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Stories by John Platt

Rare New Zealand pigs to be killed for their semen

Kill a rare animal to help preserve it? That's the plan in New Zealand, where a team of hunters will soon go out to collect a few critically endangered Arapawa Island boars, a breed that only exists on that tiny island...

October 20, 2010 — John Platt

New record size for a genome goes to rare plant

A rare plant called Paris japonica has a genome 50 times longer than that of humans, making it the longest genome ever recorded. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, announced the discovery last week, and details appear in the September 2010 issue of the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society .The Paris japonica genome weighs in at 152.23 picograms (trillionths of a gram), 15 percent larger than the previously biggest known genome, that of related herb, a hybrid trillium known as Trillium × hagae ...

October 11, 2010 — John Platt

Population crash in Kenya: Rare bird gets much, much rarer--but why?

One of the world's most critically endangered birds, Kenya's taita apalis ( Apalis fuscigularis ), has suddenly and inexplicably become much, much rarer, according to BirdLife International.The organization, which has funded research into the species through its Preventing Extinctions Program, says that field work conducted in 2009 and 2010 found almost no taita apalis remaining in Kenya's forests...

October 5, 2010 — John Platt

Does the smelly kiwi need deodorant to protect it from predators?

Does the natural mushroom-like smell of the kiwi bird help to make it a tempting target for the predators that are eating it out of existence? One scientist thinks so, and he is proposing a deodorant of some kind to protect the birds from extinction.With all five kiwi species endangered, this is research that you shouldn't turn your nose up at...

September 30, 2010 — John Platt

I yam what I yam--and what I yam is endangered and under-researched

Yams are an important food crop in Africa, where the tubers are eaten by 60 million people every day, as well as in other parts of the world. But despite the yam's importance as a food source, science doesn't really know that much about yams or exert much effort in conserving them...

September 25, 2010 — John Platt

Bad news for crested gibbons, the forgotten apes

Crested gibbons are the world's most endangered primates, and the world needs to take action immediately if we are to save these lesser apes from extinction, according to scientists who spoke last week at the International Primatological Society Congress in Kyoto, Japan.There are just seven species of crested gibbon, all of which are endangered...

September 22, 2010 — John Platt

Are Frogs Injurious Species?

Should the sale of frogs and other amphibians be restricted to prevent the further spread of the deadly chytrid fungus? That's the question the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is asking, and they want your input.The chytrid fungus ( Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd ) has spread around the globe since it was first observed in 1999, putting thousands of amphibian species at risk of extinction...

September 22, 2010 — John Platt

Cost to save the world's tigers: $10,000 each per year (or just pennies a day!)

Properly protecting the world's remaining 3,500 wild tigers from poachers, habitat fragmentation and other threats would cost just 42 percent more than is already spent on tiger conservation—an additional $35 million per year, or $10,000 per cat, according to a new study published September 14 in the journal PLoS Biology ...

September 16, 2010 — John Platt

British bumblebees are inbreeding themselves into extinction

Populations of a bumblebee species living on remote Scottish islands have a lack of genetic diversity because of many generations of inbreeding, a situation that could put the region's bumblebees at risk of extinction, according to a new study by scientists from the University of Stirling in Scotland.Penelope Whitehorn, a PhD student, presented the research at last week's annual meeting of the British Ecological Society.The study found that moss carder bumblebees ( Bombus muscorum ) living on nine Hebridean islands off the west coast of Scotland are more susceptible to diseases carried by parasites than healthier populations on the mainland...

September 13, 2010 — John Platt

Deepwater doom: Extinction threat for world's smallest sea horse

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill this year and subsequent cleanup efforts could drive the world's smallest sea horse into extinction, warns the Zoological Society of London and its marine conservation organization Project Seahorse.  The tiny dwarf sea horse ( Hippocampus zosterae ), which grows to a maximum length of 2.5 centimeters, can be found only in the ocean waters off the Gulf Coast...

September 8, 2010 — John Platt
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