Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Not au revoir, but good-bye

photo of mating(?) pair of bald eagles
© harrington
Welcome. Labor Day is over. Now is the time to start autumnal schedules and get back to work, and school and the Where you at bioregional quiz. Today's question is "17.    What species have become extinct in your area?" Before we get to an answer, I think it would be helpful to clarify that there is a distinction between extinct in an area, often referred to as extirpated, and globally extinct, which can involve misassessments such as the Coelacanth. Anyhow, we can probably be fairly certain about the global extinction of the passenger pigeon. According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, "Lesser known extinct Minnesota species are the eastern elk, blackfin cisco (a Great Lakes fish), and the crescent stripetail stonefly (an aquatic insect of cold water streams)." There's an even longer listing available at Extinction Memorial.org. There is growing concern about contemporary rates of extinction and whether we may lose species critical {keystone species?] for maintaining the ecological diversity needed to support life for Homo sapiens  (not that it's just about us). To help think about the implications of extinction, see how this poem by A. E. Stallings affects you.

Extinction of Silence

By A. E. Stallings
That it was shy when alive goes without saying.
We know it vanished at the sound of voices

Or footsteps. It took wing at the slightest noises,
Though it could be approached by someone praying.

We have no recordings of it, though of course
In the basement of the Museum, we have some stuffed

Moth-eaten specimens—the Lesser Ruffed
And Yellow Spotted—filed in narrow drawers.

But its song is lost. If it was related to
A species of Quiet, or of another feather,

No researcher can know. Not even whether
A breeding pair still nests deep in the bayou,

Where legend has it some once common bird
Decades ago was first not seen, not heard.

Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily. By the way, tomorrow's question will be "18.    What are the major plant associations in your region?" (Do you suppose those who developed this quiz had a distinction in mind between region, area, where you live, or are they mean to be seen as synonymous?)