A somber goodbye to the last turtle on the Galápagos, a sub-species that inspired Darwin on his voyage to discovering evolution. It was this same species Darwin wrote about riding on the backs of, and enjoying their tremendous size. It was not just the size that amazed him, but the amount of turtles on the island. In Darwin’s day there were hundreds. But having been hunted, and eaten their numbers diminished as humans invaded their eco-system pushing them out, and destroying their vital habitat.
The world may mourn George, but they should be mourning the death of a eco-structure. After all, George was part of a whole, one that diminished long ago, and vanished with his death. Now, as the turtles are added to the extinct species list, we have to wonder what the long-term impact is on this natural haven. When species are lost so is everything attached to it. This means the parasites that lived with and fed on the turtles, and predators who fed on the offspring. It means the bacteria which belonged on and inside of the turtles are gone. The impact on fishes, plant life, and everything touched by the tortoise may lay ahead for the island. Since the species has gone from numerous, to extinct in two hundred years this is a big blow to nature. While it may seem like a long time these tortoises had adapted to their environment over hundreds of years, and carved their niche.
It was this same niche which caused them to go extinct. Many species become vulnerable when their environment is threatened or destroyed. Since species branching happens over time, to specialized environments, it becomes hard for any species to adapt to sudden and dramatic changes in environment. In fact it is the reason we are loosing species to extinction every day. Over time as species pick specific plants, or animals to feed on their bodies adapt for the nutrition they are taking in. Once that food source is tainted, or removed it becomes almost impossible for the species to survive. Islands are more specialized environments. They may hold hundreds of plant species, and thousands of animal, and insect species. Since there is such a competitive structure to the environment, each species takes on a specific source for nutrition based on competition, access, and survival. While this helps to sustain balance, and create diversity, it can also lead to quick devastation when the natural habitat is destroyed.
Now that the tortoise has gone extinct from the Galapagos, and they will no longer be part of the eco-system it leaves a gap, one that may never be filled. One that may bring the extinction of other species. It is often the case that the loss of one species is responsible for the extinction of the next. Especially when it comes to predator and prey, once a prey animal is lost the predator may not be adapt to seek new sources of food. While we may not see the value in a predator, they help balance populations, and push natural selection forward. It is part of the process of weeding out the weak, and genetically inferior.
Another devastating loss for nature is the symbiotic relationship which happens in many environments. Many bacteria, and parasites have specific hosts. While this may sound distasteful to most of us, it is part of the nature of our planet. Even bacteria have a value. They help break down food, and can create vitamins and minerals for other insects or bacteria, as well as the hoast body. We have only begun to learn what bacteria are capable of, and the loss of species specific bacteria is a loss for future studies.
All parts of our world are unique and precious, even if we lack the ability to see the value in them. Loosing even one species is a devastating blow to the survival of our planet. As we see more habitats destroyed and species lost we risk the chance of humans becoming next. We are linked to this world by our genetics, our nature, and our evolution. It is our responsibility to caretaker our fellow species, and see to it that we save as many as possible. It is our duty to not destroy and invade whole habitats recklessly and hunt defenseless animals to extinction.
No matter what your beliefs, or ideas, no matter if you hunt or not, we are all responsible for this planet, one animal at a time. We need to show kindness to our fellow species, and not blame them when they do not make room for such a highly competitive species as man. We need to allow room for precious eco systems to sustain, and be watchful of environmental impact. It is every humans job to see to it our future generations enjoy the sights and sounds of natures great diversity. Evolution has worked for three billion years on this planet, and we have only existed for three million, yet in our time we have killed of thousands and thousands of species. It is time for response, and responsibility.