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News articles on extinction
Mongabay.com news articles on extinction in blog format. Updated regularly.
(06/04/2007) Ten to twenty percent of the world's terrestrial bird species could be threatened with extinction by 2100 due to climate change and habitat destruction reports a study published in the June 5 issue of the journal PLoS Biology. The numbers are in line with estimates published last year in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Combining future projections on global warming, agricultural expansion and human population growth from the global Millennium Ecosystem Assessment with current geographic ranges of the world's 8,750 species of terrestrial birds, researchers Walter Jetz, David Wilcove, and Andrew Dobson estimate that 950 to 1800 species may be condemned to extinction by 2100.
Did asteroid wipe out America's first people?
(05/17/2007) An asteroid may have caused the near-extinction of North America's first humans, argues a series of studies to be presented May 24, at the American Geophysical Union's meeting in Acapulco, Mexico. Nature reports that while the theory has been discounted in the past, new research suggests that an comet or asteroid could have exploded above or on the northern ice cap some 13,000 years ago, plunging regional temperatures to plunge for the next 1000 years. The theory would also help explain the disappearance of the continent's large mammals, including woolly mammoths, American lions, and the saber tooth tiger.
Commercial hunting may be biggest threat to tropical rainforests
(05/01/2007) Commercial hunting is decimating wildlife populations across the tropics and may be one of the gravest threats presently facing rainforests, reports a series of studies published in the May issue of the journal Biotropica. The research reveals that large-scale loss of wildlife is already affecting forest health and regeneration.
Climate change leaving amphibians behind in extinction race
(04/30/2007) Despite surviving the age of dinosaurs and numerous bouts of severe climate change, amphibians are not keeping pace with the current rate of global change, reports a new study published in the journal Bioscience.
Neon green gecko key to preventing Mauritian plant extinction
(04/17/2007) A vibrantly colored gecko plays a key role in a highly threatened ecological community in Mauritius reports new research published in American Naturalist. Studying plant-animal interactions in Mauritius, an Indian Ocean island famous for its extinct dodo bird, researchers found that a rare plant, Trochetia blackburniana, benefits from its proximity to Pandanus plants because they house high densities of geckos responsible for pollination. The findings, which unusually identify a lizard as a key pollinator, are significant because they provide "valuable management insights for ongoing conservation efforts to save the highly endangered flora of Mauritius.
Bad news for frogs; amphibian decline worse than feared
(04/16/2007) Chilling new evidence suggests amphibians may be in worse shape than previously thought due to climate change. Further, the findings indicate that the 70 percent decline in amphibians over the past 35 years may have been exceeded by a sharp fall in reptile populations, even in otherwise pristine Costa Rican habitats. Ominously, the new research warns that protected areas strategies for biodiversity conservation will not be enough to stave off extinction. Frogs and their relatives are in big trouble.
Protected areas must be adapted to survive global warming
(04/03/2007) Protected areas can play an important role in reducing biodiversity loss due to global warming, reports a new study published March 30 in the journal Frontiers in Environment and Ecology (FREE). The research says that conservation efforts must factor in shifts in species' ranges to be successful.
The news of extinction: western media's response to the demise of the Baiji
(04/01/2007) The news came and went with an alacrity that I found alarming, almost jolting. I waited for weeks, faithfully; I could not believe that the initial announcement would be followed by nothing but silence on the issue, no rationalizations, no opinions, no discussions, no outpourings of grief. Just silence.
Dinosaur extinction didn't produce current mammal evolution
(03/28/2007) A new Nature study argues that the demise of dinosaurs did not fuel the rise of mammals. Devising a new tree of life for 4,500 species of mammals using molecular evolutionary trees, an international team of researchers challenges the prevailing hypothesis that a mass extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago played a major role in the diversification of mammals.
Extinction, like climate change, is complicated
(03/26/2007) Extinction is a hotly debated, but poorly understood topic in science. The same goes for climate change. When scientists try to forecast the impact of global change on future biodiversity levels, the results are contentious, to say the least. While some argue that species have managed to survive worse climate change in the past and that current threats to biodiversity are overstated, many biologists say the impacts of climate change and resulting shifts in rainfall, temperature, sea levels, ecosystem composition, and food availability will have significant effects on global species richness.
Climate change will cause biomes to shift and disappear
(03/26/2007) Many of the world's local climates could be radically changed if global warming trends continue, reports a new study published in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors warn that current climates may shift and disappear, increasing the risk of biodiversity extinction and other ecological changes.
Sachs says biodiversity extinction crisis avoidable
(03/26/2007) In a Guardian editorial published Wednesday, Jeffrey Sachs called for action to stem mounting losses of global biodiversity. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, says humans are the primary cause for depletion of the world's biological richness.
Salamanders dying due to common pesticide
(03/25/2007) Atrazine, one of the most widely used pesticides in the United States, may be killing salamanders, according to American biologists writing in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Global warming may cause biodiversity extinction
(03/21/2007) Extinction is a hotly debated, but poorly understood topic in science. The same goes for climate change. When scientists try to forecast the impact of global change on future biodiversity levels, the results are contentious, to say the least. While some argue that species have managed to survive worse climate change in the past and that current threats to biodiversity are overstated, many biologists say the impacts of climate change and resulting shifts in rainfall, temperature, sea levels, ecosystem composition, and food availability will have significant effects on global species richness.
Newly discovered burrowing dinosaur loved its offspring
(03/20/2007) The first known burrowing dinosaur has been discovered in southwest Montana, according to a paleontologist at Montana State University. The finding, published in the journal Proceedings of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, may shed light on parental care among dinosaurs as well as fuel controversy over what caused the extinction of the prehistoric beasts.
Invasive predators more harmful to biodiversity than native predators
(03/20/2007) Alien predators are more harmful to prey populations than native predators finds a study published in the current issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
Ivory-billed Woodpecker sighting may be a mistake
(03/14/2007) A new study casts doubt on the apparent rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Arkansas. J. Martin Collinson, a researcher at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, says that the sighting of the thought-to-be-extinct bird is a case of mistaken identity. Using video analysis, Collinson argues that ornithologists have confused the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) with the similar Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus).
Caribbean coral reefs result of mass extinction, rise of isthmus
(03/12/2007) Extinctions that resulted from the formation of the Panamanian isthmus were delayed two million years according to a new study by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and London's Natural History Museum. The findings may have implications for global species extinction and evolution.
Biodiversity extinction crisis looms says renowned biologist
(03/12/2007) While there is considerable debate over the scale at which biodiversity extinction is occurring, there is little doubt we are presently in an age where species loss is well above the established biological norm. Extinction has certainly occurred in the past, and in fact, it is the fate of all species, but today the rate appears to be at least 100 times the background rate of one species per million per year and may be headed towards a magnitude thousands of times greater. Few people know more about extinction than Dr. Peter Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden. He is the author of hundreds of scientific papers and books, and has an encyclopedic list of achievements and accolades from a lifetime of biological research. These make him one of the world's preeminent biodiversity experts. He is also extremely worried about the present biodiversity crisis, one that has been termed the sixth great extinction.
Deforestation causes species extinction in Madagascar
(03/07/2007) Deforestation has already caused the extinction of a large number of endemic insect species on the island of Madagascar, according to new research published in the March edition of the journal Biology Letters. The work suggests that only half the species confined to these forest areas will survive.
Fish extinctions alter critical nutrients in water, study shows
(03/03/2007) Ecosystems are such intricate webs of connections that few studies have been able to explore exactly what happens when a species dies out. Now, a Cornell study using computer simulations has teased out how the disappearance of a freshwater fish can affect the availability of certain nutrients that other species rely on.
Role of global warming in extinction may be overestimated
(03/01/2007) Extinction is a hotly debated, but poorly understood topic in science. The same goes for climate change. When you bring the two together to forecast the impact of global change on biodiversity, chaos reigns. While many ecologists argue that climate change could well doom many more species to extinction, others say that the threat is overstated.
'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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Europeans may have caused extinction of large mammals in Caribbean
(01/25/2007) New evidence suggests that the arrival of Europeans in the New World corresponds with the extinction of mammal species on the Caribbean islands.
Giant carnivorous marsupial beasts not killed by climate change in Australia
(01/25/2007) Humans, not climate change, caused the extinction of megafauna in Australia contends a team of Australian researchers writing in the January issue of the journal Science. Australia lost 90 percent of its largest animals, including a saber-toothed kangaroo, a marsupial lion and giant goannas, within 20,000 years of man's arrival some 50,000 years ago. Scientists have long debated whether the demise of Australian megafauna was due to human arrival, climate change, or a combination of the two factors. The new research found that the climate in southeastern Australia was little different 500,000 years ago, suggesting that climate change was not the ultimate cause of extinction.
Evidence of massive simultaneous supervolcano eruption in NZ
(12/24/2006) Eruptions of supervolcanoes capable of causing planetary climate disruptions and mass extinctions can be worse than previously thought according researchers from Auckland University in New Zealand.
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.
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.
'Loch Ness Monster' found in Antarctica
(12/11/2006) Paleontologists found a well-preserved fossil skeleton of a juvenile plesiosaur in Antarctica. Cryptozoologists say the plesiosaur resembles the legendary Loch Ness Monster, despite scientific evidence indicating that the marine reptile has been extinct for millions of years.
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.
Past global warming suggests massive temperature shift in our future
(12/07/2006) If past climate change is any indication, Earth could be in store for some significant global warming according to research published in the December 8, 2006, issue of the journal Science. The work suggests that climate change skeptics may be fighting a losing cause. The study, led by Mark Pagani, associate professor of geology and geophysics at Yale, looked at an episode of rapid climate change that occurred some 55 million years ago. Known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), the period was marked by a rapid rise in greenhouse gases that heated Earth by roughly 9 F (5 C), in less than 10,000 years. The climate warming caused widespread changes including mass extinction in the world's oceans due to acidification and shifts of plant communities due to changes in rainfall. The era helped set the stage for the "Age of Mammals," which included the first appearance of modern primates.
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.
Single strike killed the dinosaurs says new study
(12/01/2006) A new study argues that "one and only one" meteorite impact -- not multiple impacts as some scientists have suggested -- caused the extinction of dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.
To avoid extinction humans must colonize space says Hawking
(11/30/2006) As he was awarded the most prestigious prize in science, British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said that humans need to colonize outer space in order avoid extinction. Hawking, who was presented Thursday with the Copley medal from Britain's Royal Society, told BBC Radio that humanity faces extinction if it confines itself to Earth.
Ancient fish had bite like Tyrannosaurus rex
(11/29/2006) 400-million years ago a 33-foot long, 4-ton fish terrorized the oceans with jaws that rivaled those of Tyrannosaurus rex, according to research published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters on November 29.
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.
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.
Global warming could doom many bird species
(11/14/2006) Up to 72 percent of bird species in northeastern Australia and more than a third in Europe could go extinct unless action is taken to address global warming said a report from environmental group WWF. The report, "Bird Species and Climate Change: The Global Status Report", reviews more than 200 scientific articles on birds and identifies groups of birds at high risk from climate change: migratory, mountain, island, wetland, Arctic, Antarctic and seabirds. It says that species that can easily migrate to new habitats will likely thrive, while birds that live in niche environments may decline.
All stocks of wild seafood species to collapse by 2048 says new study
(11/03/2006) All stocks of currently fished wild seafood species are projected to collpase by 2048 according to a study published in the November 3 issue of the journal Science. The four-year analysis by an international group of ecologists and economists shows the marine biodiversity loss is reducing its resilience due to overfishing, pollution, and other stresses like climate change.
Hotspot conservation may not save endangered species
(11/02/2006) New research suggests conservation efforts based on biological hotspots might need to be re-prioritized since threatened species across different groups of animals -- mammals, birds and amphibians -- don't necessarily occur in the same areas. The study, published in the current edition (Nov. 2) of the journal Nature, shows a geographical discrepancy in hotspots of endangered species from different groups: geographical areas with a high concentration of endangered species from one group, do not necessarily have high numbers from other groups.
Biodiversity extinction crisis will disrupt important ecological services warns study
(10/25/2006) Loss of biodiversity will have an ecologically-costly impact according to a study published in the journal Nature this week. The new study, headed by a biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), found that species extinction will reduce nature's ability to maintain ecological balance and "services" such as water filtration, nutrient cycling, and pollination.
400 million year old gives evolutionary clues
(10/19/2006) A fossil fish discovered in the West Australian Kimberley has been identified as the missing clue in vertebrate evolution, rewriting a century-old theory on how the first land animals evolved.
Extinction may be linked to Earth's tilt and orbital variations
(10/12/2006) A new study suggests that variations in Earth's orbit and tilt may be linked to extinctions of mammal species. Examining the fossilized teeth of rodents over a 22 million year period, researchers lead by Jan van Dam of Utrecht University in the Netherlands found that the disappearance of mammal species -- which survive an average of 2.5 million years before going exinct -- cluster around specific cycles at one million and 2.4 million years. The one million year cycle correponds to wobbles in Earth's orbit, while the 970,000-year cycle is tied to shifts of the Earth on its axis. The cycles are assocation with lower temperatures and changes in precipitation.
A look at the biodiversity extinction crisis
(10/07/2006) As tropical forests -- the world's biological treasure troves -- continue to dwindle, biologists are racing to devise ways to save them and their resident biodiversity. While many conservation biologists talk about population viability analysis and intricacies of reserve layouts, David L. Pearson, a research professor at the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe, Arizona, focuses on a different approach: education.
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