Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Price of Extinction

Lord Howe's Stick Insect - "World's Rarest Insect"-
Lonesome George - Wikimedia
There is a price we pay for extinction as well as the cost of preventing it.  Condors, whooping cranes, even pandas can be considered charismatic species we struggle to preserve.  For Lonesome George in the Galapagos it was too late as he lived for years with no remaining female to mate with.

All this leads up to a fascinating update to a story by Robert Krulwich about the Lord Howe stick insect, Dryococelus australis, that was found barely hanging on, literally, to an isolated 1700 foot volcanic remnant named Ball's Pyramid.  This is in the South Pacific 13 miles from Lord Howe's Island, the insect's original home where it had gone extinct 80 years before.  The followup ends with a video of its amazing emergence from a tiny egg, much like clowns emerging from a circus VW.

In Missouri, a less charismatic American Burying Beetle comes to mind as an example of the public's efforts to restore an endangered species.  Although far from being cuddly, its habits are fascinating and the restoration efforts include the St. Louis Zoo and volunteers from around the state.

While I personally think that attempts to "restore" the Wooly Mammoth
is more a gee whiz exercise in DNA sequencing and genome editing rather than a pure species restoration, I think it is worthwhile to try preventing extinction of those species around us. I would hate to lose the Missouri Bladderpod or the American Burying Beetle on our watch.

In a somewhat related story, a recent study has demonstrated that early Australian settlers around 50,000 years ago caused or contributed to the extinction of the 500 pound, 7 foot tall flightless bird, Genyornis newtoni.

1 comment:

  1. I would rather try and save what we have now then try and preserve what went extinct hundreds of years ago.

    If it was meant to be then let it be. =0)