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With extinction crisis looming, biologists use evolution to identify most valuable species

The South American oilbird, photographed in Venezuela, uses echolocation to navigate.
The South American oilbird, photographed in Venezuela, uses echolocation to navigate.Walter Jetz/Yale University

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In the face of a massive extinction crisis, conservation biologists have made all sorts of lists — a sort of who’s who of endangered, threatened, and vulnerable creatures that could wink out of existence as their habitat vanishes or their traditional food becomes scarce.

But which species should be at the top of the priority list for saving, and which last? Should they be ordered by scarcity, by economic importance, or even by cuteness?

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