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Posts Tagged ‘Cancer Detection’

Biodiversity is a the total number of species that exist. Biodiversity can be assessed on many scales. People can look at the biodiversity of a particular park or reserve, a county, a state, a habitat type, a continent, or they can assess the total number of species on the entire planet. Biodiversity is an incredibly important measure of ecosystem health because so much of what keeps ecosystems working are in interconnections of all the various species that live in them. As those species are lost, all are effected and many more may be lost as a result of the loss of the first. This ecological interactions reason is one of the arguments put forward to protect biodiversity, and it is one of the most important in my opinion, but there are many other.

A fewof the more prominent reasons to protect biodiversity come on moral/ethical grounds. For example there is the argument that each species has a right to exist. Just as each human as a inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, so to does each species. By the very dint of the fact that they have made it this far in evolutionary history, they should be protected. Another reason that is put forward to protect biodiversity is that we, the people, have an obligation to act as stewards of the earth. Since we are the ones who are most responsible for much of the habitat disruption that is occurring planet-wide, we have the responsibility to also be the ones who minimize the negative effects of those disruptions on the other species that call Earth home. A third ethical argument for preserving biodiversity is that we all have a duty to our descendents. Someday, our great-great-great grand kids will be wandering around and wondering how the Earth got be the way they see it. It is up to decide what Earth those descendents will look at, at is seems prudent to make sure it is a good one.

But some people are not moved by these kinds of arguments. They say that if a action benefits humans, then that action is worth taking. Working towards the betterment of humanity is a high and worth goal. So, if you are one of those people that does not put a lot of weight in the wish-washy philosophical arguments of moral rights and wrongs, here is a very human-centered reason to protect biodiversity.

Mantis Shrimp can see cancer.

Yes, you read that right. Mantis Shrimp, which are really cool shrimp that can hit things harder than anything else in the animal kingdom, can see cancer cells. Part of how these shrimp see is by using polarized light. When given choices between tissues that contained cancer cells and healthy tissues, they were able to pick the two apart! Researchers are now in the process of using the same polarized light detection ability in a camera so that doctors, and anyone else, will also be able to see cancer cells in a person. This may even become something as everyday as a cellphone app. that you could download and use to scan yourself. Talk about early detection!

Now here is a non-philisophical argument to protect biodiversity. There was really no way to predict that Mantis Shrimp would have this ability. There was no way to predict that Horseshoe Crabs would have bacteria detection agent in their blood (another amazing story). The only way we were able to find these abilities in other animals was to have those animals around and then have some scientist get lucky enough to try something crazy. That is how science works, but there would be no way for these discoveries to be made in the Mantis Shrimp had already gone extinct before anyone had the chance to find out what it could do! Who knows what else is out there waiting to be discovered! But if those species, what ever they are, go extinct before we get a chance to study them, we will never know what we have lost.

Let that sink in for a moment.

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