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Wednesday
Feb062013

Causes of Rarity

The issue of rarity in nature is an interesting one, as there are many reasons species are rare, some of them obscure. You can be rare because you are a big cat and require a vast territory of small animals to hunt, all to yourself. You can be rare because you're stuck on an island alone, genetically isolated from your cousins on the mainland; you're rare because you're overhunted; you can be rare for no obvious reason. In the Wall Street Journal last week I looked at a new book by Eric Dinerstein, the chief scientist for the World Wildlife Federation, who's spent many years thinking about rarity and identifying the rarest and -- the hard part -- attempting to predict which rare species will become ultra-rare, like this maned wolf of Brazil, whose savannahs are being quickly converted to soy fields. I am wondering whether the photo used with the review, below, depicts a live animal or some particularly well maintained taxidermic specimen posed in a museum diorama. If it's the latter I doubt it was intentional, but I like the irony of it. 

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