by Staff Writers
Manoa HI (SPX) Aug 13, 2015
Hawai'i has been called the "extinction capital of the world." But, with the exception of the islands' birds, there has until now been no accurate assessment of the true level of this catastrophic loss. Invertebrates (insects, snails, spiders, etc.) constitute the vast majority of the species that make up Hawai'i's formerly spectacularly diverse and unique biota.
A team of researchers, including scientists from the Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC) at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Howard University in Washington DC, and the French National Museum of Natural History in Paris, recently published the first rigorous assessment of extinction of invertebrates in Hawai`i.
The team focused on the most diverse group of Hawaiian land snails, known as the family Amastridae, of which 325 species have been recognized - all known only from Hawai'i. The researchers determined that only 15 of these species could still be found alive, and estimated that the rate of extinction may have been as high as 14 percent of the fauna per decade.
In a companion study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, members of the team, in collaboration with mathematics and bioinformatics specialists at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, addressed invertebrate extinction globally.
Since the 1980s, many biologists have concluded that the earth is in the midst of a massive biodiversity extinction crisis caused by human activities. Yet only around 800 of the planet's 1.9 million known species are officially recorded as extinct by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) "Red List". Skeptics have therefore asked, "Is there really a crisis?"
"We showed, based on extrapolation from a random sample of land snail species from all over the world, and via two independent approaches, that we may already have lost 7 percent (130,000 extinctions) of all the animal species on Earth," said Robert Cowie, research professor at PBRC and co-author of the two studies.
This loss far exceeds the number reported as extinct on the IUCN Red List. The IUCN's number is based primarily on assessments of birds and mammals and essentially excludes invertebrates, even though invertebrates constitute roughly 99 percent of known biodiversity.
Based on their findings, the researchers show that the biodiversity crisis is real and stressed the need to include assessments of invertebrates in order to obtain a more realistic picture of the current situation, known widely as the "sixth mass extinction."
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Explore The Early Earth at TerraDaily.com
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.|