|photo by Christian Mehlführer|
But here's a funny side effect of our having averted the imminent extinction of the largest flying bird in North America: we killed off every last Colpocephalum californici—condor louse—when the birds were treated for parasites. Without much (or really, any) thought, we caused the louse to go extinct.
So what? That's exactly what scientists and others are grappling with--the question of which species we should try to save, and what are the effects of choosing not to save a species—or choosing to exterminate it.
Here are a few schools of thought in the we-should-save-them camp (pick yours):
~ intrinsic right to exist (just like tigers, whales and other "charismatic megafauna")
~ parasites may play an important role in the immune systems of their hosts (they co-evolved together and parasites may influence population numbers)
~ study of parasites can teach us important info about their hosts (bacteria helped trace human migration; whale "lice" revealed info about right whale populations)
~ potential to provide some value to humans (medicines yet to be discovered)
~ parasites may play important roles within the ecological community (As Murr Brewster's daddy pointed out, mosquitoes are frog food (Monday's nature quote)
Parasites as endangered species. What do you think about that?