extinction Intelligent Design

It turns out, 17 plants, thought extinct in Europe, have turned up again

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Some survive in the wild, some in botanical gardens, some in seed banks, and in some cases, were thought be a different species and given a new name:

The new research began over suspicions that some records of extinct seed plants published in the scientific literature and used in a global 2019 analysis by Govaerts and colleagues were imprecise. Giulia Albani Rocchetti, a plant biologist and PhD student at the University of Roma Tre in Rome, and her colleagues set out to double-check the status of European species with local researchers in different countries, suspecting they may have updates on the taxa. This endeavor was inspired in part by a 2020 report for which researchers had done the same to verify the status of North American plants and questioned the reported extinction of 14 species…

Govaerts cautions that taxonomy is constantly evolving and the recent revisions may not be set in stone. It’s also not clear if the herbarium seeds—or even the whole-plant specimens—will lead to self-sustaining plant populations.

He adds that delisting is always good news. Beyond the obvious, the problem with declaring something extinct is that species then lose conservation attention and legal protection. Studies like this highlight that extinction listings aren’t necessarily permanent endpoints, but fluid designations. “Extinct means, well, we haven’t found it for a hundred years, but you may turn a different corner and there it suddenly is.”

Katarina Zimmer, “Seventeen “Extinct” European Plant Species Found Alive” at The Scientist

The paper is open access.

These species that just turn up again are sometimes called “Lazarus species.” Many were possibly always rare and looking for them wasn’t anyone’s fulltime job.

The Darwinian focus on “species” and speciation may be a handicap here. Not only are extinction listings fluid but so, probably, are a lot of species. No doubt there will be other surprises as well. Nice ones.

2 Replies to “It turns out, 17 plants, thought extinct in Europe, have turned up again

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    It’s not just Darwin. Environmentalists redefined species as a population group in one small location, in order to bias the measures toward extinction. When the measurers only work in the “endangered” locations, they’re not looking for other population groups that are thriving or growing.

    Dillinger’s rule. Extinction is where the money is. Measuring the decline of a nearly gone population makes it easier to obliterate farms and industries and humans, which is the purpose of environmentalism.

  2. 2
    Fasteddious says:

    Polistra: I was just about to write something similar! They like to refer to species being “extirpated” in some (often undefined) area, or some “subspecies” is “thought to be” extinct. Look at how they report on polar bears, who are doing fine, but they count fewer in one area, while ignoring more in another.
    On a different note, if there are thought to be 10 million or so species of plant/animal on the planet and everyone agrees that 99% of species have gone extinct, then there must have been a billion species over something like the past billion years or so. That suggests we should see one species going extinct AND one new species arriving every year or so. That is not a “new species” being discovered, but one actually coming into existence (somehow) for the first time. That should balance out all those extinctions we are supposed to feel guilty about.
    I wonder if there is a comprehensive list of species actually gone extinct in the last 100 years? There have certainly been more than 100 “new species” discovered in that time, but surely most, if not all of those had been around much longer and we just hadn’t seen or catalogued them.
    Not to say that we should ignore endangered species, but we should take a lot of such talk with a grain or two of salt, as perhaps suggested by this article.

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