Looming Extinction Crisis: If one Endangered Species Disappear, So Will Their Associated Species
A study published by the Royal Society says that extinction of a particular species also leads to co-extinction of a number of other associated species.
Extinction of species is happening at a much faster rate in the present century than in the past 10000 years due to human activities. Primates and apes who are the closest relatives of Homo sapiens or man are getting extinct at a faster rate as compared to other species. Along with the primates, a number of associated flora and fauna are also getting extinct.
Species are correlated; Extinction of one indirectly affects other associated species
A recent article Predictions of primate–parasite co extinction by James P. Herrera, James Moody and Charles L. Nunn Published by the Royal Society says that extinction of a particular species also leads to co-extinction of a number of other associated species. Primates are very important in the dispersal of seeds of a number of plants and help to maintain the biological diversity of the forests.
The study involved 213 primates and 763 associated parasites. The scientists removed 114 threatened primates to stimulate the effects of extinction. The results revealed that host extinction will greatly affect the host-parasite network and will also lead to the secondary extinction of parasites. The results also confirm the fact that extinction of just one species will also affect other species which are closely related to the extinct species.
One would question the fact that why would anyone worry for the parasites, something which we always try to remove from our body. However, this is not the complete truth. We have a number of good bacteria in our bodies, especially in the intestines. The bacterial fauna in our intestines is vital in maintaining the health of our gut. Similarly, there are many parasites both external and internal which have a beneficial effect on the body. We also hardly know 10% of the parasites and pathogens in the body of the primates. There could be hundreds of parasites in the body of the primates and many could be beneficial to the primates and maybe humans also.
Silkworm Larvae feeding on Mulberry Leaves
Extinction of butterflies linked to extinction of host plant
The study also highlighted the continuous rate of extinction of species. If two organisms have evolved simultaneously and are related to one another to an extent that they cannot exist without the other, extinction of one species will ultimately lead to the extinction of the associated species also.
A striking example is the butterflies and the moth species which are highly specific on the host plant in their larval stage. If the host plant becomes extinct it would also lead to the extinction of the butterfly or moth species. Another example is the silkworm which survives only on the mulberry plant and if the mulberry plant becomes extinct mankind will also lose silk.