Finding new mammal species not a cause for joy, but a warning for humanity

February 10th, 2009 - 4:10 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 10 (ANI): A scientist has said the fact that were discovering new mammal species in an era of human-caused mass extinctions, is not a cause for joy, but only a warning for humanity.

The statement has been made by Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford University, and co-author of an analysis of the 408 new mammalian species discovered since 1993.

Ehrlich conducted the analysis with Gerardo Ceballos, a professor of biology at the National University of Mexico.

The 408 newly discovered species amount to approximately 10 percent of the known species of mammals.

According to Ehrlich, as a group, mammals have been very well studied, and their size makes them relatively easy to spot compared to insects or microbes.

It is not that surprising that multitudes of new insect species are still being discovered, or that new extremophile species are found in hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, he said.

But, the new mammals include a small antelope weighing approximately 200 pounds and surprisingly high numbers of primates, more than would be expected if the discoveries were randomly distributed across higher taxonomic groups.

Our analysis indicates how much more varied biodiversity is than we thought and how much bigger our conservation problems are if were going to maintain the life-support services that we need from biodiversity, Ehrlich said.

Among those ecosystem services is disease control.

Theres an important set of diseases called hantaviruses that infects human beings and quite frequently kills them. And it turns out that if you reduce the diversity of the different species of rodents, say, in a forest, the rodents that carry hantaviruses can become more common. And the results for human beings are more death and disease, Ehrlich said.

So, by reducing the diversity of mouse-like creatures in a forest, you can make that forest more dangerous for people, he added.

Many of the newly discovered species have small populations or limited geographic ranges, making them particularly vulnerable to extinction.

The rarer of the species and the smaller of the populations often disappear without us even knowing that they are going, Ehrlich said.

We are facing for the first time the collapse of a global civilization. You have to reduce the scale of the human enterprise to having a chance at preventing that, he added. (ANI)

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