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Saturday, January 14. 2017
The extinction of species and genera is the earth's history. In recent history, some extinction has been brought about by mankind, mainly hunting for food. The giant ice-age mammals of North America probably were all hunted out like the White-Tailed Deer in nothern New England are today. Mountains of good meat which seemed endless.
The North American Bison barely escaped that fate, but the European Bison did not.
The sentimentally-sad story of North America's Passenger Pigeon is similar. The complete eradication of those vast, sun-blocking flocks was inconceivable. They were tasty birds, and there were no hunting laws. The smaller, and not large-flocking Mourning Dove stayed around, thankfully. It is tasty too, with a slab of bacon in the oven.
Interesting: The Case for Bringing Back the Passenger Pigeon - One geneticist’s quest to de-extinct what was once one of the world’s most abundant birds
Posted by Bird Dog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 13:59 | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)
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That many birds must have had a major impact on crops. i wonder if there were so many billions of them back in the 1500s, before Europeans got here and started large scale farming.
Excellent point. There is little information about the situation before Europeans came. The horse and camel were hunted to extinction soon after humans arrived.
It seemed odd that something as prolific as carrier pigeons could go extinct easily (compare cockroaches). It turns out, though, that this is only part of the story.
These birds went through boom/bust cycles, where they'd grow so numerous they would devastate local environments (supposedly they'd sometimes destroy trees by breaking branches). In one of the bust cycles, they didn't come back partly by humans, but partly by nature.
jay: It seemed odd that something as prolific as carrier pigeons could go extinct easily
Their social nature doomed them in the face of humankind. Flying in large flocks is an advantage with respect to most predators, but made them susceptible to mass hunting.
It isn't strictly relevant to the topic, but what is the rate of speciation? How many new species do we get per year?
I have no idea, but I'm guessing close to zero as habitat alters and humans move in. Probably depends on scale, too. Microbes/Blue Whales i.e., room for.
James the lesser: what is the rate of speciation?
Rates of speciation vary considerably among various taxa, and across biological history. Some species have mechanisms to encourage speciation. Beetles have lock-and-key sexual organs. Birds have song. There is typically a burst of speciation when a new niche opens up, called adaptive radiation. This can occur when a new type of organism arrives on an island for instance, or among survivors after an extinction event.
It is notoriously difficult to estimate the overall rate of speciation. The benchmark rate is about about 0.1 to 1.0 speciations per million species per year, but the margin of error may be an order of magnitude or more.
The current rate of extinction is hundreds of times higher than the background rate of speciation.
that's been happening cyclically for billions of years, so what's the point?
oh, let me guess, climate changery?
you're a broken record, sacherisz
The Eastern Native Americans had traditionally burned the undergrowth 1-2x/year to aid in hunting an movement. (This continued into the 1700s in some places.) Massive fires in the spring and fall. When epidemics wiped them out - usually in front of where the Europeans had penetrated and so poorly known to them - they did this less, and there was an enormous amount of food and few predators for some species of bird. Their numbers grew to unsustainable levels quickly, but things calmed thereafter, as food decreased and predators increased. The European settlers thought these were typical flock sizes in the amazing New World, but they were events of unbalance. These wild swings occurred from time to time in the 1600's as equilibrium was shattered by further epidemics, migration of tribes and new areas of burning, land clearing, etc.
And then came the myth of Indians having lived there forever "in peaceful harmony with nature" as "guardians of the land" until "the white man came with his guns and destroyed the natural balance".
Myths that were coined in the 1800s (I think, might have been early 1900s even) when in reality the Indians shaped the landscape as much as any European would, only in different ways.
"were all hunted out like the White-Tailed Deer in nothern New England are today."
White tails still thrive on the margins of human settlements, including recently cut forest. The do not do as well in old growth forests.
They also eat young plant in gardens. I expect the early settlers did not like having their crops eaten by deer. I certainly don't, as happens to me here in central NH every few years, but I have the option of going to a store.
Also, white tail deer are major carriers of lyme disease, perhaps the major carrier.
Also in central NH and no lack of deer. They never did well in old growth forests. Nothing to eat. They need the edges of forests and meadows. Hence the yearly burnings by the Indians. I'm challenging the assertion that they are "all hunted out".
My thought as well. Little doubt there are far more deer in Pennsylvania than ever before. Same goes for the number of ticks. They're everywhere.
Passenger pigeons ate much of the mast (acorns and the like), which now falls to the ground to be eaten by rodents. That may help explain the prevalence of ticks. The warming climate has moved tick's range north and to higher elevations, and also means that tick nymphs peak earlier in the season.
My Mammals of Europe guide shows there are remnant populations of the European Bison in Poland and Bielorussia.
I read the same thing in the book "1491" by Charles Mann. It's a fascinating book as his follow up book "1493". Neither one is white Europeans are bad, natives are good. It simply talks about what North and South America looked like prior to European settlement.
He claims significant portions of both continents were terraformed by the Indians and makes convincing argument.
Yes, good books. As well as recent discoveries in S. American lending support to his assertion re terraforming and larger populations for doing same.