Herbivores face a higher risk of extinction than predators, whether they are mammals, birds or reptiles, according to an extensive study of 24,500 species both living and extinct that was published on Wednesday, reports AFP.
The paper, which appeared in Science Advances, suggests herbivores have suffered a higher extinction rate over the past 50,000 years compared to other parts of the food web and the trend continues to this day. This contradicts the idea, based on anecdotal evidence, that predators are the most vulnerable because they have extensive home ranges and slow population growth rates. The threat is greatest for reptile herbivores, such as turtles, and large herbivores, like elephants.“There is so much data out there and sometimes you just need someone to organize it,” said Trisha Atwood, an ecologist at Utah State University and the first author of the study.
Researchers first looked at modern day extinction risk patterns among herbivores, omnivores and predators in mammals, birds and reptiles at different levels of the food web.