In search of secret wildlife Part I: Lost fishes

By |2021-10-13T11:25:58+00:00June 10th, 2021|Citizen Science, Extinction, Freshwater, In search of secret wildlife, Rivers|Comments Off on In search of secret wildlife Part I: Lost fishes

As our partner Shoal announce an exciting quest to find the world’s ten ‘most wanted’ lost species of freshwater fish, Nina Seale explores the importance of finding lost species and advancing conservation knowledge to address the biodiversity crisis.

Humongous ‘fossil fish’ resurfaced after at least a century in West Indian Ocean. Giant tortoise ‘extinct for 100 years’ rediscovered in the Galapagos Islands. ‘Living fossil’ rediscovered in Pacific Ocean after 273 million years. Orange-eyed owl reappears after 125 years in Borneo. Scientists rediscover rare, wild species of coffee thought to have been lost over 60 years ago in Sierra Leone. ‘Golden wonder’ salamander sighted in Guatemala after a 40-year disappearance. Seven of the ‘25 Most Wanted Lost Species’ have been found since the search began in 2017.

These headlines are some of the most heartening stories to read for those of us passionate about wildlife and concerned about the biodiversity crisis. Every time a lost species reappears, we are filled with hope about their future and excitement about what we might learn about an elusive species from its rediscovery.

Bolitoglossa jacksoni, the lost ‘Golden Wonder’ salamander was rediscovered in Yal Unin Yul Witz Reserve in 2017. Image: Carlos Vasquez Almazan

When Re:wild (formerly Global Wildlife Conservation) first launched their search for lost species, they compiled a list of 2,100 species of plants and animals which were missing to science. Combine this figure with the projected millions of species which have never even been discovered by scientists; a 2011 study estimated that

“In spite of 250 years of taxonomic classification and over 1.2 million species already catalogued in a central database, our results suggest that some 86% of existing species on Earth and 91% of species in the ocean still await description.”

How Many Species Are There on Earth and in the Ocean?

It is truly humbling to consider how little we know about life on our planet, and yet how much damage we have already caused to our natural environment and the species we share it with.