Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Hidden World

Campephilus principalis has shocked Homo sapiens. We think we are, well, so sapiens about this Earth we have conquered, and yet a flashy bird bigger than a crow has managed to elude us for more than 60 years in our own back yard.

It’s a tribute to the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and it’s also a tribute to the conservationists who saved the vast cypress swamps in Arkansas where the bird has hidden all these years.

Yet so much in nature is hidden. Countless creatures are still to be discovered, not just rediscovered. In the last decade more than 360 new species have been identified on the island of Borneo alone. The Vietnamese recently found a “new” tree and a “new” butterfly, and an unusual tweezer-beaked rodent was just uncovered in the Philippines. Last year, a new species of monkey was found in Bolivia and this year, a new brine fly was identified in Utah.

And that’s just on land. Scientists estimate anywhere from 500,000 to 10-million species live in the deep sea, most of them still undiscovered.

The trouble is, through uncontrolled development, pollution and simple carelessness, we may be killing off species faster than they can be found.

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