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Extinction Countdown

Extinction Countdown

News and research about endangered species from around the world

  • Memorializing the Wake Island Rail: An Extinction Caused by War

    Memorializing the Wake Island Rail: An Extinction Caused by War

    By John R. Platt | 13 hours ago |

    There’s not much to the tiny Pacific atoll known as Wake. Located roughly half-way between Guam and Hawaii, Wake is a loose u-shaped grouping of an island, three smaller islets and a sand flat, all situated around a beautiful blue lagoon. There’s not much there; in fact, there can’t be. […]

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  • Genetic Secrets of Brazil's Rarest Tree Revealed

    Genetic Secrets of Brazil's Rarest Tree Revealed

    By John R. Platt | May 22, 2015 |

    For most species, an adult population of just 21 sparsely scattered individuals could be a pretty good indication of impending extinction. For one critically endangered tree, however, the future doesn’t look quite as bad as you might expect. […]

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  • Massive Humpback Fish at Risk of Extinction

    Massive Humpback Fish at Risk of Extinction

    By John R. Platt | May 20, 2015 |

    One of India’s most famous fish could disappear before it even has a name. Technically the humpback mahseer already has a name, just not a scientific one as established by a formal description in research literature. The giant carp—one of the world’s largest freshwater fish—was first described by scientists back in 1873 but it hasn’t been rigorously studied since then. […]

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  • Damselfly in Distress: Water Shortages and Cannabis Threaten African Insect

    Damselfly in Distress: Water Shortages and Cannabis Threaten African Insect

    By John R. Platt | May 15, 2015 |

    For years now I have argued that it is time to retire the old “canary in a coal mine” metaphor about early signals of the effects of climate change and other environmental problems. Well, here’s a phrase that could potentially replace it: “the damselfly in the river.” Maybe that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. […]

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  • Great News for Lions, Terrible News for Rhinos

    Great News for Lions, Terrible News for Rhinos

    By John R. Platt | May 12, 2015 |

    Two important sets of numbers about large mammals have emerged in the past few days. One tells a story of conservation success whereas the other tale is far from that. Let’s start with the good news, which comes out of India. According to results of a census released this weekend, the country is now home to 523 critically endangered Asiatic lions ( Panthera leo persica ), an increase of 27 percent since the previous census in 2010. […]

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  • Prehistoric `Lizard of Great Sleepiness' Nearly Extinct in Vietnam and China

    By John R. Platt | May 8, 2015 |

    Are pet collectors about to drive another species into extinction? This time around it’s the prehistoric-looking Chinese crocodile lizard ( Shinisaurus crocodilurus ). According to a paper published in the April TRAFFIC Bulletin , the species has almost vanished from its rapidly shrinking habitats in China and Vietnam due to overwhelming demand from live-animal collectors. […]

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  • Mesquite Invasion Threatens a Unique Species in India

    By John R. Platt | April 29, 2015 |

    It’s almost barbeque season, which means that for many of us it’s just about time to break out the mesquite. But mesquite isn’t all that popular when it isn’t providing a nice, smoky flavor to our burgers and chicken. Many people actually hate it. […]

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  • The Last 3 Bornean Rhinos Are in a Race against Extinction

    By John R. Platt | April 27, 2015 |

    Is there any hope of saving the Bornean rhinoceros ( Dicerorhinus sumatrensis harrissoni ) from extinction? Sadly, the chances of that happening seem to grow slimmer and slimmer. Experts once estimated that the rapidly disappearing forests of Sabah, Malaysia, could have hidden up to 10 Bornean rhinos–a subspecies of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino, of which fewer than 100 remain scattered around Borneo, Sumatra and mainland Malaysia. […]

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  • Should Humpback Whales Be Removed from the Endangered Species List?

    By John R. Platt | April 23, 2015 |

    Have decades of protection allowed the endangered humpback whale ( Megaptera novaeangliae ) to recover? That’s the question asked this week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). On Monday the agency proposed removing most of the species’s population sites from the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). […]

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  • A New Tool for Conservation Genetics: Seal Placentas

    A New Tool for Conservation Genetics: Seal Placentas

    By John R. Platt | April 17, 2015 |

    It’s a sad fact that as members of a species become rarer they tend to suffer from inbreeding. This lack of genetic diversity can lead to birth defects and other problems, making a species even more endangered as time progresses. Conservationists regularly test the genetic makeup of many endangered species in order to understand the threats they face and, sometimes, to help them adapt to limited breeding choices. […]

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