Extinction outpaces evolution

Jeremy Hance
March 09, 2010

Extinctions are currently outpacing the capacity for new species to evolve, according to Simon Stuart, chair of the Species Survival Commission for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

"Measuring the rate at which new species evolve is difficult, but there's no question that the current extinction rates are faster," Stuart told the Guardian. .

He added that E.O, Wilsons' estimate that the extinction rate could rise to 10,000 times the background rate would likely prove prescient.

"All the evidence is he's right," Stuart told the Guardian. "Some people claim it already is that."

The Panamanian golden frog, shown here with green infant, has recently gone extinct in the wild. It survives in captivity. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
In 2004 the IUCN estimated that the extinction rate had reached 100 to 1,000 times the background rate.

Currently the IUCN estimate that nearly half of the world's primates are threatened with extinction, as well as one third of the world's amphibians, nearly a quarter of the mammals, and over 10 percent of the birds. But to date the IUCN has only assessed 2.7 percent of the known 1.8 million species. In addition biologists estimate that millions and maybe even tens of millions of species have yet to be even described by scientists.

The world's species are threatened by a variety of impacts; some of the largest include deforestation, climate change, habitat loss, ocean acidification, poaching and hunting, mining, disease, overfishing and bycatch, pollution, desertification, invasive species, the bushmeat trade, the pet trade, and the market for traditional medicines.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (March 09, 2010).

Extinction outpaces evolution .