back to article Deadly domino effect of extinction proved by boffins

Boffins have proved a theory for the first time that the extinction of one animal has a domino effect on other species. The researchers from the University of Exeter found that when a carnivore dies out, other predatory species could soon follow. The bioboffins used parasitic wasps to prove the ripple-effect one extinction …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. JulianB

    "In the tanks that only held one kind of wasp, the second went extinct within a few generations"

    That makes no sense at all.

    I follow the thrust of the argument: that if one predator goes extinct, its prey thrives, outcompetes another prey species, second prey species either goes extinct or is at least severely reduced in numbers, predator that preys on now extinct prey species goes extinct.

    But I don't think the predator that wasn't in the tank in the first place would take "a few generations" to disappear.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      also : the photograph labelled "CHOW TIME!" ?

      It shows a female wasp using her ovipositor to place eggs in the aphid, not feeding on it. The feeding comes later, when the wasp eggs hatch...

    2. MondoMan

      Re: "In the tanks that only held one kind of wasp, the second went extinct within a few generations"

      Yep, the article is very poorly written. Note later where the aphids are called "flies".

  2. Richard Scratcher
    Paris Hilton

    Damn these deadly dominos!

    Another example of man's creations destroying the planet.

    1. Jim McCafferty

      Re: Damn these deadly dominos!

      I always felt a bit jaded watching them on Record Breakers. An entire ecosystem destroyed in 5 minutes.

  3. Steve Crook

    Climate change????

    Cynic that I am, I expected to see it mentioned in the article. Three cheers for not doing so. It's actually quite an interesting bit of work, but I do wonder how applicable it is in the real world, as most prey species have multiple predators, and most predators have multiple prey species....

  4. David Pollard

    So, Lynn Margulis ...

    ... and others of similar ilk were perhaps not so far wrong..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So, Lynn Margulis ...

      Only if "Gaia" only had predators with one prey and prey with one predator. What usually happens outside of laboratory tanks is that another predator takes over.

  5. Rocket

    too simple a study

    In this one predator/one prey scenario I see how it works, but to scale that up to the plains of Africa and fish in the sea where many predators eat many prey is ignoring many other factors.

    Publicity driven science seems to have all the simple answers

    1. Anonymous IV

      Re: too simple a study

      Was it an old Monty Python sketch, where a confident geologist was standing next to a life-size reconstruction of an enormous dinosaur based entirely on the discovery of a single tiny tail bone?

      1. toxicdragon

        Re: too simple a study

        If memory serves it was a toe, that they mistook for the nose.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @toxic dragon

          "If memory serves it was a toe, that they mistook for the nose."

          the thumb spike of the iguanadon was mistaken for a small horn

      2. Gerhard den Hollander

        ... in the tanks that only held one kind of wasp, the second went extinct ...

        Ann Elk also had a pretty good theory on brontosauruses, which made as much sense as the species not being in the tank getting extinct

        > In the tanks that only held one kind of wasp, the second went extinct within a few generations

        Is this some kind of weird quantum entanglement ?

        Where we get some kind of schroedinger wasp ?

        you wont know if the second species is exting until you look in the box to see if the first species still lives ?

        ... puzzled ...

    2. Paul Kinsler Silver badge

      Re: "Publicity driven science seems to have all the simple answers"

      I doubt very much that the science was driven by a desire for publicity. Most likely they just worked out a way of making this (scientifically) interesting and useful experiment* amenable to public consumption, and when the Reg saw the press release they rewrote it a bit and stuck it on here. Please do not confuse the press release/media report with the actual science.

      As for its simplicity: very possibly you could get this result in a computer simulation, or even predict it with a mathematical description, but it's very nice to see it in a system involving real biology as well. And stripping back the system to the bare minimum enables you to discover general principles that are utterly obscured in something as complicated as a real-world ecosystem. Extracting simple answers from a confusing mess is /good/ science[*], after all, the utility of statements like "it's all too complicated, we haven't got a sodding clue what's going on!" is somewhat limited.

      [*] and of course scientists also make a point of understanding the limitations of those simple answers.

    3. T.a.f.T.

      Re: too simple a study

      I tihnk it was 2 predators and 2 prey; of which each preditor had a preference for only one of the prey items but would take the other if it needed to. I agree it was a very simple model though but it is a start at least.

      Just need to scale it up to use several game reserves and wipe out 1 big cat species in a reserve to see how the other cats do.

    4. Killraven

      Re: too simple a study

      The point was to only show that an ecosystem can also be affected in the long term by the removal of predators, as well as prey. As such, only a small scale experiment is needed.

      Sometimes baby steps are needed.

    5. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Turing, Shockley, Berners-Lee

      They were all wasting their time since they couldn't possibly have predicted 4chan.

      Reduction, folks. Not a dirty word, just how science works.

  6. Jim McCafferty

    Infamy, they've all got it infamy

    The timing of the reporting of this is somewhat suspicious, given the other story about algae changing in the arctic. Have the greenies given up trying to predict earth scorching temperatures and moved on to a new plan of action?

  7. NomNomNom

    Token 'tard Comment

    Am I the only one not sick of this so-called "science"?

    Why can't these "researchers" in their ivory towers just shut the hell up? Their "research" is rubbish in my eyes. I belittle it. It's too simple. I could do better, if I could be bothered. I have a far better understanding of the subject and their field of research just from 5 minutes of common sense thinking.

    Why aren't they making rockets like proper scientists?

    I am glad they didn't mention climate change though. I see a connection between climate change, extinctions and implications of this study, but I'd hate that to be pointed out at all.

    Oh and funny how this study came out in August isn't it? Timing is very suspicious given August is the warmest month of the year in the northern hemisphere. And people claim the Illuminati don't exist...

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: I could do better, if I could be bothered

      Well, it's obviously because you're not bothered that other people try.

      Forgive them their inadequacy, O Illustrious One. I'm sure that, if you could just share the ideas of your insightful mind, Humanity in its entirety would make great strides in improving itself.

      And please give us more of your precious insight as to how the Illuminati are controlling the world, we all need a good laugh from time to time.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    J.H. Christ!

    Can somebody please proofread El Reg copy prior to publishing--pronoun reference would be one place to start--so I don't have to read it twice, or thrice, to understand wtf the writer was trying to communicate?

    1. Tieger

      Re: J.H. Christ!

      It really isn't that complicated. If you're seriously having problems with it (which i doubt) I shudder to think how painful 90% of the internet must be for you....

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: J.H. Christ!

        So it's fine not to bother making something user-friendly because the user can figure it out if they try hard enough?

        I bet you're using Linux.

  9. Gordon Pryra

    Dammed Lies!

    This is our world to do with as we like

    "God gave to man a dominion over the inferior creatures, over fish of the sea"

    Science and common sense are inherently sinful. Its even worse than allowing women a say, or teaching the masses how to read.

    This article is obviously written by the devil.

    1. P. Lee

      Re: Dammed Lies!

      > "God gave to man a dominion over the inferior creatures, over fish of the sea"

      And look what a good job we've done with it!

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Dammed Lies!


  10. JDX Gold badge

    Hardly a proof

    An interesting experiment but it's so simple that it didn't need to BE done, the results are so obvious. It's disingenious to evolutionary scientists to claim this proves any aspect of evolutionary theory - it's on a par with Christians claiming proof of intelligent design by cherry-picking some aspect of darwinism and building an argument around it (and I write that as a christian).

    1. 5.antiago

      Re: Hardly a proof

      "It's disingenious to evolutionary scientists to claim this proves any aspect of evolutionary theory"

      I must confess, I missed the bit in the article where evolutionary scientists made this claim. It does, nevertheless, support it

  11. Tikimon

    Oversimplified system = invalid conclusion

    There are other population-control mechanisms that the researchers left out, rendering their sweeping conclusions overstated. Diseases, other predators, competition from other parasitic bugs, the list goes on. Any of these in the Real World could take advantage of the sudden boom in one bug (read: food source or host).

    Science (rightly) tries to control for variables, but simply pretending other variables won't matter is bad science.

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: Oversimplified system = invalid conclusion

      "rendering their sweeping conclusions overstated"

      what sweeping conclusions? go on, your turn.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's in Glory Road.

    Although with different species.

    A demonstration of something that seems likely is a good piece of science.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bad news for wasps, good news for aphids.

  14. Charlie van Becelaere

    Tut tut

    All the nattering nabobs of negativism here - I am shocked!

    It seems all to boil down to this:

    We think this is how things always work.

    We saw it work this way once under controlled conditions.

    Therefor, it always works this way, always has, and always will.

    It's simple logic, folks. Poke at it all you like, but ...

    never mind.

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: Tut tut

      They didn't claim it always works this way.

      Look at the study as being a demonstration, highlighting a principle that should be taken into account in the real world. They aren't saying it always applies, they are pointing out that it exists.

      Demonstrating it in controlled conditions is one step up from theorizing about it.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good news for us omnivores.

  16. Ted Treen


    In another experiment involving parasites...

    What do we have to hide for the Palace of Westminster, Whitehall dens and Council Chambers all to become empty & deserted...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So...

      The money.

  17. Herby

    On another scientific front, relating to genetic diversity...

    DNS needs some varied implementations, there might be predators out there.

    I couldn't resist...

  18. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Look at what was actually being *tested*.

    ""Our experiment provides the first *proof* of something that biologists have argued for a long time: predators can have indirect effects on each other (*not* the things they prey on), to the extent that when one species is lost, the loss of these indirect effects can lead to further extinctions,""

    IOW something that was *believed* to happen, has now been *proved* to happen (at least in some simplified ecosystems).

    It could just as easily have been proved *not* to happen, which would have also been interesting.

    Thumbs up for actually going out and finding out.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021