Habitat loss is a major cause of extinction and it is often the result of human activity.
Threats to wildlife today include deforestation, urbanisation, and changing land use. More intensive farming practices allow fewer native wild flowers, and the insects that feed on them, to survive.
Other species are threatened by drainage of the ponds and fens in their habitat. And climate change threatens habitats all over the world.
Here are a selection of species affected by these changes, that Museum scientists study, including plants like bindweed and the parrot waxcap, insects like the field cricket and hornet robberfly, and even a species of rat.
‘Rusty cracked’ Acarospora sinopica survives in extreme environments. You might mistake it for rust, but it is a lichen that thrives on barren rocks rich in metal. It is often found at abandoned mine sites. Discover more about the life of this lichen.
Acavus superbus is a large, brightly coloured land snail that can grow to 6cm wide and possibly live more than 10 years. It is only found in part of Sri Lanka and the greatest threat to the species is habitat loss and fragmentation due to the expansion of intensive agriculture, mainly to grow tea. Find out more.
Achias rothschildi is a stalk-eyed fly endemic to Papua New Guinea. The eye-stalks are mainly used for display in confrontations with other males as they try to establish territory in order to attract a mate. Find out more about this about more stalk eyes and their owners.
In Britain, this endangered species of dragonfly is found only around the Norfolk Broads, but it is also found in other parts of Europe and North Africa. In Norfolk, it prefers to live close to waterways where the water soldier plant - Stratiotes aloides grows. Its name Aeshna isosceles relates to a distinctive triangular marking on its abdomen. Find out more about this rare species.
The giant fern or king fern (Angiopteris evecta) is one of the largest ferns on the planet in terms of its leaves. It is a widespread species that can grow very old and tends to live in nutrient rich volcanic soils. Human uses for the giant fern include to flavour rice and produce an intoxicating alcoholic drink. Find out more.
Leafcutter ants are the subject of the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010 winning photograph. Ants in the genus Atta harvest leaves to cultivate fungus that they then eat. Castes of ants fulfil a range of tasks including collecting vegetation, tending fungus gardens, construction and defence. Find out more about this fascinating species.
Betta brownorum is a miniature species of fighting fish, first described in 1992. It is brightly coloured and about the size of your little finger. It is only found in the murky waters of peat swamp forests in south east Asia. Find out more about this feisty fish and what threatens its extreme habitat.
Carabus olympiae is a rare and beautiful beetle found only in one alpine valley in Italy. It was first discovered in 1855 by the 8 year-old cousin of a well known Italian entomologist - Eugenio Sella. Its beautiful iridescent markings made it highly desirable to collectors, but it is now a protected species. Find out more about the life of this rare beetle.
The crucian carp looks like a goldfish, but has a distinctive black spot at the base of its caudal fin. Find out more about this carp’s appearance and lifestyle and why its breeding habits may be contributing to its decline.
The Chacoan peccary, Catagonus wagneri,was discovered in the remote Chaco forest in Paraguay, in 1975. Before its surprise discovery, scientists assumed it was extinct as it was only known from fossilised remains. Find out what threatens the Chacoan peccary today and what more can be done to protect this living fossil.
Unlike Convolvulus arvensis - the field bindweed that is the bane of gardeners’ and farmers' lives around the globe - Convolvulus vidalii from Morocco is very rare. Convolvulus vidalii is restricted to a small geographical area, like many of the 200 species of Convolvulus worldwide. It is potentially threatened by human activity. Discover where you might see this unusual flower.
Daubentonia madagascariensis, known as the aye aye, is a nocturnal primate found only on Madagascar. Its bright, shining eyes and unusual appearance give it a reputation as a bad omen. Discover how this peculiar-looking animal uses its thin bony finger to extract larvae from tree trunks, and find out what’s behind those shining eyes.
Dynastes neptunus is truly a giant in the insect world. It is a scarab beetle belonging to the subfamily of rhinoceros beetles, and occurs in the Andes mountains of South America. As the name implies, rhinoceros beetles are large, and often possess horns on their head and thorax. Find out more about this impressive beetle and its formidable horns.
The satanas beetle is a giant among beetles and can grow to the size of your hand. It has formidable horns that it uses to attack rival males. But it is under threat in its native country Bolivia as its habitat is destroyed and it is exploited by collectors. Find out more about this beetle’s armour and how it reproduces.
Webb’s tufted-tailed rat was first described in 1949 by Sir John Ellerman who did much of his research here at the Museum. Eliurus webbi lives in underground burrows in the rainforests of eastern Madagascar, and is well adapted to its forest habitat. Find out more.
Endocarpon pusillum is a lichen. Like all lichens, it is made up of a fungus and an algae living in close association. But the algae in this lichen lives in an unusual place - the spore-bearing fruiting body. This adaptation should improve the lichen’s chances of survival. But does it?
Euphrasia grandiflora is a striking plant that occurs only in the Azores archipelago where it lives on other plants at the edges of volcanic larva flows and craters. Only 2,000 individuals of this species remain, and numbers are dwindling as its habitat disappears. Find out more about this delicate plant and its unique habitat.
New Zealand’s blue duck, Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos, is unique. It has no close relatives and lives all year round in often inaccessible locations on fast-flowing mountain rivers. Its numbers are declining largely due to habitat loss and predation by non-native mammal species. Find out more about the threats this duck faces and discover how it got its Maori name ‘whio’.
The khaosok sedge is a rare and unusual species that was first discovered in southern Thailand in 2001. It is a robust perennial with many drooping leaves and flowering stems. It lives on inaccessible, and seemingly inhospitable, limestone cliffs, where it relies on rainwater for its moisture. Read on to find out more about this sedge and the other plant species discovered recently in similar habitats.
This rare tropical moss is only found on a few islands in the Indian Ocean. Find out more about Leiomitrium plicatum.
Littoraria scabra is a species of marine worm, found on mangrove trees from East Africa to Australia and Hawaii, with an interesting and unusual lifecycle. Find out more about this species.
Microgale talazaci Talazac’s shrew tenrec is endemic to Madagascar. Talazac’s is the largest of the shrew tenrecs, the head has a large tapering snout, the body is covered in soft dense and brown fur with a long tail. Find out more about Microgale talazaci.
Ornithoptera alexandrae, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, is the largest known butterfly in the world. The species, named after the wife of the UK's King Edward VII, is currently endangered as a result of habitat destruction. Find out more.
Famous for their migratory marches and other interesting behaviour, including being fussy when choosing a den-mate, the Caribbean spiny lobster has been affected by intensive fishing. Find out more about Panulirus argus.
This fascinating butterfly is a master of protective disguise, mimicking inedible butterflies in order to avoid predation. Find out more about Papilio dardanus.
Rasta lamyi is a weird-looking, marine bivalve mollusc with long shaggy extensions. Rasta lamyi lives in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea.Find out more about Rasta lamyi and what threatens its survival.
Little is known about this mosquito species that was first described by a Museum researcher and a colleague in 1992, having been collected on Majé Island in the Bayano Reservoir in Panama. It lays its eggs in the water that collects in the crevasses of plants, but these plants are being lost due to deforestation. Find out what little we know about this blood-sucking insect.
Tabebuia aurea is one of the most beautiful trees in the Paraguayan Chaco landscape and is widespread in the savannas of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay. It produces a spectacular show of large yellow flowers and is often cultivated as an ornamental tree. Take a closer look at ‘paratodo’ and the habitat in which it lives.
Urania sloanus, an extinct Jamaican moth, is regarded as one of the most beautiful of all moths, named in honour of Jamaican naturalist Sir Hans Sloane. Find out more about this stunning species of moth.
Anthracocentrus arabicus is a rare longhorn beetle found on the Arabian peninsula and across desert regions of Africa. Females of this species are often larger than males and there are fewer of them. The males have highly developed mandibles that they use to fend off predators and competing males. Find out what we know about these elusive beetles.
Bombylius major may look and behave like a bee, but beneath the disguise is a parasitic fly whose larvae mostly feed on bee and wasp larvae. It is an agile flier that is found in most parts of the world and is common in Britain. Discover more about this unusual fly’s behaviour and its detrimental effect on the species it mimics.
Coprophanaeus lancifer is one of the largest scarab dung beetles in the western hemisphere, and can grow to the size of your fist. It is commonly found in the Amazon basin where it prefers to eat animal carcasses rather than dung. This remarkable beetle has legs lined with teeth to help it dig burrows for its young. Find out more about this heavy-weight beetle and why its presence indicates of a thriving forest.
Dioscorea strydomiana is a striking yam species from South Africa that has only recently been described. Like other yams it has large tubers that grow above ground, and this species is collected and used locally for medicinal purposes. Such activity is threatening its survival - fewer than 200 plants remain in the wild. Discover what efforts are underway to preserve this species.
Isoetes biafrana was first described by former Museum scientist Arthur Hugh Alston in 1956, and the type specimen is held in the Museum’s hryptogamic herbarium. It is a small aquatic plant known as a quillwort that reproduces by producing spores. Find out more about this rare plant and how it has adapted to its aquatic habitat.
The violet click-beetle is extremely rare in Britain and is a protected species. It lives in rotting tree trunks in pasture woodland. Find out more about this striking insect.
Myotis daubentonii is a medium-sized bat found close to waterways around the British Isles. It roosts near canals, and in moated castles and old waterworks, and catches its prey of small flies as it skims the water surface like a hovercraft. Find out more about this fast-flying bat and its favourite haunts.
Navaea phoenicea is a majestic plant endemic to the Canary Islands. Its exotic flowers produce copious nectar, to attract the birds it relies on for pollination and subsequent reproduction. The Tenerife tree mallow is endangered in its natural habitat because of animal grazing and the arrival of other plant species. Discover what’s being done to protect it.
Otis tarda, the great bustard, is a majestic bird that stands over a metre tall. It was once common throughout Europe, but has been in decline since the 1800s as its habitats have disappeared. It became extinct in the UK in the 1830s. Read on to discover how conservationists are striving to reintroduce this great bird to the UK.
Rigidipenna inexpectata is a rare bird found only on a few of the Solomon Islands. It is a nocturnal species and remains hidden in forested regions, but makes characteristic whistling sounds to communicate. Read on to discover more about this typical frogmouth and the threats it faces from deforestation.
Terebralia palustris is a large marine snail that belongs to the family of mud creepers, the Potamididae, and lives in mangrove forests in the tropical Indian and western Pacific Oceans. It is amphibious and can survive out of water and without food for up to 4 months. Discover how this cleverly-adapted snail seeks out and devours its food.
The capercaillie is a most charismatic grouse, found in Scotland’s pinewood forests. It feeds on plants, seeds and even pine needles. The birds use open spaces within the woodland to perform an unusual mating ritual called ‘lekking’. Discover more about the habits of this majestic bird and find out what conservation efforts are underway to bolster its dwindling numbers.