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Scientists warn that Earth is entering a sixth extinction phase

The golden toad, now believed extinctThe golden toad, now believed extinct A report by scientists at Stanford, Princeton and Berkeley universities has found that vertebrates (animals with backbones) are vanishing more than 100 times faster than normal. They warn that species all over the world are “essentially the walking dead”. "We are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event," said one of the report's authors, Gerardo Ceballos. "If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover". Climate change, pollution and deforestation were all cited as causes. It is “still possible through intensified conservation effects” to rescue the situation, however.

A savanna food web, showing interdependence of speciesA savanna food web, showing interdependence of species

The research examined historic rates of extinction for vertebrates. They found that since 1900 well over 400 vertebrates have disappeared. This extinction rate is 100 times higher than it would have been without man’s impact. The Centre for Biological Diversity has warned that a “snowball” effect could start to take hold, in which some extinctions lead to more and more losses. This is because as ecosystems suffer the loss of species, other species dependent on the lost ones tend to die out too.

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