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Can species tell us when the next extinction will be?

© Charles E. Mitchell
Some scientist at the University of Buffalo performed a study with a considerable amount of 22,000 fossils of ancient plankton communities (graptolites) from areas of Nevada in the U.S. and the Yukon in Canada. The found that these communities began to change their structure and complexity some time before the Earth’s five extinctions by massive die-offs.
Their research suggested that ecosystems often respond in stepwise and most of the time at predictable ways to changes in the physical environment, until they cannot react to these adverse effect and then a much more abrupt, and larger ecologically disruptive and permanent changes are observed. What this means is that when a species got extinct, numerous events had to have happened for them to disappeared and not rapid and sudden effects as it is commonly thought.

The aforementioned will not tell us exactly when the next extinction will be, but studies like this can give us important information about the behavior of the species when they face a threat. The loss of biodiversity and some species, surely may have an impact on the ecosystem functionality and structure and it is our task to monitor them and try to avoid or at least slow down their appearance. Do not forget that “it has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world” (Chaos Theory).

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