1. Wandering albatross
The Google Doodle begins with an animated albatross in flight, with its remarkable ability of dynamic soaring that enables it to spend weeks hovering over the sea or migrating – without even flapping its wings once. The wandering albatross has the widest wingspan in the bird world, often reaching up to 3.5 m, the average being 3 m to 3.1 m.
The seabird is presently categorised as a vulnerable species by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), just one step short of becoming endangered. Owing to longline fishing, marine plastic pollution and the menace of fishing hooks, thousands of albatross are getting killed every year. Due to heavy trawling along coastlines, many of these birds get caught in fishermen’s nets as bycatch.
2. Coastal Redwood
Textbooks talk about the monstrously tall Sequoia sempervirens or Coastal Redwood tree of California as the tallest living species on earth, standing at a massive 377 feet. The tree is also one among the oldest surviving flora on the planet.
The species currently features in the endangered category of IUCN list.
Even two centuries ago, the trees were nowhere near their present crisis, as forests of Coastal Redwood trees covered an enormous expanse of 2,100,000 acres in coastal California. Rampant deforestation due to commercial logging and urban expansion have reduced the number of these marvellous giants to merely a handful.
Since 1918, the Save The Redwoods League has been working actively to preserve these trees. Aside from climate change, they consider lack of awareness, illegal marijuana cultivation and forest fires as the major threats to the Redwood trees. In addition, irreparable damage is being caused by the unfortunate practice of burl poaching, where stress-induced outgrowths or ‘burls’ of Redwood trees are chopped off for their demand in the furniture industry.
3. Paedophryne amauensis
A native of Papua New Guinea, the world’s smallest frog is a fairly recent discovery. The species was discovered by herpetologist Christopher Austin and his student Eric Rittmeyer in August 2009. A Paedophryne amauensis frog measures only 7.7 mm and can fit on a human fingernail. But, in one jump, they can cover up to 30 times their body length. Despite the near-microscopic body size, they are noted for their high-pitched mating call resembling insect peeps.
Given their size, surviving on the littered rainforest floor is no cakewalk for these frogs. So, they tend to camouflage themselves with the fallen leaves and mimic insect noises.
Though the ‘coin-sized croaker’ in Google Doodle list is not yet a threatened species, climate change and change in the rainforest ecosystem can indeed pose a danger to the survival of the planet’s smallest vertebrate.
4. Amazon Water Lily
Floating in the shallow waters of the Amazon river basin, the Victoria amazonica remains to be one of the largest aquatic plants. They were named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, in the 19th century. This particular species of water lily has quite an interesting history attached to its name. Their beauty and elegance once made them the bone of contention between the Victorian gardeners, who tried to grow the South American native species in enclosed spaces of England. In fact, they had a competition going on as to who would become the first person to flower this water lily in England, which was won by Joseph Paxton and Mr Ivison.
The leaves of this water lily can reach up to 3 m in diameter, thus giving rise to the popular notion that a small person can easily sit and float on one of them.
Though the species does not face any imminent risk of extinction, we ought to preserve the natural sanctity of the Amazon rainforests lest the altered climate may affect them.
“At 407-million-years old, it’s one of the world’s oldest living species,” – so reads the description of Coelacanth in the Google Doodle. These feisty survivors were once considered to be an extinct species which existed over 66 million years ago. However, in 1938, these fishes were rediscovered along the South African coast. A local fisherman had unknowingly caught a Coelacanth, which was identified by Museum curator Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer. Her astonishing discovery was later confirmed by ichthyologist J.L.B Smith.
The ageless miracle survivors are currently under threat due to mismanaged fishing where they end up as accidental bycatch. Hence, the Latimeria chalumnae species of Coelacanth are deemed to belong in the critically endangered category of IUCN Red list, just a step away from extinction.
6. Deep cave springtail
Living at 1,980 metres below the earth’s surface, the Deep cave springtail (Plutomurus ortobalaganensis) is the deepest terrestrial animal, found only in the Krubera-Voronja cave in Georgia, which is the world’s deepest known cave. Adapted to living in extreme darkness, these insects have no eyes.
The species was discovered in 2010. Not much is known about them, but undoubtedly they are one of the natural wonders of the earth.