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Yes, It's Happening: Study Confirms the Sixth Mass Extinction is Underway

June 20, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

In my previous article, I discussed the sixth mass extinction (also known as the Holocene Extinction) and its major causes. The concept of a sixth mass extinction is nothing new, but evidence to support the elevated extinction rate (and whether or not humans are responsible) had been dubious and fleeting. Now, a team of scientists led by Gerardo Ceballos of the National Autonomous University of Mexico has published a study in the journal Science Advances that confirms the sixth mass extinction is, indeed, underway, and the data is jarring.

Demonized by farmers, the Tasmanian tiger or thylacine was hunted to extinction in 1936. The thylacine is one of the victims of the sixth mass extinction.Tasmanian Tiger (aka Thylacine)Demonized by farmers, the Tasmanian tiger (thylacine) was hunted to extinction in 1936.

Demonized by farmers, the Tasmanian tiger (thylacine) was hunted to extinction in 1936.

Per the abstract, "the average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 114 times higher than the background rate. Under the 2 E/MSY background rate, the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have taken, depending on the vertebrate taxon, between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear". As I said in my previous article, after the asteroid hit, the dinosaurs went extinct over the course of 30,000 years. To us, that may seem like a long time, but on the geological timescale, that is an instant.

Cumulative percentage of vertebrates extinct since 1500. (Source.)

In my previous article, I also mentioned that amphibians are in serious peril, since their numbers are declining very rapidly due to a host of reasons, from disease to deforestation. In the chart below (included with the study), you will notice that amphibians at a "very conservative rate", which includes only species verified as "Extinct", have experienced the most dramatic losses.

 

Years required for vertebrate extinctions in the past 114 years to occur at a normal rate. (Source.)

The study is well worth a read, so if you have some spare time, you should definitely give it a look. If you haven't already clicked on it in one of my hyperlinks above, you can find it here: Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction. Also, here's the original article where I found a link to the study: Earth’s sixth mass extinction has begun, new study confirms. You should check it out, too.


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