The Earth has entered a new period of extinction, a study by three US universities has concluded, and humans could be among the first casualties.
The report, led by the universities of Stanford, Princeton and Berkeley, said vertebrates were disappearing at a rate 114 times faster than normal.
The findings echo those in a report published by Duke University last year.
One of the new study‘s authors said: “We are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event.”
The last such event was 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs were wiped out, in all likelihood by a large meteor hitting Earth.
“If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover and our species itself would likely disappear early on,” said the lead author, Gerardo Ceballos.
The scientists looked at historic rates of extinction for vertebrates – animals with backbones – by assessing fossil records.
They found that the current extinction rate was more than 100 times higher than in periods when Earth was not going through a mass extinction event.