AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: endangered species

Four Distinct Giraffe Species?!

Wait- What?

Yes! According to the Article titled “Giraffes more speciose than expected“, recent studies in Current Biology have found evidence that leads to the conclusion that there are indeed four distinct Giraffe species. These are very unexpected results as until now, only one distinct species of Giraffe has been recognized. Senckenberg and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation’s scientists have analyzed nuclear markers of numerous animals in an effort to protect and preserve the population of endangered species in Africa.

Why Haven’t We Known This in the Past? 

The Giraffe species’ biology has past been poorly explored and understood by scientists which seems counterintuitive given their magnitude both physically and socially. In the past, it was concluded that the Giraffe species includes nine subspecies with different horn makeup, coat patterns, and preferred environment. However, currently this assumption is under close review as the genetics of Giraffe’s has been studied meticulously. Does this timing surprise you? It definitely surprised me!

More Details About the Four Species

Professor Axel Janke, researcher at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research and Professor at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany noted that these four species do not mate with each other in the wild, meaning they only mate with their alike species. The four species binomial nomenclature and common name are as follows; Giraffa giraffa or Southern Giraffe, G. tippelskirchi or Masai Giraffe, G. reticulata or Reticulated Giraffe, and G. camelopardalis or Northern Giraffe. Connecting to the biology curriculum, binomial naming consists of two parts: the generic name and the specific name. Usually these forms are Latinized. Formalized by Carl Linnaeus, this naming structure is very helpful in identifying species and variations of species, or subspecies, and it is essential to the biological community. To construct this conclusion, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation gathered skin samples from numerous subspecies of Giraffe, and scientists at Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and Senckenberg Natural History Collections analyzed their DNA. This DNA was traced back to their common ancestors from about .4-2 million years ago, which confirms the evidence of more than one species.

What now?/ My Opinion

These findings create even more urgency to protect the dwindling Giraffe population. With four distinct Giraffe species sharing an environment, it is imperative that humans do not interfere with their survival. I think it is so important to protect the population of all endangered animals, including Giraffes. Do you think there are other animals out there with unknown distinct species? From what I have researched, I can confidently say that I believe so!

Are Species We See Everyday Going Extinct Before Our Very Eyes?

A theory has recently surfaced declaring the possibility that there are around 700 species around the world that should be considered threatened species, many of whom who were possibly inaccurately declared non-threatened on the Red List of Threatened Species.

Luca Santini, an ecologist at Radboud University, was quite discouraged by this news and took it upon himself to create a more efficient and precise method when it comes to assessing the extinction risk of a particular animal. On January 17th, Conservation Biology did a segment on Santini’s new approach.

This new approach proved that as much as “20% of 600 species that were impossible to assess before by Red List experts, are likely under threat of extinction, such as the brown-banded rail and Williamson’s mouse-deer.”  In addition, it found that around 600 different species that had been officially declared non-threatened species, were actually likely to be extremely threatened. As Santini, himself, said “This indicates that urgent re-assessment is needed of the current statuses of animal species on the Red List.”

The (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species is the “world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi, and plant species.” That being said, every few years, researchers evaluate and record the conservation status of different species, which then gets uploaded into the Red List’s database for the general public to have access to. According to Santini, however, “Often these data are of poor quality because they are outdated or inaccurate because certain species that live in very remote areas have not been properly studied. This might lead to species to be misclassified or not assessed at all.”

Santini’s method provides experts with additional independent information in attempt to help them better assess the species. It uses information gathered from land cover maps, showing how the distribution of different species has changed over time. This then allows said researcher to have more information to be able to more accurately classify species.

Santini describes his goal for this new method in saying “Our vision is that our new method will soon be automated so that data is re-updated every year with new land cover information. Thus, our method really can speed up the process and provide an early warning system by pointing specifically to species that should be re-assessed quickly.” We can only hope that this new method provides better and more accurate information in regards to what and who we will continue to share the planet with, and who we won’t.


Tiny Devils Take Down Gentle Giants all due to Climate Change!

File:Alce (Alces alces), Potter marsh, Alaska, Estados Unidos, 2017-08-22, DD 139.jpg

A innocent female moose, about to be attacked by an onset of terrible parasite in Northeast Canada.

Winter Ticks, not containing Lyme Disease or other Human-harming diseases, are rising exponentially in population throughout New England and Canada, all due to increasingly warmer and snow-free springs and later winters everywhere. As a result, an unlikely species in this region is being targeted by these tick epizootics, Moose, because ticks search for hosts in the fall and other warmer temperatures and stop once freezing weather and snow befalls the land. Yet, when these conditions occur much later, it gives these ticks more time to feast on peaceful animals, and also giving more time for female ticks to fall off its host and create tons more larvae, not making this issue any better. As these raisin sized parasites latch onto to these large creatures, draining so much blood at a time that they simply are unable to function anymore and weakly fall, succumbing to the environment, other predators, or even more ticks. But it’s not simply a few ticks, no, these moose can carry up to around 90,000 ticks! Because of this, there has been “an unprecedented 70 percent death rate of calves over a three-year period” according to a similar source from the University of New Hampshire. Plus, this problem has gotten so bad that now a threatened species in this region of British Columbia, the boreal Caribou, are being eaten alive as well!” If blood loss from heavy tick loads does not directly kill animals, it can make them susceptible to other health risks, Schwantje adds in the original source. “They have spent so much time scratching and chewing on themselves that they haven’t been feeding, so they are in poor body condition,” she says, even with tremendous hair loss that they become basically unrecognizable.

File:Ixodus ricinus 5x.jpg

An example of one of these detrimental winter ticks, a female engorged in size with blood and larvae, ready to reproduce .

But How Can This Be Stopped?

Currently, researchers are offering a multitude of solutions to help save these wonderful species from these terrifying parasites, as Swantje says that “They have huge cultural and nutritional value to our First Nations, And when moose forage in wetlands, they help release nutrients into the environment and make them available to other plants and organisms, studies have shown”, one solution can even be seen here. One possibility is to continuously treat half of the moose with anti-parasite gel and pills that make attached ticks drop from their bodies in order to isolate specifically what the ticks do and don’t do to harm these moose. The other possibility is a highly unlikely one, hunt the moose. Researcher Peter Pekins suggests that “issuing more moose-hunting permits in strategically selected areas” could essentially starve out the ticks in certain areas, yet it is argued that this would only benefit the environment short term, as the climate will continue to warm leading to the growth of more and more ticks.

Who know, if this isn’t stopped soon, ticks will continue to grow in population and maybe even take down us humans! Save the moose (and the caribou)!

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skip to toolbar