Long-time Slashdot reader fahrbot-bot shares an article from Live Science asking a thought-provoking question: How long do most species last before going extinct? The majestic blue whale has plied the seas for about 4.5 million years, while the Neanderthals winked out of existence in a few hundred thousand years. But are those creatures representative of species overall? How long do species usually last before they go extinct? It turns out the answer we find now could be very different than it usually is. Because of habitat destruction, climate change, and a range of other factors, plants and animals are disappearing from the planet faster than all but maybe five other points in history. Some experts say we’re in the sixth mass extinction event… Experts don’t agree on the average amount of time that species in any category last before going extinct. The fossil record documents when a species shows up and when it disappears, but it leaves a wide margin of error because conditions must be perfect for fossils to form, and those conditions aren’t always present when a species shows up and blinks out. And these longevity stats aren’t that useful anyway. Stuart Pimm, a leading extinction expert and a conservation ecologist at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, said he prefers to think about extinction in terms of how many species die out every day, or month, or year… The current extinction rate is much higher than any of these predictions about the past — about 1,000 times more than Pimm’s background extinction rate estimate, he said. However, not everyone agrees on how accelerated species extinction is now, said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity in Oregon. Some experts estimate that the current extinction rate is only 100 times faster or, at the other extreme, 10,000 times faster… One thing the experts do agree on is that the modern extinction rate is far too high. “Species are adapting as fast as they can,” Pimm said. “But eventually the luck runs out and they don’t adapt fast enough. And they go.”

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