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Saving the World's Spineless

Piotr Naskrecki, director of the Invertebrate Diversity Initiative at Conservation International.
Gisele Grayson, NPR /
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Piotr Naskrecki, director of the Invertebrate Diversity Initiative at Conservation International.

To be considered "spineless" is an insult. Worms and insects are spineless. For many biologists, however, these are the very best of the animal world. Yet the invertebrates get no respect. They're usually well down the list of species given protection from extinction, and some scientists say it's time to give the spineless their due.

Harvard's Piotr Naskrecki studies the mind-boggling variety of insects. They and the other invertebrates -- crustaceans, worms, shellfish, spiders -- outnumber vertebrates by a long shot. But the forests, shorelines and grasslands where they live are being paved and ploughed. Scientists such as Naskrecki are racing to find and describe rare invertebrates before they disappear. NPR's Christopher Joyce talks with Naskrecki and other scientists who gathered last week at the American Museum of Natural History in New York for a meeting on conservation strategy.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Christopher Joyce is a correspondent on the science desk at NPR. His stories can be heard on all of NPR's news programs, including NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.
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