Saturday, 3 September 2011

Extinction: a distant concept?

Extinction, very simply put, is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms, normally a species.

The first thing that comes to mind, when we talk about extinction, is dinosaurs.

Most dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, or 4 thousand years ago as some las from Alaska claims...

And so, we associate biological extinction with something that happened ages ago and won't happen again for few more ages.

Well, that's not quite so true. I can list at least 6 animal species that went extinct not that long ago:
  • Baji - freshwater dolphin - extinct in 2006
  • Pyrenean Ibex - extinct in 2000
  • Javan Tiger - extinct in 1976
  • New Zealand Greater Short-tailed Bat - extinct in 1988
  • Lord Howe Long Eared Bat - Extinct in 1998
  • Sturdee's Pipistrelle - extinct in 2000 
And before you ask, yes.... there are recently extinct turtles too, not strictly sea turtles but hey... let's not be picky here!

They are all from the family of the Cylindrapsis, living in the Mascarene Islands, and went all extinct by 1840:
  • Cylindraspis indica, Réunion giant tortoise, from Réunion
  • Cylindraspis inepta, Saddle-backed Mauritius giant tortoise, from Mauritius
  • Cylindraspis peltastes, Domed Rodrigues giant tortoise, from Rodrigues
  • Cylindraspis triserrata, Domed Mauritius giant tortoise, from Mauritius
  • Cylindraspis vosmaeri, Saddle-backed Rodrigues giant tortoise, from Rodrigues
Extinction is not an archeological term, linked to some remote and forgotten time. It's a very actual and real concept that can affect any species and not only our beloved sea turtles.

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