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Breeding back is a form of artificial selection by the deliberate selective breeding of domestic animals, in an attempt to achieve an animal breed with a phenotype that resembles a wild type ancestor, usually one that has gone extinct. Breeding back is not to be confused with dedomestication.
It must be kept in mind that a breeding-back breed may be very similar to the extinct wild type in phenotype, ecological niche, and to some extent genetics, but the original gene pool of that wild type was eliminated with its extinction. A breeding-back attempt cannot actually recreate the extinct wild type of the breeding target, as an extinct wild type cannot be resurrected through it. Furthermore, even the superficial authenticity of a bred-back animal depends on the quality of the stock used to breed the new lineage. As a result of this, some breeds, like Heck cattle, are at best a vague look-alike of the extinct wild type aurochs, according to the literature.
- "Breeding back" | 2016-02-05 | 49 Upvotes 7 Comments
An endling is the last known individual of a species or subspecies. Once the endling dies, the species becomes extinct. The word was coined in correspondence in the scientific journal Nature. Alternative names put forth for the last individual of its kind include ender and terminarch.
The word relict may also be used, but usually refers to a population, rather than an individual, that is the last of a species.
- "Endling" | 2020-03-28 | 31 Upvotes 7 Comments
Homo floresiensis ("Flores Man"; nicknamed "hobbit") is a pygmy archaic human which inhabited the island of Flores, Indonesia, until the arrival of modern humans about 50,000 years ago.
The remains of an individual who would have stood about 1.1 m (3 ft 7 in) in height were discovered in 2003 at Liang Bua on the island of Flores in Indonesia. Partial skeletons of nine individuals have been recovered, including one complete skull, referred to as "LB1". These remains have been the subject of intense research to determine whether they represent a species distinct from modern humans; the dominant consensus is that these remains do represent a distinct species due to genetic and anatomical differences.
This hominin had originally been considered remarkable for its survival until relatively recent times, only 12,000 years ago. However, more extensive stratigraphic and chronological work has pushed the dating of the most recent evidence of its existence back to 50,000 years ago. The Homo floresiensis skeletal material is now dated from 60,000 to 100,000 years ago; stone tools recovered alongside the skeletal remains were from archaeological horizons ranging from 50,000 to 190,000 years ago.
- "Homo floresiensis" | 2013-10-14 | 12 Upvotes 3 Comments
Permian–Triassic Extinction Event
The Permian–Triassic extinction event, also known as the P–Tr extinction, the P–T extinction, the End-Permian Extinction, and colloquially as the Great Dying, formed the boundary between the Permian and Triassic geologic periods, as well as between the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras, approximately 252 million years ago. It is the Earth's most severe known extinction event, with up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species becoming extinct. It was the largest known mass extinction of insects. Some 57% of all biological families and 83% of all genera became extinct.
There is evidence for one to three distinct pulses, or phases, of extinction. Potential causes for those pulses include one or more large meteor impact events, massive volcanic eruptions (such as the Siberian Traps), and climate change brought on by large releases of underwater methane or methane-producing microbes.
The speed of the recovery from the extinction is disputed. Some scientists estimate that it took 10 million years (until the Middle Triassic), due both to the severity of the extinction and because grim conditions returned periodically for another 5 million years. However, studies in Bear Lake County, near Paris, Idaho, showed a relatively quick rebound in a localized Early Triassic marine ecosystem, taking around 2 million years to recover, suggesting that the impact of the extinction may have been felt less severely in some areas than others.
- "Permian–Triassic extinction event" | 2012-12-18 | 18 Upvotes 2 Comments
Timeline of the far future
While the future can never be predicted with absolute certainty, present understanding in various scientific fields allows for the prediction of some far-future events, if only in the broadest outline. These fields include astrophysics, which has revealed how planets and stars form, interact, and die; particle physics, which has revealed how matter behaves at the smallest scales; evolutionary biology, which predicts how life will evolve over time; and plate tectonics, which shows how continents shift over millennia.
All projections of the future of Earth, the Solar System, and the universe must account for the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy, or a loss of the energy available to do work, must rise over time. Stars will eventually exhaust their supply of hydrogen fuel and burn out. Close encounters between astronomical objects gravitationally fling planets from their star systems, and star systems from galaxies.
Physicists expect that matter itself will eventually come under the influence of radioactive decay, as even the most stable materials break apart into subatomic particles. Current data suggest that the universe has a flat geometry (or very close to flat), and thus will not collapse in on itself after a finite time, and the infinite future allows for the occurrence of a number of massively improbable events, such as the formation of Boltzmann brains.
The timelines displayed here cover events from the beginning of the 11th millennium to the furthest reaches of future time. A number of alternative future events are listed to account for questions still unresolved, such as whether humans will become extinct, whether protons decay, and whether the Earth survives when the Sun expands to become a red giant.
- "Timeline of the Far Future" | 2020-05-17 | 168 Upvotes 112 Comments
- "Timeline of the far future" | 2018-07-18 | 696 Upvotes 258 Comments
- "Timeline of the far future" | 2012-05-06 | 294 Upvotes 88 Comments
The Holocene extinction, otherwise referred to as the sixth mass extinction or Anthropocene extinction, is an ongoing extinction event of species during the present Holocene epoch (with the more recent time sometimes called Anthropocene) as a result of human activity. The included extinctions span numerous families of plants and animals, including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and arthropods. With widespread degradation of highly biodiverse habitats such as coral reefs and rainforests, as well as other areas, the vast majority of these extinctions are thought to be undocumented, as the species are undiscovered at the time of their extinction, or no one has yet discovered their extinction. The current rate of extinction of species is estimated at 100 to 1,000 times higher than natural background rates.
The Holocene extinction includes the disappearance of large land animals known as megafauna, starting at the end of the last glacial period. Megafauna outside of the African mainland (thus excluding Madagascar), which did not evolve alongside humans, proved highly sensitive to the introduction of new predation, and many died out shortly after early humans began spreading and hunting across the Earth (many African species have also gone extinct in the Holocene, but – with few exceptions – megafauna of the mainland was largely unaffected until a few hundred years ago). These extinctions, occurring near the Pleistocene–Holocene boundary, are sometimes referred to as the Quaternary extinction event.
The most popular theory is that human overhunting of species added to existing stress conditions as the extinction coincides with human emergence. Although there is debate regarding how much human predation affected their decline, certain population declines have been directly correlated with human activity, such as the extinction events of New Zealand and Hawaii. Aside from humans, climate change may have been a driving factor in the megafaunal extinctions, especially at the end of the Pleistocene.
Ecologically, humanity has been noted as an unprecedented "global superpredator" that consistently preys on the adults of other apex predators, and has worldwide effects on food webs. There have been extinctions of species on every land mass and in every ocean: there are many famous examples within Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, North and South America, and on smaller islands. Overall, the Holocene extinction can be linked to the human impact on the environment. The Holocene extinction continues into the 21st century, with meat consumption, overfishing, and ocean acidification and the decline in amphibian populations being a few broader examples of a cosmopolitan decline in biodiversity. Human population growth and increasing per capita consumption are considered to be the primary drivers of this decline.
The 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, published by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, posits that roughly one million species of plants and animals face extinction within decades as the result of human actions.
- "Holocene Extinction" | 2020-05-08 | 119 Upvotes 124 Comments
The great auk (Pinguinus impennis) is a species of flightless alcid that became extinct in the mid-19th century. It was the only modern species in the genus Pinguinus. It is not closely related to the birds now known as penguins, which were discovered later by Europeans and so named by sailors because of their physical resemblance to the great auk.
It bred on rocky, remote islands with easy access to the ocean and a plentiful food supply, a rarity in nature that provided only a few breeding sites for the great auks. When not breeding, they spent their time foraging in the waters of the North Atlantic, ranging as far south as northern Spain and along the coastlines of Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway, Ireland, and Great Britain.
The great auk was 75 to 85 centimetres (30 to 33 inches) tall and weighed about 5 kilograms (11 pounds), making it the largest alcid to survive into the modern era, and the second-largest member of the alcid family overall (the prehistoric Miomancalla was larger). It had a black back and a white belly. The black beak was heavy and hooked, with grooves on its surface. During summer, great auk plumage showed a white patch over each eye. During winter, the great auk lost these patches, instead developing a white band stretching between the eyes. The wings were only 15 cm (6 in) long, rendering the bird flightless. Instead, the great auk was a powerful swimmer, a trait that it used in hunting. Its favourite prey were fish, including Atlantic menhaden and capelin, and crustaceans. Although agile in the water, it was clumsy on land. Great auk pairs mated for life. They nested in extremely dense and social colonies, laying one egg on bare rock. The egg was white with variable brown marbling. Both parents participated in the incubation of the egg for around 6 weeks before the young hatched. The young left the nest site after 2–3 weeks, although the parents continued to care for it.
The great auk was an important part of many Native American cultures, both as a food source and as a symbolic item. Many Maritime Archaic people were buried with great auk bones. One burial discovered included someone covered by more than 200 great auk beaks, which are presumed to be the remnants of a cloak made of great auks' skins. Early European explorers to the Americas used the great auk as a convenient food source or as fishing bait, reducing its numbers. The bird's down was in high demand in Europe, a factor that largely eliminated the European populations by the mid-16th century. Scientists soon began to realize that the great auk was disappearing and it became the beneficiary of many early environmental laws, but this proved ineffectual.
Its growing rarity increased interest from European museums and private collectors in obtaining skins and eggs of the bird. On 3 June 1844, the last two confirmed specimens were killed on Eldey, off the coast of Iceland, ending the last known breeding attempt. Later reports of roaming individuals being seen or caught are unconfirmed. A record of one great auk in 1852 is considered by some to be the last sighting of a member of the species. The great auk is mentioned in several novels, and the scientific journal of the American Ornithological Society was named The Auk (now Ornithology) in honour of the bird until 2021.
- "Great Auk" | 2021-11-13 | 43 Upvotes 27 Comments