The great white shark could be extinct within the next 100 years, a new study finds.
Published in Science Advances, the study finds that marine megafauna including great white sharks and whale sharks are at great risk due to the effects of climate change and human pollution in their ocean habitats. The report noted that these large marine animals are threatened by a number of factors including the warming of oceans, loss of habitat, and pollution. Put together, these factors have already triggered population declines and local extinctions in the last century, the report added.
As the MarineBio Conservation Society noted, the great white shark is one of the largest predators in the ocean and has the widest geographic range of any marine animal, living across all cold temperate and tropical waters. Though they were once thought to live mostly in coastal areas, recent satellite tracking shows that they can migrate long distances, sometimes traveling across entire ocean basins.
But the organization also noted that these sharks are growing “increasingly rare” across all areas of their range. And the study shows that they are at even further risk over the coming decades.
As Newsweek reported, the study found that an estimated 18 percent of marine megafauna could go extinct in the next century, which would reduce the “functional richness of global ecosystems” by 11 percent. If all those species threatened by pollution and climate change were to go extinct, that functional richness would be reduced by nearly 50 percent across the world.
Douglas McCauley, a marine biology expert at the Marine Science Institute at the University of California Santa Barbara, compared the potential extinction to the current pandemic hitting the world. He told Newsweek that there are certain species that perform unique ecological jobs, and if they were to go extinct it would have a devastating effect on the entire ecosystem.
“Let’s say a pandemic hit your country,” he told Newsweek. “You will want to know the total number of deaths caused by the tragedy. That is species richness—it is the body count of extinction. But what if the pandemic particularly affected people in unique jobs, you would really want to know that as well as it would affect how society worked. If the pandemic disproportionately affected water utility workers, package delivery service employees, or doctors—unique and irreplaceable functions to the human ecosystem—we would want to have this insight early so we didn’t find life grinding to a halt around us.”