November 19, 2010
Echidnas Top List Of Unique Endangered Species
Three species of long-beaked echidnas share the top spot on the Zoological Society of London's list of the world's most unique and threatened mammals, the UK conservation group announced on Thursday.
Attenborough's Long-beaked Echidna (Zaglossus attenboroughi)--thought extinct until ZSL researchers discovered evidence of its continued survival three years ago--the Eastern Long-beaked Echidna (Zaglossus bartoni), and the Western Long-beaked Echidna (Zaglossus bruijnii) have been ranked "equal first" on the newly revised EDGE of Existence program list.
All three species of the egg-laying mammals are considered "critically endangered."
They replace the Yangtze River dolphin, which was officially declared extinct in August 2007. According to Guardian reports at the time, the freshwater mammal was the first large vertebrate wiped out by human activity in 50 years.
Rounding out the top 10 are the New Zealand Greater Short-Tailed bat, the Baiji, the Mountain Pigmy Possum, the Cuban Solenodon, the Hispanolian Solenodon, the Riverine Rabbit, and the Sumatran Rhino. Eight of the top 10 species on the list are considered "critically endangered," with only the two Solenodon species falling under the "endangered" category.
The revised EDGE list, which utilizes the latest scientific research to formulate a list of the 100 most evolutionary distinct and globally endangered mammal species on Earth, contains eight new species that were not part of the original list that was compiled in 2008. Among them are the saola, an antelope-like animal also known as the "Asian unicorn," and the rondo dwarf galago, a tiny bushbaby that sports oversized ears.
"EDGE mammals are one-of-a-kind and they represent the true diversity of life on earth," EDGE program manager Carly Waterman said in a statement. "If we let these species disappear, their extraordinary features and unique behaviors will be lost forever."
"There are mammals across the world requiring conservation attention, but EDGE species must be our top priority. Variety is truly the spice of life when it comes to the natural world and if we fail to preserve this variety, we are threatening our very own existence," added Craig Turner, a Conservation Biologist working on the EDGE program.
Image Caption: The Western Long-beaked Echidna has been added to the newly revised EDGE of Existence program list. Credit: Wikipedia
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