Some Animal Species Declared Extinct in 2016

It’s no secret that our planet has become increasingly uninhabitable over the last hundred years. There are several factors that contribute to this: industrialization, overpopulation, the inherent disassociation of people with the problems they’re causing, etc.

Not everything seemed so bleak with several communities of people gathering for the sake of protecting animals species that were nearing extinction. There have some degrees of success. The beloved Giant Panda of China is no longer considered to be endangered. Despite this, other organizations that aim to protect endangered species  seem to be fighting a losing battle. Sadly, in 2016, there were several animals that went extinct. We list them here today.

Two species of Bettongs

Bettongs are these tiny rodent-like marsupials are commonly called rat-kangaroos that are indigenous to Australia. Two species of Bettongs were officially declared extinct in 2016:

Nullabor Dwarf Bettong

The Nullabor Dwarf Bettong (Bettongia pusilla) was a species of Bettong that was endemic to the Nullabor Plain in Western Australia. It is known only from subfossil material but is considered to have been extant at European settlement.

Desert Bettong

Scientifically known as Bettongia anhydra. It was originally described as a subspecies of B. pencillata, the Desert Bettong was only recently recognized as a full species. Sadly, it was not fully known how abundant this species was before its extinction. It was thought to have been driven to extinction because of predators that were introduced to its habitat like Red Foxes and feral domestic cats.

Lesser Stick-nest Rat

The last two specimens of Lesser Stick-nest Rat (Leporillus apicalis) were collected near Mt. Crombie, Australia in July 1933. Stick-nest Rats constructed large nests of sticks and sometimes stones, depending on available construction materials. Some remaining in caves in breakaways in the Gibson Desert and near the Finke stock route in the southern Northern Territory are more than 3 m by 2 m by 1 m high.

The construction of stick-nests shows that shelter was important; the nests probably provided an ameliorated microclimate and some protection from predators. A nest may have sheltered several individuals, with records of up to ten in a nest. However, there were several records of events where the nests were burned–although the reason for this is unclear.

Ridley’s Stick Insect

The oddly named Ridley’s Stick Insect (Pseudobactricia ridleyi) was native to Singapore. With Singapore’s massive industrialization spike, most of its forest has been removed. Ridley’s Stick Insect is known from just one specimen collected in Singapore more than 100 years ago. As almost all natural forest in Singapore has since been cleared, extensive searches of the remaining forest have failed to reveal any more specimens of this species, genus or subfamily. Exhaustive surveys have also been carried out in neighboring countries which have failed to reveal any evidence of the species.

Contomastix Charrua

This is a small lizard that lived on the small island of Cabo Polonio, Paraguay. It seems to have met its extinction because of the massive increase of human settlement on the island. While there is some discussion over whether or not it may just be a color variant of the Contomastix lacertoides, there hasn’t been any new specimens found to develop conclusive findings.

What the Paris Agreement Can Do For Our Fish Stock

In recent decades, our planet’s temperature has been rising, bringing with it some pretty disastrous consequences. Sea levels rise and species of marine wildlife have been dislocated. Climate change is expected to force fish and other species to migrate toward cooler waters. The sheer number of species of fish caught in different parts of the world will impact local fishers where such species are usually found. This will make fishery management to become increasingly difficult as the temperatures continue to rise.

Thomas Frölicher, a principal investigator at the Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program and senior scientist at ETH Zürich, has said that changes in ocean conditions that affect fish stocks, like temperature and oxygen concentration, are primarily related to atmospheric warming and carbon emissions. He also stated that for every metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, the maximum catch potential decreases by a significant amount.

This is a crucial point that should come up whenever the Paris Agreement is discussed. The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) concerning greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance starting in the year 2020. If countries abide by the Paris Agreement global warming target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, our fish stock and fish catches could increase by six million metric tons per year.

Studies wherein the Paris Agreement 1.5C scenario was compared to the currently pledged 3.5C found the simulated changes to be quite drastic. The results showed that for every degree Celsius decrease in global warming, the potential fish catches all around the world could increase more than three metric million tons per year. Previous researches reflected that today’s global fish catch is roughly 110 million metric tons. So obviously, we can only gain by doing solid actions to insure this goal now.

Initial studies regarding the Paris Agreement suggest that the Indo-Pacific area will more than likely see a 40% increase in fishery catches at a 1.5C warming rather than at 3.5C. The Arctic region would have a greater influx of fish under the 3.5C scenario but will lose more sea ice and face pressure to expand fisheries.

The sheer number of the projected yield should ideally be more than enough incentive for countries and the private sector to substantially increase their commitments and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We all need to work on this together—if even just one country opts out of the Paris Agreement, there will be a clear reduction of the otherwise global positive effects we should all be getting.

Our population is only climbing higher and we’re running out of resources to reasonably sustain us all. Some oceans are more sensitive to changes in temperature and will have substantially larger gains from the Paris Agreement. Tropical areas are among the places where in the most yield increase will be felt. This is quite a significant point for them to consider given that tropical areas are those who are highly dependent on fisheries for food and livelihood.

If we want to continue to enjoy living on this blue globe of ours as the dominant species, we need to ensure that our descendants should have their share of continued food and fair temperature.

Evolution in Overtime: The Atlantic Killifish’s Amazing Feat

There is little doubt of the fact that environmental changes all over the world have been outpacing the rate of evolution and adaptation of many species. This has led to the extreme decline in certain numbers—something that has been the cause of alarm for most scientists throughout the years. In a more positive end to the spectrum, experts from The University of California have found that the Atlantic Killifish has undergone quite a change.

The Killifish have been known to be quite tough, even managing to survive a few weeks outside of water. A sample size from four polluted East Coast estuaries was studied and researchers found out quite the incredible feat. The Atlantic Killifish has adapted to the levels of highly toxic industrial pollutants that would have normally killed them off. They were found to be 8,000 times more resistant to the level of pollution than other fish sampled in the area.

Killifish aren’t commercially valuable but serve as an importance food source for other species in the area—the makings of a good environmental indicator of the health of the area (at least that what it was supposed to be). Researchers were surprised to find that despite the extreme toxicity levels, the Killifish were doing extremely well. A closer study of the fishes and their genetic markers yielded the data which showed that the Killifish is genetically diverse.

Their genetic diversity is actually higher than any other vertebrate species measured, which is something that can account for their speedy evolutionary capabilities. Sadly, not even Humans posses those high levels of genetic variation which is why our evolution has spanned over several millennia and is something that slowly continues to this day. Weeds and insects also share the Killifish’s high levels of genetic variation which accounts for their ability to hastily adapt and evolve their resistance to pesticides.

The researchers of the Killifish study mapped out the genomes of nearly 400 Atlantic Killifish samples from extremely polluted and non-polluted sections at several places like Newark Bay, New Jersey; New Bedford Harbor in Massachusetts; Connecticut’s Bridgeport area and Virginia’s Elizabeth River. These sites have been polluted since the 50s due to the dumping of industrial pollutants which include dioxins, hydrocarbons, and several others.

These findings lay down the foundation for future research into the exploration of genes that showcase a stronger tolerance of specific chemicals. This can help further explain how certain genetic differences among humans and other species can contribute to differences in the sensitivity and reaction to environmental chemicals.

This new information taken from the Killifish study shows that while some show the genetic capability for faster evolution, this is not indicative that a majority of species can follow suit. If anything, it should serve as a warning that should the environmental makeup of our world continue on its path of rapid change, we, and several other species of plant and animal life, may not be able to keep up. It should follow that more studies of this nature should be done to fully understand which ones cannot stay alive without our intervention. This will help clarify where more studies should be done to pinpoint our efforts effectively.

Crustaceans

Crustaceans

As many of you may know already, crustaceans are classified within the phylum, Arthopoda. They share this classification with 3 other groups, which includes hexapods, myriapods, and chelicerates. In general, hexapods refer to insects; myriapods refer to millipedes and centipedes, and chelicerates refer to horseshoe crabs and arachnids.

Qualities of Arthropods

Though arthropods are the most diverse group of animals with regards to number of species, they still retain some common characteristics that are listed up on the screen. These include the presence of rigid exoskeletons that provide the animal with support for walking and some protection against predators, as well as segmented bodies, jointed limbs, and muscle attachment inside the exoskeleton that allow the animal to perform complex movements.

Crustaceans Rundown

As a taxon, crustaceans are a diverse group of approximately 52,000 species featuring familiar animals such as crabs, shrimp, lobsters, krill, and barnacles, some of which are depicted here. Like other arthropods, crustaceans have segmented bodies, jointed limbs, and an exoskeleton, which they must molt in order to grow. Yet, on the other hand, they are distinguishable from other arthropods in three main ways. These include a nauplius larval stage, biramous appendages, and a cephalon. Unlike other arthropods, most crustaceans go through a series of larval stages, the first being the nauplius larva, in which only a few limbs are present, near the front of the body. Other limbs do not show up until later in development. Secondly, crustaceans exhibit limbs or appendages that are split in two, usually as two segmented branches, one internal (known as an endopod) and one external (known as an exopod); hence, two-part or biramous. Lastly, crustaceans have a unique five-segmented head (known as a cephalon), followed by a long trunk typically regionalized into a thorax and abdomen.

Copepods

And now I’m going to isolate two particular crustacean groups. The first is copepods. Copepods are a group of small crustaceans that are found in the sea as well as nearly every freshwater habitat. Some species are planktonic (drifting in sea waters), some are benthic (living on the ocean floor), and some are continental that live in other wet terrestrial places, such as swamps, bogs and springs. However, one type holds a particular interest for humans. The marine benthic copepod, Robertsonia propinqua, is currently being studied as a bioindicator of sediment-associated contaminants. In the lab, scientists at Lincoln University in New Zealand are determining the effect that particular contaminants such as atrazine and zinc sulfate have on its life cycle by injecting them into the copepod and observing the results.

Barnacles

The second crustacean group I would like to focus on is barnacles. Barnacles are a group of arthropods that are exclusively marine and tend to live in shallow, tidal waters. They are sessile (non-motile) filter feeders that obtain food by straining and suspending food particles from the water. At first glance, it might be hard to believe that barnacles are classified as arthropods. Though segmentation is usually indistinct, their bodies do possess unequal divisions of a head, thorax, and abdomen. Adult barnacles have few appendages on the head, with only a single pair of antennae. They also have six pairs of thoracic limbs, referred to as “cirri”, which are long, feathery appendages that are used to filter feed. Barnacles were originally thought be mollusks because of their apparent possession of a shell, but they are actually crustaceans with their nearest relatives being shrimp and lobsters. The barnacles depicted on the slide, Chamaesipho tasmanica, are known as honeycomb barnacles because they form dense covers of hundreds or even thousands of barnacles over rock surfaces in tidal waters.

 

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