Rafetus – Photo by Gerald Kuchling/Turtle Survival Alliance
This is a guest post by the Turtle Survival Alliance in honour of World Turtle Day. The TSA is a recognized force for global turtle conservation, driven by a mission of zero turtle extinctions. You can donate to their work here.
Most animals are best at one thing, but the Yangtze giant softshell turtle masters at least two. With only four individuals known to science, and only one of those a female, this turtle is one of the rarest animals on earth. However, that’s not the limit of its plight, because you see, it is also one of the ugliest! Just look at her. Her beady little eyes have a twinkle that suggests defiance of extinction. Unfortunately, most people won’t notice her tiny eyes, because it’s difficult to see past the long soggy neck, massive girth, webbed talons and the rubbery-looking “snorkel” in front of her eyes. These less-than-lovely physical characteristics may be one reason why the conservation of this species is rife with challenges. Although another charming, albeit invisible, trait which this beauty bears is the unique (to aquatic turtles, that is) ability to breathe through her butt, allowing the exchange of oxygen while completely submerged. It is no surprise that while the Yangtze giant softshell turtle stands apart, it is also in danger of standing alone. The main causes of this species’ endangerment are habitat pollution, environmental degradation and believe it or not, consumption by humans. This last female Yangtze giant softshell turtle, one of the three remaining males, and the Turtle Survival Alliance, have joined forces in an effort to ensure that the world is never without this uniquely appealing turtle. Take action this World Turtle Day and join the Turtle Survival Alliance in its mission to save the Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle from extinction.
The Ugliest Fish in North America (Or Why the Rich People Are Out to Get Me)
If you happen to believe in that evolution tripe, then you must understand that we all come from fish. I’m a disciple of Darwin, so tripe it is for me. All the parts on our bodies – legs, arms, eyeballs, and spines – come from our fishy past. I respect my elders.
Even if you don’t think evolution is real, you have to admit that fish are cool.
I’m lucky enough to play with fish and get paid for it. I should be happy all the time. But I’m not.
My favorite group of fish is the sturgeon. About 27 species of sturgeon remain around the world. All are being whacked by humanity, they are the most endangered group of fishes in the world. Habitat loss and overfishing are the culprits. I personally don’t get the allure of caviar, but eating the briny, fishy eggs that go pop in your mouth is something that wealthy people do. Wealthy people’s taste buds must be different from mine. This thirst for status puts a gold-plated target on the backs of sturgeon. Apparently, the eggs aren’t ugly enough to stop them from being put in tiny tins with enormous price tags.
I recently did an interview with a regional newspaper. When I read the column, I was dumbfounded. The article called the sturgeon species I work with as one of the “ugliest fish in North America”. Who wants to raise money for the ugliest fish?
I do. Sturgeons are cool. Come on, that mustache of theirs allows them to taste their environment.
Dr Jim Garvey (@fishysiu) is a Professor of Zoology living and teaching in Southern Illinois, USA.
He is developing a pregnancy test for endangered fish species to detect spawning sites and aid their conservation. He is crowd funding some of his research. You can pledge to back him here.