Giraffes Might Be Declared an Endangered Species

iStock.com/ZU_09
iStock.com/ZU_09

It’s been a rough few decades for giraffes. Native to Africa, these long-necked animals are the tallest to dwell on land, stretching up to 18 feet in height. But such a spectacular sight has become less and less common, as their populations have dwindled by nearly 40 percent since 1985. Roughly 97,000 giraffes remain in the wild—a number that might soon prompt the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to officially declare them an endangered species.

According to Smithsonian.com, the giraffe population has been under duress for some time. Encroachment from developed areas has reduced their habitable environment, and poachers have also contributed to their shrinking numbers. Some hunters kill the animal for meat, while others take the tail, which is perceived in some cultures as a status symbol. The leather is also used in fashion and accessories. In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which administers a world list of endangered species, put them at Vulnerable status, signaling a need to minimize their threats.

In 2017, the Fish and Wildlife Service received a petition, signed by numerous environmental groups and activists, asking to investigate the animals' status. Now, the agency has agreed to evaluate the giraffe and consider action. The review process could last up to 12 months. If giraffes receive the endangered species classification, conservationists would receive federal funding to help curb incentives to kill the animals, including the import of its body parts for sale and distribution. Land encroachment is more difficult to monitor and would involve interfering in land deals and development.

Why hasn’t their plight been more publicized? One theory is that giraffes are common sights in zoos, leading to a widespread belief they’re still thriving. Activists are also concerned the review process by the Fish and Wildlife Service could take longer than anticipated and have urged policymakers to act quickly. In a statement, Natural Resources Defense Council spokesperson Elly Pepper said that “it’s time for the federal government to stick its neck out” for the species.

[h/t Smithsonian.com]

Is There An International Standard Governing Scientific Naming Conventions?

iStock/Grafissimo
iStock/Grafissimo

Jelle Zijlstra:

There are lots of different systems of scientific names with different conventions or rules governing them: chemicals, genes, stars, archeological cultures, and so on. But the one I'm familiar with is the naming system for animals.

The modern naming system for animals derives from the works of the 18th-century Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné (Latinized to Carolus Linnaeus). Linnaeus introduced the system of binominal nomenclature, where animals have names composed of two parts, like Homo sapiens. Linnaeus wrote in Latin and most his names were of Latin origin, although a few were derived from Greek, like Rhinoceros for rhinos, or from other languages, like Sus babyrussa for the babirusa (from Malay).

Other people also started using Linnaeus's system, and a system of rules was developed and eventually codified into what is now called the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). In this case, therefore, there is indeed an international standard governing naming conventions. However, it does not put very strict requirements on the derivation of names: they are merely required to be in the Latin alphabet.

In practice a lot of well-known scientific names are derived from Greek. This is especially true for genus names: Tyrannosaurus, Macropus (kangaroos), Drosophila (fruit flies), Caenorhabditis (nematode worms), Peromyscus (deermice), and so on. Species names are more likely to be derived from Latin (e.g., T. rex, C. elegans, P. maniculatus, but Drosophila melanogaster is Greek again).

One interesting pattern I've noticed in mammals is that even when Linnaeus named the first genus in a group by a Latin name, usually most later names for related genera use Greek roots instead. For example, Linnaeus gave the name Mus to mice, and that is still the genus name for the house mouse, but most related genera use compounds of the Greek-derived root -mys (from μῦς), which also means "mouse." Similarly, bats for Linnaeus were Vespertilio, but there are many more compounds of the Greek root -nycteris (νυκτερίς); pigs are Sus, but compounds usually use Greek -choerus (χοῖρος) or -hys/-hyus (ὗς); weasels are Mustela but compounds usually use -gale or -galea (γαλέη); horses are Equus but compounds use -hippus (ἵππος).

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

A Rare Blue Lobster Ended Up in a Cape Cod Restaurant

Richard wood, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Richard wood, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Lobsters have precious few defenses when it comes to being tossed in a vat of boiling water or on a grill and turned into dinner. They have not yet evolved into not being delicious. But sometimes, one lucky lobster can defy the odds and escape their sentence by virtue of a genetic defect that turns them blue.

According to MassLive, one such lobster has been given a reprieve at Arnold's Lobster & Clam Bar in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Named "Baby Blue," the crustacean arrived at the restaurant from the Atlantic and was immediately singled out for its distinctive appearance.

Blue lobsters are a statistical abnormality. It's estimated only one in every two million carry the defect that creates an excessive amount of protein that results in the color. A lobsterman named Wayne Nickerson caught one in Cape Cod in 2016. He also reported catching one in 1990. Greg Ward of Rye, New Hampshire caught one near the New Hampshire and Maine border in 2017.

Lobsters can show up in a variety of colors, including orange, yellow, a mixture of orange and black, white, and even take on a two-toned appearance, with the colors split down the middle. Blue is the most common, relatively speaking. A white (albino) specimen happens in only one out of 100 million lobsters. The majority have shells with yellow, blue, and red layers and appear brown until cooked, at which point the proteins in the shell fall off to reveal the red coloring.

It's an unofficial tradition that blue lobsters aren't served up to curious customers. Instead, they're typically donated to local aquariums. Nathan Nickerson, owner Arnold's, said he plans on doing the same.

[h/t MassLive]

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