Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weekend squirm

Most people could do without the discovery of a new species of leech that specializes on the mucus membranes, including eyes, urethras, rectums, and vaginas.

The new species—dubbed Tyrannobdella rex, or "tyrant leech king" was discovered in the remote Peruvian Amazon region

The full report is in PLoS ONE this week: Tyrannobdella rex N. Gen. N. Sp. and the Evolutionary Origins of Mucosal Leech Infestations and National Geographic also has a write up with a catchier title: "Tyrant King" Leech Discovered, Attacks Orifice- Toothy new T. rex saws into eyes, rectums ... and so on.

"As Douglas Adams would say: Do we want a planet that is only full of panda bears and pine trees?" he said. "The loss of any species is going to make this planet colder and lonelier."

Hmm. I'm not convinced that most people would see the argument this way. I could be wrong but I suspect most people would rather live on a planet without orifice invading leeches. I'm a card carrying bleeding heart liberal tree hugger and I'm in two minds about this one so I don't see Mr and Mrs Middle America caring too much for the Tyrant Leech King. I believe that conservationists need to get their story straight, or at least consistent. Why should we care about the tremendous diversity of life on the planet? Because we might get valuable products from it? Because it provides invaluable ecosystem services? Because we have a moral responsibility to do so?

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