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News articles on extinction

Mongabay.com news articles on extinction in blog format. Updated regularly.









Amphibian extinction may be worse than thought

(10/31/2007) Amphibian extinction rates may be higher than previously thought, according to new DNA analysis that found more than 60 unrecognized species in the Guiana Shield of South America.


Scientists find treatment for killer frog disease

(10/29/2007) New Zealand scientists have found a treatment for a disease blamed for the death of millions of amphibians worldwide, according to a report from BBC News. However, at best, the cure would only be applicable to captive populations. The disease is killing many amphibians in apparently pristine habitats.


16,306 species threatened with extinction

(09/12/2007) 16,306 of 41,415 species on the IUCN Red List are threatened with extinction, reports the World conservation Union (IUCN). The total number of known extinct species now stands at 785, while a further 65 are only found in captivity or in cultivation. One in four mammals, one in eight birds, one third of all amphibians and 70% of the world's assessed plants on the 2007 IUCN Red List are considered at risk.


Rare Chinese river dolphin sighting in doubt

(09/01/2007) A prominent researcher is skeptical of last week's reported sighting of the baiji, the Chinese river dolphin declared extinct earlier this year, according to the New York Times. The sighting near Tongling city in Anhui Province -- widely reported in Chinese and Western media -- was captured on video.


"Extinct" baiji river dolphin spotted alive in China

(08/29/2007) An "extinct" baiji has been spotted alive in the Yangtze River, reports Chinese state media.


Scientists meet in Hungary to discuss saving dying frogs

(08/27/2007) Scientists are meeting this week in Budapest, Hungary to discuss last-ditch efforts to save the world's most threatened frogs from extinction.


European blood-sucker falls victim to global warming

(08/26/2007) Europe's only known land leech may be on the brink of extinction due to shifts in climate, report researchers writing in the journal Naturwissenschaften. The findings are significant because they suggest that "human-induced climate change without apparent habitat destruction can lead to the extinction of populations of cold-adapted species that have a low colonization ability," according to the authors.


U.S. to spend $27M on possibly extinct bird

(08/26/2007) The U.S. government plans to spend $27 million on the recovery efforts for a bird species that may already be extinct, reports the Associated Press.


Climate change claims a snail

(08/12/2007) The Aldabra banded snail (Rachistia aldabrae), a rare and poorly known species found only on Aldabra atoll in the Indian Ocean, has apparently gone extinct due to declining rainfall in its niche habitat. While some may question lamenting the loss of a lowly algae-feeding gastropod on some unheard of chain of tropical islands, its unheralded passing is nevertheless important for the simple reason that Rachistia aldabrae may be a pioneer. As climate change increasingly brings local and regional shifts in precipitation and temperature, other species are expected to follow in its path.


Extinction of the Yangtze river dolphin is confirmed

(08/08/2007) After an extensive six-week search scientists have confirmed the probable extinction of the baiji or Yangtze river dolphin. The freshwater dolphin's extinction had been reported late last year.


Frog killing diseases worse than thought in California

(08/06/2007) The deadly fungal disease that is killing amphibians worldwide can likely be spread by sexual reproduction reports a new study published in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings suggest that protecting frogs and other amphibians from the pathogen will be more complicated than previously believed.


Dinosaurs' rise to dominance was a gradual

(07/19/2007) Dinosaurs' rise to dominance was a gradual rather than sudden, suggests new research published in Science.


Did Tasmanian Tiger survive extinction until 1950s?

(06/27/2007) A University of Adelaide project led by zoologist Dr Jeremy Austin is investigating whether the world-fabled Tasmanian Tiger may have survived beyond its reported extinction in the late 1930s.


Past global warming produced monster penguins

(06/25/2007) Scientists have discovered fossil remains of a giant species of penguin that lived some 40 million years ago in what is now Peru. Coupled with the finding of a smaller species from the same time period, the remains reveal that early penguins responded differently to natural climate change than scientists would have expected. The results are published in the PNAS Online Early Edition the week of June 25-29, 2007.


Sedentary, not migratory birds, face higher extinction risk

(06/24/2007) Sedentary birds face considerably higher risk of extinction than migratory birds, reports a new paper published in the journal Current Biology. The findings have implications for the conservation of increasingly endangered wildlife populations.


Highly carnivorous wolves in Alaska killed by global warming

(06/21/2007) Researchers have identified a previously unknown species of "highly carnivorous" wolf in Alaska that appears to have died off during the Pleistocene extinction some 12,000 years ago. The results are published in the June 21 online issue of Current Biology.


10-20% of birds extinct by 2100 due to global warming, deforestation

(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.



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