Today’s extinction rates rival those during the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago

1 Feb

A Disappearing Planet

Animal species are going extinct anywhere from 100 to 1,000 times the rates that would be expected under natural conditions. According to Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction and other recentstudies, the increase results from a variety of human-caused effects including climate change, habitat destruction, and species displacement.

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MAMMALS

Given the historical extinction rate, we would not expect more than one mammal species go extinct each century. According to scientists, however, 1,469 are currently in danger of becoming extinct over the next 100 years. Note the red cluster at primates, especially lemurs. Rhinos, bears & big cats are also at risk

REPTILES

Given the historical extinction rate, we would not expect more than one reptile extinction each century. According to scientists, however, 1,163 are currently in danger of becoming extinct over the next 100 years. There is a striking red cluster around the order of turtles, as well as the chameleon and iguana families.

AMPHIBIANS

Given the historical extinction rate, we would not expect more than one amphibian extinction each century. According to scientists, however, 2,341 are currently in danger of becoming extinct over the next 100 years. Frogs have been hit hard, with families like the water frog and shrub frog in great danger.

BIRDS

Given the historical extinction rate, we would not expect more than one bird extinction each century. According to the IUCN, 2,200 are currently in danger of becoming extinct over the next 100 years. Albatrosses, penguins, hornbills and parrots are particularly at risk.

SOURCES

Species data from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Version 2013, accessed on March 1, 2013

Extinction projections from Michael Hoffman et al., The Impact of Conservation on the Status of the World’s Vertebrates, Science (2010)

Background extinction estimates from Stuart Pimm et. al., The Future of Biodiversity, Science (1995)

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