Monthly Archives: September 2007

more extinctions on the way

The western gorilla is “critically endangered” — close to extinction — and all the great apes are in trouble. A number of corals have moved to more endangered positions; the Asian crocodile “Gharial” has moved to critically endangered — only 182 breeding adults in 2006. A number of vultures have declined — largely because of drugs given to livestock and intentional poisonings of carcasses. Here in North America, 90 reptile species are threatened with extinction and 738 are threatened. The Wild Apricot tree in Asia has been declared Endangered, and a Malaysian herb has officially been declared extinct.

All this is from the new report from the IUCN (World Conservation Union), which maintains a “Red List” of threatened species. The Red List of Threatened Species lists 41,415 species in all, listing the threatened species from “vulnerable”, “endangered”, to “critically endangered”. The “critically endangered” category faces an “extremely high risk of extinction in the wild”, based on rapid decline in population (more than 90% in last 10 years or 3 generations) or range, or extremely small numbers of mature individuals — e.g., fewer than 250.

The 2007 reports lists for “critically endangered”: 1 in 4 mammals, 1 in 8 birds, 1 in 3 amphibians, and 70% of all plants that have been studied are threatened with extinction — a total of 16,306 species in all, an increase of 188 from last year’s list of endangered species. The numbers of threatened species are increasing across almost all the major taxonomic groups. Extinction rates are 100-1000 times higher than natural background rates. Species in the tropics are still at the greatest risk. Australia, Brazil, China, and Mexico hold large numbers of threatened species. Continental extinctions are becoming as common as island extinctions.

On the math: Does the “increase of 188″ count species that went extinct last year? The IUCN is not counting the Yangtze River dolphin as extinct, although the most recent survey concluded that they were likely extinct. But, say there were 10 extinctions last year, then that would be 198 species added to the critically endangered list, and 10 taken off as they were moved to extinct. Something to figure out.

I think I want a Battlestar Galactica-like survivors count for Earth. 2007 Sept. 13 CE, survivors count:

  • 6,000 species of mammal (of which the Yangtze River dolphin was one);
  • 10,000 species of birds;
  • 8,000 species of reptiles;
  • 13,000 species of freshwater species;
  • 6,000 species of amphibian.

AP 9/13 via boston.com, Red List Categories & Criteria v.3.1, Introduction to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, IUCNredlist.org, “Extinction Crisis Escalates” (9/12 press release from IUCN).

the eternal verities of fashion preferences

christ what a crock: The London Times reports that:

We all know that women like pink and men prefer blue, but we have never really known why. Now it emerges that parents who dress their boys in blue and girls in pink may not just be following tradition but some deep-seated evolutionary instinct.

I guess “evolution” waxes and wanes with the fashion trends of the centuries, because in the US in the 19th & early 20th centuries pink was the boys’ color (because it was a type of red, a strong masculine color!) and blue was the girls’ color.

So many possible responses to this utter blithering idiocy. I don’t know whether I’m madder at the Times (and other press) for reporting this crap uncritically, or whether I’m madder at the evolutionary psychologists who, in all seriousness, confirm their own social prejudices as eagerly as did the phrenologists and racist European skull-measurers of the 19th century.
update: of course, the bloggers & commenters of the world have already hit this one: the comments on the London Times article are largely insightful; bad science.net is snarky & gives historical context also; broadsheet @ salon.com had a little detail & a lot of commentary, but surprisingly, didn’t jump on the stupidity quite as much as they really could have.

gender-specific names or go to jail

In Venezuela, the National Assembly is considering restricting all baby names to a total list of 100 names. This will eliminate the wide variety of inventive names that people assign, and will eliminate names that “generate doubt” about gender. NYT 9/5

Because there just aren’t enough laws dictating gender now.