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  • Richard Conniff writes about behavior, in humans and other animals, on two, four, six, and eight legs, plus the occasional slither.

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10 Ways Obscure Species Save Our Lives

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 9, 2013

Look what's in your medicine cabinet

Look what’s in your medicine cabinet

Why should it matter when scientists discover yet another obscure insect or fungus? Who really cares if we let one such species, or 100,000, go extinct? I get the question from time to time when I am giving a talk. Sometimes I find myself asking it, because the astonishing abundance of life on Earth can at times seem overwhelming. So why does it matter?

Without meaning to make it too personal, my standard response is that the person asking the question would probably be dead, or in great discomfort, were it not for a variety of obscure and often forgotten species. (I try not to add, “And good riddance.”)

About half the drugs we depend on in our daily lives come directly or indirectly from the natural world. Even doctors and drug companies tend to forget this inconvenient truth, maybe because they like to think that they are the ones who cure what ails you. So here are some examples to suggest why Nature deserves a considerable share of the credit:   … to read the full article, click here.


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