New study finds one in five reptile species could be extinct

A new study has found that one in five reptile species could go extinct if nothing is done to conserve them – with Australia bearing the brunt of the loss.

One in five reptile species is at risk of extinction, with Australia bearing the brunt of the loss, according to a new study.

Australia is home to around 10% of the total lizard population, making it imperative to step up conservation efforts, experts warn.

the study led by NatureServe and Monash University analyzed 10,196 species of reptiles, including turtles, crocodiles, lizards and snakes. It found that 30% of forest reptiles were at risk, compared to 14% in arid climates such as deserts. The reason for this difference is that forests are often threatened by logging and conversion to agriculture.

Professor David Chapple, director of the Evolutionary Ecology Laboratory for Environmental Change at Monash University, said the situation for Australian reptiles was worse than ever.

“The fate of Australian reptiles has deteriorated over the past 25 years, with the number of endangered species doubling and it has recorded the extinction of an Australian squamate reptile for the first time,” he said. declared.

The last Christmas Island forest skink, nicknamed Gump, died alone in 2014. Two other species of Christmas Island reptiles were later declared ‘extinct in the wild’. The great mystery of the disappearance of so many lizards on Christmas Island has been solved in 2021. A study from the University of Sydney discovered that a deadly bacteria was growing inside the animals’ heads, spreading to their internal organs. At the time there was no cure.

If each of the 1,829 endangered reptile species were to disappear, the planet would lose a total of 15.6 billion years of evolutionary history.

Despite their dwindling numbers, reptiles are not the most endangered class of animals, with 41% of all amphibian species globally threatened with extinction according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Sharks and rays are the other most endangered creatures with 37% considered threatened.

It’s not all bad news. While reptile conservation efforts tend to be overlooked for more popular animals, the study found that by protecting other animal species, reptiles are inadvertently protected.

“I was surprised by the extent to which mammals, birds and amphibians collectively can serve as surrogates for reptiles,” said Dr. Bruce Young, study co-lead and chief zoologist and scientist. Principal in Conservation at NatureServe.

“This is good news because extensive efforts to protect better-known animals have also likely helped to protect many reptiles. Habitat protection is essential to protect reptiles, as well as other vertebrates, from threats such as as agricultural activities and urban development.

Yet NatureServe CEO Dr Sean O’Brien warns that urgent targeted conservation is still needed to protect most reptile species, as the threats each animal faces tend to differ. While lizards are often threatened by habitat loss and introduced predators, turtles and crocodiles are most at risk from human hunting.

“Reptiles are not often used to inspire conservation action, but they are fascinating creatures and play an indispensable role in the planet’s ecosystems. We all benefit from their role in controlling pest and prey species for birds and other animals,” he said.

Originally published as New study finds one in five reptile species could be extinct

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