The sixth mass extinction is much larger than previously thought. here’s why

There has always been interest in studying vertebrates. This is why they are the best listed species and therefore it is easy to follow which ones are on the verge of extinction. Conversely, invertebrates have been much less studied, while their census is essential to be able to measure the real quantity of species in the process of extinction on Earth.

Our planet Terre he knew five extinctions mass for the last 500 million years. These biological crises are brief on the geological time scale and systematically generate the annihilation of at least half of living species. The causes hypothetical extinctions are linked to climatic changes (intense ice Age, volcanism) and to meteorites. Nowadays, everything indicates that we are on the threshold of the 6e extinction, which stands out for the difference that we are those responsible for this crisis. One of the indicators of this extinction is the number of endangered animals.

The importance of invertebrates

Over the past decades, studies of animal populations have been largely limited to vertebrates like the mammals, birds, reptiles and the amphibians. This has led to the fact that the animals that can be found on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (UICN) are mainly vertebrates, which are then the best studied and referenced animals.

This is a major problem because vertebrates represent less than 3% of animal species living on Earth and therefore do not allow us to measure the real quantity of species in the process of extinction or extinct on our planet. To obtain true-to-life values, it is important to take into account all invertebrate species such as insects, slugs, the jellyfish, plants, etc.

However, studies on invertebrates have long been put aside for several reasons. For example, a large part of invertebrates, such as insects, are very small and live in very large communities, which makes their census and study more complicated, unlike large mammals. We can also point out the lack of interest in animals of small or even tiny sizes, which has led to them being neglected for decades.

What real quantity of extinct species?

The value of 0.04% of species that have disappeared over the last 500 years, mentioned by the IUCN, then turns out to be false because it does not take into account the immense variety of invertebrate species. Taking the latter into account in the calculation increases the value from 0.04% to 10% of known extinct species (animal and plant), ie 200 times more than what had been announced. This corresponds to 200,000 extinct species over the last 500 years, which clearly shows the beginning of a 6e extinction caused by human activity.

The census and study of invertebrates is therefore important for monitoring the evolution of endangered or emerging animals, and can help slow the decline of animal and plant species.

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