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What if all animals went extinct?

What if all animals went extinct?What if all animals were extinct. We are surrounded by endangered species every day. Majestic tigers grace posters...

Thursday, May 20, 2021

/ by Avishek Bera

 

The News Cover: What if all animals were extinct. We are surrounded by endangered species every day. Majestic tigers grace posters on bedroom walls, stuffed pandas stare blankly from shopping mall shelves, with a click of a button, we can watch the elaborate courtship rituals of whooping cranes and the strategic hunting habits of the Amur leopard on the Discovery Channel. But what would happen if all animals no longer existed? What would happen to humans and plants? 

Keep watching this article to find out, and see if you can spot how many of our amazing tigers are in this article. The first five people to answer correctly in the comments box, will get a shoutout in our next article. So make sure you keep your eyes peeled till the end of the article. Before we continue a quick reminder to give this article a thumbs up if you're enjoying it and also to subscribe to Brain Impact for more articles just like this one. But now, back to animals. 

Extinction happens when environmental factors or evolutionary problems cause a species to die out. The disappearance of species from Earth is ongoing, and rates have varied over time. A quarter of mammals are at risk of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List estimates. 

While it may seem unimportant if we lose one salamander or rat species, it matters because all species are connected through their interactions in a web of life. Before the internet, the worldwide web could have referred to the intricate systems of connections between living organisms and their environments. We often call it the food web, although it encompasses many more factors than just diet. 

The living web, like a tapestry, is held together not by tacks or glue, but by interdependence, one strand stays in place because it is entwined with many others. The same concept keeps our planet working. Plants and animals, including humans, depend on each other as well as microorganisms, land, water, and climate to keep our entire system alive and well. Throughout our development, our oceans and rivers have provided us with fish. Grasslands and forests have provided us with bushmeat. 

Plants that we cultivated became staple fruits and vegetables. Ecosystems ensured reliable weather and clean water. We domesticated some wild animals to become our livestock, providing milk, meat, and clothing. Wild canines developed over the years to become dogs, our hunting partners and bodyguards, our most effective alarm system in the night. Throughout those early ages, just like today, our world's fruiting trees and forests were pollinated by bats and birds, squirrels and bees. A balanced and biodiverse ecosystem is one in which each species plays an important role and relies on the services provided by other species to survive. 

When you lose one species, it affects the ecosystem and everything around it gets a little bit more fragile. Even if it's not a species that others in an ecosystem depend on, it's loss will weaken the functionality of the entire ecosystem, which makes it easier for the system to stop working. Take for example the effect human intervention had on the gray wolf and the subsequent effects their dwindling population numbers had on its environment and biodiversity. 

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Before a mass extermination effort in the U.S that decimated wolf populations in the first half of the 20th century, wolves kept other animals' populations from growing substantially. In the Yellowstone ecosystem, the wolves prey on the elk, for example, which in turn graze on young aspen and willow trees in Yellowstone, which in their turn provide cover and food for songbirds and other species. As the elks' fear of wolves has increased over the past years, Elk eat fewer twigs, leaves, and shoots from the park's young trees, and that is why scientists say, trees and shrubs have begun recovering along with some of Yellowstone's streams. 

These streams are now providing improved habitat for beaver and fish, with more food for birds and bears. While the losses of large, iconic species like the wolf, tiger, rhino and polar bear makes for better reading than the disappearance of moths or mussels, even small species can affect the ecosystems in significant ways. Mussels play an important role in the aquatic ecosystem and there are nearly 300 species of mussel in the North American rivers and lakes, all of which are threatened. Many different kinds of wildlife eat mussels, including raccoon, otters, herons and egrets. Mussels filter water for food and thus are a purification system. 

They are usually present in groups called beds at the bottom of a lake, river or stream which supports other species of fish, aquatic insects and worms. In their absence, these dependent species settle elsewhere, lowering the available food source for their predators and in turn cause those predators to leave the area. Like the gray wolf, even the small mussel's disappearance acts like a domino, toppling the entire ecosystem one related species at a time. 75% of the world's food crops are partially or completely pollinated by insects and other animals, and practically all flowering plants in the tropical rainforest are pollinated by animals. 

The loss of pollinators could result in a decrease in seed and fruit production, leading ultimately to the extinction of many important plants. Bees pollinate over 250,000 species of plants, including most of the 87 crops that humans rely on for food, such as almonds, apples and cucumbers. Flying foxes, also known as fruit bats, are the only pollinators of some rainforest plants. They have been over-hunted in tropical forests with several species going extinct. One study noted that 289 plant species, including eucalyptus and agave, rely on flying foxes to reproduce, in turn these plants were responsible for producing 448 valuable products. 

Through biomimicry, the innovations of wildlife have allowed us to develop technology that improves our lives and to create medicines that save millions of people annually. We derive blood pressure medication from viper venom and borrow insulin from the pancreases of pigs. Each year we borrow 500,000 horseshoe crabs from the wild to harvest their blood, in order to detect and immobilize bacterial contamination. If you have ever had an injection in the U.S. you were protected because of the blood of these prehistoric looking sea creatures. Scientists don't know how many species of plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria exist on Earth. 

The most recent estimate put that number at two billion, and that will most likely change at some point. One thing we do know is that the western black rhinoceros, the tasmanian tiger, and the woolly mammoth are among the creatures whose populations at one point dwindled to zero, and it's possible that species extinction is happening a thousand times more quickly because of humans. To some extent, extinction is natural. Changes to habitat and poor reproductive trends are among the factors that can make a species' death rate higher than its birth rate for long enough that eventually, none are left. And then there are humans that cause other species to become extinct by hunting, overharvesting, introducing invasive species to the wild, polluting, and changing wetlands and forests to croplands and urban areas. 

Even the rapid growth of the human population is causing extinction by ruining natural habitats. Fossils show that there have been five previous periods of history when an unusually high number of extinctions occurred in what are known as mass extinctions. Most of the Earth's species went extinct roughly 266 million to 252 million years ago in the Permian extinction. 

Those losses, however, also paved the way for dinosaurs to evolve into existence, as mass extinctions create a chance for new species to emerge. Dinosaurs met their end about 65 million years ago in another mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous period. A large crater off of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula suggests that an asteroid most likely struck there. Scientists believe that volcanic eruptions in India caused global warming that also may have contributed to the mass extinction. 

Scientists are debating whether Earth is now in the midst of a sixth mass extinction. If so, it may be the fastest one ever with a rate of 1,000 to 10,000 times the baseline extinction rate of one to five species per year. Humans are largely responsible for the striking trend. Scientists believe that pollution, land clearing, and overfishing might drive half of the planet's existing land and marine species to extinction by 2100. Slowly increasing surface temperatures caused by heightened levels of greenhouse gases likely will cause many species to move toward the Earth's poles and higher up into the mountains to stay in habitats with the same climates. 

But not all species will be able to adapt quickly enough to stave off extinction and many are expected to perish. The now critically endangered western chimpanzees live in the forests and savannah of west Africa's coastal nations but some of these countries only support a few hundred chimps and their population in the Ivory Coast has declined by 90%. Humans are eating into the chimps' habitat, flattening forests to harvest timber, plant oil palm, build roads, extract metals and minerals, and expand towns and cities. As many as 100,000 tigers once roamed Asia. 

But there are now fewer than 4,000 left in the wild, with Malayan and Sumatran subspecies listed as critically endangered by the Red List of Threatened Species. Reasons for their decline include hunting, poaching to supply the illegal wildlife trade, and the loss and break up of their habitat. Lions used to roam across most of Africa, but now the vulnerable species are restricted to south of the Sahara desert and parts of southern and eastern Africa. They have disappeared from 26 African nations, and numbers in the past two decades have halved to around 20,000. 

Their decline is driven by destruction of their habitats, captive breeding for trophy hunting and the illegal trade in bushmeat. Lions also come into conflict with human populations who experience or perceive threats to their livestock as use of land encroaches on lion' territory. Antarctica's emperor penguins are known for making lengthy treks to feed their young, but they need stable sea ice in order to do so. 

They use the sea ice to breed on and shelter from predators, and it supports the krill and fish stocks they feed on. Sadly, they are now classified as near threatened, and their numbers are set to collapse by the end of this century due to melting sea ice and food scarcity driven by climate change. So to sum up, if the extinction of all animals was sudden, it is likely that humans will go extinct as well. 

Without worms, beetles and other detritivores it would be difficult, if not impossible to maintain soil condition to grow crops. In addition, hand pollution is laborious and unfeasible on large scales. Wild forests and grasslands would die because they are adapted to rely on animal decomposers as well as pollinators and seed dispersers. This would cause abrupt loss of rainfall, atmospheric change and climate change. 

Widespread starvation combined with lack of decomposition would cause rampant disease. States would collapse into warring tribes with no capacity to develop the technology to counter these issues. How do you feel about all of these animals slowly becoming extinct? How many tigers did you manage to spot in this article? Let us know in the comments box.

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