The passenger pigeon genus went extinct in 1914.
Credit: Jim, the photographer / flickr

In what researchers call a “biological annihilation,” human activities are driving entire groupings of vertebrate species to extinction at a rate 35 times what it would have been without human interference.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday, found that 73 genera—the next thickest branch from species on tree of life—had been lost since A.D. 1500. Without the mass exploitation of the natural world that took off around that date with European colonization, the number lost in the past 500 years would have been only two, and it would have taken 18,000 years to reach 73 extinctions.

“Such mutilation of the tree of life and the resulting loss of ecosystem services provided by biodiversity to humanity is a serious threat to the stability of civilization,” study co-authors Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University and Gerardo Ceballos of the National Autonomous University of Mexico wrote in the abstract.

Or, as Ehrlich summarized it in all caps on social media, “New […]

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