Tuesday, November 30News That Matters

Tag: Endangered and Extinct Species

La vaquita marina podría ser el próximo animal en extinguirse

Technology, World
Este otoño, cuando los científicos planeaban una expedición en México para contar los ejemplares de uno los animales más amenazados del mundo, una tímida marsopa llamada vaquita, temieron que no quedara ninguna por encontrar. El último recuento, en 2019, calculó que solo quedaban unas diez.Al mismo tiempo, los pescadores de la zona se preparaban para salir con las redes ilegales que, según los científicos, están llevando a las marsopas a la extinción: paredes de malla que cuelgan en posición vertical bajo la superficie, hasta seis metros de profundidad y que se extienden a lo largo del equivalente a varios campos de fútbol americano.Llamadas redes de enmalle, atrapan camarones y peces. También enredan a las vaquitas, ahogando a los mamíferos. Los investigadores afirman que las redes son la...
Vaquitas Could Soon Be Extinct. Mexico Will Largely Determine Their Fate.

Vaquitas Could Soon Be Extinct. Mexico Will Largely Determine Their Fate.

Technology, World
As scientists planned an expedition in Mexico this fall to count one of the world’s most endangered animals, a shy porpoise called a vaquita, they dreaded the possibility that there would be none left to find. The last survey, in 2019, estimated that only about 10 remained.At the same time, fishermen in the area were preparing to set out with the illegal nets that scientists say are driving the porpoises to extinction: walls of mesh that hang upright below the surface, up to 20 feet deep and stretching the length of several football fields.Called gill nets, they trap shrimp and fish. They also entangle vaquitas, drowning the mammals. Researchers say the nets are the only known cause for the species’ catastrophic decline, but getting rid of them has turned out to be a challenge.Amid a globa...

As Earth Warms, Human History Is Melting Away

Technology
To hear more audio stories from publications like The New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android.For the past few centuries, the Yup’ik peoples of Alaska have told gruesome tales of a massacre that occurred during the Bow and Arrow War Days, a series of long and often brutal battles across the Bering Sea coast and the Yukon. According to one account, the carnage started when one village sent a war party to raid another. But the residents had been tipped off and set an ambush, wiping out the marauders. The victors then attacked the undefended town, torching it and slaughtering its inhabitants. No one was spared.For the last 12 years, Rick Knecht has led an excavation at a site called Nunalleq, about 400 miles west of Anchorage. “When we began, the hope was to learn something about ...
Endangered California Condors Can Reproduce Asexually, Study Finds

Endangered California Condors Can Reproduce Asexually, Study Finds

Technology
Conservation geneticists working to preserve endangered California condors have discovered two instances of chicks hatching from unfertilized eggs — the first known cases of so-called virgin births within the species.That finding, included in a study published Thursday in The Journal of Heredity, is particularly remarkable, as such cases are unusual among birds.Parthenogenesis, the process by which female animals produce embryos that have not been fertilized by sperm, is more common among vertebrate species like fish or lizards. Before the findings made public on Thursday, the other known instances of parthenogenesis among birds were limited to turkeys, finches and domestic pigeons, according to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.“Parthenogenesis is considered to be a rare phenomenon in b...
How Did Elephants and Walruses Get Their Tusks? It’s a Long Story.

How Did Elephants and Walruses Get Their Tusks? It’s a Long Story.

Technology
Elephants have them. Pigs have them. Narwhals and water deer have them. Tusks are among the most dramatic examples of mammal dentition: ever-growing, projecting teeth used for fighting, foraging, even flirting.So why, across the broad sweep of geologic history, do such useful teeth only appear among mammals and no other surviving groups of animals? According to a study published Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, it takes two key adaptations to teeth to make a tusk — and the evolutionary pathway first appeared millions of years before the first true mammals.Around 255 million years ago, a family of mammal relatives called dicynodonts — tusked, turtle-beaked herbivores ranging in stature from gopher-size burrowers to six-ton behemoths — wandered the forests of the ...
Please Don’t Feed the Whale Sharks? Fishing Town Says It Must, to Prosper.

Please Don’t Feed the Whale Sharks? Fishing Town Says It Must, to Prosper.

Travel
TAN-AWAN, Philippines — In the predawn light, Lorene de Guzman paddles out to sea in his tiny wooden outrigger to hand-feed the giants living in the water.One of the behemoths, a whale shark known as 180, swims up, its enormous mouth gliding across the surface of the still ocean.“Where have you been?” Mr. de Guzman asks 180, whom he hasn’t seen in weeks, as he drops handfuls of shrimp into the water and gently scrapes some debris from the shark’s body. “You must have traveled to a far-off place.”When 180 is done with breakfast, Mr. de Guzman gazes out and waits in the calm water, hoping the tourists might return today, or some day.The waters around Tan-Awan, his town of some 2,000 people in Cebu Province, attracted more than half a million tourists in 2019, all eager to interact with the h...

Dinosaurs May Have Been Socializing Nearly 200 Million Years Ago

Technology
Paleontologists have found the earliest known evidence that dinosaurs lived in herds — unlike reptiles, and more like penguins and other birds do today — and socialized with each other by age groups.The scientists, working a rich deposit of fossils at a site in Argentina’s province of Santa Cruz, at the southern tip of South America, found more than 100 eggs and the skeletons of 80 individuals ranging in age from embryos to adults.All of the fossils, including the embryos inside the eggs, are of the species Mussaurus patagonicus. These dinosaurs were about 10 feet high and 26 feet in length when fully grown, with a long tail balanced by an equally long neck that ends in a head that seems too small for the enormous animal it is attached to. This is the only place Mussaurus remains have ever...
Why the U.N.’s Biodiversity Conference Is So Important

Why the U.N.’s Biodiversity Conference Is So Important

Technology, World
As 20,000 government leaders, journalists, activists and celebrities from around the world prepare to descend on Glasgow for a crucial climate summit starting late this month, another high-level international environmental meeting got started this week. The problem it seeks to tackle: A rapid collapse of species and systems that collectively sustain life on earth.The stakes at the two meetings are equally high, many leading scientists say, but the biodiversity crisis has received far less attention.“If the global community continues to see it as a side event, and they continue thinking that climate change is now the thing to really listen to, by the time they wake up on biodiversity it might be too late,” said Francis Ogwal, one of the leaders of the working group charged with shaping an a...

Biden Administration Restores Bird Protections, Repealing Trump Rule

Technology, World
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Wednesday restored protections for migratory birds that were loosened under former President Donald J. Trump, a move celebrated by conservationists but expected to exacerbate tensions between the administration and the oil and gas industry.The move comes as some bird species have been disappearing from the planet. North America has lost almost three billion birds in the past 50 years, scientists said. In addition to suffering from habitat loss and climate change, they are killed by collisions with buildings, power lines and communication towers. They die in oil waste pits and oil spills.Deb Haaland, the secretary of the Department of Interior, said the agency will formally revoke a rule enacted in the waning days of the Trump presidency that shielde...

Protected Too Late: U.S. Officials Report More Than 20 Extinctions

Technology, World
Freshwater mussels are among the most imperiled groups in North America, but scientists don’t know enough about the eight species on the list to say for sure why they disappeared. The extinctions are likely connected to the reservoirs that humans built over the last 100 years, federal biologists said, essentially turning the mussels’ rivers into lakes.Did the change in habitat affect some aspect of their carefully choreographed life cycle? Were the filter feeders also injured by sediment or pollution in the water?Freshwater mussels rely on adaptations developed over untold years of evolution. Females lure in fish with an appendage that looks like a minnow, crayfish, snail, insect or worm, depending on the species. The mussels then squirt out their larvae, which attach to the fish, forcing ...