Edited August 1st because Blogger apparently ate the middle of the post. Grrr!

Some species just didn't get a fair shake from evolution. Take for example the Nurse Shark. The Nurse Shark is going extinct all over the Southern hemisphere due to fishing practices which catch and kill sharks by accident and probably also from hunting them for their fins.

Why does this have anything to do with the nurse shark not getting a fair shake from evolution? It would seem to just be another instance of humans taking more from the environment than we need. But evolution is a cruel mistress. It is because the Nurse Shark can only give birth to two baby sharks per year where other sharks have broods of many babies per year.

This is due to the fact that the Nurse Shark has evolved to grow a functioning jaw and sharp teeth while still inside the womb. The baby sharks engage in a fight to the death in each of the mother’s dual wombs and only the strongest in each survives. Thus the Nurse shark is limited by it reproductive rate.

Now I’m sure the nurse shark is highly evolved for its niche but evolution has evolved it into a corner from which it can’t escape. Many conservationists and others seem to see evolution as a panacea. That left to it’s own devices evolution would create a beautiful, harmonious system. But evolution doesn’t care about individual species, nor does it evolve species for the long term.

Think of evolution like a game of musical chairs. The chairs are the niches and there are never quite enough. Now throw in the complexity of different sized chairs. If your lucky you get a chair you can share comfortably with lots of others, if you’re not you get a kindergarten chair. We humans got lucky, we got a chair originally made for Jon Brower Minnoch. The Nurse shark ended up with a chair made for Paris Hilton’s boney butt. It sucks but that's the way it is.

Does this temper my lefty, granola, conservationist leanings? Yeah, it does. It doesn't change the fact that we humans are taking up more chair space than we need. We are huge chair hogs to torture my analogy further. I support anything we can do to help out the Nurse Shark since our fishing is obviously what is killing it off, but it brings up a good question.

In areas of high species density what is the background extinction rate? How many species would be going extinct or re-evolving in a pristine rainforest habitat without human pressure? It's an interesting question that would make some die hard conservationists go pale. But some species are going to go extinct no matter what we do. Further, it is our impact which is causing a great number of these extinctions and no matter how we change our ways we cannot divorce ourselves from the equation like a child looking into a terrarium.

Which leads us to a question I will delve into further next time. What species should we decide to save? Until then what do you think about the 'equality of species'? Should some species itty bitty niches and subsequent difficulty surviving keep us from spending taxpayer money protecting them? Or should that mean that we work extra hard to save them. Keep in mind that you can't stop evolution no matter how much money you spend. Of course relative food chain importance plays into this as well, but I won't get into that huge issue.