Yangtze River dolphin likely extinct

Yangtze River dolphin / baiji
Image credit: Wikipedia.

I was rather upset to see that the Yangtze River dolphin, also known as the baiji (Lipotes vexillifer), is thought to be likely extinct. This freshwater dolphin, which lived only in China’s Yangtze River, is probably the first cetacean (dolphin or whale) to go extinct due to human influence. Of course, humans have been responsible for wiping out species since before recorded history, but it is disturbing that we still do so. Human-induced extinctions are always regrettable events, but I admit I am especially attached to the dolphins, and I find it quite sad to lose a species of such a highly intelligent mammal.

Cetaceans, of course, evolved from land mammals around fifty million years ago. You’d have to go back only another thirty-five million years to find the last common ancestor of humans and cetaceans. That’s less than 2% of the age of the Earth (around 4.6 billion years)!