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Biotech Science

Extinct Wildflower Found In California 343

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the welcome-back dept.
Del writes "A Berkeley graduate student found the pink wildflower Eriogonom truncatum, known as the Mount Diablo buckwheat. The flower hasn't been seen for 70 years and has been rediscovered on the flanks of Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County."
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Extinct Wildflower Found In California

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 27, 2005 @05:30AM (#12653314)
    It's not really extinct. It can be found in California.
  • by el_womble (779715) on Friday May 27, 2005 @05:32AM (#12653323) Homepage
    In a rare interview Eriogonom truncatum states "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."
  • "Extinct" (Score:4, Informative)

    by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Friday May 27, 2005 @05:33AM (#12653324) Homepage Journal
    You keep using that word, and I don't think it means what you think it does. This flower is self-evidently not extinct.

    Clue : the phrase you're looking for is "Wildflower previously thought extinct".
    • You keep using that word, and I don't think it means what you think it does.

      Inconceivable! Are we talking about a buttercup or a buckwheat flower?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 27, 2005 @05:33AM (#12653326)
    "When I took people out to see it, they just walked right by it," Park said. "They couldn't grok that the thing could be so small and dainty."

    Oh.
    • Nerds come in all flavors with diverse interests. Understand that just about any interest in anything that resides in the umbrella of science is looked up on with disdain by "mainstream" America. Scientists, in any field, are generally regarded as "nerds" by your typical MBA.

      I have a great interest in botony, ichthyology (killifish, pupfish, goodeids), and ecology in addition to the standard "geek" computer/technology interests.

      While a lot of guys look at stuff like the Zaurus as something they can show
    • "Uh, where is that buckwheat again?"

      "It's right over there, you ninny."

      "I still don't see it ..."

      "Careful, you moron! No!"

      *crunch*

      Slashdot headline: "Extinct Wildflower Found in California is Extinct Again."

  • e's just been hiding.

    I'm guessing it was reaaaally small flower.

    Although seeds can be viable for a really long time, maybe that is the case here?
  • Oh my God.
    Following a different routine from his normal survey, he stumbled across the plants - about 20 in all - in full bloom
    We must hope that these 20 are the only ones. I hope that they'll move quickly enough to wipe out this terrible scourge once and for all.
    "When I took people out to see it, they just walked right by it," Park said. "They couldn't grok that the thing could be so small and dainty."
    We never see these horrors coming because deep down, we're just too good to imagine these things growing in our own backyards. We've been blind for too long.
    "It was very exciting, and I've spent a few weeks being stunned over this thing," he said. "But I'll be glad when it's over."
    We all will, Michael, we all will. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
    "At this point, it is really tenuous. Here, it's still hanging on by its fingernails, and the publicity alone could be enough to wipe it out again."
    We can only pray.
    • "At this point, it is really tenuous. Here, it's still hanging on by its fingernails, and the publicity alone could be enough to wipe it out again."
      We can only pray.


      I say we take off, nuke the site [google.com] from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
  • by Adrilla (830520) * on Friday May 27, 2005 @05:38AM (#12653355) Homepage
    Then the ivory-billed woodpecker [wikipedia.org] thought to also be extinct ate it.
  • Yeah, I know it was probably hibernation, I did RTFA of course.
  • keep it up (Score:3, Funny)

    by poor_boi (548340) on Friday May 27, 2005 @05:39AM (#12653366)
    1 down, 831 to go. [redlist.org]
  • Quick! (Score:4, Funny)

    by bigmouth_strikes (224629) on Friday May 27, 2005 @05:42AM (#12653375) Journal
    Someone make this a geocache spot so we can stampede it into extinction once and for all!
  • hmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by davidmcg (796487) on Friday May 27, 2005 @05:53AM (#12653406) Homepage
    It is now extinct again when scientists picked it and realised they couldn't keep it alive by putting into a glass of water.
    • Re:hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

      by monkeydo (173558)
      It would seem that the scientists may have had something to do with it's extinction.

      First reported in 1862, there are only seven historical records of the plant, the last in 1936, when Bowerman, one of the first women to receive a Ph.D. in botany from UC Berkeley, collected a sample from Mount Diablo.

      So the last reported sighting of this plant was 70 years ago when a botanist picked some. And then apparantly didn't extract any seeds, or plant it in a garden. Hoorray for preservation!

    • The remaining stems have been plucked to ensure its DNA at least survives. Scientists hope to revive the plant at a later date, when full cloning from one strand of DNA is made feasible.
  • Same flower? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FriedTurkey (761642) * on Friday May 27, 2005 @05:55AM (#12653412)
    How do we know that the original flower isn't still extinct? A new flower could have evolved back to look like the extinct flower. There is nothing in the article about testing it with a 70 year old sample.
    • Re:Same flower? (Score:2, Insightful)

      Somehow I don't see evolution doing the job in 70 years, that's pretty quick, even for a small plant and the odds of tracing the exact same evolutionary path twice are quite daunting. Especially in the case where apparently this flower had not much of an evolutionary advantage to begin with, as it was believed to be extinct
    • could have evolved back? In 70 years? Hell, maybe it just happened over the weekend. Speaking of which, where's my third arm? I've been here over 30 years now, and I can't see what is taking evolution so long!

      OK, granted a flower probably has at least one generation per year, while I do not. But still, "evolution" is generally thought to proceed in the span of millions of generations, not tens.

      wait, you're not from Dover, Pensylvannia, are you?

      • Insects evolve new species every year. Plants would probably evolve just as fast.

        A related species could be very similar and only small mutations would make it closely look like the species.
        • Insects can effectively evolve in a year because the typical insect lifespan is measured in DAYS, weeks at most.

          So when you have 50+ generations in a year, you tend to see new things more often.

          Plant lifespans are usually considerably more than that. Especially when you consider that many species of plants are programmed to let their seeds lie dormant for years/decades/centuries until just the right conditions arise. (which is thought to be the case here, if you RTFA)

          As opposed to our lifespans of 70+ ye
  • Just goes to show (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SimianOverlord (727643) on Friday May 27, 2005 @06:10AM (#12653463) Homepage Journal
    I imagine plants must be incredibly difficult to "declare extinct", after all - how would you show for sure that none are present in a country the size of America? Whilst plants may seem to be local to a specific area because of their preference for a certain type of soil, pH or shade, it doesn't follow that, because the ones you know about are dead, then the plant is extinct. It's too easy to rush to judgement, especially when environmentalists have an interest in declaring loudly how many species are threatened or are already extinct. After reading "A State Of Fear" recently, and whilst I haven't fallen for all of Crichtons selective misrepresentations, I suspect their motivations a bit more than I used to.
    • Re:Just goes to show (Score:5, Interesting)

      by abb3w (696381) on Friday May 27, 2005 @06:28AM (#12653514) Journal
      I imagine plants must be incredibly difficult to "declare extinct", after all - how would you show for sure that none are present in a country the size of America?

      Not to mention, how many seeds still are scattered that might yet someday germinate?

    • It also makes you wonder whether there are species of plants that we're walking by every day that are completely unknown to science.

      especially when environmentalists have an interest in declaring loudly how many species are threatened or are already extinct.

      Oh, that's an ad hominem. When the public can be made to understand that the issue is the issue is the loss of habitat diversity and its associated genetic information, then we can talk in more sophisticated ways.
    • by Colin Smith (2679) on Friday May 27, 2005 @06:59AM (#12653662)
      Extinction is the history of the earth. If a species is unsuitable for it's environment it dies out and is replaced by something else. Contrary to popular belief, no species has a right to exist.

      It would only concern me if key species that humans depend on were dying out.

      • The problem is, we usually don't know which species are the important ones until they are gone.

        And who'd have thought that you could find disease cures or amazingly advanced painkillers in rainforest plants?

        Biodiversity is one of the most valuable resources humans have, and we're burning it. Like burning the library of Alexandria, but a thousand times worse.
        • "The problem is, we usually don't know which species are the important ones until they are gone."

          Simply not true, we do already know which species are of high value and which are not. The number of disease cures and painkillers found in rainforests is frankly irrelevant, the human race has continued in the past and will continue unabated in the future without them.

      • Contrary to popular belief, no species has a right to exist.

        Ah, that explains your foreign policy. Those pesky arabs heh?

        .

        sorry :)

      • Extinction is the history of the earth. If a species is unsuitable for it's environment it dies out and is replaced by something else. Contrary to popular belief, no species has a right to exist. It would only concern me if key species that humans depend on were dying out.

        Yes, that happens occasionally. But the vast majority of extinctions in the last couple centuries have been due to mankind either exterminating that environment (to grow crops, build cities and dams, through pollution++), excessive hunti
        • Actually, there is a LOT of life that has evolved to fit our world. They are almost ALL pests (or pets), but few people could argue that various flies, mosquitos, pigeons, rodents many bacteria and unicellular organisms(Plasmodium falciparium (malaria) springs to mind as an organism which absolutely depends on mankind), etc haven't benefited greatly from man's changing of the world.

          I agree with your sentiment though, the diversity we see in the natural world today can not exist in the version of the world
        • "But the vast majority of extinctions in the last couple centuries have been due to mankind either exterminating that environment (to grow crops, build cities and dams, through pollution++), excessive hunting or vastly changing it by introducing foreign species."

          Sorry, but you are a naive romantic. Nature is life forms tearing each other apart, not fuzzy bunny cartoons. Mankind is just another life form taking advantage of those round about it. If they can't survive they don't deserve to.

          "You can't expect
          • No, we don't. We have no obligations to nature. Nature will go right on, evolving species on it's own, at some point something will come along and wipe out the human race and that will be nature too.

            And the most likely agent to do so is ourselves, because we, as a species, both have the capacity to alter our environment and also fail to recognize the consequences of doing so.

      • It would only concern me if key species that humans depend on were dying out.

        Please give us an example of a past mass extinction in which the dominant species on earth continued to be so after the extinction occurred. You can define "dominant" fairly loosely and still not find such an event in world history. (If you'd like to get as far as "sharks and turtles are the dominant forms of life on earth," or "bacteria rule the earth," then I guess you'll find this looming new mass extinction reassuring...)

        T

        • "Please give us an example of a past mass extinction in which the dominant species on earth continued to be so after the extinction occurred."

          Your premise is weak. Give me an example of a past life form on earth which was conscious and able to manipulate it's environment to the extent that we can.

      • If you would just RTA, you'd realize that this extinct plant that isn't extinct is "a unique part of our heritage".

        Just think of that. Amazing, huh? I know that I, for one, feel my heritage is *much* more complete now.

        Hey, I like wildflowers. I'm always glad to find out something isn't extinct, so long as the something isn't a mosquito, or killer bee, or fire ants, all of which could vanish tomorrow and I would dance on their grave. But I also tend not to lose sleep over a lot of this stuff.

        At the sa
      • by hey! (33014) on Friday May 27, 2005 @11:37AM (#12656244) Homepage Journal
        Contrary to popular belief, no species has a right to exist.

        How you frame a problem determines your policies and actions. This is the most incredibly misguided way of looking at this issue imaginable.

        What we are talking about can be framed in terms of human welfare, in the short, mid and long term.

        The loss of species is a loss of information; not just the information that is contained in the germ plasm, protein and anatomical structures, but information that is inherent in how that species fits into the ecological systems it has evolved. The relationship is two way -- loss of species decreases the information in the systems it is embedded in, loss of systems complexity leads to loss of speices.

        Leaving aside issues of bioprospecting, you might ask what this has to do with human welfare? The answer is, a lot. When species composition changes, ecosystems find a whole new set of equilibria. Sometimes this benefits people, sometimes it hurts. More often it hurts because the opportunistic species are seldom economically valuable, and in many cases pose the potential for harm.

        I'll give you a concrete example that covers both these cases. A friend of mine's family own an island, that has been in the family for well over a hundred years. Up until the 1980s, humans were the only major predators on the island, which meant there was a large deer herd -- a good thing. On the other hand, there was a large population of small rodents like meadow voles. The deer population is kept somewhat in check by human predation, but there is no such check on the rodent population. Since everything must be in the end food for something else, this meant dieases organisms and parasites: Borrelia spirochetes and ticks on the scale of a biblical plague. As a result, his family has had a decades long history of health problems: palsy, myalgia, fatigue, join pain etc., that was unexplainable until 1975. Lyme disease.

        Shortly after the rediscovery of Lyme disease, it also happened that the Eastern Coyote made it out to the island. As a result the deer herd dropped, which was bad, but the population of rodents and ticks crashed as well. You can now visit the island for a week or more, tramp through the grass and woods and not find a single tick. The thing is, the coyote is filling in ecological niche that was formerly filled by wolves, extinct in this range for centuries. In fact Eastern Coyotes are relatively more wolf-like than their wester cousins, all the better to take the mantle of number one top tier predator.

        It may well be the case that the reason that Lyme disease was so poorly characterized before, and so common now, can be explained by the biological impovershment of suburban and non-old growth forests.

        Similar issues surround hanta virus and other "emergent" infectious agents. Why do the emerge? Well, they emerge because human progress is not undertaken with sufficient sophistication to minimize unintended consequences. People get their nose bent out of shape because they'd rather not think that their actions have unintended consequences. Well, in the long term and maybe not so long term, knowing the consequences of your actions is smart.
      • Contrary to popular belief, no species has a right to exist. ... including homo sapiens.

        Before you so blithely dismiss extinction, let me pass along an analogy the late Carl Sagan used to use. Our earth is like an airplane and each one of the species is a rivet in the airplane. Losing a few here or there makes no discernible difference. A rivet may be lost in the natural course of events and then can be replaced. If humans begin casually popping rivets out, however, there will eventually be a big problem.
    • Re:Just goes to show (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dheltzel (558802)
      I imagine plants must be incredibly difficult to "declare extinct", after all - how would you show for sure that none are present in a country the size of America? Whilst plants may seem to be local to a specific area because of their preference for a certain type of soil, pH or shade, it doesn't follow that, because the ones you know about are dead, then the plant is extinct.

      Good point. This is obviously a case where there was a rush to judgement 70 years ago. It also tends to be a self-fulfilling prophe

    • They've had plant turn up that were extinct for eons after turning over swampland to build a building where the seeds were sitting preseved in a peat bog.

      There is a pretty famous case of this where there were seeds in a canoe found in a peat bog and they were able to recover a 1000 year old extinct lotus from.

      What i dislike is when environmentalists say something is extinct but what they really mean is that its regionally extinct which to me is alot less worrysome also because it doesnt meantion how large
    • Good: Eriogonom truncatum is alive. The Ivory Bill is alive.
      Bad: Which some people will say means it was unnecessary to have so many laws protecting the environment these last 30 years.
      Good: Their return from the dead may spark kids' interest in biology and conservation.
      Bad: Their return from the dead will fuel the public's distrust of any prediction of environmental disaster since "the scientists were wrong last time."

      All in all, though, where there's life, there's hope.
  • by xAXISx (855579)
    the Berkeley graduate student's girlfriend was flattered with the flower her boyfriend gave her.
  • Looks like the doomsday guys need to do a rethink, Maybe we aren't so badly placed after all.
    Moreover I feel just like petrol was nothing till the automotives came , the lowly sand or dirty effluents may yet make our day and we may yet have regions of the earth flourishing suddenly as did the arab countries.

  • Be sure to adorn yourself with, for example, some nonextinct wildflowers known as Mount Diable Buckwheat in your hair.

    When you travel to the metropolitan Bay Area, typically you will encounter some nonviolent people attempting to change the world through peaceful coexistence and overpriced real estate.

    To ensure your acceptance, decorate yourself with several varieties of attractive vascular plants.
  • by aziraphale (96251) on Friday May 27, 2005 @06:43AM (#12653591)
    I find it amazing that, of all the places that Mount Diablo Buckwheat should turn up, it'd be on the slopes of Mount Diablo.

    It's funny nobody thought of looking there before...
  • by MrP- (45616)
    Whoa, if you look at the picture [berkeley.edu] at the bottom it says "Closeup of a fly on the flower of a Mount Diablo buckwheat plant."

    I'd say thats a bigger discovery.. a fly that looks like a bee!
    • It certainly does not look like a bee, more like a wasp.
    • Re:Whoa! (Score:3, Informative)

      by kfg (145172)
      I'd say thats a bigger discovery.. a fly that looks like a bee!

      A bit late for that:

      Bee Fly [geocities.com]

      You can tell it looks like a bee because it's fat and fuzzy, unlike the insect in the flower picture, but here's one that looks like a wasp:

      Wasp Fly [crosspaths.net]

      Sorry, but science has already been there and done that.

      KFG
  • "When I took people out to see it, they just walked right by it," Park said. "They couldn't grok that the thing could be so small and dainty." ... I got myself thinking that line one some *other* situation... kinda embarrassing.

  • Now the entire area will be blocked off and set aside as a sanctuary.
    Evoflunky: "This is the ONLY place on Earth where this flower is known to exist!"
    Bystander: "Yes, but just yesterday you thought it was extinct. Why effect all of these people and businesses when it may very well exist elsewhere."
    Evoflunky: "Tell you what, you find it somewhere else and we can open this area back up! See you in, oh 70 years. Next question?"
    I feel a "Troll" mod coming...wait for it...wait for it!
  • We all know you can't prove a negative, therefore, you can't prove anything is extinct.

    I think alien picnickers had the wildflower seeds their sandwich rolls, and lost some.

    I also have it on good authority, for example, that the genetic material for dinosaurs is safe and sound on the mothership. Lets hope the next picnic doesn't involve escaped raptors that were meant for the BBQ!

    Prove this isn't so.

  • When I was a student studying Fish and Wildlfe Management, I had a summer job with the local Conservation Authority. One of my tasks was to perform a bio-inventory of a wetland they owned. One day I found a plant which was listed as rare in Ontario. I actually phoned the people who were responsible for maintaining the list, only to be told it was now upgraded to common. Seems they had been doing a lot of surveys of wetlands recently and were finding this plant more often than they expected. It was this love
  • Few weeks ago Cornell orinthologists rediscovered ivory-billed woodpecker in Big Woods of Arkansas. It was believed to be extinct as well. More than 60 years after the last confirmed sighting of the species in the United States they found at least one male ivory-bill still survives in vast areas of bottomland swamp forest.

    Story here [cornell.edu]

  • by Zebra_X (13249)
    Extinct Wildflower Found In California

    Not exitinct now is it?
  • Two days after the location of the thought-to-be-extinct flower was announced, all specimens were trampled to death by vacationing city dwellers.
  • by DaveJay (133437) on Friday May 27, 2005 @10:08AM (#12655269)
    Don't be so sure this is actually the once-thought-extinct flower they say it is, because fact-checking doesn't seem to be this article-writer's strong point: notice that the caption on the picture of what is clearly a bee sitting on the flower says that it is "a fly".

    Of course, that may be the rare and once-thought-extinct beefly, who mimicks bees the same way a viceroy butterfly mimics monarch butterflies...

    I have rediscovered the beefly! Hooray for me!

It's a naive, domestic operating system without any breeding, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption.

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