Category: Species Extinction.

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About one-third of the world’s crops depend on the honeybees for pollination. The past decades honeybees have been dying at an alarming rate. Fewer bees will eventually lead to less availability of our favorite whole foods and it will also drive up the prices of many of the fruits and veggies we eat on a daily basis.

While some actions have been taken in the past, our bees are still dying and something needs to be done to make sure our most favorite foods don’t go into extinction.

What’s Causing Massive Bee Deaths?

About fifty years ago our world looked a whole lot different. Bees had an abundance of flowers to feast on and there were fewer pests and diseases threatening their food chain. These days however, nature has to make place for industrialization and our bees are having a hard time finding good pollen and nectar.

And if clearing their dinner tables from good quality food wasn’t bad enough already, farmers are extensively using herbicides and insecticides, which cause a phenome called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) where bees get disorientated and poisoned and can’t find their way back to the hive. Or when they manage to get back, they die from intoxication.

“We need good, clean food, and so do our pollinators. If bees do not have enough to eat, we won’t have enough to eat. Dying bees scream a message to us that they cannot survive in our current agricultural and urban environments,” states Marla Spivak, an American entomologist, and Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota.

List of Foods We Will Have To Go without If The Bees Go

While we don’t need bees to pollinate all our food because they either self-pollinate or rely on the wind (like rice, wheat, and corn), many of our favorite foods will disappear from our kitchen tables.

Foods in the danger zone include:

  • Apples
  • Mangos
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Peaches
  • Berries
  • Onions
  • Pears
  • Alfalfa
  • Cashews
  • Avocados
  • Passion Fruit
  • Beans
  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Cacao/Coffee
  • Cotton
  • Lemons and limes
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Coconut
  • Beets
  • Turnips
  • Chili peppers, red peppers, bell peppers, green peppers
  • Papaya
  • Eggplant
  • Vanilla
  • Tomatoes
  • Grapes
  • Many seeds and nuts

A substantial drop in population, or complete extinction, of honeybees will make these food scares or even non-existent. So to keep our body healthy and our kitchen table interesting we have to take action before it is too late.

What You can Do

  • Plant bee friendly plants in your garden or green community space.
  • Limit the use of pesticides or use organic alternatives.
  • Buy local, organically grown produce and honey to support the beekeepers and farmers in your area.
  • Donate to non-profit organizations, like Pollinator Partnership, to help protect, grow, and strengthen bee populations.

Sources: CNNNCBI, and onEarth.

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SF Gate

The silence of the birds: When nature gets quiet, be very afraid


Image 2 of 9 | The silence of the birds: Be afraid

Researchers say “the [destructive] changes in bird habitats and behavior between now and 2070 will equal the evolutionary and adaptive shifts that normally occur over tens of thousands of years.” Yay humans!

Brutal wildfire images too much to bear? Fatigued by non-stop news of extreme weather, record-low snowpack, emaciated polar bears, unprecedented this and fast-receding that, a natural world that appears to be going more or less insane?

Maybe you need some quiet. Get outside, sit yourself down and let nature’s innate healing powers soothe your aching heart.

Sounds good, right? Sounds refreshing. Sounds… well, not quite right at all. Not anymore.

Have you heard? Or more accurately, not heard? Vicious fires and vanishing ice floes aside, there’s yet another ominous sign that all is not well with the natural world: it’s getting quiet out there. Too quiet.

Behold, this bit over in Outside magazine, profiling the sweet, touching life and times of 77-year-old bioacoustician and soundscape artist Bernie Kraus, author of “The Great Animal Orchestra” (2012), TED talker, ballet scorer, and a “pioneer in the field of soundscape ecology.”

Krause, last written about on SFGate back in 2007, is a man whose passion and profession has been making field recordings of the world’s “biophony” for going on 45 years, setting up his sensitive equipment in roughly the same places around the world to record nature’s (normally) stunningly diverse aural symphony – all the birds, bees, beavers, wolves, babbling streams, fluttering wings, the brush of trees and the rush of rivers – truly, the very pulse and thrum of life itself.


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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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