You Can Name an Extinct Animal. How About a Plant?


Over the past two and a half centuries from the face of the Earth disappeared 571 species of plants and only 217 species of vertebrates.

Scientists often collect and save DNA samples from extinct plants in labs at places such as the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in hopes that innovative discoveries could help save other plants or one day bring back old ones. That figure is four times higher than the official number publicized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which documents endangered and extinct species.

Among the extinct species are the Chile sandalwood, a tree whose fragrant wood was overused to make essential oils, and the banded trinity, an intriguing plant that grows entirely underground except for its small bluish flowers, Science's Erik Stokstad reports.

The researchers found that about 1,234 species had been reported extinct for the rationale that e-newsletter of Carl Linnaeus's compendium of plant species, Species Plantarum, in 1753. Islands and the tropics seem to be particularly vulnerable.

Even so, the study still likely doesn't capture the entire scope of plant extinctions, says author Maria Vorontsova, a biologist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. However, scientists expected the number of species that have disappeared since 1750 was significantly higher than they could confirm, expecting many undiscovered species also perished.

"This study is the first time we have an overview of what plants have already become extinct, where they have disappeared from and how quickly this is happening", Humphreys said.

Human activity served as the driving factor for many of these extinctions, Vorontsova tells Carrington.

The researchers assume these numbers underestimate the simply ranges of ongoing plant extinction.

"Plants underpin all life on earth, they provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat, as well as making up the backbone of the world's ecosystems - so plant extinction is bad news for all species", co-author Eimear Nic Lughadha said in a statement.

Furthermore, there are thousands of species that are functionally extinct, meaning there are so few remaining plants that the chances of reproduction and survival are almost - if not entirely - impossible. However, it should be noted that 90 percent of these rediscovered plants have a high extinction risk.

The researchers, however, did find that 430 species once considered extinct have gone on to be rediscovered. In 1753, botanist Carl Linnaeus published the book Species Plantarum (The Species of Plants), which listed all known species of plants at that point.

Dr Prefer Salguero-Gómez, of the College of Oxford, who used to be no longer section of the understanding, mentioned thought the how, where, and why of plant loss used to be of paramount importance, no longer simply for ecologists but moreover for human societies.

'We hear a lot about the number of species facing extinction, but these figures are for plants that we've already lost, so provide an unprecedented window into plant extinction in modern times'. The scientists say that understanding more about which plants have gone extinct and from where will play a key role in aiding future conservation efforts.