Category: Species Extinction.


Steve Cutts Steve Cutts·

Published on Dec 21, 2012

Animation created in Flash and After Effects looking at mans relationship with the natural world.

Music: In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg.!/Steve_Cutts

Copyright © 2012


Woolly Mammoths and Rhinos Ate Flowers

The Arctic had much more diverse flora than previously thought during the Pleistocene Era
Credit: Mauricio Anton

Woolly mammoths, rhinos and other ice age beasts may have munched on high-protein wildflowers called forbs, new research suggests.

And far from living in a monotonous grassland, the mega-beasts inhabited a colorful Arctic landscape filled with flowering plants and diverse vegetation, the study researchers found.

The new research “paints a different picture of the Arctic,” thousands of years ago, said study co-author Joseph Craine, an ecosystem ecologist at Kansas State University. “It makes us rethink how the vegetation looked and how those animals thrived on the landscape.”

The ancient ecosystem was detailed today (Feb. 5) in the journal Nature.

Pretty landscape

In the past, scientists imagined that the now-vast Arctic tundra was once a brown grassland steppe that teemed with wooly mammoths, rhinos and bison. But recreations of the ancient Arctic vegetation relied on fossilized pollen found in permafrost, or frozen soil. Because grasses and sedges tend to produce more pollen than other plants, those analyses produced a biased picture of the landscape. [Image Gallery: Ancient Beasts Roam an Arctic Landscape]

To understand the ancient landscape better, researchers analyzed the plant genetic material found in 242 samples of permafrost from across Siberia, Northern Europe and Alaska that dated as far back as 50,000 years ago.

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Pathogenic plant virus jumps to honeybees

by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Jan 24, 2014

Toxic viral cocktails appear to have a strong link with honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a mysterious malady that abruptly wiped out entire hives across the United States and was first reported in 2006. Israel Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV), Acute Bee Paralysis Virus (ABPV), Chronic Paralysis Virus (CPV), Kashmir Bee Virus (KBV), Deformed Wing Bee Virus (DWV), Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV) and Sacbrood Virus (SBV) are other known causes of honeybee viral disease.

Researchers working in the U.S. and Beijing, China report their findings in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

The routine screening of bees for frequent and rare viruses “resulted in the serendipitous detection of Tobacco Ringspot Virus, or TRSV, and prompted an investigation into whether this plant-infecting virus could also cause systemic infection in the bees,” says Yan Ping Chen from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, an author on the study.

“The results of our study provide the first evidence that honeybees exposed to virus-contaminated pollen can also be infected and that the infection becomes widespread in their bodies,” says lead author Ji Lian Li, at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science in Beijing.

“We already know that honeybees, Apis melllifera, can transmit TRSV when they move from flower to flower, likely spreading the virus from one plant to another,” Chen adds.

Notably, about 5% of known plant viruses are pollen-transmitted and thus potential sources of host-jumping viruses. RNA viruses tend to be particularly dangerous because they lack the 3′-5′ proofreading function which edits out errors in replicated genomes. As a result, viruses such as TRSV generate a flood of variant copies with differing infective properties.

One consequence of such high replication rates are populations of RNA viruses thought to exist as “quasispecies,” clouds of genetically related variants that appear to work together to determine the pathology of their hosts. These sources of genetic diversity, coupled with large population sizes, further facilitate the adaption of RNA viruses to new selective conditions such as those imposed by novel hosts. “Thus, RNA viruses are a likely source of emerging and reemerging infectious diseases,” explain these researchers.

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Bee Deaths May Stem From Virus, Study Says

The mysterious mass die-offs of honeybees that have wiped out roughly a third of commercial colonies each year since 2006 may be linked to a rapidly mutating virus that jumped from tobacco plants to soy plants to bees, according to a new study.

The research, reported Tuesday in the online version of the academic journal mBio, found that the increase in honeybee deaths that generally starts in autumn and peaks in winter was correlated with increasing infections by a variant of the tobacco ringspot virus.

The virus is found in pollen that bees pick up while foraging, and it may be spread as the bees mix saliva and nectar with pollen to make “bee bread” for larvae to eat. Mites that feed on the bees may also be involved in transmitting the virus, the researchers said.

Among the study’s authors are leading researchers investigating the bee deaths at the Agriculture Department’s laboratories in Beltsville, Md., as well as experts at American universities and at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing.

Their research offers one explanation for the phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, in which bees have died at more than twice the usual rate since it was identified seven years ago. But most researchers, including the study’s authors, suspect that a host of viruses, parasites and, perhaps, other factors like pesticides are working in combination to weaken colonies and increase the death rate.

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Jan 10, 2014 by

According to paleontologists from the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan, long-extinct Bandringa sharks migrated downstream from freshwater swamps to the ocean to spawn in shallow coastal waters and left behind fossil evidence of one of the earliest known shark nurseries.

This is an artist's impression of Bandringa shark. Image credit: John Megahan / University of Michigan.

This is an artist’s impression of Bandringa shark. Image credit: John Megahan / University of Michigan.

The long-snouted Bandringa shark (Elasmobranchii, Chondrichthyes) – a bottom-feeding predator that lived in an ancient river delta system in what is today the Upper Midwest – is likely one of the earliest close relatives of modern sharks.

It resembled present-day sawfish and paddlefish, with a spoon-billed snout up to half its body length. Juveniles were 4 to 6 inches long and grew into adults of up to 10 feet.

Bandringa sharks were discovered in 1969 and soon became one of the most prized fossils from the well-known Mazon Creek deposits in northern Illinois.

Until now, paleontologists believed that the genus Bandringa contained two species – B. rayi and B. herdinae, one that lived in freshwater swamps and rivers and another that lived in the shallow ocean.

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Published on Nov 6, 2013

Dr. Annalee Newitz is an editor of i09, was a lecturer at UC Berkeley, a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a journalist at Wired, and author of ‘Scatter, Adapt, and Remember’.

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Nov 5, 2013 by


An Australian-U.S. team of paleontologists has found a unique fossil of a huge, carnivorous platypus that lived in what is now Australia during the late Miocene.
This is an artist's reconstruction of Obdurodon tharalkooschild. The inset shows its first lower molar. Image credit: Peter Schouten.

This is an artist’s reconstruction of Obdurodon tharalkooschild. The inset shows its first lower molar. Image credit: Peter Schouten.

The modern platypus is a duck-billed, venomous, semi-aquatic mammal with webbed feet and is covered in short waterproof fur. It is one of the five extant species of monotremes, the only mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth.

The new extinct species of platypus, named Obdurodon tharalkooschild, has been described from a unique tooth fossil found at the famous Riversleigh World Heritage Area of Queensland.

The specific name, tharalkooschild, honors an Indigenous Australian creation story about the origin of the platypus.

Unlike the living species, Obdurodon tharalkooschild had fully functional teeth that may have been used to kill and consume a wide range of animals that lived alongside it in ancient pools and lakes. Based on the size of its tooth, it is estimated that Obdurodon tharalkooschild would have been twice the size of the modern platypus, around 3.3 feet (1 m) long.

“Like other platypuses, it was probably a mostly aquatic mammal, and would have lived in and around the freshwater pools in the forests that covered the Riversleigh area millions of years ago,” explained Prof Suzanne Hand from the University of New South Wales, a co-author of the article published in the Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology.

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the Daily Galaxy

August 28, 2013

Permian Mass Extinction Paved Way for the Rise of Mammals and Intelligent Life


The first mammals arose in the Triassic period, more than 225 million years ago, including small shrew-like animals such as Morganucodon from England, Megazostrodon from South Africa and Bienotherium from China. They had differentiated teeth (incisors, canines, molars) and large brains and were probably warm-blooded and covered in fur – all characteristics that stand them apart from their reptile ancestors, and which contribute to their huge success today.

However, new research suggests that this array of unique features arose gradually over a long span of time, and that the first mammals may have arisen as a result of the end-Permian mass extinction – which wiped out 90 per cent of marine organisms and 70 per cent of terrestrial species.

Mass extinctions are seen as entirely negative. However, in this case, cynodont therapsids, which included a very small number of species before the extinction, really took off afterwards and were able to adapt to fill many different niches in the Triassic – from carnivores to herbivoresm,” said Dr Marcello Ruta, lead author and evolutionary palaeobiologist from the University of Lincoln.

“During the Triassic, the cynodonts split into two groups, the cynognathians and the probainognathians,” added
co-author Dr Jennifer Botha-Brink of the National Museum in Bloemfontein, South Africa. “The first were mainly plant-eaters, the second mainly flesh-eaters and the two groups seemed to rise and fall at random – first one expanding, and then the other. In the end, the probainognathians became the most diverse and most varied in adaptations, and they gave rise to the first mammals some 25 million years after the mass extinction.”

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the Daily Galaxy

August 06, 2013

EcoAlert: Replay of Ancient “Greenhouse World”? — Dramatically Altered Coral Reefs & Marine Life

If history’s closest analog is any indication, the look of the oceans will change drastically in the future as the coming greenhouse world alters marine food webs and gives certain species advantages over others. For the past million years, atmospheric CO2 concentrations have never exceeded 280 parts per million, but industrialization, forest clearing, agriculture, and other human activities have rapidly increased concentrations of CO2 and other gases known to create a “greenhouse” effect that traps heat in the atmosphere. For several days in May 2013, CO2 levels exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time in human history and that milestone could be left well behind in the next decades. At its current pace, Earth could recreate the CO2 content of the atmosphere in the greenhouse world in just 80 years.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, paleobiologist Richard Norris and colleagues show that the ancient greenhouse world had few large reefs, a poorly oxygenated ocean, tropical surface waters like a hot tub, and food webs that did not sustain the abundance of large sharks, whales, seabirds, and seals of the modern ocean. Aspects of this greenhouse ocean could reappear in the future if greenhouse gases continue to rise at current accelerating rates.

The researchers base their projections on what is known about the “greenhouse world” of 50 million years ago when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were much higher than those that have been present during human history. Their review article appears in an Aug. 2 special edition of the journal Science titled “Natural Systems in Changing Climates.”

In the greenhouse world, fossils indicate that CO2 concentrations reached 800-1,000 parts per million. Tropical ocean temperatures reached 35º C (95º F), and the polar oceans reached 12°C (53°F) — similar to current ocean temperatures offshore San Francisco. There were no polar ice sheets. Scientists have identified a “reef gap” between 42 and 57 million years ago in which complex coral reefs largely disappeared and the seabed was dominated by piles of pebble-like single-celled organisms called foraminifera.

“The ‘rainforests-of-the-sea’ reefs were replaced by the ‘gravel parking lots’ of the greenhouse world,” said Norris.
The greenhouse world was also marked by differences in the ocean food web with large parts of the tropical and subtropical ocean ecosystems supported by minute picoplankton instead of the larger diatoms typically found in highly productive ecosystems today. Indeed, large marine animals — sharks, tunas, whales, seals, even seabirds — mostly became abundant when algae became large enough to support top predators in the cold oceans of recent geologic times.

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By: Alexander Holmgren

August 01, 2013

A skipper butterfly.  Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim and reproduced under the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2.
A skipper butterfly. Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim and reproduced under the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2.


Conservationist’s faced a crushing blow last month as two butterfly species native to Florida were declared extinct.

“Occasionally, these types of butterflies disappear for long periods of time but are rediscovered in another location,” said Larry Williams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife state supervisor for ecological services. We think it’s apparent now these two species are extinct.”

Neither species has been seen in any environment for at least nine years, the latter of the two not being seen since 2000. This calamity is only made worse by the fact that so much could have been done in order to save these creatures. The first species, the Zestos skipper butterfly (Epargyreus zestos oberon), had strong bodies with large black eyes and large wings that were adorned with spots that looked like eyes. While the Zestos skipper was visibly declining in its environment, the subspecies was denied access to the U.S.’s Endangered Species Act (ESA) because of the confusion between it and other skipper species in the Bahamas. In the end, what was thought to be a bountiful reserve in the Bahamas proved to be a completely different species. By the time the mistake was realized it proved too late.

The Rockland grass skipper butterfly (Hesperia meskei pinocayo), an amber golden insect with club like antenna and black eyes, was similarly thought to be making a comeback as the species that had not been seen since the 80’s was spotted back in 2000. But is now believed extinct.

The extinction of these animals “serves as a wake-up call that we really need to intensify our efforts to save other imperiled butterflies,” according to Williams.

Both species vanished almost overnight as conservationists and scientists realized that the abundant populations of these species simply did not exist.


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Butterflies aren’t showing up for Michigan summer

4:06 PM, July 5, 2013   |
The American Painted Lady butterfly drinks some nectar in the yard of Joe Derek, former naturalist for the city of Farmington Hills.

The American Painted Lady butterfly drinks some nectar in the yard of Joe Derek, former naturalist for the city of Farmington Hills. / Joe Derek
By Kristen Jordan Shamus

Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

Joe Derek, 65, of Farmington Hills talks about some of the plants in his natural garden on Friday, June 28, 2013, that help attract butterflies while while standing near Joe Pye weeds. Derek, formerly the naturalist for the city of Farmington Hills, has a 2-acre butterfly garden at his home. Ryan Garza / Detroit Free Press / Detroit Free Press
A European cabbage butterfly hides from the rain on a plant in Joe Derek’s butterfly garden in Farmington Hills on Friday June 28, 2013. Derek, formerly the naturalist for the City of Farmington Hills, has a 2-acre butterfly garden at his home. Ryan Garza / Detroit Free Press / Detroit Free Press

There aren’t many among the lantana, the butterfly bushes or the milkweed plants in Joe Derek’s Farmington Hills yard.

Butterflies are strikingly absent this year from his naturally landscaped property off 10 Mile Road, where he grows two acres of native plants known to draw the fluttering beauties.

“Normally, at this time of year, I’d see hundreds,” says Derek, former naturalist for the City of Farmington Hills. “In my life, I’ve never seen a season where we’re not seeing butterflies really of any kind.”

They’re missing from Diane Pruden’s yard in Milford, too.

RELATED: If you plant it, the butterflies will come

PHOTO GALLERY: Plants that attract butterflies | Mobile users click here

“It’s just horrible,” says Pruden, a monarch conservationist for the nonprofit group Monarch Watch. “I’ve got plants that should be covered with eggs and caterpillars right now, and there are just none to be seen.”

Butterfly enthusiasts say there’s a dearth of butterflies in Michigan this year. Official data are still being collected by monitoring groups around the state, but anecdotally, at least, the outlook is grim.

Holli Ward, executive director of the Michigan Butterflies Project based in Jenison, near Grand Rapids, says she has seen disappointingly few monarchs this year, the type she studies most.

“We go out and are looking, looking, inspecting thoroughly,” she says. “On a good day, we’re looking at hundreds of milkweed stalks — every week, twice a week since early June. We have not seen a single egg or caterpillar.”

Her group examines milkweed because it is the only plant monarchs use to lay their eggs; it’s also a food source in their early days as caterpillars.

Ward is hopeful it’ll get better later into the season, but she has her doubts.

“This year’s cooler, wetter spring really didn’t help,” Ward says. “Couple that with last year’s extremely hot, extremely dry weather, and it’s a terrible situation for monarchs.”

Besides the weather, part of the problem is development of prairies and grasslands, farming practices that have all but eliminated milkweed and other native plants from corn and soybean fields through the heartland, and suburban landscaping with nonnative plants. Combined, these factors have wiped out huge swaths of habitat that used to lure and feed these delicate insects.

Widespread use of pesticides — especially large-scale spraying for mosquitoes and gypsy moths — also kills caterpillars. Rampant use of herbicides in landscaping also contributes to the problem, destroying many native plants the butterflies need to survive.


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Get involved

■ Learn about the plants that are best for attracting butterflies and make a commitment to add them to your garden, landscaping or even in pots on your patio or porch.
■ Don’t use pesticides in your yard. They kill the butterflies, too.
■ To become a citizen scientist and help the Michigan Butterfly Network with its butterfly counts, go to or call Ashley Anne Wick at 269-381-1574, ext. 12, for details.
■ You can also monitor and check the progress of monarch butterflies through Journey North, a nonprofit group that tracks wildlife migration and seasonal change through field observations. To learn more, go to
■ If you’re in western Michigan, learn more about the Michigan Butterflies Project counts at or by calling Holli Ward at 616-581-8002 or by e-mail at



Monarch butterfly numbers drop by ‘ominous’ 59%

Posted: Mar 15, 2013 10:26 AM ET

Last Updated: Mar 16, 2013 7:16 PM ET

The decline in the Monarch population now marks a statistical long-term trend and can no longer be seen as a combination of yearly or seasonal events, experts say.

The decline in the Monarch population now marks a statistical long-term trend and can no longer be seen as a combination of yearly or seasonal events, experts say.

The number of Monarch butterflies making it to their winter refuge in Mexico dropped 59 per cent this year, falling to the lowest level since comparable record-keeping began 20 years ago, scientists reported Wednesday.

It was the third straight year of declines for the orange-and-black butterflies that migrate from the United States and Canada to spend the winter sheltering in mountaintop fir forests in central Mexico. Six of the last seven years have shown drops, and there are now only one-fifteenth as many butterflies as there were in 1997.

The decline in the Monarch population now marks a statistical long-term trend and can no longer be seen as a combination of yearly or seasonal events, the experts said.

But they differed on the possible causes.

Illegal logging in the reserve established in the Monarch wintering grounds was long thought to contribute, but such logging has been vastly reduced by increased protection, enforcement and alternative development programs in Mexico.

The World Wildlife Fund, one of the groups that sponsored the butterfly census, blamed climate conditions and agricultural practices, especially the use of pesticides that kill off the Monarchs’ main food source, milkweed. The butterflies breed and live in the north in the summer, and migrate to Mexico in the winter.

“The decrease of Monarch butterflies … probably is due to the negative effects of reduction in milkweed and extreme variation in the United States and Canada,” the fund and its partner organizations said in a statement.


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Butterfly decline a worrying portent

ButterfliesButterfly decline in the US may be getting out of hand. Photo: Getty Images

Butterflies are the essence of cool in the insect world, a favorite muse for poets and songwriters who hold them up as symbols of love, beauty, transformation and good fortune.

But providing good fortune apparently goes only one way. As humans rip apart woods and meadows for housing developments and insecticide-soaked lawns, butterflies across the US are disappearing.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that two brown, moth-like butterfly subspecies are likely extinct in south Florida, which some entomologists say is ground zero for the number of butterfly species on the verge of annihilation.

The rockland grass skipper went missing in 1999, and the Zestos skipper hasn’t been seen since 2004. Several other species, such as the ebony-and-ivory-colored Schaus swallowtail, are listed as endangered, and many others are threatened, including the silvery Bartram’s hairstreak.

“We look at it as a signal that we’ve got a serious problem with butterflies and other insects and pollinators here in Florida,” said Larry Williams, a supervisor for the ecological services program at Fish and Wildlife. “We’re looking at this as sort of a wake-up call that we need to be watching butterflies more closely.”

At least one species of butterfly has vanished from the United States, along with the two subspecies in Florida. Seventeen species and subspecies are listed as endangered nationwide, and two are listed as threatened.

Habitat loss is a major problem, as are insect sprays, especially those used by municipalities and homeowners to control mosquitoes. “We know that it’s becoming increasingly popular for individual homeowners to use misting systems to spray low levels of pesticides. As those become more abundant, we have to evaluate if those are contributing to the decline,” Williams said.

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Two South Florida butterflies declared likely extinct

  Seen here are the Zestos Skipper and Meske's Skipper  butterflies. The Zestos butterfly is likely extinct, federal wildlife managers say.

Seen here are the Zestos Skipper and Meske’s Skipper butterflies. The Zestos butterfly is likely extinct, federal wildlife managers say.

Federal wildlife managers on Monday pronounced two South Florida butterflies likely extinct.

The announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came after surveys going back more than a decade failed to find any Zestos skippers or rockland grass skippers.

Larry Williams, the service’s regional supervisor for ecological services, said in a statement that he hoped the loss “serves as a wake-up call that we really need to intensify our efforts to save other imperiled butterflies in South Florida.”

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NEWS Channel 5


Schaus Swallowtail butterflies: A glimmer of hope for endangered butterfly at University of Florida


WPTV Schaus Swallowtail butterfly

An entomologist at the University of Florida is raising seven immature butterflies belonging to Schaus Swallowtail, a species of butterfly that is critically endangered and just “hanging on.”

Photographer:   By: Phil Gast, CNN


(CNN) — At his version of an ICU unit, Jaret Daniels pays extraordinary attention to his young charges.

Each of the creatures is kept in its own plastic cup, isolated to prevent the spread of disease.

Not just any food will do. In their climate-controlled environment, the Schaus swallowtail caterpillars munch voraciously on wild lime.

Daniels, an entomologist at the University of Florida, is raising seven immature butterflies belonging to a species that is critically endangered and just “hanging on.”

The pressure, Daniels said, is enough to keep him up at night.

He and others are trying to save an insect that is on the brink of extinction and in need of human intervention.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an emergency directive in 2012 to collect females in Biscayne National Park and raise their eggs.

While no females were collected last year, officials announced this week that an adult female was snared on the park’s Elliott Key last month, along with six larvae. The female produced one egg.

Federal and state officials say the Schaus’ hopes might depend on a breeding program that may help safeguard a portion of the remaining population.

“I know what I am doing,” Daniels told CNN on Tuesday. “I am going to do the best that I can do.”

The Schaus swallowtail, contained to a relatively small area in southeastern Florida, in 1976 was listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened. It reached the endangered status eight years later.

The colorful butterfly’s numbers have dropped precipitously over the decades. Captive breeding was tried in the 1980s and 1990s, boosting the Schaus numbers for a time.

That didn’t last long.


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