Species overview

Our planet is experiencing a global mass extinction event driven by human activity.  Evolutionarily distinct species appear to be more threatened with extinction than expected by chance, and many have already disappeared forever.

It is estimated that global extinction rates are a thousand times higher than background rates shown by the fossil record.  Humans have been driving this mass extinction – by direct hunting, habitat destruction, and introducing exotic predators – throughout history and recent prehistory.  This has already led
to the loss of major branches of the Tree of Life, and a severe reduction in global biodiversity.

Many mammalian extinctions have occurred on islands,
which often contain ancient lineages that have been isolated
for millions of years.  Island faunas have usually evolved in
the absence of many mammalian predators – so they are
very vulnerable to hunting or the introduction of continental mammals such as rats and cats.

At least 88 species, 14 genera and three families of mammals – the West Indian island-shrews (Nesophontidae), the
giant sloth lemurs (Palaeopropithecidae) and the thylacine (Thylacinidae) – have gone extinct since Europeans began to explore the world around 500 years ago.  Many other ED species have not been reported for many decades or even centuries, but come from such remote areas of the world
that no-one knows if they are actually extinct.


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