Mammal extinctions and the increasing isolation of humans on the tree of life
Pavoine S., BONSALL M., Davies J., Masi S.
A sixth great mass extinction is ongoing due to the direct and indirect effects of human pressures. However, not all lineages are impacted equally. As humans, we frequently believe that we hold a unique place on Earth. Here, we show that our current impacts on the natural world risk to heighten that expectation. Evolutionary proximity to Homo sapiens emerges as a powerful predictor of extinction risk among mammals. Our analysis shows that the species most closely related to H. sapiens are exposed to a large variety of threat types and that they may also have greater intrinsic sensitivity to threats. Pruning back the tree of life around us will lead to our species being among those with the fewest close relatives. We will erase our evolutionary history, forcing its uniqueness. If no action is taken, we will lose crucial biodiversity for the preservation of Earth ecosystems, and a key reference to what makes us human.