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News articles on biodiversity
Mongabay.com news articles on biodiversity in blog format. Updated regularly.
(02/18/2007) DNA testing has revealed 15 'new' species of birds in North America and six 'new' species of bats from the South American country of Guyana, according to a paper appearing in the British journal Molecular Ecology Notes.
New monkey species in Uganda
(02/18/2007) Uganda may soon have a new species of monkey according to a report published in Kampala's New Vision newspaper. Dr. Colin Groves of the Australian National University told New Vision that the local population of the gray-cheeked mangabey (Lophocebus albigena) will soon be designated as a unique species, the Ugandan gray-cheeked mangabey (Lophocebus ugandae).
'Ark' aims to save amphibians from extinction
(02/15/2007) Scientists are meeting in Atlanta is discuss last minute efforts to save disappearing amphibians from extinction. A mysterious outbreak of fungal disease has wiped out an estimated 170 species in the past decade, and put more than one-third of the world's remaining amphibians at risk.
Blind pink snake discovered in Madagascar
(02/14/2007) A pink worm-like snake has been rediscovered in Madagascar more than 100 years after it was first found. The snake, which is blind and measures about ten inches long, is described in the February 1, 2007 edition of Zootaxa, a leading taxonomic journal.
Mysterious outbreak killing millions of bees
(02/14/2007) An mysterious outbreak is causing the deaths of millions of honeybees in 22 states according to an entomologist from the University of Montana. Jerry Bromenshenk says that Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is "causing agricultural honeybees nationwide to abandon their hives and disappear."
Salamander diversity tied to elevation in the tropics
(02/13/2007) Scientists have long documented high levels of biodiversity at mid-elevation ecosystems in the tropics, but no one has ever conclusively determined the underlying causes of this species richness. A new study, which examined 13 genera and 137 species of tropical salamanders, suggests that this pattern may result from the time when the habitats were first colonized.
Extinction risk accelerated when interacting human threats interact
(02/07/2007) A new study warns that the simultaneous effect of habitat fragmentation, overexploitation, and climate warming could increase the risk of a species' extinction.
Lemurs at risk due to invasion of feral beasts, global warming
(02/07/2007) The lemurs of Madagascar are among the world's most threatened primates. Extensive habitat destruction, hunting, and the introduction of alien species have doomed dozens of species to extinction since humans first arrived on the island within the past 2000 years. Most of the casualties were Madagascar's largest lemurs -- today the biggest lemur is but a fraction of the gorilla-sized giants that once ruled the island. Despite this relative impoverishment of megafauna, Madagascar still boasts nearly 90 kinds of lemurs, all of which are unique to the island (save one species that was probably introduced to some nearby islands). Lemurs display a range of unusual behvaiors from singing like a whale (the indri) to sashaying across the sand like a ballet dancer (the sifaka). Interest in lemurs has helped Madagascar become a global conservation priority, though they are still at risk. Continued deforestation, scattered hunting, and looming climate change all pose significant threats to some lemur populations. One largely unexamined threat comes from introduced species such as the Indian civet and mongoose, but especially dogs and cats that have become feral.
Just how bad is the biodiversity extinction crisis?
(02/06/2007) In recent years, scientists have warned of a looming biodiversity extinction crisis, one that will rival or exceed the five historic mass extinctions that occurred millions of years ago. Unlike these past extinctions, which were variously the result of catastrophic climate change, extraterrestrial collisions, atmospheric poisoning, and hyperactive volcanism, the current extinction event is one of our own making, fueled mainly by habitat destruction and, to a lesser extent, over-exploitation of certain species. While few scientists doubt species extinction is occurring, the degree to which it will occur in the future has long been subject of debate in conservation literature. Looking solely at species loss resulting from tropical deforestation, some researchers have forecast extinction rates as high as 75 percent. Now a new paper, published in Biotropica, argues that the most dire of these projections may be overstated. Using models that show lower rates of forest loss based on slowing population growth and other factors, Joseph Wright from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and Helene Muller-Landau from the University of Minnesota say that species loss may be more moderate than the commonly cited figures. While some scientists have criticized their work as "overly optimistic," prominent biologists say that their research has ignited an important discussion and raises fundamental questions about future conservation priorities and research efforts. This could ultimately result in more effective strategies for conserving biological diversity, they say.
98% of orangutan habitat in Borneo, Sumatra gone by 2022
(02/06/2007) A report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today warns that illegal logging is rapidly destroying the last remaining habitat for orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra. The report says that up to 98 percent may be destroyed by 2022 without urgent action.
Rare vulture colony found in Cambodia
(02/06/2007) Working in the remote forests of Cambodia, conservationists from the Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) have just discovered Southeast Asia's only known breeding colony of slender-billed vultures, one of the world's most threatened bird species.
13% of Florida's whooping cranes killed in weekend storms
(02/05/2007) 17 whooping cranes were killed in severe storms in Florida according to a report from the Associated Press. The whooping crane, the tallest bird in North America, is one of North America's most endangered birds with a wild population of less than 360. Until the recent storms, Florida was home to a non-migratory population of 53 and a migratory population of 83, according to the Whooping Crane conservation Association.
Unknown mollusks and crustaceans discovered in the Philippines
(02/05/2007) A French-led marine expedition team may have discovered hundreds of previously unknown species of mollusks and crustaceans around Panglao, an island in the Philippines, according to a report from the Associated Press.
Female butterflies become more promiscuous when males are scarce
(02/05/2007) Female butterflies become more promiscuous when males die from bacteria outbreaks, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology. The research suggests that surviving males have a tough time keeping up their frisky mates, showing "signs of fatigue and put less effort into mating."
In search of wildlife, while dodging leeches, in Madagascar's unexplored rainforest
(02/05/2007) It is called a rainforest for a reason--because it rains.... and rains. As my field partner, Angelin Razafimanantsoa, and I make our way down muddy mountainsides in the endless downpour, we stop only long enough to pick squirming, bloodthirsty leeches off each other's face. Hours pass as we wade through knee-deep streams rushing over smooth, slippery rocks and thick forest stands. Seven hours ago, we anticipated arriving at our next base camp in three hours' time. Now, as night is falling, it seems we have at least five hours more to go.
Cuteness may determine whether a species goes extinct or not
(01/30/2007) Cuteness or physical attractiveness to humans may determine whether a species goes extinct or not, says a conservation biologist from the University of Washington, Bothell. Writing in the online edition of the journal Human Ecology, David Stokes says that human preference for details as trivial as the "small color highlights a creature displays" could influence whether the species is protected or ignored as it approaches extinction. His results lend support to the use of "flagship species" in conservation. A flagship species is one that chosen to represent an environmental cause, such as an ecosystem in need of conservation. Generally this is a charismatic species like the Panda in China that is sufficiently attractive to garner public support for saving an ecosystem.
Strange spiny rodent discovered in the Amazon
(01/24/2007) Scientists have discovered a previously unknown species of arboreal rodent in the cloud forests of Peru. The species, named Isothrix barbarabrownae, is described in the current issue of Mastozoologia, the principal mammalogy journal of South America.
Two 'dragon' species discovered in Brazil
(01/24/2007) Two previously unknown species of lizard that are said to resemble miniature ground-dwelling dragons have been found in the threatened cerrado region of Brazil. The species, Stenocercus squarrosus and Stenocercus quinarius are described in the current issue of the South American Journal of Herpetology.
Rare fish from Madagascar named after renowned ichthyologist
(01/24/2007) An ichthyologist from the Wildlife conservation Society's New York Aquarium received the ultimate honor recently, when a freshwater fish discovered on the African island nation of Madagascar was named after him.
5 Komodo Dragons Hatch at British Zoo
(01/24/2007) Five immaculately conceived Komodo dragons hatched at the Chester Zoo in northern England. Scientists say the birth could have conservation implications for the endangered species of reptile.
Live fish trade causing massive depletion of coral reef species
(01/24/2007) According to a new study conducted by Cambridge University researchers off the northern coast of Borneo, the live reef fish trade is having a major impact on marine populations.
Unusual prehistoric shark beast captured in Japan
(01/24/2007) A rare frilled shark was captured live by fishermen off the coast of Japan. The toothy eel-like creature was taken to Awashima Marine Park in Shizuoka where it later died according to Reuters.
'Happy Feet' penguins declining fast in the Falklands
(12/22/2006) The rockhopper penguin, a species featured in the movie Happy Feet, has taken a suffered a 30 percent population decline over the past five years according to the latest survey figures from Falklands conservation, a conservation group with offices in Stanley, Falkland Islands and London, England.
Africa's rarest carnivore spotted in Tanzania
(12/21/2006) Africa's rarest carnivore, Jackson's mongoose, was spotted in the mountains of remote southern Tanzania by researchers with the Wildlife conservation Society (WCS). Until now the species has been only known from a few observations and museum specimens.
Virgin dragon to give birth this Christmas
(12/20/2006) A virgin Komodo dragon will give birth to offspring this Christmas (or thereabouts) at the Chester Zoo in Britain according to researchers. Flora, a female Komodo dragon, will reproduce asexually in a process called parthenogenesis, where eggs become embryos without male fertilization. The process is known to occur in about 70 reptile species but hadn't been observed in Komodo dragons -- the world's largest lizard species -- until this year. Another dragon, Sungai, had virginal conception earlier this year. Both cases are described in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature
Pictures of species discovered in Borneo rainforest
(12/19/2006) Yesterday's announcement by WWF that 52 previously unknown species were discovered in the fast-disappearing rainforests of Borneo brings the total number of 'new' species found on the island to more than 400 since 1994.
Bush administration sued for failure to protect sea otter
(12/19/2006) A conservation group filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal district court in Washington, DC, seeking more protection for sea otters in Alaska. The Center for Biological Diversity, a national nonprofit conservation organization that aims to conserve endangered species and wild places, says that the Bush administration has failed to designate critical habitat for sea otters in southwest Alaska, despite the species' listing as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act in August 2005. Sea otter populations have decline by 90 percent in some areas according to the group.
52 species discovered in Borneo rainforest
(12/19/2006) In 2006 scientists discovered 52 species in the highly threatened rainforests of Borneo according to a new report from WWF, an environmental group working to preserve the biodiverse 'Heart of Borneo' from further destruction.
China will continue search for 'extinct' baiji river dolphin
(12/18/2006) Chinese state media reports that scientists will continue to search for the baiji dolphin even after a 38-day search failed to produce any evidence of its existence in the Yangtze River.
Goodbye to the Baiji
(12/14/2006) After a short illness spurred by pollution, overfishing, boat traffic, and obstructions like dams, the Baiji was declared 'functionally extinct' last night. As a species, the river dolphin found only in China's Yangtze River was 20 million years. The Baiji is survived by other river dolphins, all themselves threatened, in the Ganges, Indus, Amazon, Orinoco, and La Plata rivers. No memorial service will be held.
Yellow Sea biodiversity needs protection says WWF
(12/13/2006) In response to worsening pollution in China's Yellow Sea, environmental group WWF is pushing for the establishment of a network of protected areas between China and South Korea.
Tigers can recover given protection, adequate food supplies
(12/13/2006) A new study says that if tigers are protected and have sufficient access to abundant prey, their populations can quickly stabilize. The findings have implications for conservation of the world's largest cat species which is fast-disappearing due to poaching for the animal parts trade.
Unknown species of lizard discovered in Borneo
(12/11/2006) A previously unknown species of lizard was discovered in Borneo by Chris Austin, assistant curator of herpetology at Louisiana State University's Museum of Natural Science. Photos and the scientific name of the lizard, which was discovered while Austin was conducting field research in Sarawak, will be unveiled in the March 2007 edition of Journal of Herpetology.
Hotspot conservation will not protect global biodiversity
(12/11/2006) The concept of biological hotspots has served as a fundamental principle guiding conservation efforts over the past generation. A new study, published in the Dec. 15 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), argues this may be a mistake and that conservation efforts based on hotspots will not effectively preserve biodiversity.
500 species found in census of marine life
(12/11/2006) Some 500 previously unknown species of marine life were discovered during the latest Census of Marine Life (CoML), a research effort involving some 2000 researchers from 80 countries. The discoveries, made during 19 ocean expeditions in 2006, included a gigantic 1-centimeter in diameter single-celled organism in the Nazare Canyon off Portugal, a "blonde-haired" lobster near Easter Island, a "chewing" squid, and a four-pound (1.8 kg) lobster off Madagascar.
4-pound lobster discovered off coast of Madagascar
(12/11/2006) Researchers with the Census of Marine Life discovered a 1.8 kg (4 lb) rock lobster that lives off the coast of Madagascar. Named Palinurus barbarae, the beast is half a meter (one-and-a-half feet) long.
Living fossil found in South Pacific
(12/11/2006) French scientists found a species of crustacean previously believed to have become extinct 60 million years ago, according to an update from the Census of Marine Life.
The Vaquita, the world's smallest cetacean, dives toward extinction
(12/10/2006) Accidental death in fishing nets is driving the world's smallest cetacean, the Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), towards extinction, according to a new study published in the current issue of Mammal Review, the official scientific periodical of the Mammal Society.
Ebola kills thousands of gorillas in African park
(12/07/2006) The Ebola virus, a nasty hemorrhagic fever that causes massive organ failure and bleeding, is killing thousands of endangered gorillas across Central African forests according to new research published in the journal Science. While the findings suggests that even in strictly protected wildlife sanctuaries gorillas are not safe, the research provides insight on how to control Ebola outbreaks among wild gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes).
Great Barrier Reef shark populations collapsing finds study
(12/04/2006) Coral reef shark populations are declining rapidly due to fishing according to research published in the December 5th issue of the journal Current Biology. The paper says that "no-take zones" -- areas where fishing is prohibited -- can be effective in protecting sharks but only when the no-take regulations are strictly enforced. Examining two common species of sharks on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the researchers found that both populations are in the midst of a rapid population decline -- 7% per year for white tip sharks and 17% per year for gray reef sharks, showing that current shark conservation strategies are not effective.
Chinese river dolphin nearly extinct says official
(12/03/2006) Xinhua, China's state news agency, reported that a 26-day search for the Baiji, or the Yangtze dolphin, found no dolphins. The Baiji is highly threatened by pollution, overfishing, and obstructions like dams.
How many whales are enough?
(11/30/2006) Iceland's decision to resume hunting endangered fin whales raises an important question: how many whales are enough to sustain a population? While conservionists will debate over the actual number using varying models and population studies, a new paper published in the journal Bioscience attempts to establish a new system for setting population targets for threatened species.
Rainforest tree diversity may be tied to seed dispersal
(11/29/2006) A new study says tree distribution in the rainforest is highly dependent on species' method of seed dispersal. The research could help explain how a large number of rainforest trees can coexist in a small area.
Fragmentation killing species in the Amazon rainforest
(11/27/2006) Forest fragmentation is rapidly eroding biodiversity in the Amazon rainforest and could worsen global warming according to research to be published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Rainforest trees can live for centuries, even millennia, so none of us expected things to change too fast. But in just two decades-a wink of time for a thousand year-old tree-the ecosystem has been seriously degraded." said Dr. William Laurance, a scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and leader of the international team of scientists that conducted the research.
Worst mass extinction shifted entire ecology of the world's oceans
(11/24/2006) New research suggests that Earth's greatest mass extinction did more than wipe out an estimated 95% of marine species and 70% of land species; it fundamentally changed the ecology of the world's oceans. The study, published in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science, found that 'ecologically simple marine communities were largely displaced by complex communities', a shift that continues has continue since.
Unknown extremophile species discovered in seas off New Zealand
(11/21/2006) An international team of scientists has found bizarre creatures living around deep-sea methane seeps off New Zealand's eastern coast. Colorful tube worms, bacterial mats, corals, and sponges were among the organisms found living in the extreme environment where methane gas serves as the primary energy source for the community. Scientists say that a symbiotic relationship with bacteria enables such communities to convert methane into living matter in the absence of sunlight through a form of chemosynthesis.
Migratory species threatened by global warming
(11/20/2006) Urgent action is need to prevent extinction of migratory species due to global warming says a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
New species of orchids discovered in Papua New Guinea
(11/17/2006) Last month, environmental group WWF announced the discovery of eight orchid species previously unknown to science in the tropical forests of Papua New Guinea (PNG). PNG, which covers roughly half the island of New Guinea, has the more species of orchid than any country in the world.
Species evolution not making up for extinction caused by climate change
(11/14/2006) Current global warming has already caused extinctions in the world's most sensitive habitats and will continue to cause more species to go extinct over the next 50 to 100 years says a new study published in Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics by a University of Texas at Austin biologist. The study, Dr. Camille Parmesan, an associate professor of integrative biology, also showed that species are not evolving fast enough to avoid extinction.
World's rarest cat captured in remote Russia
(11/14/2006) Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) captured a Far Eastern leopard in Southwest Primorski Krai in the southern Russian Far East, less than 20 miles from the Chinese border. With a wild population of 30, the Far Eastern leopard is the world's most endangered big cat.
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