Tag Archives | Extinction

The Sixth Extinction Is Here — And It’s Our Fault

Layla1.jpg

If it’s sounds serious, it is. The Sixth Extinction is a very real and massive loss of bioversity on Earth, happening right now, reports James Temple at re/code:

The Earth appears to be in the early stages of the Sixth Extinction, the latest in a series of mass biodiversity losses that have punctuated the history of life on the planet, according to a paper published in Science this week.

The defining characteristic of the current round — the latest since the dinosaurs disappeared about 65 million years ago — seems to be driven mostly by the actions of humankind. We’re steadily encroaching on the habitat of millions of species while fundamentally altering the environment.

More than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct since 1500, according to the researchers at Stanford University. Surviving species have declined in abundance by about 25 percent, particularly devastating the ranks of large animals like elephants, rhinoceroses and polar bears.

And it’s only likely to get worse. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changereport in 2007 predicts that an increase of 3.5 degrees Celsius, within the range of scientistic forecasts for 2100, could wipe out 40 to 70 percent of the species assessed so far…

[continues at re/code]

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CNN Runs False iReport That Incoming Asteroid May End Life On Planet

cnn.asteroidWhoops. This hoax will likely be an extinction-level event for whatever editor was asleep at the wheel over the long weekend.

The message is clear enough. It’s not a nice thing to contemplate the first day back at work after a three-day holiday weekend, but the good news is that it looks like the only impact story here is the fact that the cable news network has slammed the Earth with an enormous bolide of B.S.

The post is from iReports, which is apparently an experiment in citizen journalism. CNN lets random people with no qualifications post stories under the CNN banner. The asteroid scare illustrates the hazard of this approach.

Apparently ireporters don’t need to reveal their names. The asteroid report’s author has called himself, or herself, Marcus575. The story says the giant asteroid was spotted by a project called the Near-Earth Object Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE), which really exists.

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Dark Matter ‘Disc’ May Have Killed the Dinosaurs

PIC: Nina Zeretsky/National Science Foundation (PD)

PIC: Nina Zeretsky/National Science Foundation (PD)

As if blazing comets pounding into the earth and wiping out giant lizard monsters isn’t metal enough, now some scientists are speculating that “dark matter” may have played a role in the great dinosaur die-off. The scientists theorize that as our solar system circles around the center of our galaxy it might pass through a dark matter “disc” every 35 million years. The disc might send comets flying our way. Me? I think I’ll call it the Loc-Nar theory of mass extinction.

Via New Scientist:

Its name has always made it sound ominous – and now dark matter could have a menacing role in Earth’s history. A recent explanation for the identity of the mysterious stuff leads to a scenario in which it could be to blame for the extinctions of dinosaurs, or at least send a few extra comets shooting our way.

Although the sequence of events connecting dark matter to dinosaurs, or even comets, is still pretty tenuous, it is intriguing because it brings together two big open questions: the identity of dark matter and whether there is a pattern to comet strikes on Earth.

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Scientists Discover Gene Needed for ‘Memory Extinction’

sunshine mouseLike everyone, I’ve got my share of bad memories, but would erasing them change me for the worse?

Via Medical News Today:

Many of us are the bearers of “bad” memories that, to this day, continue to affect our lives. Now, scientists say they have discovered a gene essential for “memory extinction,” the process by which our brain replaces older memories with new experiences.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) say the discovery could help people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by replacing “fearful” memories with more positive associations.

The gene, Tet1, has been found to play a critical role in memory extinction by controlling a small group of other genes that are necessary for the process.

For the study, published in the journal Neuron, the research team experimented on mice who had the Tet1 gene “knocked out,” as well as on mice who had normal levels of the gene.

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Western Black Rhinoceros Officially Extinct

Picture: Vassil (PD)

Picture: Vassil (PD)

I shouted out, “Who killed the [Black Rhino]?”
When after all, It was you and me..

Chalk another one up to humanity…

Via CNN:

Africa’s western black rhino is now officially extinct according the latest review of animals and plants by the world’s largest conservation network.

The subspecies of the black rhino — which is classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species — was last seen in western Africa in 2006.

The IUCN warns that other rhinos could follow saying Africa’s northern white rhino is “teetering on the brink of extinction” while Asia’s Javan rhino is “making its last stand” due to continued poaching and lack of conservation.

Keep reading.

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Brazil To Clone Animals In Danger Of Extinction

After our planet’s climate drastically changes, the wildlife of today will exist in cloned form in tomorrow’s zoos, Inter Press Service reports:

Brazilian scientists are attempting to clone animals in danger of extinction, like the jaguar and maned wolf, although the potential impact on the conservation of these threatened species is still not clear.

The cloning initiative is being undertaken by the Brasilia Zoological Garden in partnership with the Brazilian government’s agricultural research agency, EMBRAPA, and is now in its second phase. “We already have 420 germplasm samples stored in our bank and are going to continue collecting,” [said] EMBRAPA researcher Carlos Frederico Martins.

Eight animals have been chosen, including the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), the jaguar (Panthera onca) and the black lion tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysopygus). The bank has also been stocked with germplasm from the bush dog (Speothos venaticus), coati (genus Nasua), collared anteater (Tamandua tetradactyla), gray brocket deer (Mazama gouazoubira) and bison (genus Bison).

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So Perfect, They Had to Die…

You’ve seen their shells in science textbooks, design magazines, and haggard hotel wall art, quite soon those might be the only places you’ll find one of nature’s most mathematically pleasing marvels, the nautilus. Their iconic image, made famous by their shell’s alignment with Fibonnaci’s sequence for determining the Golden Ratio, has also made them a target for humanity’s hunger for novelty. Having survived previous eras of mass extinction, it looks like in our design conscious world the nautilous might be marked for death by its perfection:

Nautilus, Golden Ratio“Nautilus’s ability, using the hydraulic system at the heart of the shell, to sink down to ocean depths of several hundred feet and lay eggs there, made these sea creatures immune to all the chaos that was going on at the surface in earlier extinctions. They could slow down their metabolism and just hibernate through whatever was going on above.

But they can’t cope with the fishermen who lure them into baited nets in the waters of the Philippines, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Fiji and Samoa.… Read the rest

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Land-Sea Ecological Chains of Life Threatened With Extinction Around the World

Manta RayAnd it’s not like we humans aren’t part of such chains. Via ScienceDaily:

Douglas McCauley and Paul DeSalles did not set out to discover one of the longest ecological interaction chains ever documented. But that’s exactly what they and a team of researchers — all current or former Stanford students and faculty — did in a new study published in Scientific Reports.

Their findings shed light on how human disturbance of the natural world may lead to widespread, yet largely invisible, disruptions of ecological interaction chains. This, in turn, highlights the need to build non-traditional alliances — among marine biologists and foresters, for example — to address whole ecosystems across political boundaries.

This past fall, McCauley, a graduate student, and DeSalles, an undergraduate, were in remote Palmyra Atoll in the Pacific tracking manta rays’ movements for a predator-prey interaction study. Swimming with the rays and charting their movements with acoustic tags, McCauley and DeSalles noticed the graceful creatures kept returning to certain islands’ coastlines.

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Human Arrival Blamed For Extinction Of Australia’s Giant Creatures

P1030968Imagine if our ancestors hadn’t stumbled upon Australia, and the continent were still populated with its magically large fauna of thousands of years ago. UPI writes:

Human hunting caused the extinction of ancient giant animals, or “megafauna,” in Australia about 40,000 years ago, scientists say. A study has put the blame for the extinction of 600-pound kangaroos and birds twice the size of modern emus on humans rather than on climate change as was once thought.

“The debate really should be over now,” John Alroy, from Macquarie University in Sydney, said. “Hunting did it, end of story.” The researchers studied fungi found in the dung of large herbivores in cores of sediment from a fossilized swamp in Queensland dating back 130,000 years.

The study shows numbers of megafauna species were stable until 40,000 years ago despite two periods of climate change, the researchers said, suggesting newly arrived humans hunted the animals to extinction.

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When the Earth Gets Sick: Most Mass Extinctions Happened Slowly

Pangaea

Earth in the Permian period. Illustration: Kieff (CC)

Via ScienceDaily:

In geology as in cancer research, the silver bullet theory always gets the headlines and nearly always turns out to be wrong. For geologists who study mass extinctions, the silver bullet is a giant asteroid plunging to earth.But an asteroid is the prime suspect only in the most recent of five mass extinctions, said USC earth scientist David Bottjer. The cataclysm 65 million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs.

“The other four have not been resolvable to a rock falling out of the sky,” Bottjer said. For example, Bottjer and many others have published studies suggesting that the end-Permian extinction 250 million years ago happened in essence because “the earth got sick.”

The latest research from Bottjer’s group suggests a similar slow dying during the extinction 200 million years ago at the boundary of the Triassic and Jurassic eras. The latest research from Bottjer’s group suggests a similar slow dying during the extinction 200 million years ago at the boundary of the Triassic and Jurassic eras.

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