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Endangered Species

Teacher/Instructor Patrick Roisen
Patrick Roisen

M.Ed., Stanford University
Winner of multiple teaching awards

Patrick has been teaching AP Biology for 14 years and is the winner of multiple teaching awards.

Endangered species are defined as a species that is in immediate danger of going extinct. Species become endangered through a number of factors including disease, human activities and competition with other species. Examples of endangered species include the mountain gorilla and the black rhino. Another category is something called a threatened or vulnerable species. These are species that are in danger in the near-term.

When you hear the term endangered species, I'm pretty sure you pretty much know what it means. They are in danger but what are they in danger of. Well an endangered species is one that's in immediate danger of going extinct, that their numbers have diminished to such a level and their communities where they live the ecosystem they live in are in such a state that they may go extinct in just a few generations.
Now this can be due to many factors including what we humans do for example if we hunt them that can drive their numbers down. If we build a parking lot on top of the nesting ground for something that can start to drive them toward that level of extinction.
But we are not the only things out there remember there is lots of organisms on this planet that drive each other into extinction. A lot of times you can have diseases wipe out a species that we have absolutely no problems with right now for example in the US there's problems with our honey bees and that something is causing their colonies to start to diminish in number and size. And we're trying everything we can to slow that down because our agriculture depends on honey bees to help pollinate our crops.
You can also wind up having a new population of different species moving into that area and winding up in competition and if one side, one species is going to be the loser they may wind up in danger of going extinct. Now some examples of endangered species are the California Condo, Mountain Gorilla, the Black Rhino.
Now there's some other terms that are used occasionally to describe a species that is not necessarily in danger right away but maybe in the near future and that's threatened or sometimes vulnerable; you'll see those terms used. And again those are just species that their numbers are going down or they are where they live is being threatened and so that includes things like the Komodo Dragon or the Bald Eagle.
Now an example of why would we care about whether or not we put something on the endangered species, the American Bison was threatened with extinction and people start working hard to try to maintain their numbers. Now they're still I think considered threatened but their numbers are rising and in fact nowadays ranchers are starting to raise bison because they've discovered that their meat is perhaps a little bit healthier at least according to some people compared to beef yet it has kind of a nice beefy taste. And so by putting them on the endangered species list it maintains their numbers so that we could then ultimately raise their numbers up to a more sustainable level and now we are getting some benefit out of it. And I actually had a bison burger a couple of months ago and it's pretty tasty.