New List: Top 20 Extinction Hotspots

Potential mammalian extinction hotspots. (Image credit: PNAS)

Animal conservation efforts generally focus on the areas richest in species diversity or where many species are believed to face increased risk of extinction.

But a new study suggests these efforts should be redirected to spots where animals possess specific traits that will be most threatened by future human activity.

Using the newest geographic, biological, and phylogenetic databases for nearly 4,000 mammal species, researchers have identified 20 regions around the globe as potential extinction hotspots.

The research is detailed in the March 6 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The areas where predicted latent risk is highest include the northern regions of North America and the islands in the southwest Pacific. Currently, these areas are relatively unmodified by humans, and mammals in these areas don’t appear threatened.

But add humans to the mix and that could quickly change. Take for example the dodo, which was doing just fine until humans found it and then hunted it to extinction in just a few hundred years.

Top 20 Extinction Hotspots ranked by mean latent risk:

Bjorn Carey is the science information officer at Stanford University. He has written and edited for various news outlets, including Live Science's Life's Little Mysteries, and Popular Science. When it comes to reporting on and explaining wacky science and weird news, Bjorn is your guy. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his beautiful son and wife.