Size mat­ters when it comes to sur­vival

The Week - Junior - - Front Page -

With mil­lions of dif­fer­ent species liv­ing on the planet, it’s nat­u­ral for a hand­ful of them to be­come ex­tinct ev­ery year. A new study, how­ever, shows that species are now dy­ing out at a much faster pace, hint­ing that a mass ex­tinc­tion may cur­rently be un­der­way. One of the main things the study re­vealed is that Earth’s largest and small­est species are most at risk.

Ex­perts from the UK, US, Aus­tralia and Switzer­land com­pared the size of more than 25,000 ver­te­brates (an­i­mals that have a back­bone) with their risk of ex­tinc­tion. From this anal­y­sis, they dis­cov­ered that the ver­te­brates with the largest and the small­est bod­ies had the big­gest risk of dis­ap­pear­ing, re­gard­less of whether they lived on land or in wa­ter. The largest an­i­mals, such as ele­phants, li­ons and rhi­nos, were found to mostly be threat­ened with ex­tinc­tion from be­ing hunted – whether it’s for food, for medicine or for their body parts to be sold. Fish­ing proved to be a huge is­sue for big an­i­mals liv­ing in our wa­ters, in­clud­ing the ham­mer­head shark. At the other end of the scale, the small­est an­i­mals, such as shrews and frogs, are fac­ing ex­tinc­tion from pol­lu­tion and loss of habi­tat from farm­ing and log­ging Mid-sized an­i­mals are said to be within what’s known as the “Goldilocks zone”, as they are nei­ther too big nor too small. So an­i­mals such as cats and dogs are not at risk.

Pro­fes­sor Bill Rip­ple, a US univer­sity pro­fes­sor in­volved in the study, ex­plained, “I think, for the small­est species, we need to bring higher aware­ness to them, be­cause the larger ones get a lot of at­ten­tion”.

Large an­i­mals are at greater risk of dy­ing out.

Shrews are los­ing

their habi­tat.

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