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News articles on extinction
Mongabay.com news articles on extinction in blog format. Updated regularly.
(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.
Not extinct? Ivory-billed Woodpecker may live in Florida
(09/26/2006) Researchers found evidence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, a bird once believed to be extinct, in a remote river basin in the panhandle of Florida. The discovery, announced in Avian conservation and Ecology, was made in May 2005 by a research team led by Auburn University professor Geoff Hill. The bird was sighted on the Choctawhatchee River and though the team captured no photographs of the species.
Rare, 90-million-year-old tree for sale
(09/20/2006) IThe National Geographic Society announced it will sell the Wollemi Pine, one of the world's oldest and rarest trees, to consumers in the United States this holiday season. Fewer than 100 tree exist in the wild.
Recovery of biodiversity after dinosaurs was chaotic
(08/24/2006) The recovery of biodiversity after the end-Cretaceous mass extinction was much more chaotic than previously thought, according to paleontologists. New fossil evidence shows that at certain times and places, plant and insect diversity were severely out of balance, not linked as they are today. The extinction took place 65.5 million years ago. Labeled the K-T extinction, it marks the beginning of the Cenozoic Era and the Paleocene Epoch.
Ancient blue whale was a shark killer
(08/22/2006) A 25-million-year-old whale fossil from southeastern Australia suggests a curious origin for baleen whales. Presented at the at the Melbourne Museum last week, the fossil shows that earliest baleen whales were small, toothed and highly predatory creatures with enormous eyes -- virtually the opposite of the baleen whales we know today. These, like the blue whale and the humpback are gentle, toothless giants that feed on krill and other tiny organism.
Climate change, not hunters, killed ancient Australia's giant kangaroos
(08/16/2006) Scientists at the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University have found strong evidence for the cause of the extinction of Australia's giant marsupials some 50,000 years ago. Cold, arid climates of the last ice age have been identified as a likely cause, casting doubt on the alternative hypothesis which blames human hunters.
Frozen balls could bring mammoths back to life
(08/15/2006) Scientists have successfully bred mice using dead sperm extracted from frozen mice. The research raises the possibility that long-extinct species could one day be brought back to life.
NASA helps search for "extinct" woodpecker
(08/03/2006) Unlike its more famous cartoon cousin Woody the Woodpecker, the ivory-billed woodpecker is thought to be extinct, or so most experts have believed for over half a century.
West African black rhino may be extinct
(07/17/2006) Recent surveys conducted by IUCN in northern Cameroon found no evidence of the West African black rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes). The organization fears the sub-species is now extinct in the wild.
$400-Million Initiative Proposed to Address Amphibian Crisis
(07/09/2006) Fifty of the leading amphibian researchers in the world have called for a new Amphibian Survival Alliance, a $400-million initiative to help reduce and prevent amphibian declines and extinctions -- an ecological crisis of growing proportion that continues to worsen.
Frog extinction crisis requires unprecedented conservation response
(07/06/2006) The world's leading amphibian experts are calling for dramatic steps, including the formation of an Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA), to prevent the massive extinction of amphibians worldwide. Scientists say amphibians -- cold-blooded animals that include frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians -- are under grave threat due to climate change, pollution, and the emergence of a deadly and infectious fungal disease, which has been linked to global warming. According to the Global Amphibian Assessment, a comprehensive status assessment of the world's amphibian species, one-third of the world's 5,918 known amphibian species are classified as threatened with extinction. Further, at least 9, and perhaps 122, have gone extinct since 1980.
Birds Face Extinction Risk Due To Human Activities
(07/05/2006) Human activities have caused some 500 bird species worldwide to go extinct over the past five millennia, and 21st-century extinction rates likely will accelerate to approximately 10 additional species per year unless societies take action to reverse the trend, according to a new report. Without the influence of humans, the expected extinction rate for birds would be roughly one species per century.
1250 bird species may be extinct by 2100
(07/04/2006) Two new studies paint a mixed future for the world's bird populations, one suggesting that 12 percent of existing species could be extinct by 2100 and the other finding shifts in migration patterns among birds that migrate long distances. Researchers at Stanford University, Duke University and the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis examined the extinction record for birds and found that scientists have likely underestimated the number of extinctions.
'Extinct' frog rediscovered in Colombia
(05/18/2006) Researchers exploring a Colombian mountain range found surviving members of a species of Harlequin frog believed extinct due to a killer fungus wiping out amphibian populations in Central and South America. The discovery of what could be the last population of the painted frog (Atelopus ebenoides marinkellei) indicates the species has survived the fungus, providing hope that other species also might avoid elimination from the epidemic caused by a pathogenic fungus of unknown origin.
Man may be responsible for prehistoric extinctions
(05/05/2006) New research suggests that prehistoric horses in Alaska may have been hunted into extinction by man, rather than doomed by climate change as previously thought. Until now the leading theory said that the demise of wild horses occurred during a period of climate cooling long before the extinction of mammoths and the arrival of humans from Asia.
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