Bad news: mammals literally can’t evolve fast enough to avoid extinction

We’re all relatively aware that our world and the environment is going (or, in some cases, has gone) to poop. Some are more aware than others, but a recent Phys.org article outlining findings from Aarhaus University has me questioning just how aware we really are.

The article explains how us humans are abolishing animal and plant species at an alarming rate, and in the process are making it nearly impossible for evolution to keep pace.

Researchers at Aarhus have observed that if current conservation efforts are not significantly improved, mammal species will become extinct in the next 50 years so drastically, nature will need three to five years to recoup.

Five mass extinctions have occurred over the past 450 million years, during which drastic environmental changes forced many plants and animals to become extinct. The sixth mass extinction is in progress currently, however, this time, rather than natural disasters being the cause, humans are.

“If mammals diversify at their normal rates, it will still take them 5 to 7 million years to restore biodiversity to its level before modern humans evolved, and 3-5 million years just to reach current biodiversity levels,” the article states.

The black rhino is one example of a critically endangered species, and they face a high risk of extinction in the next 50 years.

Asian elephants, one of two surviving species of former mammalian groups such as mammoths, have less than 33 per cent chances of living past this century.

“Using powerful computers, advanced evolutionary simulations and comprehensive data about evolutionary relationships and body sizes of existing and extinct mammals, the researchers were able to quantify how much evolutionary time would be lost from past and potential future extinctions as well as how long recovery would take.

“The researchers came up with a best-case scenario of the future, where humans have stopped destroying habitats and eradicating species, reducing  rates to the low background levels seen in fossils. However, even with this overly optimistic scenario, it will take mammals 3-5 million years just to diversify enough to regenerate the branches of the evolutionary tree that they are expected to lose over the next 50 years. It will take more than 5 million years to regenerate what was lost from giant Ice Age species.”

If this information doesn’t completely disturb you, I encourage you to take a look around and see what past and previous generation of people have done to our planet and the creatures that inhabit it.

Photo credit: <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/author2/7dc447″>Vincent_AF</a&gt; on <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/re/e9e6be”>Visualhunt</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”&gt; CC BY-SA</a>


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