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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Endangered animals put us all in danger

Adapted from an article by Nikki Cobb, Staff Writer, dailybulletin.com

If you're wondering why so much attention is being lavished on bugs and rats and the like, scientists say there are plenty of reasons for taking every precaution against losing a species any species to extinction.

They say a failing species is an indicator of environmental health, for people as well as animals. And if one species dies out, they say, the ripple effect will be felt throughout the ecosystem.

California State San Bernardino biologist David Polcyn says that our own existence may depend on an unlikely and unexpected source. A periwinkle found in Madagascar, he said, has been found to produce the only known treatment for Hodgkin's disease.

No species is too humble to save, Polcyn said. If the world had eliminated mold, he said, Sir Alexander Fleming never would have discovered penicillin.

"What we're potentially losing is the next cure for cancer," Polcyn said. "It sounds dramatic, but we don't know what's out there."

There's also an argument that all species in the ecosystem are connected. The interdependence may be subtle, and it may be difficult to discern. But tug on one thread of the web of life, some say, and it ripples vertically up and down the food chain as well as laterally to seemingly remotely related species.

Elizabeth Frair, a research scientist at Claremont's Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, gave as an example a Hawaiian ecosystem being perturbed by the elimination of one species of bee.

The silver sword, a native plant, depends on a particular bee to pollinate it, Friar said. But the bee is being wiped out by Argentine ants. It's had a drastic effect on the silver sword population, according to Friar.

"Just wiping out that one native insect changed the fauna in a major way," she said. "The (silver sword's) seed set dropped dramatically, by about 90 percent."

"The take-home message is, each species is very different in the way it may or may not react to a change in the ecosystem," she said.

Greenways are an important factor in saving endangered animals. For additional information, please read the previous post in this blog regarding greenways.

Resources on Animals


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