People Ruin Everything

More from The Best American Science Writing of 2010: Elizabeth Kolbert, in her essay "The Sixth Extinction?" points out that whenever people come to town, all the cool creatures are wiped out; the mastodons, mammoths, giant beavers, dire wolves, short-faced bears, giant ground sloths, toxodons, and saber tooth tigers died out just after we came to the Americas . . . the giant wombats, giant tortoises (as big as a VW Beetle!) and giant ten foot tall kangaroos died out soon after we colonized to Australia; this pattern holds true for New Zealand, Hawaii, and pretty much everywhere else-- the big and cool looking stuff can't survive in the places we colonize, but this is happening with smaller creatures as well-- there is a great die off of amphibians happening right now, notably the Colombian golden frog (which is technically a toad) and bat populations are also rapidly declining-- and Kolbert explains (and demonstrates) that this is probably caused by a chytrid fungus spread by humanity called Bd (actually it's called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, but by the time you finish saying that, another species has gone extinct) but, luckily, some species are not affected, including the hardy salamanders that we discovered in the woods near the litter strewn banks of the polluted Raritan River, but it does make me worry that we might have to stop visiting our "Jersey tough" amphibians.


zman said...

I think there's more to this than simply a fungus among us. I'll let someone else draw the connection between the decline of giant beavers and a rise in fungi.

Dave said...

true-- they're gone because they tasted delicious. but the bats and frogs are because of a fungus that we spread.

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