Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Ugly Animal Preservation Society

The IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species. This List is used for information and analyses on the status, trends and threats to species in order to establish a baseline from which to monitor status changes, monitor biodiversity trends, establish conservation priorities, and provide freely available data. Their are seven classifications of species: Least Concern (LC), Near Threatened (NT), Vulnerable (VU), Endangered (EN), Critically Endangered (CR), Extinct in the Wild (EW), and Extinct (EX).

The IUCN Red List currently has over 4,000 species listed as Critically Endangered. This classification includes species such as gorillas and leopards, but the list is made up primarily of less charismatic species than these. The ugly species, if you will. These ugly species are important, of value, and contribute to their ecosystems in significant ways.

Now, evolutionary biologist Simon Watt has proposed that we stand up for these less aesthetically pleasing creatures through the Ugly Animal Preservation Society (UAPS). When you really take the time to find out about them, many of these ugly animals are more weird and fascinating than their charismatic co-inhabitants. Simon often champions the Canadian blue-grey taildropper slug. This slug is bright blue and has the interesting behavior of dropping its tail when it is scared. Yep, its butt drops off so the predator can eat it while the slug gets away. Don't worry though, it grows a new butt.

Recently, the UAPS had their first general meeting. Okay, well, it was sort of an excuse to get a bunch of comedians in the same room together to talk about ugly animals, but it turned out to be productive anyway. The audience of this meeting voted on a species that would represent the UAPS as their mascot. The winner was the Proboscis Monkey. Sure, you may find this breed of ugly to be kind of cute until you find out that this monkey's digestive system makes them bloat up and become massively flatulent. Ew.

We are all guilty of it: we get so caught up in the cute, the cuddly, and the beautiful that we sometimes forget about everyone else. The UAPS also takes an "everyone else" viewpoint in that they champion saving a habitat rather than a single species. By protecting a habitat, we save all of the species within it, ugly and cute alike.

What do you think? What is your favorite ugly animal....or plant (we shouldn't forget about plants!)?

(via the Naked Scientists podcast)

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