New Study: Extinction More Likely For Largest & Smallest Animals

A new study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America claims that size matters when it comes to extinction. The study found the largest and the smallest-vertebrates have an elevated extinction risk.

The largest animals are being threatened by hunting where as the smallest ones are being threatened by deforestation and pollution.

greeningz - ostrich

The study leader, Prof Bill Ripple of Oregon State University, said “The largest vertebrates are mostly threatened by direct killing by humans, whereas the smallest species are more likely to have restricted geographic ranges – an important predictor of extinction risk – and be threatened by habitat degradation.”

Furthermore, BBC reports “Threats facing the heaviest included: Regulated and unregulated fishing, and Hunting and trapping for food, trade or medicines. The lightest were mainly at risk from: Pollution of lakes, streams and rivers, Farming, Logging of forests, and Development.”

canarian shrew

A previous study, released earlier this year states that the world is on its to a sixth mass extinction. Due to this finding, scientist began looking for more reasons as to why an animal may or may not become extinct. The scientist created a database of thousands of mammals in size order, as well as, included the amount of loss in the species. They found that there is a disproportionate loss on the top and bottom ends.

Researchers feel there are a lot of steps that need to be taken in order to protect these animals. There is already a high awareness for protection of larger, charismatic vertebrates such as elephants and rhinos, but smaller animals and the larger animals of the reptilian and amphibians families also need to be protected. “Ultimately, reducing global consumption of wild meat is a key step necessary to reduce negative impacts of human hunting, fishing, and trapping on the world’s vertebrates,” the report said.

greeningz - whale shark

In conclusion, another researcher on the team, Thomas Newsome of the University of Sydney in Australia, said “It’s ultimately slowing the human population growth rate that will be the crucial long-term factor in limiting extinction risks to many species.”