August 11, 2005


When Extinct Isn't: Questioning the term after a bird's return (Marguerite Holloway, 8/08/05, Scientific American)

The video images may be tiny, grainy, dark and fleeting, but many looking at them see something glorious: evidence that at least one ivory-billed woodpecker--an 18- to 20-inch-tall bird with a wingspan of some 30 inches, last seen in the U.S. in 1944--is alive in the bottomland forest of eastern Arkansas. After a year of traipsing and canoeing through the Big Woods and its bayous, many inconclusive recordings of ivory-bill-like calls, seven good sightings and one fortuitous videotaping, scientists and conservationists announced in April that the bird was not extinct after all.

If the discovery holds up, the ivory-billed woodpecker will not be the only U.S. species recently returned from oblivion. In May, just a few days after the ivory-bill news, the Nature Conservancy announced the discovery in Alabama of three snails listed as extinct. A few weeks later, botanists at the University of California at Berkeley reported finding the Mount Diablo buckwheat, a tiny pink-flowered plant that had not been seen since 1936. At least 24 species of other presumed or possibly extinct plants, insects and other organisms have been found during natural heritage surveys in North America since 1974, according to Mark Schaefer, president of NatureServe, a nonprofit conservation group based in Arlington, Va. There are examples from elsewhere as well. The Bavarian pine vole, last seen in 1962, scurried back into view in 2000. The New Zealand storm petrel and the Lord Howe Island stick insect are among the other species no longer missing.

With so many "extinct" creatures reappearing, it is reasonable to wonder if the word has lost its meaning--something Ross MacPhee, curator of mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History, has been outspoken about.

Sure, it's the terminology that's the problem, not the theory....

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 11, 2005 12:26 PM

So is the tyrannosaurus rex in hiding too OJ? What do you have against the concept of extinction? Do you not believe that certian species cease to exist sometimes? I dont get it.

Posted by: Shelton at August 11, 2005 1:24 PM

What this really shows is that birdwatchers are really lousy at what they do. And that wildlife experts aren't.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 11, 2005 1:54 PM

To make myself clear: "And that wildlife experts aren't experts." (Or at least terrible observers.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 11, 2005 1:56 PM


Tyrannosaurus didn't become extinct--dinosaurs did.

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2005 2:02 PM


It's not a problem of observation.

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2005 2:04 PM

I still don't get it. This has something to do with your opposition to Darwinism but I can't see the connection.

The only thing this story does is remind us to ignore the misanthropists who claim humans are destroying nature.

Posted by: Shelton at August 11, 2005 2:14 PM

and that selection pressure exists

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2005 2:46 PM

Still confused - are you saying that "selection pressure" does or does not exist. Something killed the dinosaurs - though if you don't believe in Darwinism I suppose I wouldn't expect you to call that something "selection pressure".

Posted by: Shelton at August 11, 2005 4:13 PM

I hope they find the jackalope!!

Posted by: Twn at August 11, 2005 4:25 PM

They already have found the Jackalope.

The gist of it is, Jackalopes are rabbits infected with the Shope papillomavirus which results in horn-like growths on their heads.

Posted by: Dave at August 11, 2005 5:05 PM


Yes, I'm saying that selection pressure does not exist.

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2005 5:13 PM

The dinosaurs were extincted (is that a word?) by a meteor. As we all know meteors are produced by natural selection.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at August 11, 2005 5:48 PM


It wasn't a meteor. Click here.

Posted by: Mike Morley at August 11, 2005 5:52 PM

Most dinosaur species became extinct long before the general extinction at the end of the Triassic. Species of dinosaurs appeared and became extinct through the age of the dinosaurs. I'd be interested to hear OJ's theory on what happened to Allosaurus.

Moreover, I fail to see how the fact that not every single species has gone extinct during human recorded history demonstrates the lack of selection pressure. You seem to be reaching quite a bit more these days. The old stuff just not getting a rise out the regulars anymore?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at August 11, 2005 6:18 PM


I just post the stories as they come along. It so happens that there's a spurt of them calling extinction into question.

You guys do seem to be taking greater offense lately, but Darwinism is losing ground, so that's understandable.

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2005 6:25 PM

Calling extinction into question? I thought we went over that. So extinction doesn't happen? Where are all the dinosaurs hiding? Even if they got drowned in the flood with the unicorns and nephilim they are still extinct.

Posted by: Shelton at August 11, 2005 6:31 PM

Orrin lost the argument over evidence, so he's in the process of inventing dada creationism.

If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with . . .

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 11, 2005 10:35 PM


We still eagerly await your evidence, evidence that everyone from Darwin to Mayr denied exists.

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2005 10:40 PM

Clearly selection pressure doesn't exist; otherwise, OJ's rather dim genes would have been removed from the pool before he had a chance to pollute the web with this site.

Posted by: darwin's ghost at August 12, 2005 1:21 PM


See, it always gets down to eugenics with your lot.

Posted by: oj at August 12, 2005 3:31 PM

Which evidence did Mayr deny exists?

Posted by: creeper at August 13, 2005 4:52 PM
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