Extinction rates, modern extinction rates–is distinction between the two valid, or even necessary anymore? Regardless of the many assumptions scientists must make, there’s no question that great numbers of large vertebrates–lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my–are dying out just as quickly as the countless bugs, birds, and amphibians most people have never even heard of, let alone seen. Now, when just about everybody in the world can claim at least one species indigenous to their area is no longer anywhere to be found, and when everyone has grown accustomed to reading about the plight of various creatures, like rhinos and big cats around the globe, it’s probably too late to do much of anything but watch them go.
West African Black Rhino
The Sixth Mass Extinction
There have been five mass extinctions previously, including the one that wiped out the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. Since then, mammals have more or less ruled the world. When man came on the scene, it was all over for the rest of the mammals, and every other critter walking the earth, or swimming the seas.
Zoologists, biologists, and pretty much scientists from every school of study have been predicting a sixth mass extinction for some time, now. However, some are stepping forward to say it has already begun. In fact, this standpoint was recently claimed in an article published in the Science Advances journal, by Geraldo Ceballos of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Despite the conservative rates employed in his research, the resulting numbers are staggering. What is truly significant–and scary–is what the numbers show: there is a definite correlation between the rates of recent extinctions (which are colossal), and man’s impact on his environment.
The Big Picture: Mass Extinction Acceleration
To put it simply, “we are sawing off the limb that we are sitting on,” said Bing Professor of Population Studies (biology), Paul Ehrlich in an article published in Daily Mail.com. Basically, it’s our own fault, regardless of our better intentions as a species. The human population is currently pushing 8 billion people, with no signs of slowing down, while the proportions of our world are unchanging. There is no longer enough room to support man and all the other large vertebrates that are continuously being displaced.
Add fuel to this fire by factoring in global warming and the argument for a current mass extinction becomes less of a theory and something far more eminent. You can use the plight of the Alaskan polar bear for an example: since the global temperature has been rising, and ice packs–which the bears depend upon for hunting seals, their main source of food–have been melting, the polar bear no longer has anything to eat. Assuming that man is responsible for global warming (he is), and that countless species of animals are dependent on specialised diets and eco-systems, the finger of blame points more and more towards mankind as being responsible for an extinction which will inevitably include us, as well.
The Circle of Life
While it may seem irrelevant to our own existence as to whether or not the white rhino in Africa goes extinct, it’s really not. It is extremely relevant! Almost every species on this earth is connected in some way. Perhaps there is a certain bug that prefers to implant larva in white rhino dung; say a particular bird feeds exclusively on that bug; a plant harvested for food or income by the locals depends on droppings from that particular bird to germinate, etc., etc. It’s hypothetical, of course, but you get the picture; if the white rhino disappears… With every species that dies off, we get a little bit closer to going extinct ourselves.
And it’s no longer just bugs and frogs; large vertebrates are dying out at alarming rates–and we’re next. It’s probably too late to save any of the still existing species in any meaningful way, but if we don’t do something about it soon–if we don’t make some serious adjustments in our ways of living and thinking right now–we may as well have sealed our own fate.
Featured image of asteroid approaching Earth is a created image by Lwp Kommunikacio and is not a representation of why a Mass extinction is occurring.