Wild Puku antelopes in Botswana. Credit: Peter Charlesworth / LightRocket / Getty 

Earth’s sixth mass extinction is already happening — and it is rapidly accelerating, researchers warned in a study out this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal.

Why it matters: The study adds to a growing understanding of how humans have — often negatively — impacted Earth’s trajectory.

What they found: The study noted that animal species are going extinct at rates 35 times faster than the historical norm over the past million years.

  • Researchers highlighted the role of humans in the phenomenon, noting that animal species lost in the past 500 years would have taken about 18,000 to go extinct in the absence of humans.
  • Habitat destruction, illegal trade and climate disruption will likely continue to drive extinction rate acceleration in the coming decades, the study added.

The mass loss of animal species means losing a record of the planet’s evolutionary history and potential, and will have ramifications for humans, Gerardo Ceballos, the study’s lead author, told Axios.

  • “There is life on the planet because of the plants and animals — wild […]
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