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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Emerging Science Note/Discovery & Extinction

Air Date: Week of December 16, 2005

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A look at discoveries and extinctions in the world's species over the past year.

Transcript

TORGRIMSON: Think the world is just one big catwalk, your own personal runway? Here’s our look at some of the hottest new species discovered this past year, as well as the animals who made a comeback, and the ones no longer with us.

New this year is osedax mucofloris, or, the bone eating snot flower. It’s an elegant new species of marine worm discovered off the Swedish coast. It lives off whalebone on the ocean floor. Its root system extends into the bone and plumes out like a flower – with lovely, mucus-covered petals.

From the forests of Tanzania comes Africa’s first new species of monkey in more than 20 years--the Highland Mangabey, lophocebus kipunji. It models cheek whiskers, a cream belly and tail, and long crest of hair on its head…as well as an unusual call its discoverers call a “honk-bark.” Though just emerging on the scene, the Highland Mangabey is already critically endangered because of illegal logging.

Of course, the nostalgic star of the year was rediscovered in the big woods of Arkansas, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, campephilus principalis. The largest woodpecker in North America reemerged this spring 60 years after its last confirmed sighting in the United States.

But as fads move in and out, and trends supercede each other, for some species to succeed, others must fail. According to Bird Life International, one species was officially declared a goner in 2005: the thick-billed ground dove disappeared after much of its habitat in the Solomon Islands was opened to logging. The introduction of rats, dogs and cats didn’t help much either.

Alas, extinction is a natural feature of evolution. But the World Wildlife Foundation estimates that current extinction rates are between one hundred and one thousand times the background extinction rate, at which species would naturally go extinct without human intervention. That’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science. I’m Emily Torgrimson.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.

 

 

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