Hilton-Taylor, Craig Red List Unit, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
Last reviewed:April 2019
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- Past extinction events
- Present-day extinctions
- Species approaching extinction
- Causes of extinction
- Why does extinction matter?
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The death and disappearance of a species. The extinction of a species usually represents an end point in a long series of population extinctions. During the extinction process, unique evolutionary history is lost at every stage, but the death of the last individual of a species represents the permanent loss of one of life's unique evolutionary and functional forms. Based on the fossil record, the species present today represent only 2–4% of all species that have ever lived. The species comprising the remainder are extinct, with the vast majority having disappeared long before the arrival of humans (Fig. 1). See also: Animal evolution; Evolution; Extinction (paleontology); Fossil; Macroevolution; Plant evolution; Speciation; Species concept
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