Invertebrates: the 6th mass extinction is on its way

When we think of endangered animals, we first think of elephants, penguins, dolphins, parrots or certain raptors. Indeed, these animals are on the red list of endangered animals.

The problem is that this red list from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which makes reference, mainly concerns the situation of vertebrate animals, but these vertebrates represent less than 3% of the total animal species. It’s as if we had a photograph of the world’s wildlife and only looked at a small square which represents 3% of the shot.
However, elsewhere in the photo there are all kinds of insects, worms, slugs, snails, jellyfish …

If we take all these invertebrates into account to measure the decline in biodiversity, we find levels of extinction much more worrying than those mentioned so far: “It is not 0.04% of species that have disappeared in the space of 500 years, as the IUCN says, but 10% of known animal and plant species”, explains one of the authors, Benoît Fontaine, research engineer at the Natural History Museum in Paris.

That’s 200 times more! To arrive at this figure, these researchers were interested in the extrapolation rate of molluscs – because they believe that the fate of molluscs is representative of what happens for all non-vertebrates – they extrapolated these results. And so they get that total of 200,000 species striped off the face of the earth in the space of 500 years. “We are indeed facing the 6th mass extinction “, conclude these biologists whose work has just been published, and it is human activities that are responsible.

We can still act to protect this biodiversity which makes our world so beautiful, fascinating and “functional” write these biologists. Because indeed, without pollinating insects, a third of what we eat would not exist, without the insects and the fauna of the soil, it is difficult to grow plants. Nature also inspires us: for example 70% of drugs used against cancer are “bio inspired”.

There is still time to slow the decline of species, assure these researchers and for others, “preventive archeology” by listing and studying certain plants and animals before they become extinct.

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