Extinction is Natural, Part One
The Frog and the Fungus
Behold above the Panamanian Golden Frog (Atelopus zeteki) - ,don't tell anyone, but it's actually a toad - which has one big advantage and one big disadvantage as a species. It's one advantage is a significant one: it is an attractive creature in the eyes of most members of the world's dominant species - Homo sapiens (human beings). But, the Panamanian Golden Frog's big disadvantage is much more important: it is one of the world's many frog and toad species that are susceptible to the attack of a recently-evolved strain of fungus - and therefore it's numbers are being decimated to the point of extinction. Here's is one naturalist's description of the Fungus' devastating effect on amphibians, which is mentioned in several articles on mongabay.com ..
Human beings are striving mightily to rescue the Golden Frog - and the other endangered amphibians - from the ravages of the destructive 'Chytrid Frog Fungus'. Now, I have no issues with humanity trying to save these endangered species, but we have to be realistic about our efforts to save all of Earth's species from extinction. We are not God, Gaia, Mother Nature or even 'Darwin's Evolutionary Engine'. Human beings do not have unlimited scientific, societal, political or economic resources.
So, welcome to the confusing world of extremely complex interactions between the 'unnatural' / human world and the 'natural' / non-human world. Human beings are constantly berating (or congratulating) ourselves for the negative (or positive) effects we have on the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it. But, reality is frequently different than the impression we have of ourselves and our powers to do good or evil. Our positive feelings for this cute frog did not help it to avoid the harm its species is suffering from the Chytrid Fungus. Our negative feelings against this terrible frog fungus did not cure the fungus of its appetite for the flesh of the Golden Frog.
Nature's 'square dance' goes on every day, everywhere, within and between species, pitting the living world against the non-living, the human versus the non-human, the largest creatures interacting with the microscopic, and billions of changes, deaths and movements occurring within just 24 hours. Human beings affect the rest of nature at the rate of millions of times per day. The rest of nature affect human beings at the rate of millions of times per day. But, the most important point is this: All of the non-human natural world affects all the rest of the non-human natural world at the rate of billions (or, more practically, at an infinite number) of times each and every day.
Whew! Nature is complex and confusing, isn't it?
We humans like to refer to ourselves as the dominant species on the planet Earth. But, we truly understand only a fraction of everything that happens on our small planet. For example, even now in the 21st Century, we still discover many thousands of new living species every year. The overwhelming majority of these new species didn't just magically appear here, or instantly evolve, rather nearly all of them have existed on this planet for many thousands or millions of years!
We humans (especially scientists, economists and political leaders!) often act like we've got everything figured out. But ... but, we can NOT (yet) even invent a method for preventing a primitive form of fungus from killing off a fairly primitive group of animals, the amphibians (which includes frogs, toads, salamanders, etc.) who are susceptible to this fungal disease.
By the way, extremely wise-and-powerful humans, how does it feel to be merely the current dominant species on Earth?
525 million years ago, during the Age of Invertebrates, we would have been a 40-inch long Anomalocaris sea creature, in order to be the dominant species on Earth:
360 million years ago, during the Age of Fish, we would have been a 33-foot long Dunkleostus in order to be the dominant species on Earth:
270 million years ago, during the Age of Amphibians, we would have been the 30-foot long Prionosuchus in order to be the dominant species on Earth:
70 million years ago, during the Age of Reptiles (sometimes split into the Age of Reptiles and the Age of Dinosaurs), we would have been the 42-foot long Tyrannosaurus rex in order to be the dominant species on Earth:
60 million years ago, during the brief Age of Birds (soon after the extinction of the dinosaurs), we would have been one of the 8-foot tall terror birds such as Titanis in order to be the dominant species on Earth:
35 million years ago, during the earlier half of the Age of Mammals, we would have been the 39-foot long Indricotherium in order to be the dominant species on Earth:
200,000 years ago, during the latter half of the Age of Mammals, we would have been the 17-foot tall Mammuthus sungari in order to be the dominant species on Earth:
Today, in the 21st Century and during the Age of Human Beings, we would have to be employed as an astronaut, political leader, millionaire, famous actor, popular singer or neurosurgeon, just to have any chance of impressing the other 5 to 7-foot tall human beings (Homo sapiens) who share our status as the dominant species on Earth:
According to the Earth's geological and paleontological record, dominant species come and go every 5 to 50 million years. Homo sapiens is approximately 200,000 years old, as a species, and we have no special tools for having become the dominant species - except our brains. Our special advantage as a species is not our size or bodily weapons. For the first time in Earth's natural history, a dominant species has arisen due to intelligence, rather than due to size, speed or weaponry.
In Part II, I will discuss our attitudes toward the natural world and the extinction of other living species ... CLICK HERE
Panamanian Golden Frog (toad) Update for 2016
A review of the Panamanian Golden Frog literature on the internet reveals that scientists have not yet developed a method for protecting this frog (toad) from the deadly ravages of the Fungus. In fact, it appears that more Panamanian Golden Frogs are being protected in zoos and other safe places by humans, than still survive in the wild.
At this point, in June of 2016, the Fungus is winning the war over the Frogs and many other amphibians. The terrible irony of this struggle is that if the Fungus were to kill off all of it's unfortunate amphibian hosts, the Fungus would very likely go extinct itself.
Could you predict how many clouds will drift by in the next hour?
More by this Author
Will humans choose to save the cute little Panamanian Tree Frog ... or the alien-looking Chytrid Frog Fungus?
This is the story of how the Delta Smelt fish drove over 15,000 California farmers, ranchers and employees - plus a large number of the world's hungry people - into economic extinction (at the least)!
If you wish to commit murder, go to Chicago, IL. If you wish to commit burglary or theft, go to Minneapolis, MN.