Coral in Devastated Florida Reef Hovering at Extinction – Breakthrough May Save the Species #coral #Florida #marinelife #aquarium

A heathy cluster of pillar coralFlorida’s coral reefs are in big trouble. Pillar coral has been reduced to a single male and single female cluster that are too far apart to breed.

Atlantic corals have never been bred in captivity, so when the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Florida, decided to try, hopes weren’t high.

But they did it!

It’s pure excitement to be the first to achieve a breakthrough in the world,” CEO of the Florida Aquarium Roger Germann told CNN. “Our team of experts cracked the code…that gives hope to coral in the Florida Reef Tract and to coral in the Caribbean and Atlantic Oceans.” cnn.com

Coral reefs take a beating world wide.

Runoff, pollution, overfishing, blast fishing, disease, invasive species, overuse by humans and coral mining and the digging of canals and access into islands and bays are localized threats to coral ecosystems.

Broader threats are sea temperature rise, sea level rise and ocean acidification, all associated with greenhouse gas emissions. wikipedia

Even air poluution can stunt corals. Yikes! Maybe corals and some of the fishes, crustaceans, and other marine life they support can exist in aquaria while we figure out how to create protected areas in the oceans. At least now, there’s a better chance.

Advertisements

Glimmer of Hope – This 100 Year Old Girl Proves Her Species Not Extinct – Yet #nature #extinction #Galapagos

I’ve writen several posts about the sad loss of species to extinction. It’s time for some good news, even if it’s only a glimmer of hope.

Tweet about re-discovered Galapagos TortoiseA rare species of giant tortoise was feared extinct after over 100 years without any sightings on the Galápagos Islands. But now, officials say they’ve found one.

An adult female Fernandina Giant Tortoise, or Chelonoidis phantasticus, possibly older than 100, was found on Fernandina Island… The animal was transported to a breeding center on Santa Cruz Island [for] genetic tests. USA Today

Where’s there’s one, there may be more! Introduced species like rats, cats, pigs, and goats destroyed a lot of Galapogous wildlife, and the poor tortoises made excellent living pantries for early European sailors, but this particular species was threatened by lava flows over 100 years ago.

Today, only two groups of giant tortoises remain around the world – those on the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean and others on Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean.

I wish the old lady and her keepers the best of luck. Lonesome George mated with females from his own island, but the eggs never hatched. Whether scientists learned anything from George that will help this Fernandina tortoise, I don’t know, but of course one lone female can’t breed on her own.

She’s already quite old – the tortoises are thought to have averaged 100 year life span before contact with humans, and some may have lived for 150 years. Their best chance at recovery may be if more individuals have survived, and if people and our traveling-companion animals will now leave them alone.

 What are the odds? Two bits of good news in one day. The world’s largest bee isn’t extinct either, though no one knows how many may survive. Check out the comparison picture to a standard honeybee.

Juliet may save Romeo and their whole species – last chance battle with extinction #extinction #nature #environment

A related species, not quite as lonesome yet. Attribution: José Grau de Puerto Montt at en.wikipedia

Romeo, known as the world’s loneliest frog, has spent 10 years in isolation at an aquarium in Bolivia. Scientists say they have found him a Juliet after an expedition to a remote Bolivian cloud forest. BBC

I seem to be finding a number of stories on recent, current, and near extinctions lately. The loneliest frog still has hope, though I have no idea how difficult it is to breed Sehuencas water frogs in captivity. Even if scientists can fill their aquariums (aquaria?) with frogs, will there be any wild land to release them into?

Charismatic species like tigers and elephants do more than frogs to grab the public’s attention. Saving them means saving habitat, and that benefits many vulnerable species that never go viral on the internet. Good luck, Romeo and Juliet. Good luck ecosystems. Good luck Earth – because that would be good luck for us humans too.

Another Small, Sad Loss to the World #environment #nature #extinction #SaveTheWorld

hawaiian tree snail shell

Drawing of apexfulva shell – because that’s all we get from now on.

The last known member of his species, George the Hawaiian tree snail has died.

Before reading his story, I didn’t know George existed, but I know there are many critters in trouble. Extinctions are ramping up around the planet, but Hawaii, where so many species once sheltered from competition now face an influx of outsiders, is the extinction capital of the world.

I’m sad to lose George.

He was named after a more-famous last-of-his-kind animal – Lonesome George, a Galapagos tortoise, who died in 2012. I met Lonesome George long ago on a tour of the Galapagos Islands. I’m sad about him too.

Lonesome George tortoise with his keeper

My own picture of Lonesome George with one of his keepers. I had to take a picture of a print – that’s how long ago I visited the Galapagos Islands.

There are other snails and other tortoises. If we were protecting habitats, it might not matter. Nature could recreate the Georges. But in too many places, we’re a destructive force.

Humans are part of nature. We don’t have to go away. To be pro-environment is not to be anti-human. We do have to change how we manage the land so all creatures have a home, and change is hard.

There may be another Achatinella apexfulva Hawaiian tree snail someplace on the island, but he/she (the snails were hermaphrodites) needs to be very lucky to survive.

Why am I sad? Who cares about snails and tortoises? And leopards, gorillas, sea turtles, orangutans, elephants, porpoises, tigers, rhinoceroses, the scaly pangolin, or the Asian Unicorn? Or anything with body parts used in folk medicine? Or… that’s the problem. Even if you don’t care about the rest of Creation, we’re impoverishing our own future.

There is hope. Wealthy individuals and non-profits set land aside as preserves. They buy from private parties, which is only fair.

Governments act. Without laws, a few individuals who may be selfish or desperate can destroy the world’s heritage.

It may even be possible to bring back recent extinctions with technology. But we don’t need cutting-edge genetics to save what we still have. We know what to do.

Sad Victory Over Greatest Bird #nature #poem #poetry #birdwatching #birds

Passenger pigeons by Audubon

Once upon a time,
Once there was a land
Where one bird
out of every two
Was gray with throat of cinnamon.

Their flocks eclipsed the sun
When migration season came.
One shotgun blast would bring down
Two dozen,
Without the need to aim.

With numbers in the trillions,
A breeding colony
Might blanket fifty miles
With its sovereignty.

And we killed them all.

They could lay waste to fields
But someone must have seen
Their numbers falling fast
And known what that would mean.

It took us several decades,
Less than a century
Of ruthless persecution
Of this farmers’ enemy.

To kill them all.

Do any mourn today
An action so draconian
While viewing stuffed remains
Of the last one
In the Smithsonian?

The last passenger pigeon.

By Kate Rauner

The last passenger pigeon

Thanks to karlshuker for his post on the passenger pigeon. Visit http://reviverestore.org/ for a fascinating look into de-extinction. Reconstructing the passenger pigeon is their flagship project.

Their aim is to increase forest health and biodiversity, especially what’s been lost since the 1700s. Like wildfires, passenger pigeons were a major source of beneficial forest regeneration in eastern North America for tens of thousands of years.

Revive & Restore’s goal is “to hatch the first generation of new passenger pigeons by 2022 and begin trial wild releases ten years later.” Genome sequencing is already underway. Wow.

Colony On Mars – First Step for Who? Or What? #Mars #explore #space #solar #sun

 

Hallucigenia_sparsa (200x156)

Wonderful Hallucigenia of the Burgess Shale fossils.

“Eventually we’ll have to get out of this solar system because our Sun is dying. If humans want to survive as a species they’ll have to get out.” Stephen Petranek, award-winning science writer – see his TED talk on the end of the world.

Many people want a colony on Mars as insurance against human extinction on Earth – usually from nuclear war to asteroid impacts.

But from the Sun dying?

In 5 billion years or so the Sun will expand and swallow the inner planets before collapsing into a white dwarf.

But in only 2.8 billion years life on Earth will end when the last of the hardiest microbes die off in the Sun’s brutal solar output. Humanity’s progeny will be gone long before then.

Two new modeling studies find that the gradually brightening Sun won’t vaporize our planet’s water for at least another 1 to 1.5 billion years. Earth will suffer a “runaway greenhouse” in 600 million to 700 million years when we’d probably be best off living in undersea cities.

Realistically, how long have we got? Let’s choose a nice, round 500 million years. Let’s say all goes well – we adapt to global warming, we refrain from exterminating ourselves, and we grow into an admirable species. That species will not be Homo sapiens.

Five hundred million years is a long time. Looking backwards at history, the Cambrian explosion of life was well underway 500 million years ago when various fascinating wormy creatures lived in Earth’s oceans. It took over 400 million years for primates to originate (85 million years ago) and another 65 millions years for the Hominid family to emerge (20 million years ago). Another 15 million years passed before our own genus, Homo, emerged (3 million years ago – there’s no point in being too specific on timing – just round the numbers off), and you still wouldn’t want to bring Homo habilis home.

What does this mean? Five hundred million years from now, our descendants will be as different from us and we are from Hallucigenia.

How much do you care about these strange future creatures?

I once read a science fiction story where nuclear war destroyed most of the world, and a few people survived on barren Pacific atolls where they evolved into something like walruses. How much effort would you put into preserving that species?

Go to Mars, go to Europa or Titan. Aim for the stars. But don’t worry about the Sun exploding.

Where are we going? Life, the timeless, mysterious gift, is still evolving. What alien_wizard_fenn_03.svg.medwonders, or terrors, does evolution hold in store for us in the next ten thousand years? In a million? In six million? Perhaps the answer lies in…the Outer Limits,” The Sixth Finger episode.

Microbe Massacre – a poem by Kate Rauner

Permian-Lystrosaurus georgi

Lystrosarus

The Great Permian Dying,
A quarter billion years ago,
Ended life’s early phase
And opened up Meso.
Nine in ten forms were gone
Earth almost lost her soul.
Not land or sea protected them;
Life slipped from her foothold.
Attacks by hostile aliens?
Or pounded by bolides?
Did flares upon the Sun explode
Or cosmic rays collide?
The villain was a microbe that
Lived peacefully for years
Till fertilized by Vulcan’s dust,
As sediments make clear.
A mindless little bug,
Meth-ano-sar-ci-na,
Bloomed down a strange
And new metabolic pathway.
So if you think you rule the world,
Have dominion over all,
Consider other kingdoms
That have survived The Fall.
Earth almost lost her skin of life
When nickel from volcanoes
Fertilized the oceans
For methane belching microbes.
Earth’s biosphere then faltered
After such a hopeful start.
Four billion years evolving
Near destroyed by bugs that fart.

Sediments suPrimena survivor Lystrosaurusggest a prime suspect. The Permian Dying made way for the cat-sized Lystrosarus… and us!