A wild flower, caged.

About 150 miles northwest of Tahiti lies Raiatea, 65 square miles, and the spiritual center of the Polynesian world. This week, a holy site there, Taputapuatea, was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. Another world-famous marvel on the island is the tiare apetahi, an incredibly rare flower found only on Raiatea, and […]

Don’t Think of a Mammophant

  Let’s talk about de-extinction. Actually, let’s not. Let’s talk about what the as-yet-unrealized technology known as “de-extinction” really is, which is the creation of hybrid organisms using genetic material from both extinct and extant species. Last month, a team of scientists announced that a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo—”more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits,” […]

Who Killed the Bramble Cay Melomys?

This summer, the Bramble Cay melomys, a reddish-brown rodent that resembles a large mouse, made international news. In mid-June, the Guardian reported that the melomys, last seen in 2009, had been confirmed extinct in its only known habitat, a tiny, isolated coral outcrop in the narrow strait between Australia and New Guinea. “First mammal species wiped […]

Bomb the Bloodsuckers?

Two weeks ago, tomatoes began splitting on the vine. Days of hard rain had left them dangling plump and heavy, and their cellophane skin couldn’t hold together. I wanted to harvest them. I tried on several occasions. But each foray into the backyard brought forth swarms of mosquitoes. By the time I reached the edge of […]

The Last Explorer

A few weeks ago, I introduced the readers of LWON to my favorite ant scientist, Brian Fisher. We learned that, while he may not look like much at first glance, Fisher is more badass than you will ever be, even if you become a Krav Maga master and invent an actual light saber. But amazing […]

The Opposite of Extinction

Last Thursday, a study in Science predicted that if global carbon emissions continue on their current “business-as-usual” trajectory, climate change will extinguish one-sixth of the species on earth. The figure comes with the usual caveats, which you can read about here and here. As a rough estimate of what lies ahead, though, the study is useful—and […]

After the Devil, the Deluge

First, if you please, a moment of silence for the thylacine. The Tasmanian tiger, last seen in the wild in 1930, was once Tasmania’s top predator, snacking on possums, wallabies, and the unlucky Tasmanian emu. (Despite persistent rumors, the thylacine did not drink blood. Sorry.) When European settlers arrived, bringing feral dogs, habitat destruction and […]

Is There Such A Thing As Extinction Proof?

Last year, I reported a story about sharks disappearing in the Sea of Cortez. The story deals with one little spot near the bottom of the Baja Peninsula called El Bajo. El Bajo is famous for two things, I suppose. One, it’s the site where scientists discovered a now-famous behavior in which hammerhead sharks from […]