Undiscovered bird extinctions obscure the true magnitude of human-driven extinction waves

Cooke, Rob ORCID:; Sayol, Ferran; Andermann, Tobias; Blackburn, Tim M.; Steinbauer, Manuel J.; Antonelli, Alexandre; Faurby, Søren. 2023 Undiscovered bird extinctions obscure the true magnitude of human-driven extinction waves. Nature Communications, 14 (1), 8116. 14, pp.

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Birds are among the best-studied animal groups, but their prehistoric diversity is poorly known due to low fossilization potential. Hence, while many human-driven bird extinctions (i.e., extinctions caused directly by human activities such as hunting, as well as indirectly through human-associated impacts such as land use change, fire, and the introduction of invasive species) have been recorded, the true number is likely much larger. Here, by combining recorded extinctions with model estimates based on the completeness of the fossil record, we suggest that at least ~1300–1500 bird species (~12% of the total) have gone extinct since the Late Pleistocene, with 55% of these extinctions undiscovered (not yet discovered or left no trace). We estimate that the Pacific accounts for 61% of total bird extinctions. Bird extinction rate varied through time with an intense episode ~1300 CE, which likely represents the largest human-driven vertebrate extinction wave ever, and a rate 80 (60–95) times the background extinction rate. Thus, humans have already driven more than one in nine bird species to extinction, with likely severe, and potentially irreversible, ecological and evolutionary consequences.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 2041-1723
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: biodiversity, biogeography, macroecology, palaeoecology
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
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Date made live: 08 Jan 2024 14:10 +0 (UTC)

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