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Increasing Biotic Crisis May Indicate Onslaught of Mass Extinction

by Sankalan Baidya
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Increased Biotic Crisis May Indicate 6th Mass Extinction

What if Mother Earth has finished recoiling since the last extinction event? What if she is prepping herself up for unleashing another mass extinction event? What if she has already started the onslaught? If yes, then majority of the life on Earth is doomed! Only the most resilient ones will survive by the time it is all over!

Are we insane? Not really! We are asking these questions in light of the pressing concerns over the biotic crisis that is spreading at quite an alarming rate. Over the past few months, marine biologists have noted unusual numbers of whale deaths in Pacific Ocean. NOAA reports that the Gulf of Alaska experienced a sudden increase in whale fatality in just a few months. While the number of whales dying in a year is usually below 8 in a year, NOAA reports confirmed 30 dead whales in Gulf of Alaska. Not just that! Even California coast experience a sudden boom in fatality rate of whales.

Moving south of the sphere, reports of 156 dolphin carcasses washed up to the Japanese shore is pretty disturbing. All these dolphins beached themselves only to end up dead except 3 electra dolphins that were saved. Scientists correctly prophesized based on the dolphin deaths that an earthquake was pending. Well, the earthquake did happen but was a deep ocean one. However, the scientist did fail to confirm whether the earthquake had anything to do with the dolphin mortality.

Scientists have tagged this sudden increase in cetacean deaths as ‘extreme mortality event’. They are currently pointing fingers to the sudden growth of a toxic algae in the waters of Pacific. The algae didn’t even exist previously but according to scientists, sunny conditions and gradual warming of the water in Pacific Ocean has provided the perfect lair for this new variety of algae to not only come into existence but also prosper at an unprecedented rate.

NOAA scientists are however slightly skeptical about the algae outburst theory and are saying that it is unlikely that climate change is pretty unlikely to cause the extreme mortality event. They however do not rule out that El Niño may be something to worry about.

Guess what? The biotic crisis is not really limited to the Pacific Ocean. The biodiversity of terra firma is also threatened by something unknown. Since May this year, scientists have noticed an unexpected and of course unprecedented death of Asian antelope – the Saiga. Guess what? It is the largest Saiga die-off since 1988 and during this recent mass fatality, a total number of 100,000 Saigas have been reported dead. LiveSicence reported that out of the 100,000 dead, 60,000 succumbed to the mystery cause in just 4 days! Yes, mystery cause because scientists are yet not able to determine the true cause of such mass die off!

A deeper investigation into Saiga die-off has so far revealed that last year’s winter was way colder than expected and then followed a wet and warm spring that could have possibly given rise to conditions suitable for growth of Pasteurella and Clostridia bacteria. In 1988 Saiga die-off that claimed the lives of 400,000 Saigas is usually blamed on Pasteurella. This time however, scientists are worried because the last die-off was not really properly investigated and the presence of the two varieties of bacteria in Saiga’s body is common. The mystery that scientist cannot figure out is what really caused these harmless common bacteria to suddenly become so deadly killers that entire herds of Saigas were wiped off!

This biotic crisis on an unprecedented scale is raising several questions. Scientists are saying that changes in Earth’s environment have a role to play as they are setting up conditions good enough to lead to massive population crash among different types of biodiversity. Some have actually started saying that mass extinction has started to unfold gradually. Not at all surprising that human activities are to some extent, contributing to this devastation that is on the roll.

A report from 2014 by National Geographic clearly mentioned that mass die-off are increasing, especially among marine species and birds. To be more specific, there have been 727 events of mass die-offs since 194 with fish, marine invertebrates and birds taking most of the hit. Science Advances published a paper in June 2015 where they mentioned that the Sixth Mass Extinction has already begun some 40 years back.

Thus, algae and bacteria are primary concerns now along with human-induced climatic changes. This is really something to worry about because tiniest of changes can really lead to catastrophic collapse of species after species and why not? Everything in this ecosystem of Mother Nature is interdependent. Even microbes are there to play very special role that we usually tend to ignore. Clearly, our Earth is upset for some reason and may be the time is just around the corner when Nature decides to shake herself off to start all over again from zero. The question is, ‘will humanity – the worst of Nature’s creation, survive?’ Tell us what you think about this!

156 dolphins found dead on Japanese beach
Photo Credit: Reuters, Kyodo via, businessinsider.com
Siaga herd dead
Siaga Herd Dead, Photo Credit: Steffen Zuther
Siaga - Asian Antelope
Siaga, Photo Credit: Steffen Zuther

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