Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Extinct seal tells of once-teeming Caribbean reefs - Yahoo! Singapore News --- Towards the end of the 19th century, the seals were reduced to a final redoubt of a few atolls -- and their worst enemy became natural history museums and private collectors keen for monk seal skeletons. In one disastrous episode, a 1911 expedition to Mexico by natural-history enthusiasts killed 200 seals, leaving just a handful alive, and driving the depleted population further towards extinction. In a study published on Wednesday in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, oceanographers Loren McClenachan and Andrew Cooper perform a heroic act of biostatistics in recreating the life and sad demise of the seal. They calculate that, before the massacre, between 233,000 and 338,000 monk seals lived in the Caribbean. Such a huge population could only survive, of course, provided there was a huge supply of food.


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