Currently, the Earth is going through what scientists are calling the Holocene extinction, sometimes called the Anthropocene extinction, or the sixth extinction. The main culprits of the event are humans, more specific, human activity that shifted the dynamic of the environments. Cats and rodents are next in line in the top species that are wreaking havoc, but their behavior is also a cause of human interference.
The Anthropocene extinction has already claimed numerous species of animals and plants. Birds, mammals, reptiles, arthropods, and even amphibians are now officially labeled as being extinct, all in the relatively short amount of time since humans started to roam the planet.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources documented 875 extinctions from 1500 to 2009. Most of them are due to human interference, but in some of the cases, cats and rodents played an equally important role.
When humans started traveling, they always brought cats with them as both a good luck charm and a way to keep the ships’ rat population from breeding out of control. That’s how some species of cats and rodents reached new territories and gained access to animals that spent thousands of years being oblivious of their presence, thus allowing them to take over entire ecosystems.
According to a recent article published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences magazine, feral cats alone are to blame for the extinction of over 63 species of reptiles, birds, and mammals only in the last 500 years.
However, the furry predators are second in line, more damage being caused by rodents. The latter are linked to the extinction of more than 75 species in the same time span, making them the most dangerous species after humans.
Of course, if not for the humans that introduced these animals to their new environments, they wouldn’t have had access to all of their prey, so it’s safe to place the blame on us before pointing fingers on the feral cats that now roam the forests of the world.
The news is not new, as researchers discovered years ago that rats are responsible for the killing of countless rare New Zealand birds, while foxes and feral cats decimated the population of digging mammals in Australia.
The novelty that the cited study brings is the fact that it gathered all of the previous data and drew an exhaustive global extinction situation. For the dogs, cats, and rodents, things are bright, but other animals are not that fortunate.
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