Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction

By: Tara Thompson

The 6th mass extinction is currently underway. Scientists have estimated that 99% of all living things that have ever lived on earth are now extinct. 

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, (IUCN) about 80 species in the highest danger of extinction have lost around 94% of their population and have been dying up to 114 times faster in the last century. The IUCN has also explained that 35,000 species are considered to be at risk of extinction. Sadly a vast majority of the extinction is due to human activities that lead to pollution and habitat loss. 

All living things require other living things to survive, when an extinction starts, it begins to affect the food chain, leaving even more beings without a food source. Over the last 100 years, more than 400 vertebrate species, an animal distinguished by a backbone or spinal column, have become extinct. In the normal course of evolution, this would’ve taken 10,000 years. According to the natural background rate, just 9 vertebrate species should have gone extinct since 1900. But, using the modern rate, around 500 more vertebrates have gone extinct during this period, including 69 mammal species, 80 bird species, 24 reptile species, 146 amphibian species, and 158 fish species. 

The planet has so far undergone five major extinctions, most recently the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction that took place approximately 66 million years ago. It  abolished many species of early mammals, amphibians, birds, reptiles, and insects. This tragedy didn’t just apply to land animals, it severely damaged the oceans, causing the extinction of marine reptiles such as the mosasaurs and the plesiosaurs.

 All these events were due to extreme natural phenomenons but this one is entirely caused by human activities. 

Many amphibians are disappearing due to something called “Chytrid Fungus” (Chytridiomycosis),  which is mainly spread by humans. This fungus is basically a parasite that affects populations that have been weakened by climate disruption somewhat rapidly. Chytrid Fungus is capable of causing sporadic deaths in some amphibian populations and 100% mortality in others.

Though this extinction isn’t only focusing on land beings, research from Queen’s University Belfast has found that “184 deep-sea species are being added to the global Red List of Threatened Species,” about two-thirds of this population is being listed as threatened. Other sea animals such as Sharks and Rays (37%), Coral reefs (33%), and selected Crustaceans (28%) are also being threatened with extinction. 

The list goes on and on. Nothing is safe from extinction, and these animals know it better than we do. It’s terrifying, knowing we’re the cause of it.

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