Scientists Warn Extinction Now Outpaces Evolution

After all of those millennia of evolution, it took barely 100,000 years for one relatively young member of the group - humans - to bring everything crashing down.

According to a newly published paper in PNAS, the extinctions now taking place are "moving too rapidly for evolution to keep up".

We humans are exterminating animal and plant species so quickly that nature's built-in defence mechanism, evolution, can not keep up. An Aarhus headed research team figured out that if the present preservation efforts are not enhanced; so many mammal species will become extinct in the course of five decades that nature will require 3-5 million years to recuperate.

The new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimates that it could take up to 5 to 7 million years for mammal diversity to be restored to the level it was before the arrival of modern humans - and that's assuming people cease all poaching, pollution and habitat destruction in the next 50 years.

According to forecasts of climatologists, the Earth is on the verge of the sixth mass extinction, which inevitably will destroy 99.9% of the rare species of mammals, most of the flora and 66% of the species in the status of "endangered". It will take 3-5 million years to reach current biodiversity levels.

In the next 50 years, we could lose several species, with the black rhino and Asian elephant both feared to be at risk of dying out before the end of the century. But it takes a long time for new species to fill the gaps - and that process is far slower than the rate at which humans are causing mammals to go extinct.

Matt Davis (Matt Davis) from Aarhus University and his colleagues used information from the databases of modern and extinct during the existence of our species mammals.

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In order to establish the time required for mammalian species to recover to biodiversity levels seen before humans entered the big picture, the researchers performed advanced evolutionary simulations on powerful computers.

'There were hundreds of species of shrew, so they can weather a few extinctions.

It's a "pretty scary" situation we've created, paleontologist Matt Davis of Denmark's Aarhus University, told The Guardian. "But saber-toothed tigers were only four kinds, and they all disappeared".

Regenerating 2.5 billion years of evolutionary history is hard enough, but today's mammals are also facing increasing rates of extinction.

"Large mammals, or megafauna, such as giant sloths and sabre-toothed tigers, which became extinct about 10,000 years ago, were highly evolutionarily distinct". The upcoming sixth mass extinction, however, is largely the work of humans. On the other hand, there are only two species of elephants.

"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", Jens-Christian Svenning, a professor in the Department of Bioscience at Aarhus University and co-author of the study, said in a statement. Scientists emphasize that biodiversity is much easier than to rebuild it, and call mankind to take steps in this way.

"The few remaining giants, such as rhinos and elephants, are in danger of being wiped out very rapidly", he continued. Their data and methods could be used to quickly identify endangered, evolutionarily distinct species, so that we can prioritise conservation efforts, and focus on avoiding the most serious extinctions.

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