader. “Since then, the species has been a mystery, in part because there is virtually no forest left on Mt. Data, where it was first found.”

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Species loss ‘bad for our health’

April 27, 2008

A new generation of medical treatments could be lost forever unless the current rate of biodiversity loss is reversed, conservationists have warned.

They say species are being lost before researchers have had the chance to examine and understand their potential health benefits.

The findings appear in Sustaining Life, a book involving more than 100 experts.

It is being published ahead of a global summit in May that will look at ways to stem biodiversity loss by 2010.

“While extinction is alarming in its own right, the book demonstrates that many species can help human lives,” said co-author Jeffrey McNeely, chief scientist at IUCN (formerly known as the World Conservation Union).

“If we needed more justification for action to conserve species, it offers dozens of dramatic examples of both why and how citizens can act in ways that will conserve, rather than destroy, the species that enrich our lives.”

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Presumed Extinct Javan Elephants May Have Been Found Again – In Borneo

April 18, 2008

The Borneo pygmy elephant may not be native to Borneo after all. Instead, the population could be the last survivors of the Javan elephant race – accidentally saved from extinction by the Sultan of Sulu centuries ago, a new publication suggests.

The origins of the pygmy elephants, found in a range extending from the north-east of the island into the Heart of Borneo, have long been shrouded in mystery. Their looks and behaviour differ from other Asian elephants and scientists have questioned why they never dispersed to other parts of the island.

But a new paper published supports a long-held local belief that the elephants were brought to Borneo centuries ago by the Sultan of Sulu, now in the Philippines, and later abandoned in the jungle. The Sulu elephants, in turn, are thought to have originated in Java.

Javan elephants became extinct some time in the period after Europeans arrived in South-East Asia. Elephants on Sulu, never considered native to the island, were hunted out in the 1800s.

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Scientists will use groundbreaking technique to save one of rarest animals on the planet

April 17, 2008
With only 13 of the creatures left struggling to survive on the plains of the Congo, the northern white rhinoceros is one of the most threatened species in the world.

Plagued by poachers and with its habitat fast disappearing, the magnificent beast is now on the critically endangered list.

But new hope could be on the horizon, as Scottish scientists are hoping to use an innovative technique to save the creatures from extinction. It involves a pioneering genetic process that merges its stem cells with those of its cousin, the southern white rhino, to create a new animal, called a chimera.

It would be the first time the process has been used to try to preserve a species facing extinction in the wild – and, if successful, it could be used to save other endangered animals.

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Bikini Corals Recover From Atomic Blast, Although Some Species Missing

April 16, 2008

Half a century after the last earth-shattering atomic blast shook the Pacific atoll of Bikini, the corals are flourishing again. Some coral species, however, appear to be locally extinct.

These are the findings of a remarkable investigation by an international team of scientists from Australia, Germany, Italy, Hawaii and the Marshall Islands.  The expedition examined the diversity and abundance of marine life in the atoll.

One of the most interesting aspects is that the team dived into the vast Bravo Crater left in 1954 by the most powerful American atom bomb ever exploded (15 megatonnes – a thousand times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb).  The Bravo bomb vapourised three islands, raised water temperatures to 55,000 degrees, shook islands 200 kilometers away and left a crater 2km wide and 73m deep.

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When little things that rule world are lost

April 14, 2008

There are 6.5 billion people in the world today, three times as many as 50 years ago. There are undoubtedly three billion fewer insects, the forgotten creatures that maintain the fabric of life.

These include bees, butterflies, moths and all flying mites and invertebrates and sea creatures that inhabit earth and slime. Not many people, excepting scientists who watch and count, pay much attention.

Almost everybody is aware of the travails of the major star species such as polar bears, pandas and tigers. We are reminded on a daily basis of their endangerment. There was a scare about bees last year but honey is still in the supermarkets so the bee colony collapse is more or less old news.

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Cute animals ‘skewing’ extinction debate

April 2, 2008

Global extinctions are rarer than commonly believed and the extinction debate is too narrowly focused on pin-up images of charismatic birds and mammals, an Australian zoologist says.

Instead Professor Nigel Stork, of the University of Melbourne, urges greater focus on threats facing invertebrates and local extinctions.

Stork says statements about “100 extinctions a day” have become accepted, cited by organisations such as the United Nations and repeated in the popular media.

But Stork believes the science does not back this.

“The truth at the moment is we don’t have enough information to talk about hundreds of species dying out,” says Stork, the head of the university’s School of Resource Management and Geography.

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Fur flying over wolf control tactics

March 23, 2008


In case you missed it, some university biologists are doing a study around Rocky Mountain House that involves reducing wolf packs from around 19 animals to two or three.

This is to be done by sterilizing the alpha wolf couple and killing pups and other wolves in the pack.

This has the blessing and support of the department of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (headed by super-hunting fan Ted Morton) and is being partially funded by various hunting groups.

These facts, combined with some remarkably bad public relations, led the public to believe little wolf babies are going to get killed so that plaid-clad guys with rifles can have less competition on their weekend elk-killing sprees.

In fact, improving hunting is only a minor byproduct of keeping wolf numbers down.

Sure, some hunters will have more elk to shoot, but this is only of benefit to a small number of people and, as such, was only a minor objective of this study.

A grander goal – often overlooked – is to find a kinder way of keeping the wolves in this province from driving woodland caribou to extinction.

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A Frog Species Waves Goodbye

February 5, 2008

There’s no way that a Panamanian golden frog filmed by the BBC in 2006 could have known that the footage would amount to a good-bye message to the world.

But somehow, in some sentimental, unscientific and very true way, it seems like the frog — technically, a toad — understood what was happening. He raises his right foreleg and … waves. The show’s producer called the gesture unusual; such waves have been observed before, but usually the frogs prefer to croak. Shortly after the filming, the last remaining Panamanian golden frogs were captured in a last-ditch attempt to save the species from a fungal disease that has devastated frog populations worldwide, sending more than a hundred into extinction.

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Earth may soon face huge losses of species, and this time, we humans are the asteroids

January 20, 2008



The news of environmental traumas assails us from every side – unseasonal storms, floods, fires, drought, melting ice caps, lost species of river dolphins and giant turtles, rising sea levels potentially displacing inhabitants of Arctic and Pacific islands and hundreds of thousands of people dying every year from air pollution. This month has brought more – new reports that Greenland’s glaciers may be melting away at an alarming rate

…More than a decade ago, many scientists claimed that humans were demonstrating a capacity to force a major global catastrophe that would lead to a traumatic shift in climate, an intolerable level of destruction of natural habitats, and an extinction event that could eliminate 30 to 50 percent of all living species by the middle of the 21st century. Now those predictions are coming true. The evidence shows that species loss today is accelerating. We find ourselves uncomfortably privileged to be witnessing a mass extinction event as it’s taking place, in real time.

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