The Global Extinction Crisis – species area relationships, habitat loss, and population dynamics

We are in the midst of a global extinction crisis. Biodiversity is in decline as species after species disappear. Some estimates predict that up to 50% of species will be committed to extinction by 2050. Other estimates claim the current rate of extinction may be 10,000 times the background rate. Many ecologists and conservationists have declared the current species decline the sixth great mass extinction.

A recent paper published in the journal Nature argues that our current estimates of species loss are based on a flawed model and tend to overestimate the magnitude of species decline. The paper has received plenty of attention, and has been heavily criticized by ecologists and conservation biologists. The paper is wrong, but it is wrong for the right reasons, and the criticisms it has garnered point to a gaping hole in our  understanding of population dynamics.

Read More

The Serpent and the Platypus

Longtime readers know that I get really excited by clear (or not so clear) cases of convergent evolution. Pound for pound, convergence is the most persuasive evidence for the truth of evolution out there; different lineages finding novel paths to the same solution. While I mostly talk about convergences in morphology, genetic convergence is often even more fascinating. Enter the bizarre case of the serpent and the platypus.

Read More