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Extinction

Analysis and Comment (36)

A baby northern quoll. The native mammal is having a hard time across northern Australia, battling for survival against cane toads and feral predators such as cats. A baby northern quoll. The native mammal is having a hard time across northern Australia, battling for survival against cane toads and feral predators such as cats. Parks Australia/Flickr

Cape York’s wildlife ignored in the rush to develop the north

The future of Cape York Peninsula – home to many of Australia’s unique birds, mammals, frogs and reptiles – is currently under review. Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently launched the first stage of a…
Owls and birds of prey spew bones and remains, which are extremely useful for determining local extinction patterns. Owls and birds of prey spew bones and remains, which are extremely useful for determining local extinction patterns. Flickr/Georgie Sharp

Looking forward to the past: what fossils tell us about extinction

The impact of European settlement on Australia was so massive that many mammals disappeared before anyone noticed they were there, but fossils from the past 10,000 years offer excellent evidence of pre-European…
The decline of digging mammals, such as this bilby, is threatening Australia’s ecosystems. The decline of digging mammals, such as this bilby, is threatening Australia’s ecosystems. AAP Image/National Parks and Wildlife

Losing Australia’s diggers is hurting our ecosystems

Despite once being described as common, mammals have been lost across the Australian landscape over the last 200 years. The impact has been particularly severe on Australia’s digging mammals, including…
Megafauna such as Glyptodon were muck-spreaders. Megafauna such as Glyptodon were muck-spreaders. Pavel Riha

Megafauna extinction affects ecosystems 12,000 years later

If Earth were like a human body, large animals might be its arteries, moving nutrients from where they’re abundant to where they’re needed. Currently the planet has large regions where life is limited…
Climate change means some mountain species are just clinging on, but can they adapt? Climate change means some mountain species are just clinging on, but can they adapt? Australian Alps/Flickr

What can history tell us about species coping with climate change?

In work we published in Science today we look at two conflicting ideas on whether species can adapt to climate change. Are our ideas about extinction too catastrophic, or do we actually need to do more…
The decline of this Indian vulture species has costed the economy $30 billion. The decline of this Indian vulture species has costed the economy $30 billion. Bharat Balasubramanian

Neither the charismatic nor the iconic: rethinking conservation

The rate of extinction of species today is many thousand times the natural rate. There are even examples that such loss can have serious impact on humans. So a critical question is: what is the role species…
Extinctions: happening since before we were around, but happening a lot more now. Extinctions: happening since before we were around, but happening a lot more now. Andrew Milligan/PA

Our role in extinctions cannot be denied

The State of Nature report published this month showed that of more than 3,100 British species surveyed, 60% are in decline, and one in 10 of those species on the Red List are under threat of extinction…
Lonesome no more. George died on 24 June 2012. Lonesome no more. George died on 24 June 2012. A.Davey

Stop singletons becoming endlings to save ecosystems

There can be few words as poignant as “endling”, the name given to the last surviving individual of a species. The picture (below) of Benjamin, the last Tasmanian tiger or thylacine, is heartbreaking…
The Christmas Island Shrew has been recorded four times since its discovery. The Christmas Island Shrew has been recorded four times since its discovery. Max Orchard

Australian endangered species: Christmas Island Shrew

It may be that there are no more shrews in Australia. There was only ever one representative, edging into the Australian political estate on the remote Christmas Island, closer to Java than any other part…
Giant creatures such as the marsupial ‘lion’ (Thylacoleo carnifex) didn’t die out from hunting. Giant creatures such as the marsupial ‘lion’ (Thylacoleo carnifex) didn’t die out from hunting. Peter Schouten

Climate change wiped out Australia’s megafauna

Throughout the Ice Age that characterised our planet for much of the last two million years or so mainland Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea formed a single landmass — Sahul. It was a strange and often…
The passing of Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island Tortoise, is emblematic of the mass extinction of species the earth is currently experiencing. The passing of Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island Tortoise, is emblematic of the mass extinction of species the earth is currently experiencing. Flickr/A Davey

Extinction: just how bad is it and why should we care?

“Dad, the world is missing amazing animals. I wish extinction wasn’t forever”. Despite my wife and I working as biologists, our five-year-old son came to make this statement independently. He is highlighting…
Mass extinctions caused by rapidly escalating levels of CO2 have occurred before. Mass extinctions caused by rapidly escalating levels of CO2 have occurred before. Global warming image from www.shutterstock.com

Another link between CO2 and mass extinctions of species

It’s long been known that massive increases in emission of CO2 from volcanoes, associated with the opening of the Atlantic Ocean in the end-Triassic Period, set off a shift in state of the climate which…
Dead as a … extinct species should stay extinct, and we should focus on saving the ones still living. Dead as a … extinct species should stay extinct, and we should focus on saving the ones still living. Jebulon

De-extinction is about as sensible as de-death

On Friday, March 15 in Washington DC, National Geographic and TEDx are hosting a day-long conference on species-revival science and ethics. In other words, they will be debating whether we can, and should…
The Falkland Islands wolf was marooned for thousands of years before going extinct. The Falkland Islands wolf was marooned for thousands of years before going extinct. Michael Rothman for Ace Coinage, Inc

History mystery solved: the origins of the Falkland Islands wolf

A long-standing natural history mystery has been solved, as my colleagues and I explain today in the journal Nature Communications. The Falkland Islands wolf, or warrah, may have been the world’s loneliest…
We’re happy to kill individual creatures in large numbers - what’s stopping us wiping out the biosphere? We’re happy to kill individual creatures in large numbers - what’s stopping us wiping out the biosphere? Darren Harmon

Is an ethic of biodiversity enough?

The environmental crisis has never loomed so large nor been so extensively debated as in the last few years. But at the same time we have never heard less about environmental ethics - the bio-inclusive…
Alb Quarrell holding his prized thylacine kill, 1921. Alb Quarrell holding his prized thylacine kill, 1921. Courtesty Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Why did the Tasmanian tiger go extinct?

Australia accounts for one-third of all contemporary mammal extinctions worldwide. At least ten species and six subspecies of Australian marsupials have become extinct following European settlement, and…
We need to change the moral system that lets us off the hook for species extinction. We need to change the moral system that lets us off the hook for species extinction. Kelly Garbato

Threatened species: we’re failing on morality and policy

Extinction is a diminution of the natural legacy that we have inherited. It is a breach of the duty we have for inter-generational equity – that we should pass to our descendants a world as rich, intact…
Trees need stability and protection to get big, and both of those are in short supply. Trees need stability and protection to get big, and both of those are in short supply. William Laurance

The end of big trees?

When I was a small lad there was a stately old tree in our backyard. My little sister and I practically lived in it — it was our lair, our fortress, our stairway to the sky. Decades later, I sometimes…
There’s not much left to show megafauna were hunted, but that doesn’t prove they weren’t. There’s not much left to show megafauna were hunted, but that doesn’t prove they weren’t. Peter Murray

Hunting or climate change? Megafauna extinction debate narrows

What is the oldest debate in Australian science? Probably, the argument over what caused extinction of our Pleistocene megafauna – the diprotodons, giant kangaroos, marsupial tapirs, über-echidnas and…
Saving the Tasmanian Devil is one of many pressing preservation goals. Saving the Tasmanian Devil is one of many pressing preservation goals. Mandy Kennedy/AAP

Money in the gene bank: save the ‘Frozen Zoo’ and save species

You may have heard of Australia’s “Frozen Zoo” – the only facility of its kind on the continent – and that it’s facing funding difficulties. Why should you care about this? Let me explain. An increasing…
Exporting elephants from Laos to Japan could be the end of this Asian elephant population. Exporting elephants from Laos to Japan could be the end of this Asian elephant population. ElefantAsia

Really Laos, you shouldn’t have: giving elephants to Japan is a bad idea

The 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan was undeniably a tragedy on many scales. Thousands killed, tainted agriculture, disappearing tourism and overall economic gloom. It’s little wonder the Japanese government…
Extinct: the Christmas Island Pipistrelle. Extinct: the Christmas Island Pipistrelle. Lindy Lumsden

Threat of extinction demands fast and decisive action

When it comes to mammal extinctions, Australia’s track record over the last 200 years has been abysmal. Since European settlement, nearly half of the world’s mammalian extinctions have occurred in Australia…
Only 5% of the world’s plants, and 1% of invertebrates have been assessed under IUCN guidelines. Only 5% of the world’s plants, and 1% of invertebrates have been assessed under IUCN guidelines. Tim√

Silent declines: recognising unlisted ‘endangered’ species

If an entire forest falls and its occupants approach extinction, does anybody hear it? Since for the vast majority of species, the answer is most likely no, we decided to be proactive and recently published…
When you buy imported products, are you buying dead endangered species as well? When you buy imported products, are you buying dead endangered species as well? Mark Hudson

Globalisation’s dark side: how shoppers consume threatened species

The tide of globalisation drives development, providing jobs and much needed dollars. But development and trade consumes local biodiversity, much of it in the iconic biodiversity hotspots of tropical countries…
Lack of genetic diversity makes it hard for island-bound species to survive when threats arrive. Lack of genetic diversity makes it hard for island-bound species to survive when threats arrive. Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Island living may have been a death sentence for the Tassie tiger: is the devil next?

We have all heard at some time or another that Australia has the worst record of mammal extinctions in history, with many of our unique and vulnerable critters succumbing only years after the first Europeans…
You have to go back to the time of the dinosaurs to see where Earth is heading. You have to go back to the time of the dinosaurs to see where Earth is heading. Mr Kimberley/Flickr

Is another mass extinction event on the way?

Why have mass extinctions of species occurred since the late Proterozoic (from 580 million years ago) and repeatedly through the Phanerozoic? Integral to these extinctions were abrupt changes in the physical…
The pika is one species struggling to evolve fast enough to keep up with climate change. The pika is one species struggling to evolve fast enough to keep up with climate change. http://www.itsnature.org/ground/pika/

Could evolution help to protect biodiversity?

We currently face a biodiversity and extinction crisis as human population pressures and climate change combine to push our natural environments to the limit. Because our urban and agricultural activities…
The demise of the woolly mammoth could teach us much about our effect on other species. The demise of the woolly mammoth could teach us much about our effect on other species. George Teichmann

Did climate cause the extinction of the Ice Age megafauna?

When we think of the last 50,000 years of prehistory, particularly the “Ice Age”, extinct species such as the woolly mammoth and woolly rhinoceros often spring to mind. Did humans bring about the extinction…
Landscape is the star in The Hunter, but science plays a respectable supporting role. Landscape is the star in The Hunter, but science plays a respectable supporting role. Matthew Nettheim

The Hunter: bioethics and extinct DNA in the Tasmanian wilderness

All over the planet, a new wave of exploration and exploitation is taking place. Bioprospectors are searching for new and useful biological samples and compounds from previously unstudied animals and plants…
We can’t run away from it: we need food, and we need biodiversity. We can’t run away from it: we need food, and we need biodiversity. buiversonian

A global juggling act: feeding the world, saving species

Our planet is on the precipice of a sixth mass extinction event. But unlike the five previous mass extinctions, this one is man-made: a global biodiversity crisis in which species are disappearing three…
Coelondonta thibetana, an ancestor of the above, is a revelation and a paradox. Coelondonta thibetana, an ancestor of the above, is a revelation and a paradox. thejanehorton

New woolly rhino in Tibet causes itch for Ice Age theorists

Fossils from a new species of woolly rhinoceros found in Tibet have the potential to rock several cherished theories. According to the authors of a new paper published today in Science, the rhino showed…
Of an estimated 30 two-footed ape species, we’re the last ones standing. Of an estimated 30 two-footed ape species, we’re the last ones standing. Vermin Inc/Flickr

Climate change, doomsday and the ‘inevitable’ extinction of humankind

Does climate change seriously threaten to wipe out the human species if left unchecked? Examining our evolutionary past suggests it might once have been the perfect catalyst for our extinction. But now…
The hairy-nosed wombat is just one of the species at Australia’s “frozen zoo”. The hairy-nosed wombat is just one of the species at Australia’s “frozen zoo”. Fleshpiston/Flickr

Australia’s “frozen zoo” and the risk of extinction

Let’s be clear: the world’s animal resources are rapidly declining. Globally, more than 5,000 wildlife species are threatened with extinction. Some 25% are mammals, and 11% birds. Of the reptile, amphibian…

Research and News (8)

Research Briefs (21)

Monitoring wildlife to extinction?

Many international wildlife programs may be monitoring endangered species to extinction, often without taking necessary action…

‘Extinct’ chickpea rediscovered

The species of legume known as ‘Tallante’s chickpea’, which has not been seen for nearly a century, has finally been studied…