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Old 15 January 2013, 06:17 PM
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Icon202 Pubic Lice in Crisis

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/l...o_extinct.html

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Jan. 13, 2013: Bloomberg reports that pubic lice are on the wane worldwide, as young people become increasingly likely to remove some or all of their pubic hair. “Pubic grooming has led to a severe depletion of crab louse populations,” says entomologist Ian F. Burgess. “Add to that other aspects of body hair depilation, and you can see an environmental disaster in the making for this species.”
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Old 15 January 2013, 06:19 PM
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Is this really a bad thing?
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Old 15 January 2013, 06:24 PM
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I think it's supposed to be a joke article, particularly given that most of the dates in that "timeline" are in the future.
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Old 15 January 2013, 06:27 PM
Nick Theodorakis Nick Theodorakis is offline
 
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Originally Posted by LadyLockeout View Post
Is this really a bad thing?
It's a bad thing if you're a louse, I guess.

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Originally Posted by WildaBeast View Post
I think it's supposed to be a joke article, particularly given that most of the dates in that "timeline" are in the future.
The Slate article is mostly tongue-in-cheek, but the article it links to looks real, and you can find similar stories on other news sites.

Nick
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Old 15 January 2013, 08:08 PM
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I've always wondered where we draw the line at worrying about when a creature goes extinct... whales and tigers and rhinos? Most people care and wants them to survive. Spiders and Lizards? Controversy about protecting some kind of cave spider for the San Antonio-Austin tollway expansion and the Dunes Sagebrush lizards in the West Texas oil fields resulted in people I know trying to go out and kill them so that the extinction would happen faster so that their protection wouldn't delay projects. Biologists or wildlife groups would argue that those spiders and lizards should be protected both for their biological diversity and the health of the wider ecosystems they inhabit. The same could be argued for human parasites, but I've never heard that argument made.

I also wonder about natural extinction - in pre-human history, as environments changed, some species would go extinct without human intervention. Are there are any species now that are going extinct that would still be going extinct if humans never came around? And by trying to protect those species would we really be doing a disservice? (I don't know if there are any, seems that human impact is pretty obviously responsible for most).
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Old 15 January 2013, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by zerocool View Post
I've always wondered where we draw the line at worrying about when a creature goes extinct...
Could you name one species that has gone extinct for which it's ever been the slightest controversy? Are you suggesting that people were right to want to exterminate those spider and lizards?
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Old 15 January 2013, 09:04 PM
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Sorry, are you asking what creatures have gone extinct, and it was controversial? Or are you asking what creatures have gone extinct without controversy?

I should have been more clear that it is not right that people want to exterminate those spiders and lizards. I am observing that, like many other things, the cuteness of the animal in question changes people's standards.

Sometimes changing standards based on something like that might even be considered correct - I might say it's more wrong to squish a puppy than it is to squish a mosquito, and be correct (the mosquito has a less developed nervous system or something). Many people seem to carry that same logic over to the species as a whole.
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Old 15 January 2013, 09:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zerocool View Post
Sorry, are you asking what creatures have gone extinct, and it was controversial?
You seemed to be implying that there was some controversy over where the line should be. So I ask what animals have gone extinct that were somewhere on that fuzzy line - where there was some controversy over whether their going extinct was a good thing or not.
Quote:
I should have been more clear that it is not right that people want to exterminate those spiders and lizards. I am observing that, like many other things, the cuteness of the animal in question changes people's standards.
OK, that's true. But, as far as I know, it hasn't changed the science.
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Old 15 January 2013, 09:34 PM
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There are certainly species that are doomed in the relatively near future without human involvement, as it is certain that natural processes would lead to their demise. For instance, nearly every significantly large and long-lasting cave has its own ecosystem and group of species, that will die when that cave collapses, as they all eventually do as they erode. Vulnerable flightless island birds, like the dodo and the nene would certainly have been wiped out when some creature - a rodent, or large falcon, etc. - reached the islands they are on and began eating them or their eggs. All of the Hawaiian Islands - except for the big island and the new one being formed - are shrinking and crumbling into the ocean, and will disappear as erosion occurs. Their unique species are all doomed - they should be valued but their existence should be understood in the context of their inevitable natural extinction.
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Old 15 January 2013, 09:42 PM
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Non-sequitur. Whether or not any species would go extinct naturally without human intervention has nothing to do with where to "draw the line" in terms of species, only where to "draw the line" in terms of how much intervention should be made in the ecosystem. In any case, the example given is kind of silly considering that their extinction from the supposed demise of the Hawaiian islands would be many millions of years from now and so has nothing to do with human civilization (as we know it) or the current ecosystem.
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Old 15 January 2013, 10:00 PM
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In the classic apocalyptic novel Earth Abides a plague wipes out most of mankind and the novel deals with both the few human survivors and the ecological changes in the Earth after the fall of mankind. It describes how the end of mankind would effect dogs, cats, cattle, pigs, horses, sheep, even domesticated plants and then he describes the head, body, and public lice which the author describes (metaphorically) as only three sincere mourners at the funeral of the species Homo Sapiens.
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Old 15 January 2013, 10:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
You seemed to be implying that there was some controversy over where the line should be. So I ask what animals have gone extinct that were somewhere on that fuzzy line - where there was some controversy over whether their going extinct was a good thing or not.
Well, the article in question - some people here are saying that pubic lice going extinct wouldn't be a bad thing.

I've heard it for mosquitoes too - mostly people don't talk about a total extinction, but they would like to wipe out the entire local population, which could have a detrimental impact on their local ecosystem.
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Old 15 January 2013, 10:06 PM
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Wiping out the species of mosquitoes that carry malaria is seriously advocated by certain circles.

http://www.nature.com/news/2010/1007...l/466432a.html

Quote:
Yet in many cases, scientists acknowledge that the ecological scar left by a missing mosquito would heal quickly as the niche was filled by other organisms. Life would continue as before — or even better. When it comes to the major disease vectors, "it's difficult to see what the downside would be to removal, except for collateral damage", says insect ecologist Steven Juliano, of Illinois State University in Normal. A world without mosquitoes would be "more secure for us", says medical entomologist Carlos Brisola Marcondes from the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil. "The elimination of Anopheles would be very significant for mankind."
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Old 15 January 2013, 10:50 PM
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What Joe said. Wiping out one species (or even a handful) of thousands of species of insect - none of which provides a specific "niche" in ecology (i.e. it's the only predator of some other creature) is very different from wiping out one of a handful of very large mammals. Rhinos and elephants are endangered, but they are almost unique in their existence, as are the big cats, large whales, and so on. Wiping out even one would be like wiping out a huge percent of the variety (and number) of insects around.

The question about some of these creatures - like the malaria-vector mosquitoes - is do we wipe them all our, or do we keep some in captivity "just in case"? It's rather like how the smallpox virus is kept in small quantities, by select groups, both because of the weaponization potential, but also the need to do research, if necessary. For some creatures that may be very difficult - as unlike a virus they can live without a host, and mosquitoes can escape easily and breed quickly.
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Old 16 January 2013, 12:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeBentley View Post
Wiping out the species of mosquitoes that carry malaria is seriously advocated by certain circles.
Is there anything controversial about that? Does anyone think that's a bad idea? (I don't know if anyone has. I'm asking for real. However, I don't think "we should study that before we do it" or "that might not necessarily be a good thing" really counts.)
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Old 16 January 2013, 12:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zerocool View Post
Well, the article in question - some people here are saying that pubic lice going extinct wouldn't be a bad thing.
No one has ever argued to save them. There's no controversy there. As far as I know, no one (more importantly, no scientist) has ever argued that every species of virus, bacteria, protozoan, insect, arthropod, etc. deserves to live.
Quote:
I've heard it for mosquitoes too - mostly people don't talk about a total extinction, but they would like to wipe out the entire local population, which could have a detrimental impact on their local ecosystem.
That's not correct. The argument is to kill the ones that cause malaria, which is not all mosquitoes in an area but just a few species and would have little impact on environment if there were some way to do it without killing others. I don't know that any scientist has ever argued against it.
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Old 16 January 2013, 12:11 AM
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Quote:
Yet in many cases, scientists acknowledge that the ecological scar left by a missing mosquito would heal quickly as the niche was filled by other organisms. Life would continue as before
Well, probably.

Sometimes I have in my head an image of a very large and complicated machine -- say it's an airplane; made of a number of parts held together by a very large number of rivets.

The people on the plane don't well understand how the parts work together, or even what all of them are.

People keep taking out rivets, and sometimes entire parts. They say, "Look! It didn't fall apart when we took that one out! It didn't fall apart when we took that other one out, either!"

One of these days, they're going to take out one too many rivets, and a wing is going to fall off, and they're all going to die.
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Old 16 January 2013, 12:19 AM
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That metaphor would work better if some of the rivets were infecting some of the other rivets with a deadly disease and when trained mechanics suggested taking out the infecting rivets and spending years studying what effect it would have on the aircraft someone goes "But what if the whole plane falls apart!?"

Nature is not a machine. That's a good metaphor but it's not reality.
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Old 16 January 2013, 12:48 AM
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No, but it is a complex web of interdependent groups. Sometimes we can draw conclusions to how an ecosystem will be affected by the removal of a species, but experimentation has shown that far too often our assumptions tend to be wrong. The mosquitoes responsible for transmitting the malaria parasite are primarily found in tropical regions, where there tends to be extremely high species diversity, so even if they were wiped out there's less likely to be a serious impact on the ecosystem than in a more temperate region where there's fewer species in total.

However, there's two things to consider: one, we aren't taking into consideration what the effects of wiping out the transmission cycle would have on other species. I don't know what non-human species are parasitism by malaria, but I believe bovines and other hoofed mammals are. What will this do to their populations? What will be the effect on the animals they compete with? How does that affect the plants both those species feed on? How does it affect the predators? Ect, ect. When we wiped out wolves in Yellowstone, we almost caused beavers and songbirds to go extinct because of the explosion in elk populations started wiping out the trees that those species depended on.

Second consideration: is wiping out these mosquitoes even possible? We're talking about a very widespread animal with a high population that evolves very quickly when subjected to pesticides. How does one manage to exterminate such a species without causing massive disruptions to all the other species in the area?
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Old 16 January 2013, 01:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeBentley View Post
That metaphor would work better if some of the rivets were infecting some of the other rivets with a deadly disease and when trained mechanics suggested taking out the infecting rivets and spending years studying what effect it would have on the aircraft someone goes "But what if the whole plane falls apart!?"

Nature is not a machine. That's a good metaphor but it's not reality.
Also, the rivets would have to breed. This is what drives me nuts about the watchmaker argument for intelligent design. Yes, if I saw a watch lying in a field, I'd assume it had a designer, but if I ever saw a watch give birth to another watch, I'd have to rethink that assumption.
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