Surviving The 6th Great Mass Extinction
The rapid loss of biodiversity on the planet has become so severe that scientists are referring to it as a mass extinction event. If current trends continue, scientists warn that at least HALF of all plant and animal species on Earth will disappear forever within a few decades.
University of Bristol's Dr David Hone has identified, in a recent article for The Guardian, a list of attributes that can aid in the survival of a species during, what biologists call, the 6th Great Mass Extinction.
Species are dying off 10,000 times faster than the normal rate, and although it is impossible to predict which species will survive a global catastrophe, their ability to survive can depend upon one or more of the following characteristics. Read Dr Hone's article in full for more detailed information.
Be small. If you’re small, you probably have a large population and thus wider genetic diversity. Small creatures also reproduce faster than large ones allowing for rapid evolution and adaption to new conditions. A small animal doesn’t require as much food or resources to keep going.
Have lots of offspring. Just as above, having a lot of variation will help evolution along and make it more likely some offspring will survive so pumping out the kids will help. For example, possums are about the same size as domestic cats but have twice as many young per litter.
Be a generalist. If you have only one source of food, or need a specific plant to shelter in, then you’re doomed if that is affected or taken out. But if you can eat more or less anything that comes your way, you have a greater chance.
Be wide-ranging. Similar to the above point, if the species has a global distribution, some are likely to reside in a spot that’s largely unaffected by the crisis.
Be free to move. An animal that can move freely will do well – it can escape the prevailing conditions and carry on.
Be good at surviving stress. Animals used to going for long periods without food or water or who have burrows are likely to do better than those that require copious clean water, or can only survive a few hours in the wrong temperatures.
Image by Gabriel Horta, courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing