How much do we know about the current extinction rate?

Author: Smith, F. D. M., May, R. M., Pellew, R., Johnson, T. H. & Walter, K. R.
Date Published: January 1993

Trends in Ecology & Evolution 8 (10)

Since about 1600, 486 animal species have been recorded extinct. This represents about 0.04 of all animal species so far described. In the same period, 600 plant species are known to have disappeared, about 0.25 of the total. These figures are much smaller than those of the Permian/Triassic and Cretaceous/Tertiary mass extinctions. One might therefore conclude that at present life on earth is at comparatively little risk of extinction. However, there is a growing body of data to show that the converse is true.