Largest and the Smallest Animals Threatened by Extinction


A new study indicates that the largest and the smallest animals may soon become extinct. Specialists are trying to raise awareness when it comes to climate change and how rising temperatures have destroyed hundreds of habitats. Hence, many animal species around the world suffer and are on the verge of extinction. The new study indicates that size matters and the largest and the smallest animals are more likely to disappear.

Researchers argue that vertebrates in the “Goldilocks zone” may be in danger and they will soon die out. Policymakers need to take action to protect the animals at both ends of the scale. Scientists indicate that large animals are threatened by extinction due to hunting. On the other hand, small animals are on the verge of extinction due to logging and pollution.

Prof Bill Ripple of Oregon State University in Corvallis is the lead author of the study. He indicates that the biggest vertebrates may die out due to humans’ efforts who hunt them. The small species may have limited geographic ranges. Unfortunately, they are in danger because of habitat degradation. Water pollution, soil pollution, and air pollution affected their habitats, threatening their well-being.

The smallest species are not as protected as the largest ones

Experts underline the fact that animals are dying out at such a fast pace that a sixth extinction may occur. This idea determined efforts to search for main drivers of extinction risk. The main clue that researchers identified is body size. They developed studies on mammals and birds, revealing that those that have larger bodies are prone to get extinct.

When researchers created a database including thousands of reptiles, amphibians, fish, mammals, and birds that are at risk of extinction, they identified uneven losses. They spotted these difference at the ends of the scale. Prof Bill Ripple says that not only the largest animal species but also the smallest ones are in danger.

Animals like lions, rhinos, and elephants represent the target of protection efforts for quite some time now. Nevertheless, the giants from the world of amphibians, reptiles, fish and birds, namely Chinese giant salamander, Somali ostrich and the whale shark also pose a great risk of extinction. Prof Ripple indicated that shrews and frogs, which are some of the small species, receive little attention.

He suggests that scientists and policymakers should first try to raise awareness when it comes to the smallest species. The largest ones tend to get a lot of protection from different organizations that fight for animals’ rights. However, they always seem to forget the smallest species.

The new study


To develop this study, scientists from the UK, US, Australia, and Switzerland joined together and developed comparisons between extinction risks and body masses for over 25,000 species of vertebrates. About 4,000 out of 25,000 species appear to be on the verge of extinction. This is what the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature highlights.

Irrespective of whether they live on land, in rivers, streams or oceans, the smallest and the biggest vertebrates appear to be in great danger.

The main threats

Among all the factors that determine so many species to be on the verge of extinction, scientists listed unregulated and regulated fishing to be one of the heaviest threats. This one, as well as trapping and hunting for medicines, trade or food, are the most crucial threats that contribute to the extinction of several small and big vertebrate species.

The list of the lightest threats includes development, logging of forests, farming and water pollution. Since these species are so different from one another, they also need different conservation approaches. However, policymakers should know that there is desperate to develop conservation and protection methods for both the smallest and the biggest animal species.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. Researchers indicated that diminishing the wild meat’s global consumption is the first step policymakers should consider. In this way, they will be able to reduce the terrible impacts of human trapping, fishing, and hunting of the vertebrate species in the world.

Relying on researchers’ findings, we find out that human activity seems to destroy both the largest and the smallest animals’ distribution. Extinction may become a natural process, affecting hundreds of species on an annual basis. Nevertheless, estimates indicate that many species die out at hundreds of times the background rate.

What the authors say

Thomas Newsome of the University of Sydney Australia is a co-researcher in the study. He indicates that the primary activities that specialists need to put an end to when it comes to large animals are trapping, fishing and hunting. However, he says that the human population growth rate is slowly diminishing. This may be the most important long-term factor in limiting extinction risks for hundreds of species.

The authors indicate that the use of larger animals’ body part to test medicine or the unintentional bycatch are also other threats that pose the largest animals at great risk. They highlight the fact that the smallest creatures which weigh about 35 grams are in great danger. The tiniest species are threatened by modification or loss of the habitat, triggered by climate change.

The rising temperatures altered weather patterns, affecting many territories and their inhabitants at the same time. The animals living in areas affected by global warming need to find new places with appropriate conditions for them to thrive. Logging of forests left hundreds of bird species without a home. The same thing happened with rodents and small reptiles.

Summing up

Human-made disasters are only prone to get even worse, destroying innocent animals’ ecosystems and habitats around the world. The poor creatures that find it hard to adapt or are unable to adapt will most likely disappear. To avoid all this, policymakers should adopt different conservation strategies to protect and conserve the natural habitats of the largest and the smallest animals.



Craig Scott

Green Wanderer

Craig is the editor of, a site dedicated to green news and educating people about topics like climate change and renewable energy. When he is not working he likes to spend his time outside hiking trails or reading a book.

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