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Extinction Countdown

Extinction Countdown

News and research about endangered species from around the world
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    John R. Platt Twice a week, John Platt shines a light on endangered species from all over the globe, exploring not just why they are dying out but also what's being done to rescue them from oblivion. Follow on Twitter @johnrplatt.
  • Deforestation Threatens Newly Identified Bird in Brazil

    Bahian mouse-colored tapaculo

    Discovering a new species isn’t always as easy as saying “Look, there’s a new species!” In the case of a rare bird recently identified in Brazil, it took about 20 years for scientists to gather enough evidence to classify it as a new species. The journey began in the early 1990s when scientists found an [...]

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    Mysterious Flying Squirrel Could Get Endangered Species Protection

    San Bernardino flying squirrel

    The squirrels gliding amid the mountains east of Los Angeles have been, for the most part, flying under the scientific radar. There has never been a single scientific paper published specifically about the San Bernardino flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus californicus), even though hundreds of papers about squirrels in general are published every year. Despite this [...]

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    This Massive Squirrel Has Been Saved from Extinction

    Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel

    It only took about half a century, but the once-rare Delmarva fox squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus) now has a healthy population once again, placing it in a position to finally leave the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). If that happens, this giant squirrel—which can reach an astonishing 75 centimeters in length—would join just [...]

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    Chinese Sturgeon Give Up, Stop Breeding in Polluted Yangtze River

    chinese sturgeon

    When an endangered species stops breeding, you know its days are probably numbered. In China the countdown has apparently begun for the critically endangered Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis). According to a report issued this week by the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, only about 100 of the massive fish remain in the heavily polluted and [...]

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    This Rare White Possum Could Soon Be a Ghostly Memory

    white lemuroid ringtail possum

    A ghost lives in the Daintree Rainforest in northeastern Queensland, Australia. There, on a single mountain range located 1,100 meters above sea level, scientists have recently found what may be the last few white lemuroid ringtail possums (Hemibelideus lemuroides), a species that was all but wiped out by a heat wave in 2005. They may [...]

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    In Limbo Since 1991, the Oregon Spotted Frog Finally Gets Protected Status

    Oregon spotted frog sq

    It only took 23 years but the Oregon spotted frog (Rana pretiosa) has finally gained protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The small, aquatic frogs—which only reach about 100 millimeters in length—have been considered candidates for protected status since 1991. The species has probably already disappeared from its former range in California and in [...]

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    100 Years Ago Today

    passenger pigeon

    Today marks a sad centennial: the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), a species once so abundant that their flocks blacked out the skies of North America. Today the only passenger pigeons that remain are a handful of preserved specimens gathering dust in museum drawers and exhibits. These stuffed and [...]

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    10 Years of Extinction Countdown: A Lot of Good in the Face of Mass Losses

    mountain gorilla

    Ten years. Nearly 1,200 articles. I have no idea how many species. I have no idea how many tears. *** When I started what was then called “Extinction Blog” on August 19, 2004, I didn’t know what it would become, let alone who I would be a decade later. To be honest, I didn’t set [...]

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    Vaquita Porpoise about to Go Extinct, Only 97 Remain


    Millions of dollars and two decades of conservation efforts have failed to protect the Gulf of California’s critically endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus). Two years ago this species’s population was estimated at 200. Today it has plummeted to just 97. Fewer than 25 of those that remain are thought to be females capable of reproducing [...]

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    Nearly Extinct Mussel Gets One Last Chance at Survival

    purple cat's paw mussels

    Freshwater mussels have a particularly unusual system of reproduction. Males release their sperm into the water with the hope that a nearby female will siphon them up to fertilize her eggs. Once fertilization occurs, the female produces larvae called glochidia, which she then releases back into the water. At this point the mother is out [...]

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