Passenger pigeons:
I’ve been invited to write an article, not that it is likely to get published, and while working on it I have had occasion to look again at much that I have written here. 

One of the iconic studies that I, just like everybody else, has paid little heed to is the study of mice mating in a large gene pool done by J. Calhoun.  They died out.

So, in fact and equally surprisingly, did the passenger pigeon.  I shall not attempt to retell their sad tale.  Here is a link to wikipedia.

Most who have thought about it have blamed their demise on excessive hunting.  But I am suspicious that the effect may have been indirect.  Calhoun comes to mind.  After a significant proportion of the birds had been slaughtered, the survivors might have gathered into smaller flocks that were unrelated (relatively; everything is related to a degree) individuals so that while their census numbers were plummeting their local diversity was increasing.  I think the same thing affected the Native Americans. 

There is still interest in the birds. (SNV, Heed the Warnings, Science vol. 346 no. 6210 November 7, 2014 page 714)      This is the 100th anniversary of the end of the last of them.  Current thinking is that modern surveillance would have provided a warning such that conservation efforts could have been put into place and saved them.  I’m not so sure.  Calhoun’s mice were beyond recall long before the end.

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