Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ancient and Modern Condors Coexisted

Californians are serious about their condors, but you have to admit, this is one butt-ugly bird. It really looks like a Jim Henson creation to me. Despite a fairly successful breeding program, the released birds fall prey to toxins in the environment and idiot hunters who can't resist taking a shot at that enormous wingspan.
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California condors are an endangered species. Captive breeding programs have boosted their numbers after poachers and habitat destruction pushed them to the brink of extinction. Credit: AP Photo

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New comparisons of modern California condor bones to those found in Los Angeles’ La Brea Tar Pits show that two distinct species of these large vultures roamed the skies before the end of the last ice age, providing a compelling answer to a long-standing question.

At the end of the Pleistocene epoch about 10,000 years ago, when Earth was thawing out from the Ice Age, two types of condors competed over resources in what is now California, but it has been unclear if they were distinct species. The California condor seen in the skies today ultimately triumphed (though it is currently listed as Critically Endangered), while the others perished.

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