Herbivores may be most at risk for extinction

Herbivores like these African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are more at risk of extinction than species in other trophic levels. Credit: snarglebarf

By reviewing past extinction patterns, researchers suggest that herbivores may be at the highest risk of extinction. The team studied more than 44,000 living and extinct species, specifically looking at their diets. “There is so much data out there, and sometimes you just need someone to organize it,” said Trisha Atwood, lead author of the study published in Science Advances. “This allowed us to finally build a dataset so we could determine which trophic level is at highest risk for extinction.” Many researchers had previously assumed predators had the highest extinction rates because of their extensive home ranges and slow population growth rates, but that wasn’t the case. The team found that herbivores consistently have had the highest risks of extinction, including from the present day to the late Pleistocene.

Read more in Science Advances.