ALERT: Large Marine Species Most Likely to Die First in the Sixth Mass Extinction Event

Sep 15, 2016 05:44 AM EDT

A new study revealed that large ocean-dwelling animals are at great risk to be the first one to be wiped out during a sixth mass extinction event.

The study, published in the journal Science, suggests a kind of extinction that were unlike the past five extinction events. Previous mass extinction events have killed off smaller animal species first. However, the researchers have identified a new pattern that puts larger animals at greater risk of becoming extinct first.

"What to us was surprising was that we did not see a similar kind of pattern in any of the previous mass extinction events that we studied," said Jonathan Payne, a geoscientist at Stanford University and lead author of the study, in a report from Washington Post. "So that indicated that there really is no good ecological analogue...this pattern has not happened before in the half billion years of the animal fossil record."

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For the study, the researchers conducted a statistical analysis of nearly 2,500 samples of both extinct and living sea creatures. Their analysis showed a strong link between the increase in the animal's body size and increased risk of extinction at present time.

The researchers noted that this kind of extinction may have already occurred in the past when humans excessively hunted woolly mammoths, pushing them to extinction.

However, the researchers noted that humans has extensively hunted large land animals tens of thousands years ago, while excessive hunting of large marine creatures only begun couple of hundred years ago.

The extinction of the large marine animals could disrupt the entire oceanic food chain, posing serious repercussions on the health of the marine ecosystem.

When the large land animals, such as mammoths, mastodons, saber-tooth cats and the like became extinct, the terrestrial ecosystems were locked in a new trajectory that resulted to loss of local biodiversity. The researchers warned that the same thing may also occur in the ocean if the excessive hunting of large marine creatures were not stopped.

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