by Ben Panko/Smithsonianmag.com
More than one-third of the world’s shark and ray species are now facing the threat of extinction, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared in the latest update to its Red List of Threatened Species.
The update was prompted by new research published in the journal Current Biology that analyzed nearly 1,200 species of Chondrichthyes, a taxonomic class of fish with skeletons made mainly of cartilage, reports the Guardian‘s Karen McVeigh. Of those chondrichthyes, 37 percent were considered to be “vulnerable,” “endangered” or “critically endangered.”
“The widespread depletion of these fishes, particularly sharks and rays, jeopardises the health of entire ocean ecosystems and food security for many nations around the globe,” says marine ecologist Nicholas Dulvy, lead author on the new study.
Chondrichthyes have lived on Earth for roughly 420 million years and survived at least five mass extinction events. Three species have not been spotted in nature in several decades and may already be extinct, with many other species imperiled.