Corals, big mammals to go extinct in future catastrophic event?

September 3rd, 2010 - 2:31 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Sep 3 (ANI): Corals, big mammals and many tropical species could all go extinct in what could be a major extinction event in the not too distant future, predict scientists who are attempting to forecast the fate of today’s animals by studying what happened to those in the distant past.

The Earth is in the middle of its sixth mass extinction and Kasey-Dee Gardner finds out why they happen in the first place, and how we can save our planet.

The current mass extinction is being caused by a single species: humans.

“We’re 100 percent responsible for it. There is no precedent at all for what we’re doing,” he added. “All well-understood extinctions in the deep fossil record are tied to environmental changes that were not triggered by the behavior of individual species, such as the asteroid impact 65 million years ago that wiped out the terrestrial (non-avian) dinosaurs,” Discovery News quoted John Alroy, a researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University, as saying.

Alroy used the Paleobiology Database, which compiles data from nearly 100,000 fossil collections worldwide, to track the fate of major groups of animals during Earth’s most massive extinction event 250 million years ago: the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event, also known as the “Great Dying.”

Alroy, focused on marine animals, since the fossil record includes many such species.

He determined that two of the most important and plentiful groups of marine animals 250 million years ago were corals and brachiopods, also called lamp shells.

After the Great Dying, corals were almost wiped out.

“There are almost no early Triassic coral fossils in the world,” explained Alroy, who added that corals “eventually recovered all of their lost diversity.”

The lamp shells, on the other hand, never recovered.

He said these are just a few examples from the past that demonstrate how a species-rich animal group may not necessarily fare well after a major extinction event.

Mammals with big body sizes, highly endemic tropical species, and certain plants may also die out before this latest extinction event concludes, said Charles Marshall, a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California at Berkeley.

The findings are published in the latest issue of the journal Science. (ANI)

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