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Message 598206 - Posted: 4 Jul 2007, 4:46:37 UTC

Scientists find endangered monkey in Vietnam



Tue Jul 3, 6:06 AM ET

HANOI (Reuters) - Scientists have found the world's largest-known population of an endangered monkey species in central Vietnam, increasing its chances of survival, conservationists said on Tuesday.

Surveys since 2005 by the WWF global environmental conservation organization and Conservation International recorded at least 116 of the tree-dwelling grey-shanked doucs, one of the world's 25 most endangered primates.

"It's very rare to discover a population of this size with such high numbers in a small area, especially for a species on the brink of extinction," Barney Long, a conservation coordinator with WWF Vietnam, said in a statement.

"This indicates that the population has not been impacted by hunting like all other known populations of the species."

The species has only been recorded in the five central Vietnam provinces of Quang Nam, Kon Tum, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh and Gia Lai. Fewer than 1,000 are believed to exist, and until the discovery announced on Tuesday, only one other population with more than 100 animals was known, the statement said.

Conservation International said 65 per cent of Vietnam's primates are endangered.
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Message 598229 - Posted: 4 Jul 2007, 5:31:55 UTC
Last modified: 4 Jul 2007, 5:32:21 UTC

Scientists fly into raptures over flightless Fred

By Ed Harris Fri Jun 29, 11:23 AM ET


[Caption: An undated illustration of a dodo. The remains of a dodo found in a cave beneath bamboo and tea plantations in Mauritius offer the best chance yet to learn about the extinct flightless bird, a scientist said on Friday. (HO/File/Reuters)]

BOIS CHERI, Mauritius (Reuters) - The remains of a dodo found in a cave beneath bamboo and tea plantations in Mauritius offer the best chance yet to learn about the extinct flightless bird, a scientist said on Friday.

The discovery was made earlier this month in the Mauritian highlands but the location was kept secret until the recovery of the skeleton, nicknamed "Fred," was completed on Friday. Four men guarded the site overnight.

Julian Hume, a paleontologist at Britain's Natural History Museum, told Reuters the remains were likely to yield excellent DNA and other vital clues, because they were found intact, in isolation, and in a cave.

"The geneticists who want to get their hands on this will be skipping down the street," he said, after bringing the last of the remains to the surface.

Given the nickname "Fred" after the 65-year-old who found them, the remains should provide the first decent specimens of dodo DNA, he said.

"Then you can work out how it actually got to Mauritius, because it must have originally flown here before evolving into flightlessness and the big, fat bird that we know," he said.

"We know it's a giant pigeon," he added.

It the first discovery of dodo remains away from the coastal regions, suggesting that the bird, extinct since the 17th century, lived all over the Indian Ocean island, he said.

Hume said the dodo was almost certainly finished off by animals introduced by Europeans about 400 years ago. Theories that it was hunted to extinction by the Dutch were "total nonsense," he said, adding that the remains were highly fragile.

"If you try and pick it up, it just falls apart," he said. "You won't see a mounted, beautiful thing from this."
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Message 599062 - Posted: 5 Jul 2007, 14:15:10 UTC

Wolves Of Alaska Became Extinct 12,000 Years Ago, Scientists Report

Science Daily — The ancient gray wolves of Alaska became extinct some 12,000 years ago, and the wolves in Alaska today are not their descendents but a different subspecies, an international team of scientists reports in the July 3 print edition of the journal Current Biology.


[Caption: A wolf in Yellowstone. (Credit: Barry O'Neill)]

The scientists analyzed DNA samples, conducted radio carbon dating and studied the chemical composition of ancient wolves at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. They then compared the results with modern wolves and found that the two were genetically distinct.

"The ancient Alaskan gray wolves are all more similar to one another than any of them is to any modern North American or modern Eurasian wolf," said study co-author Blaire Van Valkenburgh, UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

The research was federally funded by the National Science Foundation.

The ancient gray wolves lived in Alaska continuously from at least 45,000 years ago --probably earlier, but radio carbon dating does not allow for the establishment of an earlier date -- until approximately 12,000 years ago, Van Valkenburgh said.

The ancient gray wolves were not much different in size from modern Alaskan wolves, although their massive teeth and strong jaw muscles were larger. They were capable of killing large bison, Van Valkenburgh said.

The ancient wolves suffered many broken teeth and tooth fractures, she said.

Van Valkenburgh has also studied tooth fractures in ancient animals at Los Angeles' Rancho La Brea Tar Pits and in modern lions, tigers, leopards, puma and wolves. The ancient large mammals broke their teeth frequently when they ate, crunching the bones of their prey much more often than their modern counterparts. Why"

"Because they were hungry, which may have been because it was difficult to catch and hold onto prey when there was much competition and theft among carnivores, forcing them to eat quickly," said Van Valkenburgh, who won a UCLA distinguished teaching award in June. "They were probably living at such high densities that we have difficulty even imagining, with frequent encounters between carnivores."

The ancient wolves' competitors for food included lions, saber-toothed cats and enormous short-faced bears, she said.

The saber-toothed cat and other large mammals became extinct about 10,000 to 11,000 years ago when their prey disappeared due to factors that included human hunting and dramatic global warming at the end of the Pleistocene, Van Valkenburgh said.

Prior to the new research, it was not known whether today's gray wolves in Alaska and elsewhere descended from ancient gray wolves that roamed those areas in the Pleistocene or whether there was an extinction or near extinction of the gray wolves from northern North America.

Does the research have implications for global warming today"

"When environmental change happens very rapidly, animals cannot adapt, especially when the few places for them to move as habitats shrink; they are more likely to go extinct," Van Valkenburgh said. "It was a rapid climate change in the late Pleistocene."

The lead author on the research, Jennifer Leonard, earned her doctorate from UCLA and is now on the faculty of Sweden's Uppsala University. She studied the DNA of more than a dozen wolves that lived 12,000 to 45,000 years ago. Other co-authors are Carles Vilà, a faculty member at Uppsala University; Kena Fox-Dobbs and Paul Koch from the department of Earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz; and Robert Wayne, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by University of California - Los Angeles.
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Message 601633 - Posted: 11 Jul 2007, 5:53:43 UTC
Last modified: 11 Jul 2007, 6:02:45 UTC

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Message 601682 - Posted: 11 Jul 2007, 8:13:01 UTC
Last modified: 11 Jul 2007, 8:16:57 UTC

Coelacanth, a living fossil



On December 23, 1938, Hendrik Goosen, the captain of the trawler Nerine returned to the harbour at East London after a trawl around the mouth of the Chalumna River. As he frequently did, he telephoned his friend, Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, curator at East London's small museum to see if she wanted to look over the contents of the catch for anything interesting. At the harbour Latimer noticed a blue fin and took a closer look. There she found what she later described as "the most beautiful fish I had ever seen, five feet long, and a pale mauve blue with iridescent silver markings."

Failing to find a description of the creature in any of her books, she attempted to contact her friend, Professor James Leonard Brierley Smith, but he was away for Christmas. Unable to preserve the fish, she reluctantly sent it to a taxidermist. When Smith returned, he immediately recognized it as a coelacanth, known only from fossils. Smith named the fish Latimeria chalumnae in honor of Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer and the waters in which it was found. The two discoverers received immediate recognition and the fish became known as a "living fossil." The 1938 coelacanth is still on display in the East London Museum.

Coelacanths first appear in the fossil record in the Middle Devonian, about 410 million years ago. Prehistoric species of coelacanth lived in many bodies of water in Late Paleozoic and Mesozoic times.

Although now represented by only two living species, as a group the coelacanths were once very successful with many genera and species that left an abundant fossil record from the Devonian to the end of the Cretaceous period, at which point they apparently suffered a nearly complete extinction, and past which point no fossils are known. It is often claimed that the coelacanth has remained unchanged for millions of years but in fact the living species and even genus are unknown from the fossil record.

Coelacanths are opportunistic feeders, hunting cuttlefish, squid, snipe eels, small sharks, and other fish found in their deep reef and volcanic slope habitats. Coelacanths are also known to swim head down, backwards and belly up to locate their prey presumably utilizing its rostral gland. Scientists suspect that one reason this fish has been so successful is that they can slow down their metabolisms at any time, sinking into the less-inhabited depths and minimizing their nutritional requirements in a sort of hibernation mode.

In accordance with the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species treaty, the coelacanth was added to Appendix I (threatened with extinction) in 1989. The treaty forbids international trade for commercial purposes and regulates all trade, including sending specimens to museums, through a system of permits. In 1998, the total coelacanth population was estimated to have been 500 or fewer, a number that would threaten the survival of the species.
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Message 603530 - Posted: 14 Jul 2007, 20:20:15 UTC

Well-preserved baby mammoth found

ASSOCIATED PRESS and REUTERS

July 14, 2007

MOSCOW – The well-preserved, 10,000-year-old carcass of a 6-month-old baby mammoth has been unearthed in the northern Siberian permafrost.

The 4-foot gray-and-brown carcass, discovered in May by a reindeer herder in Russia's Arctic Yamal-Nenets region, has its trunk and eyes virtually intact and even some fur remaining, said Alexei Tikhonov, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Zoological Institute.

The animal's tail and an ear were apparently bitten off, he said.

“The mammoth is an animal that you look at, and you see that there is an entire epoch behind it, a huge time period when climate was changing,” he said in comments broadcast last week. “And of course when we talk about climate change, we must use the knowledge that we will get from them (mammoths).”

Scientists believe mammoths lived from 4.8 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago.

Studies suggest climate change or overkill by human hunters as possible reasons leading to their extinction.

The mammoth, a female that died at the age of 6 months, was named “Lyuba” after the wife of reindeer breeder and hunter Yuri Khudi, who found her.

The hunter initially thought the mammoth was a dead reindeer when he spotted parts of her body sticking out of snow.

Tikhonov said the mammoth would be sent to Jikei University in Japan to undergo three-dimensional computer mapping of her body.

The mammoth will then go to St. Petersburg's Zoological Museum for a necropsy before being put on display in Salekhard, capital of Yamal-Nenets.

The St. Petersburg museum has a male baby mammoth called Dima who was unearthed in Magadan in Russia's Far East in 1977. Until the discovery of Lyuba, it was Russia's best-known example of the species.
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