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Alien Species Are Now Causing Global Extinctions, Scientists Find

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Alien Species
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Let’s hope an alien species never comes to Earth to compete with humans. A new study from the University College London’s (UCL) Center for Biodiversity and Environment Research has suggested that such an occurrence would mean our chances of survival could be slim.

According to researchers at University College London, alien species–those who are not endemic or native to a particular environment–have been the primary driver of extinctions affecting both plants and animals across the globe.

The study, published Monday in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, looked at 953 extinctions that have occurred since 1500 AD. Of those extinctions, 126, or 13 percent, were caused by an alien species. A total of 300, or 42 percent, were caused in part by the arrival of an alien species.

In a statement, lead researcher Tim Blackburn of UCL Biosciences explained:

“Some people have suggested that aliens are no more likely than native species to cause species to disappear in the current global extinction crisis, but our analysis shows that aliens are much more of a problem in this regard.

Our study provides a new line of evidence showing that the biogeographical origin of a species matters for its impacts. The invasion of an alien species is often enough to cause native species to go extinct, whereas we found no evidence for native species being the sole driver of extinction of other natives in any case.”

The study relied on data from the 2017 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List that counted the total number of species that had met their demise since the year 1500. The list categorizes the primary drivers of extinction into a dozen categories such as alien species, native species, biological resource use such as hunting and harvesting, and agriculture.

Out of the IUCN list, alien species as primary driver ranked far ahead of the second place extinction driver, biological resource use, which played a role in 18.8 percent of those species lost.

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Out of the 782 animal species lost on the IUCN list, 261 were due to alien species. Meanwhile, 39 of 153 plant species went extinct due to aliens. In contrast, only 2.7 percent of animals and 4.6 percent of plant extinctions were caused by native species–less than one-twelfth of those lost to aliens.

Mammalian predators such as “black, brown and Pacific rats and feral cats” were among the primary offenders, with many of them stowing away on boats and causing “island habitats [to be] hit the hardest.” Meanwhile, such predators as cats and foxes were introduced to foreign habitats “deliberately,” the press release notes.

Alien plants such as plantation tree species and ornamental garden plants were also deliberately introduced, before they subsequently “spread and threaten[ed] the native flora and fauna around them.”

Yet while the study relies on the exhaustive data collected by the IUCN, the origin of many species remain unknown, compelling scientists to believe that they may be underestimating the damage caused by alien species.

Professor Blackburn explained:

“It is more likely that [many species] are alien. Our results are therefore conservative in terms of the extent to which we implicate alien species in extinction. Also, many regions of the world have not been well studied, and there are likely to be further extinctions that haven’t been captured in these data.”

While extinction is a natural phenomenon on Earth, happening at a natural rate of around one to five species per year, conservationists and scientists have warned that our planet is currently experiencing the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals in the past half-billion years, with human-caused factors such as climate change and the introduction of alien species driving most mass die-offs.

According to current estimates, the Earth is losing anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times the species than the natural “background” rate, with up to dozens of species meeting their final demise each day.

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Animals

Scientists Catch a Glimpse of a Ultra-Rare Giant Phantom Jelly, With Bizarre Ribbon-Like Arms

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Researchers have seen a large deep-sea jellyfish with the assistance of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) named Doc Ricketts off the coast of California, in an extremely rare sighting. The footage revealed the creature’s unique and exquisite features.

The uncommon encounter was documented in November this year, 990 meters (3,200 ft) deep in Monterey Bay, according to a report issued by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).

Youtube Screenshot

The enigmatic phantom jellyfish was initially discovered in 1899, but scientists did not recognize it as a distinct species until 1960. Scientists still know very little about this creature.

The specimen of the huge phantom jelly has only been seen 110 times in 110 years across the world. According to the MBARI research, despite thousands of dives, their ROVs have only observed this amazing species nine times.

The huge phantom jellyfish has the following characteristics:

The bell of this deep-sea denizen is more than one meter (3.3 feet) broad, with four ribbon-like oral (or mouth) arms that can grow to be more than 10 meters (33 feet) long, according to an MBARI report.

Youtube Screenshot

The species is said to inhabit anywhere between the surface and 21,900 feet in depth. It does, however, remain in the twilight zone, which is just beyond the reach of sunlight.

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The organism, formally known as ‘Stygiomedusa gigantea’, is found all across the planet except in the Arctic Ocean, according to the experts.

Youtube Screenshot

It’s worth noting that, in the past, scientists depended on trawl-nets to examine deep-sea species; but, the jellies, which transform into a viscous goo in trawl nets, were difficult to research using this outdated method. Fish, crabs, and squids are among the only creatures that can be effectively studied from nets.

Researchers may now examine these creatures in their native habitat with high-definition footage thanks to the robot cams. I, personally, prefer this “no-touch” approach.

Watch the mesmerizing video here:

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Animals

Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida

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A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.

In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.

“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.

Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.

Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.

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Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.

Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.

However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.

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Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son

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A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.

The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.

The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.

“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.

“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.

The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.

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The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.

“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.

The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.

The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.

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