According to a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, man is leading to the disappearance of entire genera of living creatures at a speed 35 times higher than that recorded on average in the last million years.
The study was carried out by a team of American and Mexican researchers. Some of the most recent victims of human activity are passenger pigeons, Tasmanian tigers and baiji, or Yangtze dolphins. All extinct species, which were also the only known species within their own genus, that is, that taxonomic grouping that contains species closely related to each other, but different enough that they can no longer reproduce with each other, giving rise to fertile offspring.
Over the last 500 years, two orders, 10 families, and 73 genera of living things have gone extinct within the tetrapods. Based on historical rates of gender extinction in mammals, rates over the past 500 years are 35 times higher than those seen over the past million years.
In five centuries, man has done what catastrophes and other natural phenomena take more than 18 thousand years to do.
Humans are destroyng species at a speed 35 times higher
Gerardo Ceballos, of the Institute of Ecology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, explained: "As scientists, we must try to be cautious and avoid alarmism.
But the gravity of our results in this case forces us to use more language perhaps more than usual: it would be unethical not to explain the magnitude of the problem, given that both we and other scientists are very worried."
The study's authors said: "The size and constant growth of the human population, the ever-increasing scale of its consumption, and the fact that there are enormous inequalities in this consumption are all integral to the problem.
The idea that we can continue in this way, and save biodiversity at the same time, is meaningless."
Until now, the scientific community's attention had been fundamentally focused on monitoring the conservation status of species.
But the taxonomy of the animal world is more complex than that. And if every extinction is a dramatic event for the conservation of our planet's biodiversity, some are perhaps more so than others.