Guilty Planet

Guilty Planet

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Finding Nemo Isn't Easy: Film's Stars Threatened with Extinction


One in every six species related to characters in the movie Finding Nemo is threatened by extinction, according to a new study out today. The authors examined the extinction risk of 1,568 species within 16 families of well-known marine animals represented in the 2003 Academy Award-winning animated film.

All species of marine turtles (“Squirt” and “Crush”) and more than half of all hammerhead sharks (“Anchor”), mackerel sharks (“Bruce” and “Chum”), and eagle rays (“Mr. Ray”) are threatened. Seahorses (“Sheldon”) are the most threatened group of bony fish in Finding Nemo, with two in five species at risk of extinction. Clownfish aren't safe now, either, and they certainly weren't in 2003 after the film's release when local RotoRooter dispatch centers received calls from families whose kids flushed the fish after watching the movie. Charisma, in other words, is not enough. Despite a demonstrated need for conservation action, regulation of trade in endangered marine species is severely deficient for those with high economic value, like sharks.

Led by Loren McClenachan, who has also done impressive research on shifting baselines in the Florida Keys, the authors used a series of online databases for their research, including the World Register of Marine Species, Fishbase, and the Tree of Life to create lists of the marine species. They evaluated extinction risk with the IUCN Red List assessments conservation efforts in part by using the CITES database. Their study was published online today in the journal Conservation Letters.

Citation: McClenachan, L., A. Cooper, K. Carpenter, and N. Dulvy. in press. Extinction risk and conservation bottlenecks for charismatic marine species. Published online December 13 in the journal Conservation Letters.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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