Modern Insect Extinctions, the Neglected Majority
Abstract: Most extinctions estimated to have occurred in the historical past, or predicted to occur in the future, are of insects. Despite this, the study of insect extinctions has been neglected. Only 70 modern insect extinctions have been documented, although thousands are estimated to have occurred. By focusing on some of the 70 documented extinctions as case studies, I considered ways in which insect extinctions may differ from those of other taxa. These case studies suggested that two types of extinction might be common for insects but rare for other taxa: extinction of narrow habitat specialists and coextinctions of affiliates with the extinctions of their hosts. Importantly, both of these forms of extinction are often ignored by conservation programs focused on vertebrates and plants. Anecdotal evidence and recent simulations suggest that many insect extinctions may have already occurred because of loss of narrow habitat specialists from restricted habitats and the loss of hosts. If we are serious about insect conservation, we need to spend more time and money documenting such extinctions. To neglect such extinctions is to ignore the majority of species that are or were in need of conservation.
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Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 569 Dabney Hall, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, U.S.A.,
Publication date: August 1, 2005