Tuesday, June 28, 2011

29/06 VOX POPULI: Human activities hasten global extinction of species

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.

Adjectives to describe reptiles include slippery, creepy and cold. Be it snakes or lizards, reptiles are shiny and appear cold. But surprisingly, dinosaurs that once ruled the planet had body temperatures comparable to humans, according to an article that appeared in a Tokyo edition of The Asahi Shimbun.

A team of American and German researchers published findings that Brachiosaurus and Camarasaurus, both herbivores, had body temperatures of 36 to 38 degrees. However, since it had been estimated that their temperature was around 40 degrees, the adjustment was downward. In recent years, researchers have pushed the theory that dinosaurs are the origin of birds, but as an amateur, I find the combination of dinosaurs and human body temperature interesting.

Brachiosaurus is estimated to have measured 23 meters long and weighed 40 tons. To maintain its huge body, large quantities of food were needed. According to researchers, it is possible that the gigantic animal minimized energy consumption by curbing its body temperature to that of humans. But such "efforts" are believed to have come to naught when an asteroid struck Earth 65 million years ago.

The impact generated a huge dust cloud, blocking sunlight and causing many species to go extinct from the cold and a shortage of food. Since it is said that the larger the animals, the weaker they were, the event was fatal to dinosaurs.

Nowadays, about 100 species are said to become extinct every day. Humans are likened to "modern asteroids" that bring harm. Yet, the word "biodiversity" that we frequently saw and heard last year is hardly heard these days. Come to think of it, it has never appeared in this column, either, this year.

While reflecting on my negligence, I worry about our planet where creatures prosper. Warning bells that Earth has entered a period of mass extinction of species caused by human activities are growing louder. The death of the environment leads to the death of civilization. We must not forget our own crisis that is slowly closing in.

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 28

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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