[Coral-List] Biodiversity extinction

David M. Lawrence dave at fuzzo.com
Fri Jan 29 19:05:32 EST 2010

You seem to have a fatal flaw in your logic: few species are documented 
to be lost (extinct); many [sic] species are reported as "newly 
discovered;" thus an apparent conclusion that the number of "newly 
discovered" species offsets the number lost.

The problem is that the "newly discovered" species aren't really "new." 
  They are just "newly documented" -- either they have never been 
collected (for whatever reason), or they have been collected previously 
but not recognized as a new species, or they have been identified as new 
species using technologies not available a couple of decades ago.

Are there truly "new" species?  The existence of a truly "new" species 
is improbable -- with the possible exception of microbial organisms that 
tend to thumb their nose at the classic notion of the biological species 
concept and that pass through numerous generations in a single year. 
For the most part, the "new" species being described probably existed as 
distinct biological entities for decades, centuries, or millennia prior 
to their recent description and recognition in the scientific literature.

Are species truly going extinct?  Of that, there is no doubt.


On 1/29/2010 2:57 PM, R.D. wrote:
> As a non-academic with field experience in coral conservation, coral disease, and marine park science and politics, I would like to comment on the recent Biodiversity extinction post, keeping in mind the "big picture".
> In the past few years several scientific biodiversity expeditions have reported in the lay press the discovery of thousands of new marine species from the Phillipines to Antartica to Australia to Tasmania to New Guinea and on and on. Such species have been scientifically collected, catalogued and classified. A Google search for "new marine species" yields a treasure trove of articles.
> On the other hand, an internet search for recently extinct marine species(especially credited to human influence) reveals sparse data.
> Therefore, when a scientist speaks about "stopping the loss of biodiversity" and "continued biodiversity extinction" it seems incongruous to the reported facts. Is there scientific data to confirm this loss? Which species have been lost and how many? When we talk about habitat destruction, anthropogenic global warming, and overfishing, is there scientific data to confirm a "loss of biodiversity"? Or is it an assumption that it has happened or will happen?
> It is my understanding that environmental stressors rarely destroy an entire species(except for mass extinction events). In fact it is often environmental changes that allow new mutations to take hold and encourages the development of new species. As an example, a 2007 scientific survey of the Celebes Sea turned up between 50 and 100 new species of fish and invertebrates in an area that has been isolated by rising sea levels.
> So my question is,"Is isolated habitat destruction on coral reefs really contributing to loss of biodiversity?" Is there scientific evidence?
> Or is the following analogy appropriate - If my entire neighborhood poisons all of the ant hills in our back yards, are we contributing to the loss of biodiversity? Will poison-resistant ants develop? Will different species of ants move in? Will the same species relocate from other areas?
> I hate to see human induced damage to coral reefs as much as anyone. But loss of coral cover does not equal extinction of species.
> And if you are going to try to convince the general public otherwise, you will need to show them what species we have lost and how they have helped cause that loss. Because as of now, for every marine species put on the endangered list, there are hundreds or thousands newly discovered.
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