NTU CPH & NTUH Collaborative Research Published on Environmental Research
Figure 1. A skeletal replica of the fossil rhino from Taiwan. On display at the National Taiwan Museum.
Figure 2. A Palaeoloxodon skull from Taiwan. On display at the Land Fossil and Mineral Museum, Tainan.
Associate Professor Cheng-Hsiu Tsai of NTU’s Department of Life Science and researchers from 20 institutions worldwide led by Roberto Rozzi collaborated on an international paleontology research project to assess island extinctions globally. This study has been published in Science on March 10, 2023.
Islands have long been recognized as singular evolutionary arenas leading to morphologically distinct species, such as dwarfs and giants. We assessed how body size evolution in island mammals may have exacerbated their vulnerability, as well as how human arrival has contributed to their past and ongoing extinction, by integrating data on 1231 extant and 350 extinct species from island and paleo-islands worldwide spanning the past 23 million years. We found that the likelihood of extinction and of likelihood endangerment are highest in the most extreme island dwarfs and giants. Extinction risk of insular mammals was compounded by the arrival of modern humans, which accelerated extinction rates more than 10-fold, resulting in an almost complete demise of these iconic marvels of island evolution.
This study is also part of Associate Professor Cheng-Hsiu Tsai’s long-term research project on fossil vertebrates from Taiwan to remind people of the past diversity and extinction events in Taiwan. To further understand the past diversity and causes of extinctions, we will be more prepared to deal with the sixth mass extinction.
Read the journal article onScience: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.add8606