What’s the Recovery Rate from Extinction?

Guest post by David Middleton

It’s at least 67% among the Incilius genus of toads.

AMPHIBIANS

Frog not sighted in 30 years and declared extinct reappears in Costa Rica

Costa Rican scientists reported Tuesday the reappearance of an endemic frog species that had not been sighted for three decades.

It was declared extinct in 2004 iby the International Union for Conservation of Nature (UICN).

The Heredia robber frog, whose scientific name is Craugastor escoces, was spotted by Costa Rican biologists Gilbert Alvarado and Randall Jimenez in the Juan Castro Blanco National Park in Alajuela province.

[…]

This species had not been observed since 1986. In 2004, the UICN declared this and two other amphibians extinct: the Holdridge’s toad, which is no longer in the extinct list either, and the Golden toad, which researchers believe to be the first victim of global warming.

[…]

Fox News

With a 67% recovery rate, the Golden toad stands a fairly good chance of also recovering from extinction.  Makes me think of this scene from The Princess Bride

If the Golden toad reappears, will this disprove Gorebal Warming?  If so, would the Golden toad become the first amphibian to win a Nobel Prize?

There are 38 genera and at least 467 species of true toads (Bufonidae).  The still extinct Golden toad (Incilius periglenesis was will be a member of the Incilius genus, which includes at least 39 extant species (40 when Goldy recovers).  The type species is Incilius periglenes (Evergreen toad).  It is not only extant, it isn’t even endangered, threatened or even near threatened.  It is rated as “least concern,” as is at least 40% of the genus:

Incilius
No. of species % of genus
8 20% No Wikipedia entry or Data Deficient (IUCN 3.1)
16 40% Least Concern
1 3% Near Threatened
2 5% Vulnerable
8 20% Endangered
4 10% Critically Endangered
0 0% Extinct in the Wild
1 3% Extinct
40 100%

If a species’ habitat is restricted to zoos, farms, laboratories or backyards, it isn’t extinct.

Featured image source.

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122 thoughts on “What’s the Recovery Rate from Extinction?

    • Mules are immune from extinction. If you wiped out every one, including those in gestation, then in 20 years you would have just as many as we have now.

      G

      • Reminds me of a recent story I read about an American that was brave enough th sample street food in Ninjing. He came across a long line at a food stand To him, the line length was a good sign. The food was a dough filled with some kind of meat.He started at the front of the line asking all. When he got to the end of the line, the last man stepped back and yelled something at the top of his lungs. Everyone the street was staring at the American, Then a young woman appeared, ” I’m an English major. Do you need help? ” The young man told the woman he wanted to know. What kind of meat was in the food? She pulled out her electronic translator. Her answer was…………..”Ass Meat.”

      • The polite replacement of “ass” with “donkey” in English, due I suppose to its similarity to “arse”, was a great loss.

        The biblical Balaam’s rebuke from his ass just isn’t the same with a talking donkey.

      • Many years ago my wife and I were traveling though China and in Guiyang (capital of Guizhou province) there was this common thing that many people would come into the streets for a late evening snack. Often in their pyamas. Our host told us one of the popular snacks at the street grills was “chicken ass”.

        I thought, well aren’t some types of steak coming from cow’s behinds as well, so I guessed he just had a funny way of translating. So we went out for our late snack and ordered some of it.

        Turns out it’s the circular muscle (sphincter). A bunch of them on a plastic plate. They tasted quite well. So indeed we were eating chicken’s assholes right there on the street.

      • Nothing wrong with ass/donkey meat, like horse meat it is indistinguishable from beef by non-specialists.

      • Not familiar with the OED definition of “snarky” Pamela.

        Please elucidate ?

        Izzit OK to declare anything one has never seen to the extinct bin.

        University biology department and museum storage places are full of dead samples of now extinct species.
        They don’t need just one to show to important visitors; they have to have hundreds to study the bio-diversity of that species. It never occurs to them just WHY that species is extinct.

        Like the newly graduated Masters Botanist who cut down the oldest known (by about 500 years) Bristle Cone pine, to find out how old it was. Seems like he never took Mike Mann’s core boring class.

        I think there are still alive, persons who may actually have seen the last living Huia !

        Very sad; and their great grandfather might have seen a live Moa.

        G

    • Mad scientists Jack Horner wants to make a chickenosaurus, with its genes for teeth, unfused fingerbones with claws and a long bony tail turned back on, which would in effect create a mini-tryannosaur. Well, a maniraptor, with three fingers instead of the T. rex’ two and a stub.

      • Yeah, great, all I need is a mini-Raptor in the hen house! Won’t this put a major crimp in how many people are raising chickens for eggs? Or will the eggs be, supposedly, so much better (like Berkshire hogs who eat their owners) that we will just learn to wear full body armor when going among the flock?

        PMK

      • Roosters are scary enough without teeth and claws.

        I don’t think that Jack is having much success finding backers for his project.

      • Chimp, we used to have a white goose back in the 90s that was afraid of nothing. Neighborhood dogs were just something to bite with lightning speed until they retreated. We hatched it in an incubator, so it was imprinted on humans and was a great playmate for the kids. I can see that a Goose-o-saurus would be the ideal watch-fowl/reptilian… or what have ya.

      • Pop,

        My goose encounters have been more adversarial than yours with an imprinted pro-human goose.

        Wild migratory Canada geese every year would stop off at the temporary wetland formed in our fields on the intermountain flyway. To get close enough to poach enough to make goose jerky to carry through the summer, we first had to crawl within subsonic .22 range, then take out their sentries with head shots. Talk about a sporty course!

        With those eliminated in our sector, we could move in for the kill and get a useful number with shotguns before the flock took off thunderously.

        But you definitely didn’t want to be attacked by a sentry if busted. Honking and gnashing wildly, the heroic birds would sacrifice themselves without a second’s hesitation to save the flock.

      • I should add that besides their size, ferocity and intelligence, geese and other water fowl are among the most ancient of bird lineages, dating back to the K/T boundary, so the least derived, hence already closer to their raptor ancestors.

        A gooseosaurus with teeth, claws and sickle toe attacking to defend its flock is a truly nightmarish apparition.

      • Canadian geese were a recurring problem over the years I worked at SIUE. They will sometimes claim a section of the walkways or bike paths and attack anyone who tries to use them. Our groundsmen used to addle the eggs and put them back in the nests to reduce the population, but the college newspaper raised hell about it. Lucky thing some of the Asian students on campus were trapping and eating them also, which was only known to the staff and kept concealed from the campus press.

      • Chimp, i wish I had some video to post of the Blue Heron that fishes at our pond. The efficiency of these birds at feeding is amazing. The good part is that our pond won’t be overrun with small fish.

      • “Chimp June 9, 2017 at 1:34 pm
        Roosters are scary enough without teeth and claws.

        I don’t think that Jack is having much success finding backers for his project.”

        Claws? They’re called spurs and roosters are quite good at leaping flapping and raising those spurs aimed right at the eyes.

        Of course, chickens aren’t quite bright enough to realize that a rooster’s attack leap places birds in a perfect position to be caught like a noisy flapping football.

      • I interned at a wildlife rehab center. It was an accepted fact that “geese are assholes”.

        We still rehabbed the ingrates.

      • Atheok,

        Yup, with its spurs, cockosaurus would be even better armed than its formidable maniraptoran ancestors. Chickens, when caught, have the advantage of calming down if hung by their feet.

        The border collie of a former GF of mine has a job chasing geese off the grounds of an upscale golf club in Portland, OR. The marina where I keep my sailboat is also infested with geese. It makes me yearn for the sniping and blasting days of yore.

      • Pop,

        Blue herons are great fishers indeed. They work the river near me in almost pest numbers.

        Chickenosaurus might not be content with bugs:

  1. If you can’t see it it must not exist… unless it does. Similarly if one sees no evidence that global warming is a fraud then it must be true, even if one studiously chooses to close one’s eyes whenever contrary evidence may be in the vicinity.

    • The warming is real. It’s the causation and the consequences that remain in question.

      • “The warming is real.”
        Temperature variability is real. Characterizing it as “warming” is false.

      • The stupid chytrid fungus was and is probably spread in part by scientists and/or researchers. How many people carefully clean all their equipment between sites? How many remember/think to disinfect their waders and nets between adjacent vernal pools?

        Probably why people were so quick to try to pin the blame on AGW. It would absolve them of their careless sins.

      • The theory never made any sense. It’s basically the old, “global warming equals cooling” argument and “global warming equals increased rain, but it’s drier” argument. The theory is that dry periods are associated with smaller puddles where the Golden Toad collects. These denser populations encourage the transmission of the fungus between toads.

        A couple problems with the theory:
        1) The fungus which affected these frogs came from Africa and brought to the Americas on the backs of a species of frogs used to develop a pregnancy test. The first appearance of the fungus in America was in Canada in 1961. It was first seen in the US in South Carolina in 1978. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/10/12/03-0804_article

        2) Fungal outbreaks have been linked definitively to dry conditions created by El Nino cycles. http://www.pnas.org/content/107/11/5036.abstract

        3) Global Warming would predict that a species would move from the tropics to previously temperate regions — but the opposite has happened here.

        4) Common sense would dictate that the fungal species outbreak occurred during the first El Nino dry period after the fungus appeared in Cost Rica. This fungus dies in excessively warm climates (>30C) — global warming should help kill it. It takes a twisted logic to credit climate change with this fungal outbreak.

        5) Invasive species is once again the primary blame — as it is with many “climate change- assigned” species extinction. This time, the species was brought to America by biologists who should know better.

        6) As a side note, the Golden Toad habitat is in an area that used to be on the edge of a Tropical Rain Forest, but is not classified as a Tropical Dry Forest. This change occurred due to development in Costa Rica, not climate change. This change may play a role in the dry conditions.

  2. Are you trying to suggest we’ll never be shot of the greens?

    They’ll just keep reappearing no matter how extinct they become.

    Oh the joy.

      • Because recently their enlarged heads have been exploding with keyboard anger towards the recent turn of events.

      • The WUWT blog has so many opportunities for sarcasm and parody these days that I cannot help myself, which might mean that I am cluttering up the place with too much crap. BUT, as I said, I cannot help myself, and so here I go again self indulging:

        Dinosaurs survived with tiny, tiny brains. Why can’t the Greens?

        This is one of evolution’s greatest mysteries. I’m working on a grant to do research about it, as we speak — It involves a hypothesis about the impact of increased global average temperature on cognitive abilities in the presence or absence of selective immunity from brainwashing. I plan to pioneer an entirely new field of psychology called “greenology”. Remember my name, and remember you saw it here first.

        Donations gladly accepted, and thank you in advance.

        P.S., I really can be serious. It’s just that the whole thing seems to have become such a joke that I find myself lost in the comedy of it.

  3. So will the MSM give this as much press as when they announced the extinctions? After all, wouldn’t this be more significant?

  4. The most famous “recovery” from extinction was the coelacanth, a genus with two species of Indian Ocean lobe-finned fish.

    It however wasn’t identical to its extinct Mesozoic ancestors. The group had been evolving all that time since the K/T extinction, but just out of sight of humans, or at least scientists.

      • It was caught by Captain Hendrick Goosen and discovered by museum curator Marjorie Eileen Doris Courtenay-Latimer, hence its generic name Latimeria.

        Coelacanths are more closely related to humans and other tetrapods than to ray-finned fish, ie the vast majority of fish now living. Only it, the lungfish and the many tetrapods remain of the once numerous lobe-finned fish lineage.

        Among animals, the Australian lungfish is the longest-lasting “living fossil”, and has the largest known genome, although some salamanders and crustaceans give it a run for its money. Lungfish are the sister group to tetrapods. Coelacanths are the sister group to the clade containing tetrapods and lungfish.

      • But Smith described it and confirmed that it was a coelacanth, last known from the Late Cretaceous period and thought extinct in the dino-destroying K/T event.

        The African and Indonesian varieties are now considered separate species.

      • I don’t think it was ever considered extinct by the locals (Madagascar coast?) that occasionally caught one of them. Only considered extinct by those that found old fossils and hadn’t seen the real thing.

      • DonM,

        Hence my saying “at least scientists”, ie the people who declare extinctions.

        IIRC the locals even had a name for it, but that might be a faulty memory of long-ago studies.

      • I understand there have may have been a very few caught off the Azores and/or Canaries, too.
        One of the churches [on one of the islands ( I thought, but possibly the Iberian mainland)] has a lovely 3-d representation – clearly of Latimeria – dating, IIRC, to the 1700s. Possibly in silver.
        See this link: –
        http://cryptozoo.pagesperso-orange.fr/coel_eng.htm [bottom quarter of the page].

        Auto

      • Auto,

        IMO none has been caught in the Atlantic or Med, or even the Pacific. If the silver ornaments do indeed represent coelacanths, then most likely they were made by Spanish or Portuguese mariners based upon fish caught in the Indian Ocean, or acquired in the East.

        However, the southernmost population of western (Comoros) coelacanths lives close to the Atlantic and easternmost population of eastern (Indonesian) coelacanths lives close to the Pacific:

        But making their way from southernmost Africa to the Azores, Canaries and the Med seems improbable.

      • PS:

        Mesozoic coelacanths have been found on every continent, but the world was a lot warmer then, and the seas flooded onto the continents.

      • Sorry if offtopic, but here are representatives of the three living genera of lungfish, compared with their Paleozoic relative:

        The Australian lungfish is a “living fossil”, superficially similar to Cretaceous fossil lungfish from New South Wales. Despite Australia’s northward movement over the past 100 million years, the fish’s environment hasn’t changed much. The Cretaceous had a hot house climate, and now it lives in subtropical Queensland. It’s well adapted to its habitat, so hasn’t been under selective pressure to change. Rather, natural selection has acted to keep it the same.

        Oz had at least seven lungfish species in the past. Other genera still live in Africa and South America.

        You sometimes see claims that the coelacanth is the closest relative of us tetrapods, but it isn’t. The lobe-finned fish group closest to tetrapods is the lungfish. The lungfish clade Dipnoi is sister group to our clade Tetrapodomorpha, which includes not only us tetrapods, but the largest freshwater fish ever known to have lived, like this guy from the Carboniferous:

        https://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/attachments/finney-jpg.602628/

        In a case of convergent evolution, some rhizodontids had wrist and hand bones even more derived than some lobe-fins on the direct tetrapod line.

      • Evolution of the Mesozoic-style Australian lungfish is clearly intermediate between its Paleozoic relative and more derived African and South American kin. While, as with the two Cenozoic genera, its dorsal, caudal and ventral fins have combined, its arms and legs remain robust, as in the Devonian form (Dipterus).

        Lungfish are practically amphibians, since they can survive when water dries up by encasing themselves in mud, which dries until the wet returns.

  5. The reappearance of the Golden Toad after being killed off by toad researchers tracking diseases from other parts of the world, would be a great event. First, because it would undo the enormous harm caused by alarmists who were trying to prove that global warming was causing extinctions. It was causing extinctions all right – a direct result of alarmism driving world-wide eco-tours of threatened species which were doing fine until an ‘expert’ showed up to introduce them to a disease against which they had no resistance.

    There must be some rich examples from other aspects of the global warming industry. One might be spending all the available research funding on proving there is no more funding available to protect us from storms. May all your toads come home again.

  6. It is estimated that over 99% of all species that have ever lived on Earth are now extinct. Over 99% of them moved out of existence without anyone or anything made to feel guilty about it. It was just ‘natural’! Not any more. In case you were wondering…it is all your fault from here on out, human!

    Are you confused? Let Agent Smith explain the viewpoint of modern environmentalism:

  7. Life recovers even from the worst mass extinction events, like the Permian-Triassic MEE.

    All known MEEs are followed by “explosions” of new life forms. The Cambrian Explosion followed the mass extinction of the Ediacaran biota at the end of the Precambrian Supereon. The Triassic Explosion followed the “Great Dying” at the end of the Permian Period and Paleozoic Era. The Paleogene Explosion followed the MEE at the end of the Cretaceous Period and Mesozoic Era, which wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs and opened up niches for birds and mammals.

    Surviving organisms “explosively” fill in an adaptive radiation the now available ecological niches, emptied by the mass extinction.

    Like the Great Oxidation Event over two billion years ago, life itself brought on the Ediacaran-Cambrian MEE, c. 540 million years ago, when evolving organisms consumed the seafloor cyanobacterial slime mats which were the basis of their food chain.

    • Nature abhors a vacuum; well so they say. but she’s got more vacuum than anything else in the universe.

      G

  8. Yet again another comment of mine disappears into cyberspace. I’ll try again. If it works and the first attempt later appears, my apologies in advance for double posting.

    Life recovers even from the worst mass extinction events, like the Permian-Triassic MEE.

    All known MEEs are followed by “explosions” of new life forms. The Cambrian Explosion followed the mass extinction of the Ediacaran biota at the end of the Precambrian Supereon. The Triassic Explosion followed the “Great Dying” at the end of the Permian Period and Paleozoic Era. The Paleogene Explosion followed the MEE at the end of the Cretaceous Period and Mesozoic Era, which wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs and opened up niches for birds and mammals.

    Surviving organisms “explosively” fill in an adaptive radiation the now available ecological niches, emptied by the mass extinction.

    Like the Great Oxidation Event over two billion years ago, caused by the evolution of cyanobacteria, life itself brought on the Ediacaran-Cambrian MEE, c. 540 million years ago, when evolving organisms consumed the seafloor cyanobacterial slime mats which were the basis of their food chain.

      • Both here and in another comment section, I tried to post long, detailed responses, which were repeatedly blocked and have yet to appear.

        So I tried a short comment saying that I couldn’t post the substantive ones. I’ve had this problem for days now. None of the words I used are verboten, nor did they involve too many links, or any of the other no-nos.

      • Gabro, that’s been happening to EVERYBODY… These days it can make it difficult to follow the conversation. i used to be able to read comments up until a certain time, make a note of the time, and then resume at a later hour. No Mas! i’ll have to go back through the comments that i read earlier to find those (with an earlier time stamped) that popped up late because of moderation. So it’s become a pain to post comments and a pain to read them. (but, it’s well worth the pain… ☺)

      • Fonz,

        I gathered that, but it seemed as if only those on particular topics were failing to post. Maybe it was length-related.

        I don’t want to give up, like you, because it’s often worth the discussion which can ensue.

        I usually remember to copy before hitting “Post”, but regrettably didn’t on two of my longer responses.

      • How do you know which words are verboten, Gabro?
        I often find my longer WUWT comments (and occasionally my short ones) either get hung up in moderation, or else seem to just vanish (apparently flagged as possible spam). If I wait awhile, the comments inevitably appear. I don’t think I’ve ever had one not appear, eventually, here on WUWT.
        If you have more than a few links in a comment, that’ll trigger moderation. Some specific words or phrases apparently trigger moderation, too, but I don’t know what they all are.
        I’ve found that usually my comments appear within a couple of hours. Occasionally it takes longer. It never takes longer then 24 hours, though, so if you have a polite comment remain in limbo longer than that I suggest that you send an email to Anthony.
        Anthony welcomes polite dissent here. On most climate alarmist sites they have little tolerance for dissent. For instance, on TheConversation I posted ten polite comments on a climate article a week ago, and eight of my comments were simply deleted by the moderators.
        E.g., one David Etheridge (whose title is Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO) wrote:

        “The absolute warming effect of each [greenhouse] gas, per unit amount in the atmosphere, is mostly unchanged back in time.”

        That’s obviously not exactly correct w/r/t CO2, so I replied:

        Well, I guess that depends on what you mean by “mostly.” The warming effect of CO2 is logarithmically diminishing.
        The warming effect of an additional 1 ppmv of CO2 now (with levels at about 405 ppmv) is only about 70% of the warming effect of an additional 1 ppmv of CO2 back in 1850, when outdoor CO2 levels averaged about 285 ppmv.

        The moderators deleted my comment, apparently for suspicion of casting doubt on the climate emergency. (They have an official set of “Community Standards,” which don’t seem to have much of anything to do with how they actually moderate the comments.)

      • Dave,

        Lots of mine have disappeared permanently.

        I don’t know all the forbidden words, but I’ve learned at least some to avoid.

  9. The Golden toad is likely truly extinct. It was only discovered in 1964, and the entire known species range was just 4km^2 on the Brilliante ridge of Costa Rica’s famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Last seen in 1988. Unlike the 1999 Nature speculation about climate change as the cause, a 2006 paper by the same author showed that the actual cause was chytridiomycosis, an invasive (not native) amphibian skin fungus brought to Brilliante ridge by ecotourists hiking the trail there. One of many interesting ‘extinction’ examples in essay No Bodies in enook Blowing Smoke. The last half of the essay exposes the blatant intellectual dishonesty behind the AR4 WG2 widely cited and utterly wrong climate extinction estimates.

    • Probably very little if any unique genetic information was lost with the toad, since so many closely related species still exist in the same genus.

      The same applies to the Australian rat Bramble Cay motomys, island-dwelling poster child for extinction via “climate change”.

      • We can’t even agree about what a species is. link

        It is possible that two critters will look different but have the same genes.

        The genotype–phenotype distinction is drawn in genetics.
        “Genotype” is an organism’s full hereditary information.
        “Phenotype” is an organism’s actual observed properties, such as morphology, development, or behavior. link

        Just because a critter has a certain gene, it doesn’t mean that it will be expressed. If the gene isn’t expressed, it’s just the same as not having the gene.

        Gene expression can be determined by the environment. link

        So, two individual critters can look like different species but actually have the same genes. example

      • There are other reasons for genes not to be expressed besides the environment. A classic example is corn (maize). It needs humans to reproduce, but its genes are identical to those its wild ancestor, the Mexican grass teosinte. Mexican farmers thousands of years ago managed to breed its epigenetic on and off switches to produce the crop which now feeds so much of the world.

        A lot of natural species differences are also in epigenetic control switches rather than the genes themselves, ie the stretches of genomes coding for proteins. Human and chimp protein genes are practically the same, but our bone growth control switches cause our legs to grow longer and hair control switches cause our body hair to grow shorter. Both species have the same number of follicles in our skin.

        As to proteins, humans share the AB blood group polymorphism with all our closest primate kin, to include apes and Old World monkeys. Same goes for the MN antigen system:

        https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1022212630370

        When I was an undergrad, we knew that humans shared the MN system with gorillas, but not yet with other apes and OW monkeys.

      • We are not all that related to gorillas and happened to have some similarities that apes don’t have. Given we evolved in the same environment that can’t be too surprising. Something that is usually not mentioned About “chimps and humans sharing 97% yadda-yadda” is that though the content is very similar and/or identical for that % of the total, it is in completely different places, strewn all over the show. No one told me that when I was young, I understood that ‘we are nearly the same’ from their 97% argument. But it is more like: morphological similarities require similar genetic code, but that doesn’t mean it is organised in anything like the same manner. It just means that somewhere in there, is a genetic code for eyes. And so on.

        It is a bit like saying that a Volvo and a Hyundai are from the same factory because they both have 12mm bolts and 6mm glass, therefore they were made in the same place. There is a lot going on (like jumping genes) that we don’t know much about.

      • Crispin,

        There are different ways of measuring relatedness, but they all show the same thing, ie that our closest living relatives are chimps and bonobos, the gorillas, then orangutans, then the lesser apes (like gibbons), then Old World monkeys, then New World monkeys, then tarsiers, then lemurs and lorises. The differences get bigger when compared to mammals other than primates, but the next closest are colugos (SE Asian gliders) and tree shrews, followed by glires (rodents and lagomorphs). Next comes a superorder of mammals which evolved on the supercontinent Laurasia in the Cretaceous, including the Order Carnivora and the orders containing shrews, pangolins, bats, whales, even- and odd-toed ungulates, among others. Other mammalian orders are more distantly related.

        Every shred of genetic, anatomical, biochemical, embryological, biogeographic and other relevant evidence shows this pattern of relatedness. I don’t know what you mean about strewn all over the show in completely different places. Maybe you don’t know how genetics works. But it’s not at all as you imagine. Coding and non-coding material does get shuffled during sexual reproduction, and parts of “genes” can be on different chromosomes, but everything about the human genome, both fine and gross, shows the degrees of relatedness I mentioned above.

        It’s not just the functional bits to which you refer, but mistakes which show this pattern of inheritance. For instance, humans, other apes, New World monkeys and tarsiers, but not lemurs or lorises among the primates, lack the ability to make vitamin C, hence are subject to scurvy. Guinea pigs and their South American kin capybaras also suffer this affliction, but their gene for vitamin C is broken in a different place. The rest of their genomes confirm their close relationship. The other mammalian order which suffers scurvy is bats, most of whom also can’t produce their own vitamin C, but must get it from their diet. A few bat species retain some functionality, but most can’t, and their gene is broken in yet a different way from the primates’. The rest of the Class Mammalia can still make their own vitamin C. Some birds and fish have also suffered breaks in their genes for this enzyme vital for connective tissue.

        To take a gross chromosomal example, human chromosome #2 resulted from the fusion of two smaller standard great ape chromosomes, which is why we have only 23 pairs instead of 24, as do chimps, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans. The genes and other sequences on our #2 are the same as those on the two smaller standard ape chromosomes. What appears to be the centromere of our #2 is actually the conjoined telomeres of the two standard great ape chromosomes. Vestigial centromeres, with the same sequences as the centromeres of the other great apes’ chromosomes, lie in the middles of the sections above and below the fused “centromere”, which is really two telomeres.

        It so happens that this fusion event is associated with the genes for obligate upright walking, so must have occurred before the evolution of our bipedal australopithecine ancestors, before the origin of genus Homo.

        I could cite example after example of the genomic and karotypic similarities between human and other great apes’ genetic material, including nonfunctional mutations. No rational person studying comparative genomics can escape the conclusion that these similarities result from shared ancestry. There is no other possible explanation. Quite apart from all the other obviously shared, derived traits of every kind.

      • In case you or anyone else might be interested in human chromosome #2, it is, not surprisingly, the second largest of our chromosomes, with about 8% of our total genome. Many of the genes it carries have been identified:

        Here’s an illustration of the fusion event:

        A gene is a sequence coding for a protein. Some statements of relatedness compare the number of genes two species have in common. Others look at the whole genome, which in humans runs to around three billion DNA base-pairs. Domestic cats have 2,365,745,914 bps; dogs a little more. There is actually a surprisingly small number of genes, and the estimated total keeps dropping. IIRC it’s now down to about 19,000, from previous estimates of 30,000.

        Back in 2005, preliminary analysis of the Human and subsequent Chimpanzee Genome Projects showed that, as you might expect, of the shared genes studied, a few, such as the forkhead-box P2 transcription factor involved in speech development, are different in the human lineage. Several genes involved in hearing were also found to have changed during human evolution, suggesting selection involving human language-related behavior.

        Overall, differences between individual humans and common chimpanzees are estimated to be about 10 times the typical difference between pairs of humans. Chimps are also more diverse among themselves than are humans, displaying the genetic bottleneck through which we passed some 70 or 80 Ka.

        https://www.genome.gov/pages/research/dir/chimp_analysis.pdf

      • Something else I should have mentioned about pseudogenes like the nonfunctional vitamin C gene in the “higher” primates, South American cavy rodents and bats is that, despite the genes’ no longer working, they continue to accumulate mutations and be inherited. These mutations can be used to work out relationships.

        For instance, in the case of the broken primate vitamin C gene, there are subsequent mutations shared only by humans and chimps, only by African great apes, others only by them and orangutans, others only by greater and lesser apes, and others apes with OW monkeys not shared with tarsiers.

        The same applies to other pseudogenes in other groups of related organisms.

    • So actually, to human knowledge, it was extinct until it suddenly came into being in 1964! Then, like a tree falling in the forest unheard, it became extinct again! Bad luck! Now, there is a chance it could be what? Resurrected?
      Like the man who lost his first wife-unfortunate, while the man who lost a second one was just plain careless! Missing frogs and toads must be our fault since we noticed and are all powerful.

      • There are ~7250 known amphibian species. ~60% were discovered after 1985. By definition these have heightened extinction risk since living in small specialized habitats like the Golden toad. Why only recently discovered. As chytridiomycosis spreads world wide, won’t end well for amphibians. Invasive species is one of the big three extinction causes. The other two are habitat loss and over hunting/fishing. More from essay No Bodies.

    • But will the evenings be quiet without you?
      Not with so many cousins to sing your praise.

  10. I thought Michael Mann was the first toad to win a Nobel Prize. *rim shot*

    or is it *cheap shot*? ;)

  11. I cannot help but recall the aphorism “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Perhaps there should be another classification: “Unobserved”, or perhaps “Unobserved since (insert date here)” to describe species for which we cannot be certain of Extinction.

    • Good catch.

      It was practically stomped out of existence by ecotourists and scientists “researching” CACA, carrying lethal pathogens on their boots.

      Ironic if not so sad.

  12. The endangered species conservation concept has had a troubled history. Not all biologists like it very well because it, like a lot of things, obscures real problems and has been a proxy for habitat. Unfortunately, some of it is extrapolation/simulation (sound familiar?) based on island biogeography. This is where the X number of species going extinct per year mostly comes from. Some of it is based on humans not liking humans or at least in some numbers. Some of it is real human caused extinction. Some of it is human influenced extinction. An interesting question is whether rare species are more in trouble or are just better at either hiding and/or surviving. Exceptionally common species have been susceptible, maybe even more so. Another interesting question is at what stage applied ecology is relative to other disciplines considered more mature.

    • Even continental species going extinct, as perhaps in the case of the golden toad, are usually restricted to a small, isolated, island-like habitat. Humans have wiped out a lot of species, but not so many lately. Since the Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions, most of our destruction has been limited to island continents like Australia (and arguably NZ), or to isolated oceanic islands, like Reunion and the Hawaiian chain.

      Some extinct species live on in their domesticated descendants, like the aurochs.

  13. It is really unclear what the point of this post is. It is a suggestion that the definition of extinct needs
    to alter (to perhaps “unobserved for 50 years” or something similar) or is David really suggesting that
    the toad has being spontaneously created (thus disproving evolution which also appears to be popular on
    this blog lately). The technical definition of extinct has always been “unobserved for X years” which means
    that species can be declared extinct and then if a new population is found that can easily be changed.

      • Again what point are you trying to make? For example a study in 2010 by Fisher and Bloomberg suggests that 1/3 of all mammals classified as extinct since 1500 could actually still be living in the wild and also goes further and suggests which mammals are most likely to be mis-classified, with extinctions caused by habitat loss being the source of the biggest errors. Toads living in rainforests would appear to fit into this category.

        So reading the literature would suggest that people have studied this issue before and come up with estimates for mis-classification. All of which can be found with a simple google search.

        If you want to claim that the toads spontaneously came back to life the you are peddling a bigger pile of crap that I would have thought possible.

      • I love irony. My post was clearly humorous… The fact that the background recovery rate from extinction could be 33% is fracking hilarious …

        For example a study in 2010 by Fisher and Bloomberg suggests that 1/3 of all mammals classified as extinct since 1500 could actually still be living in the wild and also goes further and suggests which mammals are most likely to be mis-classified, with extinctions caused by habitat loss being the source of the biggest errors. Toads living in rainforests would appear to fit into this category.

        Geronimo, you would make a great “straight man” in a comedy team.

    • Geronimo,

      While I doubt that’s the case, it can’t be ruled out that a closely related frog expanded into the vacated habitat and evolved superficially similar traits to the species gone extinct.

      • With the modern dilution (or difusion) of the definition of “species,” it probably happens quite frequently.

      • David,

        There have always been lumpers and splitters. Discoverers of nondescripts, living or extinct, typically want to place them at least in new species, if not genera.

  14. “Costa Rican scientists”
    Hmmm…. weren’t Isla Sorna and Isla Nublar in Costa Rica?

    • That’s where Jack Horner, who should know better, can exhibit his chickenosaurus miniraptors.

      I don’t know if the genes still exist for the maniraptoran sickle claw toe, but Archaeopteryx had those nasty features. A chickenosaurus with teeth, finger claws and that vicious toe would be truly formidable.

      The genes for teeth and long tail vertebrae do still exist, but their expression is suppressed in modern birds. The remaining caudal vertebrae now fused in the pygostyle, or parson’s nose, might be too few for an impressively long tail, however. But the chicken’s head is relatively smaller than those of their maniraptoran ancestors, so less counterbalance would be required.

      Might also be possible to multiply the number of vertebrae or the length of each by control genes.

      • Maybe he should work on turkeys instead of chickens?
        Then we would all be really thankful we got one on the table next Thanksgiving?

      • That would be even scarier. Geese would be worse, though. There might be a market for ferocious attack geese, with real teeth instead of jagged beaks.

        Ostriches are already pretty dinosaurian, so maybe start with them. People would pay to hunt a maniraptor that big and ferocious. Add it to the African Big Five.

  15. “Recovery from Extinction” would be much easier to say that “OOPS! We were wrong. sorry.”

    • I don’t think you can recover from extinction…….but then again, boys can be girls, race is anything you want it to be that is politically correct and people come back to life after being clinically dead, so maybe so. :)

      I personally like “Never mind…….”

  16. In NSW, Australia, we have an “endangered” species of tree that is considered to be invasive across the border in Victoria. This is a Federally-listed “endangered” species, which you can buy as tubestock from the local nursery.

    If anyone can sensibly explain how a species is invasive in one state and endangered across the border I’d love to know.

  17. I know Princess Bride well. I have a niece who stayed with us often, she loved it, so I’ve seen it (and Babe and Space Jam) about a thousand times. Hello, my name is Inego Montoya, you killed my father, Baaah Raaaam Ewe, and don’t call me doll!

    I had a totally different preconception about which “Princess Bride” clip was most apropos to this extinction question. I was sure you were going to refer to the scene where Miracle Max (played by Billy Crystal) is asking whether Wesley/Farm Boy/Dread Pirate Robert is “all dead” or “only mostly dead?”

  18. Given that there are anywhere near 8 million species on the planet, the law of numbers suggest that there are just going to be extinctions.

    Survival of the fittest suggests that there are just going to be extinctions. Viruses alone are probably responsible for at least one extinction per year.

    If we can foresee this happening obviously we should try to do what we can to prevent it.

    But it is inevitable and the loss of a toad species is really not going to upset the cart for Mother Nature tm. Moma Nature only cares if DNA survives all the calamities that can happen.

    This is not assured. A large Comet could take us all out in one day if it hit. We are just as lucky that no Supernovas have occurred nearby or neutron stars crossing our solar system.

    100 things can cause extinctions. We are at least one of them but human-like species are probably very rare in the universe. We take precedence over toads.

    • Besides, toads are good to eat.

      If they can’t avoid us, then they deserve to go extinct. We are just one challenge which sadistic, cold, heartless Mother Nature places in their path.

  19. What is the motivation for ‘declaring’ things?
    Do they *really* care? Or are they on a mission to prove to everyone, themselves included, how important they are. Are they, in a way of speaking, sensation seekers? In that *they* have to be first with the biggest news. Why. What’s lacking from their lives that they need to do this?

    They’ll say any number of things but mostly its because they ‘care’
    But why? If the critter is extinct, it is beyond caring and there’s sweet FA anyone else can do about it, So why the fuss? So why try send everyone on some sort of guilt trip for killing it off? I never knew it existed, it never impacted me or vice-versa so, why do I need to have news of its demise thrust into my face?

    And anybody beyond a certain age knows for sure that the fastest way to make yourself look like a total tw4t is to jump up and declare something/anything like this.

    A nearly perfect case happened to me very recently..
    It was/is about a horrid little weed, a species of Ragwort. Sometimes called Yellow Peril because of its tendency to destroy the liver of any critter that has a liver. You don’t want this stuff on your patch if you keep cows or especially horses. It is actually illegal to let it grow, flower, seed and spread in England, possibly UK.

    Seemingly it was seriously endangered and only found on one very small patch of dirt in Southern England. (So it should be thinks me, it should be endangered in the same way Anthrax is ‘endangered’)

    But I looked and looked and looked at the picture. It was the self same weed that grew ‘like a weed’ on my (now ex) farm in Cumbria. It ‘knew’ to hide in difficult to reach places= dense woodland, swampy ground, steep hillsides and any combination of the above.
    It wasn’t in any danger, not in NE Cumbria anyway.

    Maybe a Computer Model told them so?

    • Their purpose is gin up crap like this…

      Mass extinctions are measured at the genus level and higher. It’s been 75 years since a genus was declared extinct (and it may have recovered). The Pleistocene- Holocene extinction included many genera and maybe a few families – yet it is not classified as a mass extinction event. However, the alarmist morons cackle about the current extinction rate being a sixth mass extinction.

      • Note that IUCN only lists extinctions after 1500 AD. So a hockeystick is inevitable. Actually extinction rates probably declined during this interval after the massive extinctions in the Pacific and on New Zealand and Madagascar in the previous millenium.

    • I suppose you are thinking of Fen Ragwort Senecio paludosus which is very rare in the UK and has never grown in NE Cumbria.

      There are many different species of ragwort, all of them are more or less poisonous. Many of them are common in Sweden and they are known to be poisonous to horses in particular, but only considered a problem when occurring in massive quantities since the dangerous dose is quite high. The lethal dose is about 5% of the horse’s body weight.

  20. Extinction just means we haven’t seen one for a while where we thought they lived. Black footed ferrets were extinct for about two years until a dog brought home a dead one. No one told the dog ferrets are extinct so he would know not to drag one home. Dogs just catch critters wherever they find them. Humans tend to think things never change and relocation is not possible. If we can’t find ’em, they don’t exist.

    Worse yet are the “extinct” in certain locations. As the post said, a live creature is not “extinct” just because it’s living in captivity. Wolves are not endangered just because they are in Yellowstone and not Canada and Alaska where we brought them back from. Politicizing science has always been a bad idea.

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