Here’s a game to play while you’re bored at work: try to figure out which species will go extinct next. You will find the best data on the Red List website of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Check out their pictures and a map here.
This finding would be shocking, as only four butterflies have gone extinct in U.S. history, and they were all in California. Worldwide, only about 100 species of birds, mammals and amphibians have been declared extinct in the past 100 years.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this number reflects reality: it only shows the number discovered, while the actual number lost is estimated to be much higher. Plus, as most species on earth are insects, we can expect them to represent most extinctions.
The current rate of extinction is so much higher than the background or natural rate of extinction that scientists have declared a new geological age: the Anthropocene, meaning the age of humans.
We actually have more to lose than ever before. A cool fact is that Earth reached “peak species” about 30,000 years ago, meaning that more species were alive at that time that at any other time in history. Neat, right? But history also shows that every time humans migrated to a new place, extinctions followed.
For butterflies, the biggest threat today is that humans have built things on top of the places they used to live. Habitat destruction takes away their homes, and eventually their lives.
Be careful how you drive, too. That butterfly on your windshield could be the last one, ever.
Learn more about Florida’s rare butterflies from the Miami Blue Chapter.