Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Roundup: Extinct, Almost Extinct, and Not Quite Extinct Anymore Edition

Grand Cayman Island Blue Iguanas Are Now Endangered...And That's Good News: A huge, bulky, and blue iguana that reaches up to five feet long can be found the Grand Cayman Islands but, for a while there it looked like it was on its way out. Because of hunting by humans, interactions with species introduced by people, roadkill, and habitat destruction, the Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi) almost vanished forever and was reduced to less than 25 individual animals in the wild. However, because of the work of a few conservation organizations and passionate individuals, a intensive program was initiated to protect the iguana in the wild and bolster their populations with a captive breeding program. As a result of their successful efforts, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature recently upgraded the species' status from Critically Endangered to Endangered. The Blue Iguanas are not out of the clear yet, but this is encouraging news. For more information regarding Blue Iguana and the organizations working to conserve them, check out the International Reptile Conservation Foundation and the Blue Iguana Recovery Program.

New Lizard Species Discovered! Check It Out Fast Because It's Going Extinct: This world has much more to be discovered and described. Just this year, a new species of skink, the Coastal Plains Skink (Ctenotus ora) was found south of Perth, Australia. This lizard's habitat is under siege by an incoming housing development. The animal was almost extinct before we knew it even existed. Now, the question is whether we will allow it to go extinct anyway.

A New Ferret Colony in South Dakota? The Black-footed Ferret (Mustela nigripes) was thought to be extinct in 1979 but a group of the animals was then discovered in 1981, in Wyoming. These animals became the basis for an intensive conservation. By 1987, this Wyoming population had gone extinct too, but there were now some ferrets in a captive breeding program. In 1991, biologists had started to reintroduce the species to the wild and so began a relatively successful conservation story (here's a great timeline). There was some recent excitement about three ferrets found on Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South Dakota; you see, this was not a site where the animals had been reintroduced and there was some speculation that this was a wild and previously undiscovered population. However, I spoke with Virginia's foremost authority on the species, David Jachowski, and he informed me that federal officials suspect that these three animals have simply wandered away from the nearest reintroduction site, about 70 miles (113 km) south. Not as exciting as discovering a new population, but encouraging news that the Black-footed Ferret may be able to disperse across the landscape and be able to survive in areas in addition to the intensively managed reintroduction sites.

"A Gopher Tortoise Scampers To The Water": Bonus points for anyone that can identify what is wrong with this article

G. M. Kay, & J. Scott Keogh (2012). Molecular phylogeny and morphological revision of the Ctenotus labillardieri (Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae) species group and a new species of immediate conservation concern in the southwestern Australian biodiversity hotspot Zootaxa, 3390, 1-18

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