Human activity threatens billions of years of evolutionary history - ZSL

Copyright: Sandeep Das / ZSL
Copyright: Sandeep Das / ZSL

Research led by ZSL and Imperial College London warns that more than 50 billion years of unique evolutionary history is at risk.

A ZSL study published in Nature Communications today (Tuesday 26 May) maps the evolutionary history of the world's terrestrial vertebrates - amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles - for the first time, exploring how areas with large concentrations of evolutionarily distinct and threatened species are being impacted by our ever-increasing 'human footprint'.

Worryingly, the researchers discovered that many regions home to the greatest amounts of unique evolutionary history are also facing unprecedented levels of human pressure, including the Caribbean, the Western Ghats of India, and large parts of Southeast Asia.

Using extinction risk data for around 25,000 species, the researchers also calculated the amount of evolutionary history - branches on the tree of life - currently threatened with extinction: they found at least 50 billion years of evolutionary heritage is under threat, as well as a large number of species for which we lack adequate extinction risk data that may also be threatened - suggesting this is at best an under-estimate.

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Posted On: 26/05/2020

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