In the latest issue of Mother Jones, Julia Whitty has a great story on how the BP oil spill is likely to affect the complex ecology of the Gulf for years to come. The piece is too hard to summarize, and is well worth reading in full (she covers possible affects on a wide range of different habitats and species), but this section in particular—on tubeworms of all things—underscored how little we know about what all that dispersed and dissolved oil will do to the region: Least certain of all is what's happening to the life at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
Along with the Broad-Faced Potoroo, the Flores Cave Rat, the Guam Flying Fox, the Japanese Wolf, the Syrian Wild Ass, and, oh yes, our pal the dodo, we can add the Caribbean monk seal, last seen in 1952, to the official list of extinct species. The U.S. government declared it so over the weekend, after five futile years without a sighting. Overhunting had done it in: But what does one less species of seal really matter? Should anyone care? (See also Andy Revkin's question at the Times the other day: "Does the world need leatherback turtles?