The decline of mammals on the planet was already known but a new FCT NOVA study shows the overwhelming numbers found in Portugal: almost half of the mammals are extinct and the number reaches two-thirds for large mammals.
The current biodiversity of mammals is only a fraction of what it was a million years ago. Of the 77 species of fossil mammals in Portugal, only 41 (54%) still exist today in the territory, 19 species disappeared locally, such as the hyena, and 11 are completely extinct, such as the old elephant, Palaeoloxodon antiquus.
This is the result of a scientific review made by Dario Estravoz López, as a result of his masters thesis in palaeontology in FCT NOVA. "The fossil record of the mammals of Portugal is excellent! Very complete and informative, especially due to the presence of fossils in caves ", says Dario López..
The paleontologist Octávio Mateus, a professor and researcher at FCT NOVA and the Lourinhã Museum, said: "Less than a million years ago, there were ancestral species of rhinoceros, elephants, hippopotamus and leopards in Portugal, all extinct today. This pattern of mammal extinction is similar to the rest of Europe and a million years is a very short time, in geological terms." This extinction coincides with the proliferation of humans and, although the cause has not yet been proven, an ancient elephant femur, present at the Geological Museum in Lisbon, shows the proof of the crime: a mark of a stone utensil, which proves that the cause of that particular elephant's death is human hunting.
After extensive bibliographical analysis, which compiled 212 scientific papers from 33 deposits in mainland Portugal, which allowed the cataloging of fossils of 174 species of reptiles, amphibians, birds and terrestrial mammals, these are some of the main conclusions of the 25th thesis of the Masters in Palaeontology, a programme that results from a partnership between NOVA University Lisbon and University of Évora.
Source: FCT NOVA