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201121Dec07:47

The sixth mass species extinc­tion, started yet or not?

Infor­ma­tion
pub­lished 21 Decem­ber 2011 | mod­i­fied 29 Decem­ber 2011
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Palaeon­tol­o­gists rec­og­nize five mass extinc­tion events from the fos­sil record in the past 540 mil­lion years. It is sug­gested that a sixth mass extinc­tion is under way, based on the known species losses over the past few millenia.

Mass extinc­tions have been char­ac­terised as times when Mother Earth loses more than three-​quarters of its species in a geo­log­i­cally short time frame. With the most recent and prob­a­bly well-​known, the Cre­ta­ceous mass extinc­tion — end­ing some 65 mil­lion years ago, wip­ing out the dinosaur. Researchers, led by Anthony Barnosky, have reviewed avail­able palaeon­to­log­i­cal data, fos­sil and cur­rent, and con­clude that cur­rent extinc­tion rates are enor­mous, though the dra­matic loss of species can­not be qual­i­fied as mass extinc­tion yet. Nonethe­less, the rate at which species going extinct high­lights the need for improved nature and species con­ser­va­tion mea­sures. Accord­ing a worst case sce­nario the sixth mass extinc­tion starts in 240 to 540 years, and a less pes­simistic view esti­mates the begin­ning at 4.500 to 11.000 years. Even in this ‘pos­i­tive’ sce­nario all now crit­i­cally endan­gered ani­mal species (1939, of which 188 mam­mals; IUCN Red List 2010.4) will go extinct in the next five centuries.

(Source: Nature, 03.03.2011)

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