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Information about the Holocene Extinction

Samarpita Choudhury Oct 09, 2020
Extinction has almost become a way of life, or rather, a way to end life. There are extinctions that have spread across the sea, coral reefs, wetlands, rainforests. There are species that became extinct in several extinction processes, one of them being known as the Holocene Extinction.

All of a Sudden

An extinction process doesn't require an extraordinary time span to occur; it might pass in a small duration, which can be as small as just a couple of days. The dinosaurs got extinct within weeks, soon after the Earth was struck unexpectedly by an asteroid.
After the five massive extinction phenomena that spread in the various time spans of evolution, time is ripe to discuss the Sixth Great Extinction, also known as the Holocene Extinction.
The characteristic feature of this extinction process is the activities that mankind embarks on, and the deterring effects that are caused thereafter. This extinction is one of the many outcomes because of human activities.
The Holocene Extinction stretches from about 9600 BCE, and continues till date. There are numerous such Holocene extinction facts that are gradually contributing to the disappearance of species from the face of the earth. The facts are all stated as under:


1. Holocene extinction is a pattern of mass extinction owing to human activities.

2. It is not comparable to the small extinctions that take place of only a small number of species. It is catastrophic, and brings change to a large number of species.

3. It has been in place since the last 11,700 years. It has begun soon after the completion of the Ice Age.
4. This extinction is also known as the Anthropocene extinction, which means an extinction facilitated by human activities.

5. The opinions about the beginning of the Sixth extinction are divided. Many scientists date it back to 100,000 years back, which is the first part of the destruction process, and the process which is ongoing is the second phase.
6. There are opinions which believe that the dates of this mass destruction are barely possible to be dated.

7. If these postulates are to be believed, then we are either amidst the sixth destruction ordeal, or are at a stone's throw from it. In either of the cases, the end of the process would leave around 90%-95% of the species effaced from the globe.
8. This means that the animal species that we find running, hunting, crawling, and swimming would all be gone.

9. According to biologist Wilson of the Harvard University, the rate at which the extinction of the species is taking place is rather alarming. The rate that he estimates is of 30,000 species per year.
10. Habitat loss is directly responsible for the population decline of animals. The same holds true for the Holocene extinction as well.

11. Apart from the habitat loss, the factors that are responsible for the extinction are those of pollution, global warming, agriculture, excessive hunting, human expansion, and the like.
12. As a result of the impact of Holocene extinction, almost 20% of the flora and fauna would face extinction, as early as 25 years from now.

13. The rate of extinction at the moment is about 10 times higher than the preceding mass extinction patterns.
14. Some of the animals that got extinct in the recent past include the Dodo. The bird was a native of Mauritius.

15. It was considered a friendly bird that had no wings. The last time the bird was seen was around 1681.
16. The bird was threatened and hunted for food. Also, the sailors who traveled from other parts of the world introduced other non-native animals on the island like dogs and pigs, which hunted dodo.

17. The extinction of the bird led to the extinction of the Calvaria tree. The seeds of the tree were spread by the dodo.
18. The Sea Cow, alternatively known as the Steller's Sea Cow, became extinct in 1768. This was a marine mammal that was huge, and was hunted for oil and flesh. This was a relative of manatee.

19. Owing to the devastating effect of habitat loss, the next species that got extinct was Passenger Pigeon. This species of the bird was abundant in North America.
20. Rodrigues Tortoise was a species of the tortoise, and was a keystone species. This got extinct in 1800, again owing to the consumption of its meat.
21. Quagga is yet another extinct species. It was one of the relatives of the zebra. The animal had a striking pattern on the skin, and was hunted for both its coat and flesh. The animal was extinct in 1883. These were just a few of the extinct creatures.


So, what led to the extinction of megafauna from the face of the Earth? Well, there are ongoing debates by intellectuals that the reason for the mass extinction is either the human interference and unthoughtful human activities, or the unprecedented climate change.
Well, these are just the tip of the iceberg! There are many other reasons, which together with the aforementioned, brought to pass the mass extinction.
Although factors such as species interactions, adverse change in the climates, and geological alterations are all responsible for the extinction process, the master reason amounts to be the human activities. Now, let us evaluate some of the core reasons that amounted to the Holocene extinction.

Habitat Destruction

Habitat is a place that supports the life and sustenance of creatures. When there are irreversible alterations brought into the habitat of the species, it makes the habitat unsuitable for the species to live and prosper. This is known as habitat destruction, which is one of the prime factors contributing to Holocene extinction.
There are three distinct types of habitat destruction. They are destruction, fragmentation, and degradation. An example of habitat destruction is burning down of forests to make farmlands or office buildings. Construction of roads or dams may not destroy the entire span of the area, but it will for sure destroy some. This is termed as fragmentation.
The final type of habitat destruction is when the area is infested with foreign species that are non-native to an area, and somehow interrupts the ecosystem and pattern of living of the native animals.

Immense Exploitation

This is yet another reason that contributes to the Holocene extinction. Man needs resources to support and survive. This is the law of nature; that all living organisms attain their needs from the environment and the ecosystem where they belong to.
But, there certainly has to be a limit to the level of exploitation, especially those which are non-reversible, failing which can definitely lead to extinction. Some glaring examples would be overfishing, overgrazing, and hunting, which would be just to name a few.
There are evidences suggesting that the fishing activities have risen by several degrees in the past 100 years, thanks to the developing fishing techniques. Overgrazing is another phenomenon that is caused by the excessive grazing of the grassland, thus destroying the vegetation and increasing the chances of land erosion.


Pollution is nothing but adulteration, which is addition of harmful elements to the environment thus causing undesirable changes to it. The affected elements are soil, water, and air.
Thus, if the primary sources of needs are affected, there are no chances that the life which are dependent upon them would be saved. Pesticides and herbicides are other pollutants that are used freely.

Alien Species

Perhaps this was considered to cause the least amount of damage. But the thought was nothing but underestimation. There are huge reparations that could be brought about with the introduction of an alien species into the environment. The ecosystem, the other species, human life, and biodiversity, all get affected by it.
An introduction of an alien species could be purposeful or accidental, caused by humans. But the ill effects in either of the cases are not marginal. This happens to be one of the potent threats to biodiversity. The reason is they become parasites and competitors. The direct result is also maladies that are brought about by the alien species.

A Look at Some of the Holocene Extinct Animals


Wild Monk Seal

Woolly Mammoth



It is rather difficult to calculate the rate of extinction at the sea. But this doesn't eliminate the process of elimination at the sea. Fishing and hunting at the sea are the greatest causes of the depletion or extinction of life at the sea.
There has been a steady rise in the consumption of fish, and this has also led to the expansion of industrial fishing fleets. Some countries rely heavily on the fish for their requirement of animal proteins. These countries are present in parts of Asia and Africa.
The need for fish in the diet has been prevalent even before 60,000 - 70,000 years back. With Holocene, there has been rapid increase and improvement in the fishing technologies, which have also contributed to this phenomenon of marine life extinctions.
Evidence of the Holocene extinction can be traced in all the happenings that are taking place in leaps and bounds. There is so much change in the landforms, climate, habitats, etc., that the Sixth Extension is sure to bring much more destruction than was caused by the previous ones.