Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lemming Tracks: Inflatable Sharks? Swell!

"Inflatable Shark Among 300 New Species Discovered in Philippines"
Charles Q. Choi, LiveScience (June 27, 2011)

"A treasure trove of hundreds of new species may have been discovered in the Philippines, including a bizarre sea star that feeds exclusively on sunken driftwood and a deep-sea, shrimp-eating shark that swells up to scare off other predators.

"Scientists braved leeches and a host of venomous creatures from the mountains to the sea to uncover more than 300 species that are likely new to science. These findings include dozens of new insects and spiders, more than 50 colorful new sea slugs and a number of deep-sea armored corals 'which protect themselves against predatory nibbles from fish by growing large, spiky plates,' said researcher Terrence Gosliner, dean of science and research collections at the California Academy of Sciences and leader of the 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition....

"...All these new findings help support the idea that the Philippines 'is one of the hottest of the hotspots for diverse and threatened life on Earth,' Gosliner said. 'We found new species during nearly every dive and hike as we surveyed the country's reefs, rainforests and the ocean floor.' [10 Species You Can Kiss Goodbye]..."

'You got an inflatable what?!!'

Now that the Lemming's got that out of his apathetic system, a micro-review of the LiveScience article.

What We Know, and What We Know that We don't Know - Yet

First, kudos for writing "likely new to science." Some of the 'new' critters may have been spotted, evaluated, and recorded before - but not all that well-known. Someday, maybe, there'll be some nth-generation successor to the Internet that can search just about all records ever made by anybody, anywhere - fast. But the Lemming's not holding his breath, waiting for it.

The same facts could be reported as Endangered Species Discovered in Philippines - with a sidebar about Save the Armored Coral, a frightfully earnest bunch that's raising funds in a desperate race to protect the critters from something. Probably climate change. Global warming seems to be currently démodé.

The Lemming - Against Biodiversity?

If you've read this blog before, you may realize that the Lemming is apathetic only in a snarky sense of the word. It's the sort of apathy that doesn't necessarily go ballistic over the crisis du jure.

Now, about biodiversity and all that.

It is the Lemming's opinion that kittens are cute. The Lemming also thinks that breathing exhaust fumes is a bad idea.

Earth has been the Lemming's home for decades - and so the Lemming has a very personal interest in what happens to life on this planet.

The Lemming is also aware that one of the few constants on this planet for the last few billion years has been change. There's a reason you won't find recipes calling for fresh trilobite - and the Lemming's used that one before:
It's probably a mistake to assume that Earth's ecosystems were exactly right at one time, and any that deviation from that 'normal' setting is a planetary catastrophe of epic proportions - and may even result in the other party getting a majority in Congress. Not that there was anything 'wrong' with conditions in, say:
  • 1850
  • 1491
  • 1065
  • 454
  • Whenever
But thinking that Earth's climate in 454 was okay does not necessarily mean that any change from that 'normal' is a problem.

Change may happen easily - whether we want it to or not - but that doesn't make living with change easy.

The trick, in the Lemming's opinion, is to tell the difference between change that might cause practical problems: and change that is not a disaster of global proportions.

"Biodiversity:" At Least Five Syllables Long

Is "biodiversity" important? Probably. Possibly. Could be. Quite a few folks think so, anyway.

Clearly, biodiversity decreases when the number of species on Earth goes down.1

'Save the Cockroach??'

About that "[10 Species You Can Kiss Goodbye]" - the Lemming isn't happy with the thought that every species that ever was isn't thriving right now? Wait a minute - let's think about that.

If change didn't happen - or had stopped at some point - that might mean that we'd have forests of lycophytes, and have to worry about a pederpes getting into the garden. Assuming that we'd be here, of course.

It'd be nice if the Sumatran rhinoceros, black-footed ferret, and Sumatran orangutan, weren't - apparently - on their way to being extinct. On the other hand, this may not presage a replay of the Permian-Triassic extinction even - or ever The End Of Civilization As We Know It.

Still, things don't look good for the Sumatran rhinoceros.

When we hear about cockroaches dying by the bushel, pigeons no longer gracing civic monuments, and rats being conspicuous by their absence? Then the Lemming will think there's cause for concern.

Ever notice how the Tasmanian devil isn't often mentioned in appeals to 'save the endangered [cuddlesome critter]?' Despite devil facial tumour disease ravaging the species? "...At present the population has dwindled 70% since 1996. Numbers as of 2010 show an 80% rate of infection throughout the population...." The good news is that six (6) females seem to be resistant to the disease. There's a captive-breeding program that may save the species. (Wikipedia)

Assumptions and an Apathetic Lemming

There's a time and place for intense earnestness. Sally Struthers achieved a kind of fame in the marketing world for her effectiveness at a particular sort of fundraising. That is not a criticism. The actress could emote very well - and had by that time achieved fame for her role in All in the Family. It's hard to argue with success - although some have tried.

And that's another topic.

In a world where the American bison and spotted owl were supposed to go extinct - and didn't; and we didn't mostly die in food riots that didn't happen; the Lemming thinks that there can be a difference between assumptions and reality. And that's yet another topic. Topics.

Related (no - really) posts:

1 Think about it - - -.

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