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2.6 billion years of primate and carnivore evolutionary history at risk

Washington, D.C. Scientists have discovered that the greatest concentration of all primate and carnivore evolutionary history exists within those species found only in the 25 biodiversity hotspots. These species whose combined evolutionary ages total 2.6 billion years represent genetic lineages that are vital to the future diversity, evolution and survival of these animals according a collaborative study published by the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS) at Conservation International and biologists from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville in the Feb. 19 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

With this discovery, biodiversity hotspots continue to demonstrate their importance because the extinction of these species due to the continued destruction of the natural ecosystems in these regions will disrupt and deplete genetic lineages which have taken millions of years to evolve. Approximately 55 percent of the worlds primates and 22 percent of carnivores are found only within biodiversity hotspots and yet they represent seventy percent of the evolutionary history for the entire species. The combined evolutionary ages of these animals amount to 343 million more years of evolutionary history than a similar random sample taken from other portions of the earth.

If one of these species in a biodiversity hotspot goes extinct we not only lose that particular animal, but we also lose its contribution to the evolution and ultimately the survival of that species as a whole. said John L. Gittleman, University of Virginia evolutionary biologist and co-author. You only see the incredible diversity of life that currently exists because previous species were able to develop and evolve over time.

As species disappear, the genetic base for the future evolution of new primates and carnivores also begins to shrink. Scientists liken this danger to the extinction of the dinosaurs. The importance of preser
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Contact: Jason W. Anderson
j.anderson@conservation.org
202-912-1464
Conservation International
18-Feb-2002


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