(Roughly) Daily

“We are deciding, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will forever be closed”*…

There’s a variety of “preservation” that can blind us to the lack of genetic diversity and the threat of extinction…

The small salamander known as the axolotl, whose cartoonish face resembles a smiling emoji, is among the most widespread amphibians on Earth. You can buy them as pets online, collect them in the game Minecraft, and watch them perform on Instagram and TikTok. Often pink in color with feathery external gills, axolotls are also popular in laboratories: Scientists love studying them because they can regrow limbs, spinal cords, and even portions of their brains. Roughly 1 million are under human care worldwide, according to some experts.

Yet in their home country of Mexico, where they’re celebrated as cultural icons, axolotls are critically endangered and on the verge of extinction. The only place you can find them in the wild is in a watery borough of Mexico City, the second-largest city in the Western Hemisphere. There are fewer than three dozen per square kilometer here, down from 6,000 in the 1990s.

This paradox — that axolotls seem to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time — raises a vexing question. If an animal is thriving in labs and aquariums, should we worry that it’s dying in its native waters? Or, asked another way: How important is the “wild” in wildlife?…

Axolotls are among the most widespread amphibians on Earth. In the wild, they’re almost extinct: “The animal that’s everywhere and nowhere,” from Benji Jones (@BenjiSJones) in @voxdotcom.

* Elizabeth Kolbert

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As we back biodiversity, we might spare a thought for Gerald “Gerry” Malcolm Durrell; he died on this date in 1995.  A British naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist, author, and television presenter, most of his work was rooted in his life as an animal collector and enthusiast… though he is probably most widely known for his autobiographical book My Family and Other Animals and its successors, Birds, Beasts, and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods... which have been made into television and radio mini-series many times, most recently as ITV’s/PBS’s The Durrells.

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