Over the last few decades the scientific community has become
increasingly more convinced that we are in the midst of or are on
the cusp of a major extinction event. To put it into
perspective, there have been five documented, major extinction
events in Earth's history over the last half a billion years.
The most well known, the Cretaceous-Tertiary (KT)
extinction event, occurred 65.5 million years ago when non-avian
dinosaurs and other major groups disappeared.
Extinction happens and is typically, a normal, ongoing
evolutionary process. However, we know that species have been
going fast, particularly in the last 500 years (e.g., dodo,
thylacine, etc.), suggesting that the current rate of extinction
may be accelerated.
A new study out of Anthony Barnosky's
lab at UC Berkeley provides some hard data on the current
extinction rate using mammals. The researchers looked at the
mammalian fossil record to deduce past extinction rates and
concluded that the current rate is elevated. In other words,
much higher than the "average" extinction rate in the
Should we give up, is it too late? No, maybe not, but
studies like this should give us pause.
The paper was published in the journal Nature this past