by KATHARINE LACKEY | USA TODAY
The Earth’s sixth mass extinction is already underway — and humans are the driving force behind it, according to a new study.
“Recent extinction rates are unprecedented in human history and highly unusual in Earth’s history,” according to a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances. “Our global society has started to destroy species of other organisms at an accelerating rate, initiating a mass extinction episode unparalleled for 65 million years.”
Researchers used “extremely conservative assumptions” to determine extinction rates that prevailed in the past five annihilation events. Still, they found the average rate of vertebrate species lost over the past century was up to 114 times higher than normal.
For example, about 477 vertebrae species have gone extinct since 1900, according to the study. Based on previous extinctions, only nine species would have been expected to die off in the same time frame had it not been for mankind’s involvement.