ThinkingShift species watch

October 2, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

I’ve been so consumed with privacy issues recently, I haven’t posted a Species Watch for some time. So let’s find out what’s happening to our planet’s precious birds and animals. A mixed bag of news really.

A Galapagos tortoise, Geochelone elephantopus, is extinct but relatives of this tortoise could be cross-bred and recreate the extinct species scientists believe. Geochelone elephantopus went kaput shortly after Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos. In fact, of the 15 known Galapagos tortoise species, 4 are now extinct thanks to whaling ships that would carry the tortoises off to be killed. The island of Floreana was where Geochelone elephantopus once lived and it was depleted the most by hunters. Tortoise relatives on the island of Isabela are genetically close to the Floreana lineage most likely because whaling ships discarded some tortoises in the waters and they swam to Isabela and bred with the tortoises there. Not sure how scientists plan to resuscitate Geochelone elephantopus but they believe it will take at least 100 years. ThinkingShift won’t be around then to report on whether Geochelone elephantopus has been brought back to life or not, but let’s hope!  Source: BBC News

Good news for the Galapagos tortoise. Not such great news for the northern spotted owl in the Washington area of the US. Over 10 years ago, logging was brought to a halt to protect the spotted owls, whose numbers were drastically falling. But despite the best of efforts, the spotted owl is teetering on the edge of extinction. Not only did logging threaten the owls but a tougher owl species in the area (the barred owl) is giving the spotted birds a hard time. The US Forest Service is rethinking strategies in order to save the owls, including shotgunning into extinction the other owl species. With dwindling population numbers, the owls are also in danger of inbreeding, which would further weaken their already depleted numbers. The northern spotted owl likes old growth forest and since that’s mainly be logged their habitat has been well and truly disrupted. They are also vulnerable to harsh winters and there is less old forest growth to protect them. Source: Seattle Times

It’s not only northern spotted owls that are being threatened. The planet’s population of common birds is in decline as a result of (you guessed it) loss of habitat through land-use changes. Birdlife International conducted a survey and found that 45% of Europe’s common birds are suffering falling numbers. And 80% of Australia’s wading species are being affected as well as 62% of Asia’s migratory water bird species. In Europe, an analysis of 124 species over a 26 year period revealed that 56 species had declined in 20 countries. Worse: the study highlighted that 1 in 8 of the world’s birds – 1,226 species – was listed as being Threatened. Of these, 190 faced an imminent risk of extinction. Global warming of course is also affecting birds’ wintering sites. Maybe I’m imagining it, but I recall my childhood full of bird noises. Not so much now. In Europe recently, in a forest area, I must admit I was surprised by the lack of bird calls. Very, very sad. Source: BBC News

Good news! The Amazon rainforest (despite being logged almost to death) still harbours unknown species, near Manaus. A blind, subterranean, predatory ant has been discovered and it’s such a bizarre species that the biologist, E.O.Wilson, says it could have come from Mars. Only one ant has been found and, in honour of Wilson, it has been dubbed Martialis heureka (the ant from Mars). It is 2-3 millimetres long, pale in colour, with a large mouth and no eyes. Because of these unique characteristics, the ant has been placed in its very own new subfamily of ants – the first since 1923. Well, if we could just stop chopping down the rainforests of the Amazon, who knows what other undiscovered species might be found. Source: New Scientist

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Entry filed under: Animals, Birds, Endangered species, Environment, ThinkingShift species watch.

Permafrost and methane Be afraid America!

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