Scientists just said we're on the verge of 'ecological Armageddon'
The number of flying insects has plummeted by 75 per cent in the last 25 years, according to a study that suggests we are approaching an “ecological Armageddon”. The implications for humanity are profound, with insects providing an essential role for life on earth as pollinators of plants and prey for larger animals.

You see butterflies struggling to find food along roadsides, but pesticides and cutting have reduced roadside flowers drastically. Few areas around our town are left uncut and uncultivated to bloom freely, and native plants are nearly gone from this vicinity. It’s better out where we go for pictures, but even there you see roadside cutting and spraying where it’s not needed for any good reason.

If you are tempted to cut your garden flowers now for the sake of neatness, I beg you to leave them as long as they’ll bloom. The butterflies, bees, and other insects are hungry and out and about on these warm afternoons. The insects’ presence is good for the birds, too. 💖  🐝 

Island-hopping toxic toad threatens iconic Komodo dragon
On the islands of Wallacea, one of the world’s hottest biodiversity hotspots, a quiet yet deadly invasion is underway. The poisonous Asian common toad’s (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) journey from island to…

A few years ago, I tried to help raise awareness about a serious ecological disaster emerging in Madagascar - the invasion of toads from Asia (http://bit.ly/1hhePKI). Unfortunately, the situation has not improved, and is likely much worse now. This same threat now poses a serious risk to Komodo Dragons if nothing is done. Time is running out! Please share and help raise awareness to save the Komodo Dragon!


Extinct monsters and creatures of other days  a popular account of some of the larger forms of ancient animal life  

by Rev. H. N. Hutchinson.

With illustrations by J. Smit, Alice B. Woodward, J. Green, Charles Knight
Publication info London :Chapman & Hall,1910.
BHL Collections:
Curious and Bizarre Creatures
Ernst Mayr Library of the MCZ, Harvard University

How Frogs Benefited From The Dinosaurs' Extinction
Frogs are "master survivors," able to take advantage of the ecological vacuum left behind by extinct animals. Scientists say 9 in 10 frog species descended from three surviving frog lineages.

The asteroid that hit Earth 66 million years ago spelled disaster for the dinosaurs.

But scientists say they’ve found one silver lining to the mass extinction — turns out, it was really good for frogs.

I can’t agree that placing the last family of an animal in a cage is saving them. Vaquitas are already inbred beyond repair and were declared functionally extinct even when I did my last painting of them years ago. This might be among the first extinct species whose extinction is 100% credited to humans. Despite combined efforts of the Mexican government, the United States, Sea Shepherd volunteers, and many others–stopping both legal and illegal fisheries from dragging the small porpoises in on their nets was a complete failure. Mexico now wants to capture the remaining handful of members (vaquitas never been captured alive before) for a captive breeding program. I can’t imagine a worse fate for a cetacean than extinction in a concrete pool.


Are Mass Extinctions Periodic, And Are We Due For One?

“If we start looking at the craters we find on Earth and the geological composition of the sedimentary rock, however, the idea falls apart completely. Of all the impacts that occur on Earth, less than one quarter of them come from objects originating from the Oort cloud. Even worse, of the boundaries between geological timescales (Triassic/Jurassic, Jurassic/Cretaceous, or the Cretaceous/Paleogene boundary), and the geological records that correspond to extinction events, only the event from 65 million years ago shows the characteristic ash-and-dust layer that we associate with a major impact.”

65 million years ago, a catastrophic impact from outer space caused the last great mass extinction on Earth, destroying 30% of the species that lived on our world at the time. These mass extinction events happened many times in Earth’s past, and the Solar System also passes through denser stellar regions of space periodically, as determined by the orbit of the Sun and stars in the Milky Way. It’s a combination of facts that might make you wonder whether the extinction events are also periodic, and if so, whether periodic impacts are predictable. If so, then shouldn’t we be aware of whether we’re living in a time of increased risk, and prepare ourselves for that possibility accordingly? After all, the dinosaurs didn’t have a space program or the capability of deflecting a dangerous object like the one that wiped them out.

But before we go that route, we should take a good look at what the data shows. Are mass extinctions periodic? Are we due? Let’s find out!

I get it. Zoos have a history and an outdated image that we have to get away from. Institutions like the AZA are making sure that zoos are held to a standard of preservation, not exploitation. Zoos have become islands of preservation for species whose native habitats are no longer supporting them. We would love to see the gorillas live peacefully in the wild of their native habitat untouched by human war, greed, disease and pollution. But this is not the reality we live in. The aforementioned factors have decimated the populations and are the reason they are endangered. And it’s not just gorillas, we are in the 6th great extinction wave, the previous ones were caused by large natural disasters (meteors) or by major changes to the environment (production of oxygen when photosynthesis began to take off). The 6th is caused by humans. Plain and simple. Extinction rates are 1000 times baseline and it is no coincidence. So get the conversation and Conservation started!


Neil deGrasse Tyson and panelists discuss de-extinction in the 2017 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate at the American Museum of Natural History. Biologists today have the knowledge, the tools, and the ability to influence the evolution of life on Earth. Do we have an obligation to bring back species that human activities may have rendered extinct? Does the technology exist to do so? Join Tyson and the panel for a lively debate about the merits and shortcomings of this provocative idea.

2017 Asimov Debate panelists are:

George Church
Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, Harvard University and MIT

Hank Greely
Director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences, Stanford University

Gregory Kaebnick
Scholar, The Hastings Center; Editor, Hastings Center Report

Ross MacPhee
Curator, Department of Mammalogy, Division of Vertebrate Zoology; Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School

Beth Shapiro
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz


Scotland’s Wild Tigers
I’ve posted many times about the extremely <rare> Scottish wildcat, the fierce emblem of many Highland clans. Sadly, it is the most endangered mammal species on the planet, with less than 35 still alive in the forests of northern Scotland. 
Here’s a new article about the varying conservation efforts underway to save the #ScottishWildcat, and the controversy over how some of those methods are being handled: