Life has existed on our planet for 3.7 billion years and it’s believed that some type of life will be supported on earth for another 1.5 billion years. A boggling array of species arise and go extinct as life continues to evolve. How many species go extinct on average per day and year?
Most scientists believe we are experiencing the first stages of the sixth mass extinction event. This extinction event is solely the result of human activity which is unprecedented in planetary history. No one species has ever caused a mass extinction event on the planet.
The 1800s saw the rise of industrialization. While humans caused extinctions before this, modernization and industry are driving today’s climate change that’s damaging ecosystems. Also, until the 1900s, people didn’t believe that plentiful animals like passenger pigeons could be hunted to extinction.
How many species go extinct per average day and year? We’ll look at that and some other facts related to extinction now.
How Many Species Go Extinct on Average Per Day?
Around 150-200 plant and animal species go extinct on average every day. Around 137 of those species go extinct due to deforestation.
These statistics are hotly debated since they’re computer-generated estimates and not based on direct observational science. How these simulations work changes with the evolving understanding of species density in certain ecologies.
Since 1500 CE, approximately 800 well-documented extinctions have occurred. This is less than one-tenth of one percent of the species alive during that time. However, many argue that there are thousands of animals going extinct for every observed extinction.
Fossil records are dubious and life forms are extremely diverse. Even if the extinction rate of one extinct species is established, it’s problematic if it’s assumed that’s a blanket extinction rate.
A blanket extinction rate implies that environmental stressors and species density is the same at every location on the planet. However, the earth has countless different ecosystems that individually support a unique number of species. No current computer model truly takes this into account making any guess about extinction rates an educated guess.
How Many Species Go Extinct Per Year?
Approximately 55,000 – 73,000 species go extinct every year if the average amount of extinctions happens each day. It may be as low as 10,000 or as high as 100,000 extinctions. It’s estimated by some that between a hundredth of a percent and a tenth of a percent of animals go extinct every year.
For most of the earth’s history, one in every one million species went extinct every year. This equated to approximately 10 to 100 species going extinct every year. Today’s estimated extinction rates are higher than what was believed to have occurred in the past.
Are Extinct Species Discovered Alive?
Usually, a species that’s known to be rare won’t be seen for up to 100 years or more. At this point, it seems safe to assume they’re extinct and they are officially declared extinct. But, suddenly, an individual or a small population is found alive.
Can An Extinct Animal Be Revived?
Currently, no truly extinct animal species can be revived. However, there is a de-extinction movement that aims to bring select animals back through genetic manipulation. Extinct animals that left behind sufficient DNA can hypothetically be cloned into re-existence.
An exact clone of an extinct animal hasn’t been achieved. However, DNA from extinct animals is mixed with extant close relatives to achieve new animals. These new animals have some of the traits of extinct animals.
A popular contender for de-extinction is the Tasmanian tiger. The last captive Tasmanian tiger went extinct about 100 years ago but scientists have extracted enough Tasmanian tiger DNA from extant remains to begin experimenting with de-extinction.
Which Species Are Most Vulnerable to Extinction?
Plants and animals with very specific requirements found in small and select locations are most vulnerable to extinction. This includes small isolated animal populations that are usually highly adapted to a rare niche in a unique ecosystem.
Animals on remote islands are going extinct at a much higher rate than the rest of the planet for this very reason. Hawaiian honeycreepers and Sumatran tigers are examples of critically endangered animals in this situation. The degradation of their habitat isn’t something these animals can overcome.
How Many Species Are There Today?
There are around 8.7 million species on this planet. No one is sure, however. There may be as few as 2 million species and as many as 100 million but only a little over a million species are known to scientists.
A multitude of species have come into existence and disappeared without humans realizing it. There are also species alive today that will die out without people knowing about them. We do know that biodiversity is decreasing due to unique habitat loss.
What is the Rarest Animal in the World?
The vaquita is the rarest animal in the world. It will probably go extinct in the next 10 years. Vaquitas are porpoises and also the smallest cetacean in the world. There are approximately 10 individuals in the wild according to a survey done in 2019.
It’s only found in the Gulf of California near Mexico in a specific location. These porpoises only give birth to one offspring every two years so they do not quickly recover in numbers.
Studies show that up to 15% of the remaining population of vaquitas were killed by boats leaving one particular port. Gill nets that passively catch animals by entangling them in a suspended net are to blame. While laws exist in Mexico prohibiting gill nets, it’s not enforced and a thriving illegal fishing business exists.
Gill nets are popular in the vaquita’s small range because it’s also home to the valuable Totoaba fish. These fish are a key component of a special Chinese soup and they’re poached from Mexican waters. Totoaba fish fetch an exorbitant price and gill nets are the best way to catch them.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © ManuMata/Shutterstock.com
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- Science.org, Available here: https://www.science.org/doi/abs/10.1126/science.1230318