We mostly can’t see it around us, and too few of us seem to care — but nonetheless, scientists are increasingly convinced that the world is barreling towards what has been called a “sixth mass extinction” event. Simply put, species are going extinct at a rate that far exceeds what you would expect to see naturally, as a result of a major perturbation to the system.
In this case, the perturbation is us — rather than, say, an asteroid. As such, you might expect to see some patterns to extinctions that reflect our particular way of causing ecological destruction. And indeed, a new study published Wednesday in Science magazine confirms this. For the world’s oceans, it finds, threats of extinction aren’t apportioned equally among all species — rather, the larger ones, in terms of body size and mass, are uniquely imperiled right now.
From sharks to whales, giant clams, sea turtles, and tuna, the disproportionate threat to larger marine organisms reflects the “unique human propensity to cull the largest members of a population,” the authors write.