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

    humpback whale

    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). Specifically, NOAA proposes a change in the [...]

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    A New Tool for Conservation Genetics: Seal Placentas

    saimaa seal

    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 [...]

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    Critically Endangered Frog Claws Its Way toward Recovery

    Lake Oku clawed frog

    The evolutionarily unique frogs of Cameroon’s Lake Oku have no tongues, claw-tipped toes and 12 full sets of chromosomes. What the Lake Oku clawed frogs (Xenopus longipes) don’t have, however, is a lot of habitat in which to live. They only exist in a tiny mountaintop lake more than 2,200 meters above sea level. Although [...]

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    Conservation Group Seeks Protection for Endangered Crayfish, Gets Newly Discovered Species as a Bonus

    big sandy crayfish

    A funny thing happened on the way to the endangered species list. Five years ago the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) petitioned to protect an Appalachian crayfish species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. This week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) concurred and agreed that the Big Sandy crayfish of Kentucky, Virginia and [...]

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    Amazing Discovery: Nearly Extinct Bird Found Breeding in Japan

    Bryan's shearwater

    Higashijima Island doesn’t look like much from the sky. This tiny, uninhabited scrap of land 1,000 kilometers south of the coast of Japan is only a few hectares in size. The eastern half of the island consists of rocky outcroppings, while the western half contains small plots of grassland and shrubs. Nothing about Higashijima appears [...]

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    Is Chocolate Driving Monkeys into Extinction?

    Cercocebus atys lunulatus

    Ten years ago the forests of Ivory Coast were full of the hoots and howls of more than a dozen primate species. No more. Today the west African nation is much quieter. The forests are mostly gone and the monkeys that they once held aren’t far behind. Several species have become critically endangered. One may [...]

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    How Zoos Acquire Endangered Species

    orangutan bob oregon zoo

    How do you transport two young orangutans to a zoo thousands of kilometers away from their native lands? Here’s the simple answer: FedEx. Here’s the less simple answer: It’s a lot of work. Meet Bob and Kumar Kumar and Bob are in playful moods on the rainy morning that I see them at Oregon Zoo [...]

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    Sunday Species Snapshot: Swift Parrot

    swift parrot

    The beautiful bird known as the swift parrot may be on the fast track to extinction. Species name: Swift parrot (Lathamus discolor) Description: A small bird, just 25 centimeters long, with bright features and a particularly showy attitude. Where found: Small portions of Tasmania. The birds also migrate to mainland Australia after their breeding season. [...]

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    Keeping Tiny Delta Smelt Alive in Captivity Is No Small Feat

    delta smelt

    The delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) may be all but extinct in the wild, but it turns out that hope is not quite lost for this controversial California fish. Although a recent survey turned up only six delta smelt in the Sacramento-San Joaquin estuary, they are not alone. Another 20,000 of the tiny fish currently live [...]

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    Hungry Polar Bears Could Soon Start Devastating Bird Populations

    polar bear

    A hungry polar bear (Ursus maritimus) will eat just about anything. Oh sure, they prefer to dine on nice fatty seals (I mean, what Arctic creature wouldn’t?), but when push comes to shove they’ll eat caribou, walruses, nuts, birds, and even stinky, rotten whale carcasses. Oh yeah, they’ll also eat eggs. Research over the past [...]

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