Loss of habitat

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.

  • Acarospora sinopica
    Acarospora sinopica - 19/08/2010

    ‘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
    Acavus superbus (a large land snail) - 12/04/2010

    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 rothchild
    Achias rothschildi - 30/03/2010

    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.

  • Angiopteris evecta
    Angiopteris evecta (giant fern or king fern) - 19/04/2010

    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.

  • Atta cephalotes
    Atta (leafcutter ants) - 21/10/2010

    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
    Betta brownorum - 24/08/2010

    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
    Carabus olympiae (Olimpia’s ground beetle) - 25/08/2010

    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.

  • Chacoan peccary
    Catagonus wagneri - 29/11/2010

    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.

  • Convolvulus vidalii
    Convolvulus vidalii - 27/08/2010

    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
    Daubentonia madagascariensis (aye aye) - 26/09/2010

    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.

  • Male Neptune beetle, Dynastes neptunus.
    Dynastes neptunus - 23/09/2010

    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.

  • Dynastes satanas
    Dynastes satanas (satanas beetle) - 02/10/2010

    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.

  • Eliurus webbi
    Eliurus webbi (Webb’s tufted-tailed rat) - 21/12/2010

    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
    Endocarpon pusillum (hedwig) - 01/08/2010

    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
    Euphrasia grandiflora (Azorean eyebright) - 06/09/2010

    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.

  • Blue duck
    Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos (blue duck, whio) - 01/10/2010

    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’.

  • Khaosokia caricoides
    Khaosokia caricoides - 20/11/2010

    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.

  • Leiomitrium plicatum growing on a palm trunk
    Leiomitrium plicatum - 11/02/2010

    This rare tropical moss is only found on a few islands in the Indian Ocean. Find out more about Leiomitrium plicatum.

  • Littoraria scrabra
    Littoraria scabra - 23/04/2010

    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
    Microgale talazaci - 14/06/2010

    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
    Ornithoptera alexandrae (Queen Alexandra’s birdwing) - 08/04/2010

    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.

  • Panulirus argus
    Panulirus argus (Caribbean spiny lobster) - 14/01/2010

    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.

  • The varying forms of Papilio dardanus
    Papilio dardanus (the flying handkerchief, mocker swallowtail) - 26/02/2010

    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
    Rasta lamyi - 05/05/2010

    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.

  • Sabethes gymnothorax
    Sabethes gymnothorax - 09/09/2010

    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 tree
    Tabebuia aurea (paratodo) - 05/12/2010

    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
    Urania sloanus - 16/04/2010

    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
    Anthracocentrus arabicus (giant Arabian longhorn beetle) - 24/11/2010

    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.

  •  Coprophanaeus lancifer
    Coprophanaeus lancifer (giant Amazonian carrion scarab beetle) - 04/11/2010

    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
    Dioscorea strydomiana - 12/11/2010

    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
    Isoetes biafrana - 18/12/2010

    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.

  • Limoniscus violaceus
    Limoniscus violaceus (violet click-beetle) - 16/08/2010

    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.

  • Daubenton’s bat flying over water
    Myotis daubentonii (Daubenton's bat) - 28/08/2010

    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
    Navaea phoenicea (Tenerife tree mallow, Higuereta) - 14/12/2010

    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.

  • Great bustard in flight
    Otis tarda (great bustard) - 24/10/2010

    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
    Rigidipenna inexpectata (Solomon Islands frogmouth) - 20/12/2010

    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
    Terebralia palustris - 12/10/2010

    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.

  • Tetrao urogallus
    Tetrao urogallus (capercaillie) - 30/11/2010

    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.