Category Archives: species

“Goddess of the Yangtze” declared extinct

Life has its ups and downs – that’s Life with a Capital L. As new species are discovered, others fade away into the sunset. The Yangtze river dolphin, earlier venerated as Baiji, the Goddess of the Yangtze, has become extinct, a victim of extensive human use of water resources for fishing, transport, and electricity generation. This is the first offically declared extinction of a large vertebrate animal in 50 years
Ironically, Baiji was discovered to be extinct during a project aiming to revive the species. River dolphins are threatened in other places, too – there were only 2,000 Ganges river dolphins left, at last count. Rivers are fragile ecosystems, being so prone to human overuse.  
Somehow the extinction of a dolphin species seems more tragic, because dolphins are such intelligent creatures, almost human in their curiosity, their playfulness and their need for attention. 
There are currently six species of dolphins and porpoises on the World Conservation Union’s 2006 Red List, but another 22 species are listed as data deficient. It doesn’t take a stretch to believe that they are endangered too.
The 2006 Red List put the number of threatened species in the world at 16,119, which, of course, includes all flora and fauna, not just vertebrates.
Baiji is not the first species to go extinct because of human resource use, and she won’t be the last.


Page per species?

The Encyclopedia of Life project is creating a website that will chronicle every single species in the world, creating a web page for every species. Imagine that – a website with 1.8 million pages! The mind boggles, as Jeeves would say. Of course, 1.8 million pages is a drop in the ocean of the Internet, which, at last count had nearly 100 million domains.
The demonstration pages are rather fetching, with minimalist design and two templates, one for experts and the other for general users. 
The EOL will open its doors in 2008 with some basic info, but the entire encyclopedia will take 10 years to complete. Shades of Asimov’s Foundation, anyone?
The Tree of Life has already begun a similar project. Their estimates of the total number of species on the planet range from 5 million to 100 million, so how many pages it will finally have is anyone’s guess.