FCT NOVA study reveals that two-thirds of Portugal's large mammals have gone extinct in the last million years


The decline of mammals on the planet was already known, but a new FCT NOVA study shows the overwhelming numbers found in Portugal: almost half of the mammals are extinct and the number reaches two-thirds for large mammals.

The current biodiversity of mammals is only a fraction of what it was a million years ago. Of the 77 species of fossil mammals in Portugal, only 41 (54%) still exist today in the territory, with 19 species disappearing locally, such as the hyena, and 11 extinct completely, such as the old elephant, Palaeoloxodon antiquus.

This is the result of a census and revision of the scientific knowledge about the fossil mammals of Portugal made in FCT NOVA’s master in paleontology thesis witten by Darío Estraviz López. "The fossil record of the mammals of Portugal is excellent! Very complete and informative, especially due to the presence of fossils in caves " says Darío.

The paleontologist Octávio Mateus, a professor and researcher at FCT NOVA and at the Lourinhã Museum, said: "Less than a million years ago, there were ancestral species of rhinoceros, elephants, hippopotamus and leopards in Portugal, all extincted today. This pattern of mammal extinction is similar to the rest of Europe and a million years is very fast geologically. " This extinction coincides with the proliferation of humans and, although the cause has not yet been proven, an ancient elephant femur, present at the Geological Museum in Lisbon, shows the proof of the crime: a mark of a stone utensil, which proves that the cause of that particular elephant's death is human hunting.

After extensive bibliographical analysis, which compiled 212 scientific papers from 33 deposits in mainland Portugal, which allowed the cataloging of fossils of 174 species of reptiles, amphibians, birds and terrestrial mammals, these are some of the main conclusions of the 25th thesis of the Master Degree in Paleontology, course that results from a partnership between the New University of Lisbon and the University of Évora.