Nov 19

The latest update to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species highlights the loss of sea ice habitat due to climate warming as the single most important threat to the long-term survival of the polar bear.

The update also highlights habitat degradation as a main threat to many fungus species and over-fishing as the key driver of decline in marine bony fish. 

Polar bears on thin ice

The report, which is the most comprehensive assessment of sea ice and polar bear sub-population data to date, revealed that there is a high probability that the global polar bear population will decline by more than 30% over the next 35 to 40 years.

Based on the latest, most robust science, this assessment provides evidence that climate change will continue to seriously threaten polar bear survival in the future,” says Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General. “Climate change impacts go far beyond this iconic species, and present a threat our planet has never faced before. Governments meeting at the climate summit in Paris later this month will need to go all out to strike a deal strong enough to confront this unprecedented challenge.”

Recent studies show that the loss of Arctic sea ice has progressed faster than most climate models had predicted, with September sea ice extent declining at a linear rate of 14% per decade from 1979 through 2011. As polar bears rely on sea ice to access their prey, such as seals, an annual ice-free period of five months or more will cause extended fasting for the species, which is likely to lead to increased reproductive failure and starvation in some areas.

Polar bears are important to the livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples and, as apex predators, are essential to maintaining ecosystem balance in the Arctic region. Along with sea ice loss, other potential threats to the species include pollution, resource exploration and habitat change due to development. Oil development in the Arctic poses a wide range of threats, from oil spills to increased human-bear interaction.

Number of fungi on The IUCN Red List doubles

Twenty-nine species of fungi have been added to The IUCN Red List in this latest update, more than doubling current numbers. Fungi are an enormous group of organisms that are neither plants nor animals. They obtain nutrients through the absorption of decaying organic matter, recycling plant and animal waste into useful products.  The main threats affecting the species are habitat loss and degradation, mostly from changing land use practices.

Fungi are extremely important to humans as medicine and food and their conservation is vital for the health of the world’s ecosystems. Fungi have a symbiotic relationship with 80% of all plants and form a crucial part of the digestive system of ruminants such as sheep and cows.

Logging of the redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) which is listed as Endangered, is major threat to the fungus Leptonia carnea which has now been listed as Vulnerable.

Marine bony fishes at risk of extinction in the East Central Atlantic and Greater Caribbean regions

The latest global assessment of the 1,400 marine bony fishes of the Eastern Central Atlantic – covering the area from Mauritania to Angola – shows that 3% are threatened with extinction. In the Caribbean, 1,340 species were assessed, and of these 5% are threatened with extinction, including the golden tilefish (Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps) which is listed as Endangered.

The lionfish, which is an invasive species, is placing further pressure on marine bony fishes in the Caribbean.

The degradation of sensitive coastal habitats, pollution, overexploitation and destructive fishing practices are putting many species of marine bony fishes at risk of extinction.

Marine bony fishes are both ecologically and economically important, with the loss of these species posing a serious threat to food security and livelihoods of more than 340 million people in the regions assessed. The data from this latest assessment will be used to guide fisheries management and conservation priorities in the regions.

The IUCN Red List now includes 79,837 assessed species, of which 23,250 are threatened with extinction.

For more on the latest update visit The IUCN Red List website.

Learn more about climate change and ocean acidification on Arkive.

Mar 13

It’s ARKive’s 10th birthday this year and we want you to join our celebrations by helping us find the World’s Favourite Species.

We think all the world’s species are amazing but which is your favourite? Which animal, plant or fungi is so special that it deserves to be crowned the World’s Favourite Species?

Nominate today!

Nominations are now open and it couldn’t be simpler to vote  – simply find your favourite species on ARKive and click the ‘Nominate Today!’ button.

You have until 3rd April to suggest your favourites (and yes, you can choose more than one species!), after which we’ll draw up the shortlist and put it to the public vote. This shortlist will be whittled down to determine the Top Ten World’s Favourite Species – as chosen by you.

We can’t do it without your input – please spare a few moments to make your nomination TODAY!

Need some inspiration?

There are over 15,000 species on ARKive to nominate, so here are a few suggestions to start you off…

Will you nominate the polar bear – our most visited species so far this month?

Photo of polar bear with cubs

What about a newly discovered species? Is the Louisiana pancake batfish your favourite?

Louisiana pancake batfish

The osprey features as our no.1 video, but will it be no. 1 species?

Photo of osprey in flight carrying fish

Vote now, and share your nominations on Facebook and Twitter!

Mar 4

Four new species of fungus have been discovered which infect carpenter ants, turning their victims into “zombies” by taking over their bodies before killing them in a place which is perfect for the fungus to spread its spores to new hosts.

Photo of carpenter ant cleaning antennae

A carpenter ant, Camponotus ligniperda. The newly discovered fungi each attack specific species in the Camponotus genus.

Sinister parasites

In a story that could come straight from a horror movie, Ophiocordyceps fungi (also known as Cordyceps) use enzymes to enter the body of their ant host, where the fungus begins to grow. The fungus releases chemicals which alter the ant’s behaviour, causing it to leave the colony and bite onto a leaf vein, securing it in a location which is ideal for fungal growth.

In perhaps its most sinister twist, the fungus then kills the ant and begins to sprout from its head, forming a pod of spores which are released into the forest to infect other ants.

Photo of bullet ant on leaf

The bullet ant, another species which can be infected by parasitic fungi.

New fascinating fungus discoveries

The four new fungus species were discovered as part of a study in the Atlantic forest in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Published in the journal PloS One, the study also found that the fungi have a back-up plan in case they fail to infect a new ant straight away. Spores on the ground are able to slowly grow a secondary spore that juts up from the forest floor and latches onto ants as they pass.

According to David Hughes, one of the researchers working on the study, “It’s a fabulously complex organism. There is a beauty to the whole thing, whether it is the chemicals at work that take over the ant, or the spores which try one strategy and then another to find a host on the forest floor.

Photo of leaf-cutter ants carrying leaves back to the nest

Leaf-cutter ants use fungi as food, cutting up leaves on which to grow the fungal ‘gardens’ on which they feed.

Each of the newly discovered species targets a different species of carpenter ant. Other types of Ophiocordyceps fungus may also infect a range of other invertebrates, including moths, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles and spiders.

View an amazing ARKive video of bullet ants infected with a parasitic fungus.

Find out more about these fungi on the BBC Wildlife Finder website.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author


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