Don’t worry, the human population isn’t becoming extinct just yet.
But scientists can’t say the same for the insect world.
The invertebrate population, which includes butterflies, worms, beetles, and spiders, has decreased by 45% over the last 35 years, while the human population has doubled over that same time frame, reports USA Today.
The Earth is in the middle of its sixth “mass extinction” of life due to the global climate’s rapid change and the loss of animal habitat, according to Science magazine.
“We were shocked to find similar losses in invertebrates as with larger animals, as we previously thought invertebrates to be more resilient.” Ben Collen of London’s University College, author of the study, said.
While the public habitually focuses on more popular animals fighting to evade extinction, Collen’s study emphasizes the effect of insects on our planet. Insects, the lowliest members of the animal kingdom, help regulate ecosystems and keep bigger animals healthy.
The threat against insects is no joke. The study reports that 322 species have gone extinct within the last five centuries.
“We tend to think about extinction as loss of a species from the face of Earth, and that’s very important, but there’s a loss of critical ecosystem functioning in which animals play a central role that we need to pay attention to as well,” Rodolfo Dirzo of Stanford University, another of the study’s authors, said.
Researchers have some evidence that reintroducing captive animals into their native habitats may help slow their demise.
In the history of the Earth, five mass extinctions have occurred. The most famous took place 66 million years ago, bringing the end of the dinosaurs with it.