Animals Are Going Extinct So Fast That It Will Take Millions Of Years To Recover

Posted: Oct 18 2018, 10:48am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 18 2018, 10:51am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Animals are going Extinct So Fast That it will Take Millions of Years to Recover
Credit: Matt Davis, Aarhus University

Researchers have showed that it takes a very long time for biodiversity to recover after a mass extinction event.

Humans are exterminating animal species. Their harmful activities are wiping out animals so fast that evolution struggles to keep pace with this rapid change. Researchers estimate that so many mammal species will become extinct in the next five decades that it will take nature 3 to 5 million years to recover.

Earth has experienced five major mass extinction events over the past 450 million years in which many animal species disappeared at an alarming rate. These mass extinctions played a very important in shaping the evolutionary history of life as they were followed by the dominance of certain new species.

Most scientists agree that sixth mass extinction is currently underway because once again animals are dying off rapidly. While previous major mass extinctions were triggered by natural disasters, the current one is linked to human activities. The process is happening so rapidly that it will take 5 to 7 million years to restore biodiversity to its level before modern humans evolved and 3-5 million years just to reach current biodiversity.

“Although we once lived in a world of giants: giant beavers, giant armadillos, giant deer, etc., we now live in a world that is becoming increasingly impoverished of large wild mammalian species. The few remaining giants, such as rhinos and elephants, are in danger of being wiped out very rapidly.” Professor Jens-Christian Svenning from Aarhus University said.

Using extensive database of mammals, researchers have painted a much clear picture of how humans affected other mammals. The data not only includes living species but also hundreds of others that have been totally exterminated by humans. Some of those extinct animals such as the Australian leopard-like marsupial lion Thylacoleo or South American Macrauchenia had only few close relatives. We lost whole branches of the evolutionary tree of life with the extinction of those animals.

Modern mammals are also facing increasing rates of extinction like black rhinos could disappear within the next 50 years. Asian elephants also have less than a 33 percent chance of surviving current century.

“Large mammals, or megafauna, such as giant sloths and sabre-toothed tigers, which became extinct about 10,000 years ago, were highly evolutionarily distinct. Since they had few close relatives, their extinctions meant that entire branches of Earth's evolutionary tree were chopped off” said paleontologist and lead author Matt Davis from Aarhus University. “There are hundreds of species of shrew, so they can weather a few extinctions. There were only four species of sabre-toothed tiger; they all went extinct.”

Researchers used comprehensive data about animals to develop advanced evolutionary simulations and quantified how long recovery would take. They found that ecosystem recovery takes a very long time. Even with best-case scenario, it will take mammals 3-5 million years just to regenerate the branches of the evolutionary tree expected to disappear over the next 50 years. It will take more than 5 million years to regenerate what was lost from giant Ice Age species.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.

 

 

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