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Animals that are Now Lost
June 16, 2010 19:39

Darwin Museum of Moscow welcomes visitors – new exhibition “Disappearing World” tells them about extinct and endangered animals.

Mammals and birds, which cannot now be found on our planet, meet visitors as paintings, skeletons or stuffed creatures. You can also find out what factors led to extinction of any exhibit.

Mass extinction of species is a mystery, which still waits to be solved. The Earth remembers at least five periods, during which almost all animals and plants were erased from our planet’s face. Between Paleozoic and Mesozoic periods, about 245 million years ago most massive extinction has happened – about 90% of species, existing at those time, have disappeared. Between Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras about 75% of species of living organisms, including dinosaurs and pterosaurs, have gone. However, smaller animals – like lizards, turtles and crocodiles – survived and still live on Earth. One more massive extinction of mammoths, mastodons, and cave bears has happened about 12 thousand years ago on all continents.

Mass extinctions were long processes – they lasted for 10-500 thousand years. Modern biologists tend to think that species extinction is a normal process of biosphere’s evolution, and not a result of some global catastrophes, like volcano eruptions, global climate change or meteorite fall. Well, tragedy of large mammals is mostly considered to be a result of hunting of ancient human beings.

Many species continue disappearing in front of our own eyes – 120 reptilian species, 94 bird species, and 63 mammal species have left our planet forever during last 400 years. Sorry to say, but human beings were active participants of that tragedy. We all know a sad story of Mauritian dodo, a large flightless bird, eliminated in 17th century by barbarous hunting. Last passenger pigeon of many millions was killed in the beginning 20th century, because Americans considered it to harm crops. Human beings were the reason great auk, Steller’s sea cow, and aurochs disappeared. Among exhibits visitors can meet mirrors and see most dangerous creature on our planet in them.



Mass extinction
Mass extinction keep going even today – from 2 to 20 species keep disappearing every day. Humans destroy half a hectare of tropical rainforests, thus killing species of small tropical animals, which inhabit very small areas. Forest devastation is the main reason for extinction of birds and mammals. Another important reason is hunting and introduction of other species, predators, for instance, which replace or eliminate endemic ones.

Not only living organisms disappear – our planet loses whole ecosystems, like tundra steppe (home of mammoths) and tallgrass prairies. European steppes and all their inhabitants are in great danger.

The exhibition shows not only extinct animals, but also endangered species, some of which, like bison and Father David's deer, can now be found only in zoological gardens. Some other species were lucky to restore their abundance – just imagine, there were only 800 beavers in Russia 100 years ago, and now they are spread so widely that some of these animals live even in Moscow!

The exhibition also shows animals, which were illegally carried to our country and were confiscated by Russian customs. Illegal trading of various animals, their skins, horns and tusks is a serious threat to many animal species.

The exhibition welcomes visitors until October 10, 2010 in Moscow Darwin Museum.

Source: Science & Life

Kizilova Anna

Tags: Russian science Darwin Museum    

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