Smallest animals will inherit the Earth

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Scientists say that many large wild animals will disappear over the next 100 years. Some smaller animals will thrive, however.

Dwarf Gerbil
Dwarf gerbil (Gerbillus nanus) more likely to survive. Photo: worldlifeexpectancy.com

Scientists have used computer forecasting to decide that fast breeding, small species such as the dwarf gerbil, which lives in North Africa and the Middle East, are most likely to adapt to climate change and habitat loss and therefore survive.

The larger species are more likely to become extinct because (a) they reproduce slowly and (b) are adapted to special habitats, and therefore less adaptable and flexible.

Specifically, the scientist predict that songbirds such as the blackbird will prosper. They also say that rats, field voles and insect-ageing songbirds in general will prosper. However, herons, a large bird, will be more at risk together with the pelican, black rhinoceros, elephant and tawny eagle.

They predict that overall there will be a 25% drop in the body mass of the average mammal. The average will be adjusted because some big species will disappear due to trophy hunting and habitat loss. This is not a question of wild animals becoming smaller but because of a loss of the large wild species.

This trend began in the Stone Age because since that time the average mammal’s mass has fallen by 14%.

“By far the biggest threat is humankind. But is not a done deal. These extinctions haven’t happened yet.”

Rob Cooke co-author of the study by researchers from the University of Southampton and published in Nature Communications.