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back to article Yangtze river dolphin is an ex-cetacean

Scientists have today declared the Yangtze river dolphin extinct after an intensive survey failed to find evidence of a single animal in the waterway. Pollution, shipping, and over-fishing have all been fingered as culprits. The dolphin's demise marks the first large vertebrate species obliterated by human activity for 50 years …

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Anonymous Coward

So?

All species become extinct. 99.99999% of all species which have ever lived are extinct and the tiny remaining fraction are no exception.

Those which are on the planet now will all be extinct one day (relatively) soon, whether it's because they fail to adapt or because they adapt and become new species.

Adapt or die.

(by the way, I've just received this little goldfish bowl, inscribed "so long and thanks for all the fish"...)

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Bronze badge

And?

So what if this was some lesser known bug that burrowed into your brain or gave you the Dheli-belly, would everyone be so up in arms?! Just because it's the cuddly sea-side equivalent of some fluffy land animal like an otter or koala, everyone starts shedding tears! Yes all very sad, but what did you expect from the way we carry on stomping across the planet like we own the bloody place!

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It's not a problem though

It's not a problem though because we, in the west, can still buy cheap tat, mass produced in conditions that would make a Victorian workhouse look like a poncy media company.

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Well

The WWF who funded the expedition reckon it may not be extinct as they didn't cover the entire river, however they also reckon if there are any left it's only 1 or 2 which means it's as good as.

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Anonymous Coward

Stupidity?

First Anon Poster: Are you so ignorant that you can't see the difference between natural selection and extinction caused by industry?

George: The point was made in your last sentence. We certainly do not own the planet, and at some point we are going to have to wake up and stop sh***ing in our own back gardens.

Am I a green fingered eco-warrior? Hardly. But like many people I DO care about the effect we are having on the environment, and I try to do my small part where I can.

Maybe we could ensure the extinction of the ignorance and stupidity that causes a mess like this in the first place?

Perhaps by making those worst affected by said ignorance and stupidity go and live on and drink from the Yangtze?

Just a thought...

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China Bashing

It's just another media outlet jumping onto the current bandwagon ( built in the US? ) that hails to the promised land of a new democratised China if we all give 'em enough love and a little encouragement.

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Failure to Adapt

...Unfortunately today evolution chose not to favor this particular species and due to it's inability to adapt to an ever changing environment has been written from history. In other news a thriving colony of cockroaches have moved into the newly freed river area where there once natural predator once lived....

Nature doesn't care if they go extinct or not. Life is, so far, an abnormality in the universe and we are not garunteed that our ecosystem was stable to begin with. If it is the nature of humans to coat everything in plastic and pave the earth, so be it. Deer don't ponder if stripping the bark off a tree will kill it and I highly doubt ebola has senate subcommitees on whether to infect someone or not. Too often we forget we are just as much a part of nature as any other animal and what we do, good or bad, is part of nature. We somehow think that we have some measure of insight and self awareness that entitles us to define what normal should be (usually based on our tiny sliver of history here on Earth). Be it warming, cooling, or things going Dodo on us the fact remains that Venus has a seriously bad case of global warming (last I checked it's hot enough that many metals melt in the atmosphere).

There have been billions of animals that have gone extinct before man was around and a billion more I am sure are waiting to perish as well. I find it arrogant to assume there was some kind of stable ecosystem prior to man coming into the picture and the idea that we are accelrating it through pollution is based on the idea that normal was what it was prior to the pollution. If we compare our planet to any other we look like a two headed freak with translucent dentures.

R.I.P some dolphin I wasn't going to eat in the first place...

Perhaps we are a natural catalyst for evolution. Periodically man evolves, screws with the environment does a ton of genetic engineering and wipes himself out in the process. Meanwhile the rest of nature doesn't care and moves on, and thanks to the periodic human infestation have been mutated and weaned.

Perhaps humans are meant to "stir the pot" perodically. There is no garuntee that we're supposed to survive it.

All this discussion boils down to me is, "What is normal, who are we to decide, and by what rules do we determine what is normal extinction, abnormal extinction, and how are we not part of nature?" If we are to take a secular, scientific approach to our lives then we have to ask, in comparing our planet's ecosystem, what is the control group and is it value. Are we on track to become Venus or Mars? Is that a normal progression? Where are we measuring our standards of normal. Lets not forget the Sahara was at some point a tropical forest, we can't blame Ford for that one.

Just some philisophical thoughts to throw out there. Enjoy, loath, what ever works for ya.

P.S. Apologies for my spelling, public education at it's finest...

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don't be an ass or any other domesticated land animal...

"sea-side equivalent of some fluffy land animal"

Dolphins are hardly cute and fluffy. Read up on them.

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Anonymous Coward

I think..

... that it was eaten into extinction. They still have a few civet cats, boars and snakes left, but these will be gone soon. I hope they like pigeons because I have plenty to give away.

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A disgrace...

Cuddly equivalent? Dolphins are one of the most intelligent species on our planet, and judging by the first two comments, I wouldn't be surprised if they outstrip quite a few humans.

And "adapt or die" is a bit stretched to the limit when unregulated fishing and the pollution of about 600 million people are factored into the equation. I'd like to see humans put up against those odds... At the rate we're going it doesn't look like we'll take all that long.

Calling this a failure of evolution is just copping out. It's humanity's fault that the species died, and if we'd taken measures a few years ago, when we knew there were only a dozen left, we might have been able to preserve the species.

Quite aside from the distaste I feel for yet another creature being wiped out by our lack of caring, it's a huge loss for the scientific world. The Yangtze River dolphin was an example of a creature that had been cut off from the rest of its kind (ie. cephalopods) for millions of years, and as such it was a living specimen of how evolution works in closed environments as opposed to open ones.

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Silver badge

Yes, it's bad...

...but we didn't do it on porpoise.

[coat]

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Re: So?

[quote](by the way, I've just received this little goldfish bowl, inscribed "so long and thanks for all the fish"...)[/quote]

Strange you used a Douglas Adams quote after you made your point that it doesn't matter if humanity wipes out the dolphins and it's the dolphins fault since they didn't adapt to the massive pollution and unskilled fishing.

I was reminded of Douglas Adams when I read the article, but what sprung to mind for me was the section on the Yangtze dolphin from "Last Chance to See". Shame that more people with attitudes like yours didn't read that book in time for this particular species, still plenty of time to wipe out the rest of the species Douglas Adams was so keen on saving.

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Douglas Adams

Funny you should mention Douglas Adams.

DA was a strong proponent of conservation especially the Bajji Dolphin. He wrote a book with a scientist called Last Chance To See which covered the dolphin, an extremely rare lemur and the kimodo dragon. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the subject as it is a quite well balanced look at the whole of conservation efforts in the world. The bit on the kimodo is especially revealing.

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Anonymous Coward

So? again

In response to my critics :

The earth is doomed. One day it will be burned to a cinder by the sun becoming a red giant. Polishing it to look pretty and lush until that happens is a waste of time. To those who say we'll leave the earth and colonise space by then, so what? Think you'll survive the big crunch/heat death of the universe do you?

All these species will be gone by then anyway.

Does it matter when or how these species disappear? No. It doesn't alter the fact that they will be gone (and that includes us) eventually. All of us. WITHOUT EXCEPTION.

So do I care? No.

Like it or lump it.

(As for whether I should read "Last Chance to See" - actually I did. It was this understanding of Adams' view which led me to change my thinking about the necessity or otherwise of "protecting" wildlife.)

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Up to 8 meters? That's huge!

Thats like the size of a killerwhale isn't it?

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2010... following on from george

@George Johnson

As said in 2010, "this event has reminded us that we're merely tenants of this world, and the land lord just renewed the lease"

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Re: A disgrace

"The Yangtze River dolphin was an example of a creature that had been cut off from the rest of its kind (ie. cephalopods) for millions of years"

I'll say. The cephalopoda appeared in the fossil record around 550 million years ago, with the Nautiloids reaching their apogee during the Ordovician and Silurian periods. The cetacea, on the other hand, appeared in the Lower Eocene, some 500 million years later :-)

But I take your point. The Platanistidae (river dolphins) seem to have diverged from the rest of the toothed whales in the Lower Miocene, around 20 mya.

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Re: So? again

[quote]Does it matter when or how these species disappear? No. It doesn't alter the fact that they will be gone (and that includes us) eventually. All of us. WITHOUT EXCEPTION.[/quote]

By your logic, murdering people is fine, since everyone is going to die sooner or later anyway therefore it doesn't matter who or what kills them.... nice outlook...

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Anonymous Coward

WWF?

>"The WWF who funded the expedition ..."

Why are pro wrestlers suddenly looking for dolphins?

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Bronze badge

re: So? and So? again

You seem to be suggesting that as the earth is doomed in the long term, we might as well not bother to preserve what we have in the short term.

Isn't that a bit like saying "Well, I'm going to die in the long term, so I might as well not bother to eat healthily and exercise"?

Of course, if you are an overweight alcoholic couch potato who smokes 80 a day, then fair enough.

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Race to the bottom?

Bets are still on.

Will the US economy collapse because of the greed of the top 3% upper echelon under weight of it's trade debts, loss of industry and employment or will the greed of the Peoples Democratic Party China poison the entire country first?

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So? you are a bit lame..

I must but agree with you.

I guess that it won't matter to you if someone kills you today, as you would die anyway....

We should try to conserve the planet, if not for ourselves, for our descendants. Not for you, obviously...

I would also suggest you to stop writing. At the end you will die and all your works disappear, so, why bother? I guess that you don't clean your house, as it will get dirty again...

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I wonder

if all those people who are telling us that its 'natural' for species to go extinct would be so happy to see their little Charles and Chardoneys or Granparents go extinct.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Up to 8 meters? That's huge!

Metres and feet were confused in the article. It's been fixed now.

Robin Lettice

The Register

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Anonymous Coward

@Robert Hirst

"By your logic, murdering people is fine, since everyone is going to die "

Yes, of course I advocate murder, Robert. Mwahahah!

Preferably of people who use such ridiculous extrapolations.

If you think I'm suggesting that muder is okay, you are the one who has a screw loose in your logic, not me. Nobody murdered these dolphins. We accidentally elbowed them aside (which you may discover if you read up on why they became extinct.) We just simply didn't bother to conserve them.

Sad, but it's not going to make me lose sleep.

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RE: So? again

Yes, the earth, and the universe are doomed.

Apparently you think that makes life worthless? Hopefully not everyone thinks like that. If so, then there's no point whatsoever in discouraging any kind of "bad" behavior. Steal, murder, lie, whatever, it doesn't matter, because in 100 years everyone will be dead anyway.

I appreciate the beauty of the earth. I choose to try to leave as much of it as possible to future generations, whether my children, yours, or some chinese I'll never meet. They're as worthy as we are. The accident of having been born before them does not give us the right to steal from them.

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How clever are dolphins?

I can't believe they are that clever. How many have won mastermind?

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Anonymous Coward

I tried and failed

I tried very hard not to get worked over Mr. So? but I failed. The 'sun will blow up and take everything with it' argument is an argument that excuses literally anything.

"I raped and murdered a child but so what? The kid would have died eventually anyway."

"I committed genocide but so what? They would all have died eventually anyway."

Perhaps someone more eloquent than I can expose the fallacy without a reductio ad absurdum.

Gah.

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Anonymous Coward

re : Martin - long term v short term

"Of course, if you are an overweight alcoholic couch potato who smokes 80 a day, then fair enough."

Only 20 a day, but otherwise dead on.

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Oooh, ya big numpty

"The earth is doomed. One day it will be burned to a cinder by the sun becoming a red giant. Polishing it to look pretty and lush until that happens is a waste of time."

Presumably with that attitude you defecate on the carpet every morning rather than take the effort to walk to the bog?

I mean, your house is going to succumb to the ravages of time and weather eventually, why keep it intact in the meantime?

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Anonymous Coward

Title

>"Why are pro wrestlers suddenly looking for dolphins?"

Jesus get with the times, they are the WWE these days, and have been for ages

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RE: So?

To the anonymous coward:

You doom-mongering git, why don't you go bury yourself and stop spouting your despressive, socially-inept twoddle all over this article? With an attitude like yours I'm surprised YOU haven't been made extinct by just about anyone unfortunate enough to be in the same country as you! Funnier still, you seem to take pleasure in the fact that you're a shallow, antisocial and dumbfuck with as much consideration for your fellow man as America has for personal privacy! Either that or you must assume that everything respawns just like in whichever MMORPG you got your life & debating skils from.

I'd suggest you get out into the world (big blue & green room outside, just beyond the entrance to the underground bunker you must be locked in) sometime and experience it while you can.

My own opinion on how we [humanity] are treating this planet and this article? Simple: Mother Nature has bigger teeth and one day it *will* bite back without a doubt... until then lets not do anything else to provoke it.

On another note, can I have all your money/bank details/possessions etc? You *will* lose them/give it all away/die one day so whats the point in you holding on to them when its easier to stop caring now and just hand them over... "like it or lump it".

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Anonymous trolls

As long as you and your ilk continue to post anonymously, you'll be scorned by me and others like me. I may disagree with their statements, but they're entitled to them. You, on the other hand, have no such entitlement as long as you post behind a curtain.

This is just the first of what will soon become a flood of extinctions. Followed closely, I suspect, by several species of shark. All killed for the greater good of China.

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Rob
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RE: So? again...

Comments to be preserved for ever, a prime example of how a CHAV thinks, well done, I have copied and saved those for future examples to show my students.

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re: failure to adapt

Idgarad, as far as exploring the our extent of knowledge, we have assumed there is only life on this of nine planetoids. Many the environments on this same planet, that we thought could never support life, in fact do so. From bacterium inside of rocks miles deep to shrimps living around sub aquatic volcanoes, to spiders and fish in cave systems 'poisoned' with sulphuric acid. Life is pretty tough, and it's fairly prolific, don't discount it. If life can make it on this planet in the way it has, life then has the ability to 'bruteforce' it's chances to exploit any ecosystem it can access.

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RE: Adaption failure

Yes the dolphin "failed to adapt". And yes, many species have gone extinct. And yes, we are highly self-centered and conceited if we think we can define what a "normal" ecology is, and what is "good" for nature.

Unfortunately, we are equally self-centered and conceited if we think we can take whatever action is convenient at the moment regardless of the impact on anyone or anything else.

The tragedy here is that a species was rendered extinct because of people being ignorant of (or more likely ignoring) the impact of their actions. They could have modified their behavior slightly and probably protected the species in question. It's not a question of trying to dictate nature, it's just thinking the impact of your actions beyond your own immediate convenience.

Keller

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A Question of balance

It isn't simply the fact that a species has become extinct, I agree that all species become extinct with time. However this species is probably the first large animal to have been destroyed as "collateral damage".

The dolphins were not hunted to extinction like the Dodo but were inadvertently caught by fishermen. This time round we wiped out a Dolphin species. Next time it might be something with a nasty (to humans) knock-on effect.

I'm sure that some of the "so what" posters above spend a lot of time tuning their servers, car engines or whatever. Pity they cannot extrapolate this sort of activity to the whole earth.

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Further

Nature is a web of interconnected life, and we, humans are just as dependant. It isn't simply a case species relying on the ecology, it's the other way around. For every species that dies out, everything and anything around it is affected. In effect, each species pegs down part of that web of life, each species that goes, part of the web COLLAPSES. Sometimes it's fairly localised, sometimes it is catastrophic.

Every species counts, bio-diversity = bio-stability.

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Extinction a sign of the times

Re Anon and Idgarad:

Does it matter if this particular species goes extinct because humans have killed it off? That really depends on what the species was doing before people got involved. The crucial part of the word "ecosystem" is the last half - "system". In other words, there are connections between all bits of it, and if you kill off one part then it might (and usually does) have an effect on the rest. Nature will still reach some kind of equilibrium, but the resulting equilibrium might not be as suitable for people.

In Europe, we mostly killed off bears and wolves over the last few centuries. Result? Proliferation of foxes, which farmers now have to go out and kill themselves. In India, they've just recently stopped using a pesticide which was killing vultures, but they lost most of their vulture population before they stopped. Result? Dead things tend to just stay around and rot (and hence act as disease vectors) because that area's dead-stuff-disposal-system was based around vultures doing most of it.

Or vice versa, humans introduce a new species. In Australia, rabbits and cane toads ruined (and still do ruin) crops, requiring farmers to go out and kill them with poison/guns/whatever. Flatworms that hit the UK in the compost of imported tropical plants are eating their way through native worms, and UK agriculture is massively reliant on worms to aerate the soil - we still don't have a solution to this one.

I personally think that concern for nature should go deeper. But even if you don't feel any affinity for nature, the fact that your food, clothing, air and water come from nature should set up some kind of self-interest.

Maybe you think it doesn't matter because it's China? Well I can promise you that if food costs go up in China because the environment's screwed there, the cost of the goods you buy that were made in China will also go up.

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J

re: So?

Adding to the chorus: since it's all just a waste of time, would you please just kill yourself and be done with it ASAP, please, anonymous coward (and friends)? *That* would be a worthwhile extinction, methinks.

And if you're uninformed (or stupid) enough to really believe we "failed to conserve" instead of "extinguished" whatever species, cuddly or otherwise, then you're beyond hope and should just shut up and stop making yourself look bad (and immoral). Oh, that's right, you're anonymous coward, so why care...

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Not just cute animal fixation

There is some justification for being more concerned about the extinction of a large mammal than a bacteria. Bacteria reproduce and mutate extremely rapidly. If one species disappears, that's ok there will be another one along in a minute.

The more large and complex a creature is, the slower it tends to breed and the more likely it is that a mutation will render it non-viable. AFAIK, there have been no new cetacean species in the last few hundred years so we should be concerned that we have removed this one.

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Anonymous Coward

Human Arrogance

Wow, it really does amaze me the level of human arrogance in these posts. You all attack the "So?" commenter as doom and gloom... but in reality, you are all a bunch of idealizing, anthropomorphizing hypocrites.

Wake up people, the Earth has been around about 99% longer than we have been on it. There have been mass extinctions before, and there will be more. For those that like to argue "it's different this time, because we caused it!", you truly don't understand how natural selection works.

Newsflash: we are a part of the natural selection process, and have been since we started walking on two legs. You act as if somehow humanity is separate from the rest of nature -- as if when "nature" (in other words everything that ISN'T humanity) causes extinction, it's no problem (that's just "nature" or "natural") ... but humanity, oh hell if we are the causes then all hell breaks loose.

Please. Get over your own arrogance about your place in the world. Just because humanity causes extinction doesn't make it any less natural then if it was because some population of T-Rex's did it millions of years ago.

"Nature" (as this concept of something external to humanity), doesn't exist. Period. There's no "right" or "wrong" involved with extinction events unless there is a deliberate moral choice. Just as there is no "right" or "wrong" involved when people die, unless there is a deliberate, moral choice.

Yes, in fact, the motives do matter. Life, nature, and everything around us that we are a part of, is nothing if not a series of unintended consequences. A butterfly flapping it's wings and all that. Should we stop everything we are doing because we aren't sure what the consequences are?

Stop driving, you're killing fish in a stream. Stop paving roads, you're edging out the habitats of countless species. Stop using electricity, you're damaging the environment in the way it's produced (even solar and wind power require land to be abused). Stop using the internet, as we're killing species of coral by laying massive fiber cables along the ocean floor.

There is no way to avoid any of this, unless you stop progress entirely, which would in the end take a human extinction event. If you are reading this, if you are posting here, then you are just as involved in extinction events as anyone on the Yangtze. Typical that a bunch of people in the "enlightened" west would bash on a bunch of people in the East for something like this. Arrogance, plain and simple.

Grow up, stop whining, and realize you're all just as responsible for this kind of thing, and that's just how nature works.

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part of nature

Somewhere there is a superior alien civilization looking down on us and not stopping the human induced pollution of our earth because they do not want to interrupt our ever changing environment and cyclic ecosystem.

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@Andrew Kelly

How clever are dolphins?

Clever enough to have worked out that they can just mess around in the water having a good time while we invent the wheel, New York, wars etc.

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re: Human Arrogance

The Earth has been around longer much than 99% of the time we have been on it. There is no way we are going to destroy the Earth. What we are doing is destroying *ourselves*.

The remainder of the arrogant post is hardly worth commenting on.

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Anonymous Coward

bad conditions...

you buy your cheap imported goods from China where their working conditions are pre-victorian and their waste output is as toxic as our industrial revolution days. sooner or later those cheap goods are going to blight something or somebody.

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MTT

re: Human Arrogance

@ davcefai

"The remainder of the arrogant post is hardly worth commenting on."

Arrogant post? He/she was spot on in calling out hypocritical posters here. Moreover, the bit about how humans tend to remove our actions from natural selection is also completely accurate, and a major mistake that even some scientists make at times. Personally, I believe this stems from the a pseudo-religious view of the human place in the cosmos, one that assumes humanity's primacy in nature and therefore requires externalities to nature for all human actions.

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What a waste

There goes the cure for cancer.

That dolphin also knew what the meaning of life was, if only we were able to communicate with it before its demise.

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Anonymous Coward

No chance to see.

From memory Douglas Adams failed to see any dolphins - even in the 'dolphin sanctuary' because the Yangtze is naturally yellow with something like zero visability.

Scientists in boats have failed to find any dolphins using binoculars and microphones - so it is extinct.

The dolphins had a hard time finding each other at the best of times, but the noise from boats made matters worse. Pollution and fishing also played their part.

They also had a long reproductive cycle or something - It seems evolution favours the Vicky Pollards of the planet.

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Anonymous Coward

Human Arrogance

Dont feed the anonymous trolls guys, we need a comment system where anonymous coward posts only show to those who wish to see them.

Human influenced selection is *Not* natural selection. Natural selection is a procees that by definition is a result of random, unplanned events, not the result of one species stupidity. Of course the arrogance which they decry is actually their own. Morons

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