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Health

Shadows of menageries past

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanApril 14, 2010 8:08 PM
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I'm still a sucker for stories like this, Only Known Living Population of Rare Dwarf Lemur Discovered:

Researchers have discovered the world's only known living population of Sibree's Dwarf Lemur, a rare lemur known only in eastern Madagascar. The discovery of approximately a thousand of these lemurs was made by Mitchell Irwin, a Research Associate at McGill University, and colleagues from the German Primate Centre in Göttingen Germany; the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar; and the University of Massachusetts. The species was first discovered in Madagascar in 1896, but this tiny, nocturnal dwarf lemur was never studied throughout the 20th century. Following the destruction of its only known rainforest habitat, scientists had no idea whether the species still existed in the wild -- or even whether it was a distinct species....

Living today is much more awesome than the 19th century overall, but, we've mapped the whole world, and have a good sense of all the large animals (at least the upper bound, unfortunately the number seems to be dropping). Call me mammal-centric, but I feel that we have tapped out most of the zoological wonder of our planet. Is it too much to say that the terrestrial domain now involves mostly the counting of beetles? (I exaggerate!) But sometimes there's a lemur in Madagascar or a rare ungulate in Vietnam, and we get a sense of the wonder which once was (along with all the -isms which we now abhor!). Could you imagine the blog posts that Carl Zimmer or Ed Yong could have written about the discovery of the Platypus? Actually, they'd probably end up narrating a special on the National Geographic Channel.... Here's the original paper: MtDNA and nDNA corroborate existence of sympatric dwarf lemur species at Tsinjoarivo, eastern Madagascar. Credit: Image courtesy of McGill University

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