Tasmanian devils need your help

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tas_devil.jpg

We had a seminar from Marco Restani of St Cloud State University yesterday — he's a wildlife biologist who talked about Tasmanian Devils. Just a little tip: don't ever invite wildlife biologists or conservation ecologists to give talks. They are the most depressing people in the world, and they really make it hard to hide away from the ugly realities. This talk was no exception: the Tasmanian Devil is in big trouble, and is facing at least two major threats, each of which may be sufficient to wipe them out. And just looke at that guy! He's adorable! How can you let them go extinct?

Continue reading "Tasmanian devils need your help" (on Pharyngula)

38 Comments

He’s adorable!

Need…to…cuddle…adorable…furry…animal.

I am confident that you are coming up with the necessary science to grow back my various body parts, PZ.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

Yeah, but where all of the new species Darwin predicted? They are not showing up here at the World Clock.

Every time I watch a PBS nature documentary, I cringe when I hear the ominous narration about the destruction humans are ravaging upon our precious Earth–not because I believe them, but because I always cringe while watching patent propaganda.

HeartOfGold: Yeah, but where all of the new species Darwin predicted? They are not showing up here at the World Clock.

Every time I watch a PBS nature documentary, I cringe when I hear the ominous narration about the destruction humans are ravaging upon our precious Earth–not because I believe them, but because I always cringe while watching patent propaganda.

More proof of your idiocy, eh, HeartofLead?

Do we have some means of voting someone off the island?

HeartOfGold:

Yeah, but where all of the new species Darwin predicted? They are not showing up here at the World Clock.

Every time I watch a PBS nature documentary, I cringe when I hear the ominous narration about the destruction humans are ravaging upon our precious Earth–not because I believe them, but because I always cringe while watching patent propaganda.

Your stupidity and bigotry continues to astound and stupify us. Your insulting and ignorant remarks continue to prove that you, like Bach, are physically incapable of learning.

Stanton: Your stupidity and bigotry continues to astound and stupify us. Your insulting and ignorant remarks continue to prove that you, like Bach, are physically incapable of learning.

Dale Husband: More proof of your idiocy, eh, HeartofLead?

Bill Gascoyne: Do we have some means of voting someone off the island?

Such learned tolerance.

With each of your comments, Heart of Gold, you prove time and time again that you have never read any biological texts, and you haven’t even read any history books, either. That, and you arrogantly refuse to allow your stupidity to be corrected, and continuously insult people who try.

“Although a wise man might urge that one suffer fools gladly, this should not be construed as a license for any fool to demand that one do so.”
Fredrick William Kantor

(Now let’s see who owns up by taking umbrage…)

Let me rephrase: Where are all of the new species?

(Let the insults begin anew).

HeartOfGold:

Such learned tolerance.

Tolerance of lies and insanity is no virture.

HeartOfGold:

Where are all of the new species?

Why ask such a dumb question?

Just a little tip: don’t ever invite wildlife biologists or conservation ecologists to give talks. They are the most depressing people in the world, and they really make it hard to hide away from the ugly realities.

Isn’t this the truth? I was on the board of a major regional environmental organization here on the US Pacific Coast for 15 years, and I couldn’t spend all my time working on conservation issues for that very reason.

Conservation work is a depressing avocation or profession.

And the reality of global warming has made it more so …

HeartOfGold:

(Let the insults begin anew).

Actually, we’d rather you not insult us with your trolling. You, like all the other Creationists and IDiots, can’t make a case without indulging in BS, as I’ve seen too many times around here.

Are you claiming that this is a creationist clock since it does not predict the number of new species being generated each year on Earth? It does predict/estimate the number of extinctions, but not the number of new species?

Creationist propaganda?

Heart of Gold will soon be extirpated if he keeps this up.

Consider this your last and only warning, HoG.

PZ Myers:

Heart of Gold will soon be extirpated if he keeps this up.

Consider this your last and only warning, HoG.

You mean EXTERMINATED, right? Are you going to turn him into bacon, pork chops and (Ken) ham?

Heart of gold is disruptive in virtually every article. it’s one thing to debate a point, it’s a nother to simply hurl insults.

PT is not the only forum HOG can express her views. at the very least everything she says should be moved the bathroom wall, no?

Hey heart of gold, if they boot your slimey arse off of PT you can try your hand at AtBC http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bi[…]i?act=SC;c=5

Bring something other than childish insults though.

And why aren’t you posting at William Dembski’s blog, they could use more people with your kind of insight there.

Dale Husband:

PZ Myers:

Heart of Gold will soon be extirpated if he keeps this up.

Consider this your last and only warning, HoG.

You mean EXTERMINATED, right? Are you going to turn him into bacon, pork chops and (Ken) ham?

No, “extirpated,” as in driven to extinction in a specific locality, i.e., “The Grizzly Bear, Ursus horridus, has been extirpated from California.”

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 20, column 95, byte 1833 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

Hi, HoG! I asked you a question earlier, and you ran away without answering itr. Don’t worry, though. I remember it, and I’ll post it again for you. See if you can answer it this time. And I noticed that you left a lot of unanswered questions too about Intelligent Design and Evolutionary Theory which really seem pressing, especially since you’re qualified to critique them and decide what should be taught in public schools and everything.

So here you go! Another chance for you to answer my questions! I hope the past seven and a half hours have been long enough for you to come up with something.

Jackelope King:

HeartOfGold:

The film Inherit the Wind is only minimally based on the Scopes trial, and is instead meant as a commentary on McCarthyism. But, it is interesting that Nova is still trying to use the same old Evolutionist mythology that the evolutionists were the ones that were picked on (when, from day one, it was the evolutionists who were using Darwin in their silly war on belief in God.)

Odd. HoG, would you mind explaining to me how the modern theory of evolution is part of a “war on belief in God”? See, I’m a Roman Catholic, and I have zero problem accepting modern evolutionary theory as what the evidence supports, and seeing Intelligent Design as… well, there’s no theory yet, or experiments, or evidence. Or anything other than pages ripped out of Gish’s playbook.

Please. I’ve asked before and all I got has been bigotry saying that I’m crazy or a not really a Christian or a liar. And yet my pastor was delighted when I sponsored my cousin’s confirmation this week.

Enlighten me. How is accepting the modern theory of evolution part of “war on belief in God”?

And I’ll add to that, “What is the scientific theory of Intelligent Design and how can it be tested experimentally?”

I’ll be waiting for your reply, HoG.

I am getting sick of these trolls. I don’t care if they argue about the topic at hand, in fact I encourage it. But recently their main purpose seems to be solely to divert the subject. I mean, the World Clock? What the hell does that have to do with Tasmanian devils?

Could someone please give the trolls some links to forums where people would be willing to argue with them about what they want to? Otherwise they should be banned.

PZ Myers:

Heart of Gold will soon be extirpated if he keeps this up.

Consider this your last and only warning, HoG.

Careful PZ, sounds like a terroristic threat.

Fear not o heart of gold but as you speak new species are evolving. Bacteria, nematodes, slime molds, exremophiles. Little guys, sorta like you. Its the big guys like old Taz there whose imminent loss is felt more acutely by PT regulars. There is also the Australian Lungfish probably even more unique than the Tasmanian Devil on the chopping block as well. Do you care? Maybe not; after all the archaea are more meek and they’ll inherit our earth.

Fear not o heart of gold but as you speak new species are evolving.

Speaking of new species evolving. That is the subject of this thread. Some scientists think that Tasmanian Devil transmissable tumor should be classified as a new species.

It is clearly a parasitic disease but so is any viral disease. By the most inclusive definition of alive, an independent evolutionary history it could be.

Amazing how some creos can post so much to the most erudite of web sites. And fail to learn a damn thing. Hermetically sealed minds, an unfortunate byproduct of fanaticism.

The new species are coming. Compared to the hundreds of millions of years available to evolution, a human lifetime is a mere fragment cut from a snapshot. It’s hubris to think that as we observe the death of one species we can watch new ones evolve before our eyes.

Having said that, it’s also the case that the bio-geography of Australia may be lending itself to emergent evolutionary traits. Sometimes species that are well established elsewhere find themselves transported to an isolated tract of land. Usually they get an accidental ride across a body of water and or are blown off course by strong winds. These days, humans are often the vehicle. Island bio-geography facilitates evolution several ways - by isolating species from their original bloodline, by offering a new venue where introduced species can thrive absent the usual predators, by presenting new ecological niches into which one species can evolve into many.

Some of the species introduced to Australia are undergoing changes at a rapid pace. There is observable evolutionary pressure on cane toads. Originally brought in to eat pesky insects over 70 years ago and having escaped into the wild, cane toads are colonizing new territory at an alarming pace. As they do, the average leg length of the early colonizers has been increasing. The increased leg length allows them to hop greater distances faster and advance into better territory where they have fewer competitors for food. The leggier toads do have a higher incidence of arthritis, but so far it hasn’t stopped them or even slowed the expansion of their territory. The difference in leg length isn’t yet a species change, but we could be observing the beginnings of one.

It’s not only the toads that are evolving - snakes are under a newfound environmental stress leading to evolutionary pressure as well. The cane toads are highly poisonous, and snakes that consume them almost always die. Snakes aren’t picky eaters either and will strike at almost anything the right shape and size, so those snakes that find cane toads to be about the right size are particularly vulnerable to being poisoned. But if a snake’s “gape size” isn’t big enough, it’s less likely to strike a cane toad and die. Biologists compared several snake species with different exposure to the toads. They found that the snakes sharing their location with cane toads were developing smaller mouths and longer bodies, a strong sign that the presence of cane toads is exerting evolutionary pressure on snakes. The article about it is free online, go ahead and read it: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/101/49/17150 .

Back to the Tasmanian devil, foxes have been introduced to the island by humans, and could drive the Tasmanian devils out by competing for their habitat. Over time the foxes would be expected to evolve to be slightly different from the foxes they originated from. Give them enough time and the two strains will no longer be able to breed. Give them tens of millions of years and both fox species can evolve to be something quite different than they are now. The fate of the poor Tasmanian devil as a species, one currently down for the count, remains in question.

This is how evolution works, it doesn’t normally happen on timescales visible to the naked eye, or even the history books. The conditions in Australia, a confluence of geographic isolation, human interference, and a harsh natural environment could be driving the process a little faster than usual. (Nature doesn’t keep to a clock - the entire concept is a human one.) If you really want to know, look around a bit and answers to your questions are out there. It takes a certain amount of adjustment to accustomed ways of thinking.

raven:

Fear not o heart of gold but as you speak new species are evolving.

Speaking of new species evolving. That is the subject of this thread. Some scientists think that Tasmanian Devil transmissable tumor should be classified as a new species.

It is clearly a parasitic disease but so is any viral disease. By the most inclusive definition of alive, an independent evolutionary history it could be.

Amazing how some creos can post so much to the most erudite of web sites. And fail to learn a damn thing. Hermetically sealed minds, an unfortunate byproduct of fanaticism.

Actually, the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor disease would be a new “species,” ala “HeLa,” in that the cancer cells, themselves, are transfered from host to host, rather than a virus.

One can tell if a tumor is caused by a virus, in that the tumor cells would, genomically, resemble the original host cells, save for a big wad of virus genome that’s stuck into the genome. The tumor cells of the tumor of a different afflicted individual would have the same virus genome inserted into the genome, but, the virus genome would be inserted at a different location.

The Tasmanian Devil Facial tumor cells are all genetically identical to each other, and not to their hosts.

Actually, the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor disease would be a new “species,” ala “HeLa,” in that the cancer cells, themselves, are transfered from host to host, rather than a virus.

Yeah, I know the difference between a virus and a tumor cell. I’ve worked with both for a few decades. The point I was making is that just because an organism is a parasitic disease, doesn’t mean it isn’t a distinct genetic entity.

The difference between Hela and the TDFT is that one is an artificial creation maintained in the lab. The other is a natural event, and is surviving in the wild and spreading from host to host all by itself. Like any other obligatory parasitic pathogen.

The most comprehensive defintion of life is that; an entity that has an independent evolutionary history. This would cover viruses but not mitochondria. It would also cover the canine and T. Devil transmissible tumors.

The other point I was trying to make:

Given that the TDFT behaves like any other pathogen. And has a unique genome, albeit one derived by changes and mutations from its predecessor, the T. Devil, and falls under the definition of life, it could be considered a new species of organism.

And the troll was rambling on about us not seeing new species evolve. On this thread, no less. If the transmissible tumor is considered a new species, we just saw one evolve. Take that troll.

We’ve never seen a galaxy form or a continent break up, or an ice age. At least in the last few years. If the troll doesn’t believe that things that take millions or billions of years really happen, then most of reality never happened. I said it on another thread, this shows more about what mental illness does than anything to do with either religion or science.

“Yeah, but where all of the new species Darwin predicted?”

Yeah, and where is that continental drift? I thought I’d be in Hawaii by now. What? It occurs slowly over extremely long periods of time? How convenient! We’ll all be dead before you evilutionists are proven correct, therefore we cretinists must be right.

To hear Darwinists tell it Stanton, there isn’t much sense in reading their texts, because the next guy just comes along and proves them wrong. Should I really go back and read Origin of the Species (The Preservation of Favoured Species in the Struggle for Life) and believe all of Darwins observations?

Should I read Gould, after Padian testified under Oath that Gould didn’t know what he was talking about, was a loud mouth and refused to be peer reviewed?

I would very much like a list of reading material on Evolution Theory that you can tell me is scientifically accurate by todays standards and is not contradicted by other, as well queslified scientists.

PZ,

My daughter, who in an inveterate animal lover. did her 4th grade science poster project on the Tasmanian Devil. She wants one as a pet, but I am sure the neighbors cats would have a problem with that (although I wouldn’t). Her infectious interest in these creatures certainly taught me a great deal about them. From a conservation perspective, they are on the way out and without some drastic intervention, they are going to go the way of the Tasmanian Wolf.

MB

Its kind of funny someone saying, The Tasmanian Devil needs my help, as though this person has any clue what the Tasmanian Devil wants. What he should be saying is, I want you help, because he actually has free will and a choice. Why would extinction be any less preferable then non-extinction to the Tasmanian Devil? It has no concept of either. We shouldn’t be making such subjective judgments in science, we should observe and report, not interfere.

You know, Bach, go find yourself a nice, quiet, empty room and spend some personal time screwing yourself. Don’t come back here, either.

Bach–

I’ve already suggested that you read Richard Dawkins’s “The Ancestor’s Tale.” It’s recent, it’s all about science and has nothing to do with atheism, and it has a wonderful section on how scientists really reacted when they found a living coelacanth. It’s also a long book. Why don’t you read it? Why don’t you go away and read it, and then come back here with questions? Or not.

But definitely go away and read it.

Wow. Infectious cancers are interesting. Makes you wonder. Could the cancer cross the species barrier (useful for it if things get worse for the Tasmanian devil)? Could similar tumors potentially evolve in other organisms? In two million years, could these parasitic tasmanian devil cancer cells be recognized as the common ancestor of a whole new taxonomic kingdom of organisms? Seems that this growth overcame the main disadvantage of the cancer mutations (short-term gains for the individual mutated cells, but eventually leading to the destruction of the entire organism)

Permit me to delurk a moment, BUT, the stench of Bach’s scatographical comments repel the tides, the Mississippi to recover Reelfoot, and cause the Nile overflow Victoria. The most obvious charicteristic of being a moron is that he dosen’t notice. Forgive the long post but this is a subject that is special to me and I actually have a little experience in this regard. It touches my heart and thanks for bringing it to us. This is indeed a sad story, deserving of intensive attention, but it is but one story in a planatary desaster of extinction. PZ commented at Pharyngula that wildlife biologists can be depressing when speaking of their work. He is correct. I was curator of herpetology(amphibians and reptiles) at a large zoo active in international conservation. Our job brought us face to face with this dsmal situation every day. When called upon to speak publicly, we were rarely positive, dirving our marketing people nuts - the zoo must always be a happy place. But enough of that. Even in the unlikely event that a cure is developed for the Devils, it would be practically impossible to treat the entire population. How would you monitor your success. While the Australians have good experience stringing fences(rabbits and all)the topology of Tasmania may make that impractical. A tactic employed by zoos in the US and probably Australia, is to maintian a population of an endangered animal in captivity as a hedge against extinction with the ultamate goal of reintroduction to the wild. A tremendous amount of information has been generated regarding the management of small populations of endandered animals. This work has become pretty sophisticated over the past couple of decades. As I remember, there are very few Devils in captivity anywhere. An appropriate number of Devils could be brought into captivity untill a solution could be found for the wild population. The cooperative effort between a number of US zoos and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to recover the blackfooted ferret may serve as a good model. The ferrets have proved challenging in captivity, especially with regard to disease cotrol. I would guess the protocols worked out for the mangement of blackfooted ferrets will work for Devils with species appropriate adjustments. The American Zoo and Aquarium Association web site would be a good place to look. I’ll bet there’s a similar Australian zoo asociation with similar information. Each time a species is lost, the richness, the stunning beauty of this place is diminished. I will never get to Tasmania, but if we permit the extinction of the Tasmaninan Devil, Tasmania, all the way over here in the middle of North America, will just not feel as specilal as it did. I wish the researcers/field workers great success. And that’s fair dinkum, mate. Just some thoughts. David G.

I’ve noticed Mr. Bach that most of the posters here have some actual substantive content whereas you and your twisted twin HOG have only rhetorical nonsense. Haven’t you noticed? Many thanks to those who have insisted on intelligent conversation. It’s great to come to a site where I can learn several new things in a day.

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on November 16, 2007 11:48 AM.

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