Mexico City (dpa) - According to an analysis, more than 500 species of land vertebrates are currently on the brink of extinction.

This is probably largely due to human behavior, researchers led by Gerardo Ceballos from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Unam) report in the «Proceedings» of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS).

Ceballos and his two U.S. co-authors recorded for 515 species that there are fewer than 1,000 individuals each. This is around 1.7 percent of the 29,400 vertebrate species examined. Among the acutely endangered species are the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), the stump-footed frog Atelopus varius, the Clarión wren (Troglodytes tanneri) and the longhorn buck (Damaliscus pygargus). 335 of the endangered species are bird species.

According to the study, the 515 species live mainly in tropical and subtropical areas that are heavily affected by human activities - most with 30 percent in South America, one percent in Europe. The vast majority of the 388 land vertebrate species live in the same areas, of which there are fewer than 5,000 but at least 1,000 individuals.

According to the researchers, Earth is currently experiencing a sixth mass extinction. This is accelerating. Human activities that played a role included resource overuse, pollution and the illegal wildlife trade.

According to the researchers, more than 540 agricultural vertebrate species have died out since 1900. An equally high number could follow in the next two decades alone. Estimates that a fifth of all species could be threatened with extinction by 2050 are beginning to make sense. This is also an existential threat to human civilization, as ecosystems on which mankind depends are undergoing major changes.

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