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Study shows loss of 15-42 percent of mammals in North America
Date:12/17/2009

rom shrews to mammoths, except bats.

If similar databases were analyzed for other terrestrial species, such as reptiles or birds, scientists could look for similar patterns, the researchers say. However, few plant or animal groups produce the abundant fossil record of mammals, Carrasco said.

If a similar analysis of European mammal extinctions were performed, Barnosky said, he expects that it would show a similar pulse of extinction following the arrival of humans, followed by a leveling off until the present day. He ascribes that initial pulse of extinction to a synergistic effect of burgeoning humanity and natural global warming after the Ice Age.

"Now here we are again, astronomically increasing the number of humans on the face of the globe, plus unusual climate change," he said. "That seems to be a recipe for extinction that we saw in past and we are seeing again."

The team hopes to extend its analysis to mammals in other areas of the globe, and use the database to monitor the pace of mammal extinctions.

"One strength of the analysis is that it provides a baseline for judging not only the past, but the future," Carrasco said.

"There is a bit of urgency here, Barnosky said. "By demonstrating that we have already lost 15 to 42 percent of mammalian diversity, the question is, Do we really want to lose any more. I think the answer to that is pretty obvious."


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Contact: Robert Sanders
rsanders@berkeley.edu
510-643-6998
University of California - Berkeley
Source:Eurekalert

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