Modern examples of extinctions

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  • Dec, 2017

Lövei, G.L. (2017) Modern examples of extinctions. Reference Module in Life Sciences (ed. by S.A. Levin). Elsevier, Amsterdam, Netherlands. ISBN:978-0-12-809633-8. DOI:10.1016/B978-0-12-809633-8.02143-9. 

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No species lives forever, and extinction is the ultimate fate of all living species. The fossil record indicates that a recent extinction wave affecting terrestrial vertebrates was parallel with the arrival of modern humans to areas formerly uninhabited by them. These modern instances of extinction started at around 40,000 years ago. On continents, large mammals (especially those >50 kg body mass) were affected, while on islands, the impacts were mainly felt by birds. The causes of these extinctions are not well known but hunting, habitat alteration and the introduction of non-native species are the main causes of extinction. Extinction is rarely a phenomenon that concerns one single species at a time. Most species have others closely associated with them (obligate parasites, specialist consumers, symbionts), and these inevitably follow them into extinction. Our knowledge about extinctions is very incomplete, due to bias in research by taxonomy (vertebrate groups are better studied), geography (northern areas have received more attention), habitat (terrestrial habitats are better known than marine ones), as well as biological reasons (certain groups do not fossilize) and methodological problems (methods of excavation and identification). Consequently, we can only crudely estimate the current rate of extinction. Nonetheless, it is evident that humans generated a new mass extinction, affecting all species in all habitats, and, by the time it has run its course, it will potentially surpass the previous five mass extinction events in the history of Earth. This article only deals with examples of extinction in the Quaternary period (from the final period of the last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago).


  • Modern examples of extinctions Gabor Lövei Island Biodiversity, Biogeography & Conservation - IBBC