WASHINGTON – Species such as whales and dolphins in certain tropical regions, particularly the Caribbean and the Pacific, are most vulnerable to extinction according to a scientific study that analyzed fossils from 23 million years ago.
The research, led by California’s University of Berkeley, published in the Science journal, examined the extinction patterns of various fossils and compared them with natural hazards currently faced by marine animals.
The study elaborates the added risks caused by human activity, including fishing, pollution, and destruction of habitat and climate change.
“Our goal was to diagnose which species are vulnerable in the modern world, using the past as a guide,” said Seth Finnegan, lead author and Assistant Professor of biology at the University of Berkeley.
Tropical regions with high biodiversity are especially vulnerable, which include the Indo-Pacific and the Caribbean, as well as Antarctica, home to many unique species.
Scientists found that marine mammals are more vulnerable to extinction than mollusks, while whales, dolphins and seals show greater vulnerability than sharks or invertebrates like corals.
“It’s very difficult to detect extinctions in the modern oceans but fossils can help fill in the gaps. Our findings can help prioritize areas and species that might be at greater risk of extinction and that might require extra attention, conservation or management - protecting vulnerable species in vulnerable places,” said Sean Anderson, conservation and research biologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.
The research studied 2,397 fossils dating back to 23 million years.