Species extinction occurs when the last remaining individual of a species dies. Depending on the type of animal involved, it can be extremely difficult to pinpoint when this occurs, since animals can live on more than one continent. This often leads to situations where an animal previously presumed extinct suddenly reappears.
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Evolution creates new types of species through a process called speciation. These species find an environment where they can thrive and procreate. Species extinction typically occurs within 10 million years after a species’ first appearance, but some species, called living fossils, can survive for hundreds of millions of years. A mass species extinction is quite rare, but isolated incidences are much more common. It is estimated that half of the species alive today will become extinct by the year 2100.
Species extinction happens when a certain type of animal can no longer live in its current environment due to competition from more superior species. It can occur in a number of ways. The main cause of species extinction is the deterioration of its habitats. With the current human population at more than seven billion, more land is needed to support this growing population. This means that wetlands and forests are being disturbed and converted into housing. Logging, mining and agriculture also disrupt species’ habitats and force them to relocate to other habitats. Other habitats may not be suitable for the species, since the species faces a lack of housing and food and possible competition from other species. This leads to toxicity, which can kill off a species very quickly.
Genetics and demographics often play a role in species extinction. Although natural selection works to eliminate weaknesses and build upon beneficial traits, it is still possible for a genetic mutation to proliferate throughout a species population and kill off many of its kind. Along the same line, genetic pollution is also a cause. When a certain species comes into contact with a similar species and procreates with it, it results in a hybrid species that, while may maintain favorable characteristics of both species, may also result in a previously undiscovered genetic mutation. This mutation can end up being fatal along the line, and if the species with this mutation continues to procreate, it can lead to a diseased gene pool that eventually dies off and leads to species extinction.
In some cases, coextinction can lead to species extinction. When one species depends on another, such as a parasite, and the species dies off, the other species may die off as well. This can also happen to predators that lose their prey or bees that lose their source of pollination.
Climate change can also lead to species extinction. This occurs primarily with amphibians, which are cold-blooded creatures and therefore need to live in cooler temperatures. A warming trend can cause them to die off. Certain plants also thrive in very cold or very hot temperatures, so any sudden deviations can cause them to become extinct. It is estimated that anywhere between 15 and 37 percent of land species may become extinct by the year 2050.
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