A The Weekly Anthropocene Book Review
Well, I think your final assessment makes sense: losing the condors would have much stronger and expansive impacts on the local ecology than a louse occupying such a specialized niche. And I certainly don’t blame the conservationists who did the hard work of protecting those remaining condors. Talk about pressure, woof! I think we’re in the midst of an exciting shift in ecological thinking where ideas about the value of the louse or its mysterious relationship with the condor get recognized and discussed alongside established goals of conservation. I’m here for it! And thank you for writing, you surface so many great things.
We don’t know if “it was bad” to kill the louse because we don’t understand the relationship between the louse and the condor. Research determined that the louse did not harm its host condor-- did it in fact bring some benefit that we did not register? Species that evolved together have complex and subtle relationships that traditional “survival of fittest” science regularly overlooked. Think of our own microbiome. Once we thought these microorganisms contributed to our digestion, and now we find they help us produce serotonin, play a key role in our immune system, and have some sort of protective effects against Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Who knows what the condor lost when it lost the louse?