Environmental Skeptics and Critics, 2015, 4(4): 96-105
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Species extinction: Frequency and biogeography

John C. Briggs
Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97333, USA; Present address: 2320 Guerneville Rd., Santa Rosa, CA 95403, USA

Received 16 July 2015;Accepted 25 August 2015;Published online 1 December 2015

Documented extinctions, that have taken place among surrogate taxa during the past 500 years, provide useful information about the extent of recent faunal extinctions and their geographic locations. Species extinctions among terrestrial vertebrates (birds and mammals) and invertebrates (insects and molluscs) have generally taken place in space-restricted habitats, primarily oceanic islands. An extinction pathway leads from the high diversity tropics to less diverse, peripheral habitats that function as extinction traps. The pace along the extinction pathway is gradual and its function is similar to a pathway which has been observed in the marine environment. Overall, the low incidence of recent extinctions appears to be a continuation of the minimal rates that were characteristic of the Pleistocene epoch. Thousands of species, represented by small populations on the pathways to extinction, can still be rescued if there is sufficient interest in doing so.

Keywords extinction pathways;extinction traps;global extinctions;vertebrates;invertebrates.

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