Humans are responsible for 96% of past animal extinctions, study finds

The study looked at 351 mammals, including mammoths, sabre-toothed cats, and giant ground sloths (Pictures: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Human-related issues are the main reason the rate of mammal species becoming extinct has increased. 

This week’s edition of Science Advances published research that said 96% of extinctions over the last 126,000 years were more to do with human activity than climate change associated with Ice Age cycles. 

Scientists behind the study also concluded that by the end of this century, 558 more mammal species could be extinct.

The study’s co-author Daniele Silvestro said: ‘We find essentially no evidence for climate-driven extinctions during the past 126,000 years.

‘However, current human-caused climate change is a novel phenomenon with different pressures, and together with fragmented habitats, poaching and other human-related threats, it poses a large risk for many species.’

Other scientists believe that most prehistoric mammal extinctions were because of the climate changes that came with Ice Age cycles. 

This recent study looked at 351 mammals, including mammoths, sabre-toothed cats, and giant ground sloths that have become extinct from almost 12,000 years ago, since the beginning of the late Pleistocene epoch. 

An illustration of a mammoth in the mountains (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
An illustration of the extinct giant ground sloth Megalonyx making his way through an Ice Age Ohio forest (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
A diprotodon, ancestor of the wombat and koala, with kangaroos in Australia where extinctions increased dramatically after humans arrived (Picture: Arthur Dorety/Stocktrek Images)

They found that extinction rates in Australia, North America and Madagascar increased drastically after humans arrived. 

They also found that extinctions in the past happened in bursts instead of continuously and constantly. 

But the magnitude of human-driven extinctions globally has picked up pace, scientists warn.

Lead author Tobias Andermann of the University of Gothenburg said: ‘We can save hundreds if not thousands of species from extinction with more targeted and efficient conservation strategies.

‘But in order to achieve this, we need to increase our collective awareness about the looming escalation of the biodiversity crisis, and take action in combating this global emergency.

‘Time is pressing. With every lost species, we irreversibly lose a unique portion of Earth’s natural history.’

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