Size matters when it comes to survival
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