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Scientists say Earth is undergoing its sixth mass extinction, and it’s officially time to freak out

Hang in there.

Scientists have analysed a wide range of animals species and come to the conclusion that a sixth mass extinction is happening. Right now.

In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers examined the “biological annihilation” of a wide variety of wildlife.

Using a 27,600-strong sample of nearly half of all known vertebrates, the study confirmed that an extremely high level of population decay is taking place across both common and rare species.

According to the study, 32 percent of the species’ studied are decreasing and more than 40 percent have experienced severe population declines.

“Yeah, but things on Earth are always dying so this is natural”, you might say while wearing a black turtleneck sweater and taking a long drag on a cigarette.

The difference is this appears to be directly linked to us. Taking a closer look at 177 mammal species, the study found that major damage to species distribution was done between 1900 and 2015.

While it is normal for things to die, it isn’t normal for it to happen so widely or quickly.

The causes of the mass extinction boil down to overpopulation and overconsumption according to the study. There are too many of us and we want too many things. This leads to pollution-driven climate change, overhunting, deforestation and the destruction of animal habitats. Great job, humanity.

“The resulting biological annihilation obviously will have serious ecological, economic and social consequences. Humanity will eventually pay a very high price for the decimation of the only assemblage of life that we know of in the universe,” the study concluded.

Lead author Gerardo Ceballos spoke to The Atlantic about what some may call the alarmist language of the paper.

“It would be alarmist if we didn’t have the data,” Ceballos said. “Now it would be irresponsible on our part to not use strong language. I wish we could say we are wrong but unfortunately, this is what is happening.”

For those of you playing along at home, here are the other five mass extinctions events that Earth has seen. Is it too late to slow – or even stop – the sixth?

1. 444 million years ago, 86% of Graptolites – filter-feeding sea creatures – became extinct. The cause was probably a severe ice age.

2. 375 million years ago, 75% of Trilobites – again sea creatures – became extinct. The cause was probably an overabundance of algae sucking oxygen out of the water.

3. 251 million years ago was the worst extinction ever. 96% of all species were lost after an eruption ejected huge amounts of C02 into the atmosphere.

4. 200 million years ago, 80% of Conodonts – eel-like vertebrates- became extinct. We aren’t sure why.

5. 66 million years ago, 66% of all species – including the dinosaurs – became extinct. The cause was an asteroid impact.

6. This century? We don’t know yet but a good chunk of animals are on their way out. The cause is humans wanting stuff.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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