"Taiwan’s Pygmy Seahorses Have a Robust Social Media Presence" Discussion Thread

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Fascinating.

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I read this with mixed emotion. Seahorses are one of the most magical of sea creatures, and that is saying something about a world of incredibly magical sea life. Having discovered this minute and elusive sprite, humans converge on it in droves. They find one and do what? Capture and put it in their refrigerator for later study in order to learn more about it in order to "protect’ it. This is standard scientific ‘reasoning’. Does anyone else see the absurdity? Left alone, these seahorses seem to be doing a pretty good job eluding humans on their own. Given the state of the oceans and our active destruction of them, why can’t we just observe them, take pix, and leave them to their own devices? Our intervention seems noble, but I strongly question its wisdom. Many animals have been deemed extinct only to be sighted on occasion. The moral seems to be that they do much better left alone. They may or may not survive, but I prefer to give them a chance without our “help”.

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When scientists study animals, except in the case of animals so close to extinction the population is not large enough to be statistically valid, they are only looking at a very small subset of the population. Yes, the techniques and methods used to gather information about a species may be disruptive or even destructive to individuals. Unfortunately, pictures alone will not provide us with all the information that is needed, but if our studies leads to targeted conservation measures that save an entire population at risk, then that small sacrifice is absolutely worth it.

You say give them a chance to live or go extinct on their own, but whether we study them or not, no animal on this planet is truly ‘on their own’. Humanity has altered the environment to suit its needs rather than adapting to the environment, and that has an impact on everything. If we do not interfere and the pygmy seahorse goes extinct, it is not because it wasn’t fit for its environment, it’s because we altered the environment so it was no longer fit for the seahorse. It would be our fault as the majority of all extinctions in the anthropocene have been. If you want to bring an emotional argument into it, we don’t intervene because it’s noble. If anything, we do it out of a kind of collective guilt. We know what harm we have caused, whether out of necessity or simply for convenience. But, if we can save one endangered species (especially a cute one), we can feel better about our overall impact, even if we do not even come close to breaking even.

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