Trump Admin Failed to Protect 241 Species From Extinction
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior have failed to protect 241 plant and animal species under the Endangered Species Act, according to a federal lawsuit filed last week by the Center for Biological Diversity, as Bloomberg Environment reported.
Four years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services created a framework to address the backlog of more than 500 species that were slated to receive protections, including the 241 species listed in the lawsuit. In the filing, the Center for Biological Diversity claims that the Trump Administration prevented the Fish and Wildlife Service from working its way through the list, as Newsweek reported.
One of the most pernicious things that can happen for species that need direct protection or habitat protection is for the federal government to do nothing. By systematically doing nothing, the administration has allowed 241 species to reach the brink of extinction, according to Mother Jones. Most of the species listed in the lawsuit have been awaiting protections for a decade or longer.
Among the species listed in the suit are spotted turtles in the Great Lakes and on the Eastern seaboard, moose in the Midwest, a western bumblebee that has declined by 84 percent, and a tiny freshwater fish in Chesapeake Bay that flips stones with its nose to find food, according to a statement from the Center for Biological Diversity. The Center also created an interactive map of the U.S. that details which species are living in each state.
"As moose and golden-winged warblers and hundreds of other species fight the rising tide of the extinction crisis, Trump officials won't lift a finger to help," Noah Greenwald, the Center for Biological Diversity's endangered species director said. "This administration's ugly contempt for wildlife and the Endangered Species Act threatens our country's entire web of life. Every day of delay brings these incredible, irreplaceable plants and animals one step closer to extinction."
The Center for Biological Diversity ran the numbers and calculated that the Trump administration has only approved 21 species to be listed on the Endangered Species list, which averages less than seven per year, as Mother Jones reported. That number is the lowest of any administration this far into its presidential term, slightly outpacing the Bush administration, which added protections for about eight species per year. By contrast, the Obama administration added about 45 species per year and the Clinton administration approved 65 species per year.
"The extinction crisis gets worse by the day, but Trump officials are twiddling their thumbs as plants and animals fade away," Greenwald said in a statement. "It's a moral failure of epic proportions. And it's hurting future generations in ways that can never be undone."
Greenwald identified several sources of the backlog to Mother Jones. He said, "There are these various political appointees in different positions [there] who have a very long record of opposition to the protection of endangered species, and I think they just end up hanging up decisions by asking questions: 'Well, are we sure about the range of the species?'; 'Are we sure this threat is really impacting them?'"
The lawsuit simply asks that the courts require the Fish and Wildlife Service to end the backlog for 231 species, finalize a determination for six in limbo, and finalize critical habitat protections for four other species.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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