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Who Will Survive The 6th Mass Extinction?

Who Will Survive The 6th Mass Extinction?

It’s no secret that our success as a species has been pretty bad for a lot of other species on earth. In fact, some scientists believe we are currently in the midst of Earth’s 6th mass extinction event, caused entirely by us. Us, taking up more land that used to be wild habitat, using up more fresh water, and belching out greenhouse gases that are changing the climate. So, for many species, we’re just terrible news, but there are exceptions. Some species even seem to thrive in the biggest most densely populated cities – those animals that we see in our downtowns and suburbs and exurbs, the ones that are best with putting up with us may well be the survivors of the sixth extinction. So what’s their secret? [Intro music] Okay, I’m not passing judgement here, but there are a lot of animals out there that when it comes to getting along in increasingly human dominated world aren’t really survivor material. These are animals that are the most sensitive to disturbances in their habitat. Their just not flexible about things like what they need to eat or where they need to sleep or when and where they mate. Animals like these, like large predators and ground nesting birds are “urban avoiders” and they’re in the most danger from encroaching human development. But lots of other species are so thoroughly accustomed to living living with humans that they’ve become regular city dwellers. They’re practically right in front of you in line at Starbucks. These are urban exploiters. And the most obvious example, for anyone who’s ever been in any city, is the feral pigeon. Also know as the “rock dove,” it used to make it’s home on the cliffs and rock faces of Europe. But the most successful survivors are probably creatures that, though they still maintain populations in the wild, are extremely flexible around people. These so called, “urban adaptors,” have been able to take advantage of the way humans alter their natural habitat by altering themselves. Many of these adaptors are mammals, specifically, carnivores and they tend to have some features in common. One of these is body size. They’re neither too big nor too small. Small animals can’t traverse the vast fragmented habitat of cities to find enough food. But big animals are often considered dangerous by humans and are eliminated. Plus, they need more space to roam and hunt. So you don’t see many mountain lions waiting at your corner bus stop. Another thing that successful adaptors have in common is an ability to change their circadian rhythms or daily biological cycles to become more active at night than they were in the wild. Both bears and coyotes are good examples of this. In the wild, their counterparts are usually at home laying low at night but in the city night time is when you are free to look for food without running into a noisy human. Which takes us to our third trait: The best urban adaptors also tend to be diet generalists which just means they can adapt to whatever food is available. Like it’s kind of adorable that all giant pandas wanna eat is bamboo but they wouldn’t last very long in London or New York or Mumbai because those cities don’t have that one thing that they have a taste for. But humans provide a great deal of food for animals that are willing to experiment. Urban raccoons, for example, have managed to make a living eating almost nothing but our trash. Bears aren’t above grazing through our garbage either and they love the fruit trees in our yards. And scavengers, like crows, are totally happy to eat roadkill – a source or calories that wouldn’t be available if it weren’t for us. So when it comes to surviving the sixth mass extinction, biological flexibility seems to be the name of the game. And maybe it’s not all bad news. The urban niche offers a pretty specific combination of both resources and threats so like any ecological niche, it will benefit a very specific type of creature. Some ecologists think that the urban environment might even help provide a way for some species that are in trouble. Take the peregrine falcon In the 1960’s it was all but extinct in North America but then it was introduced into cities like New York and Montreal where it found plenty of pigeons to eat and cliff-like buildings to nest in. And today, falcons are found nearly all over the continent including in our biggest cities. As we reshape the world, we change habitats. So as we keep building cities and replacing old habitats with new ones, we might want to keep in mind that we’re basically picking winners and losers in the next great extinction. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow. If you’d like to help us keep exploring the world just go to and find out how you can become a supporter. And don’t forget to go to and subscribe.

99 thoughts on “Who Will Survive The 6th Mass Extinction?”

  1. Urban adapters; in my area would include homeless people and a throng of near-homeless who learn to maximize living on social subsistance programs.

  2. There are 38 million people in California. They have one year of water left and much of what they have is polluted. When 38 million people can not flush their toilets, take a shower, wash their clothes, fight a fire or take a drink, they will move. They have no choice. Each person on earth on average uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water a day. More people means more water being used. There is a limit to our resources. People keep on having children as if they live in a private orb. They do not. Each person alive will one day be competing with every other live person for survival unless we act now to reduce our population through contraception and education.

  3. I kind of start to think that humans will be one of the survivors to 100%… i mean the mass extinction events happen if the earth changes. We change the earth so we can survive easier… makes sense, right?

  4. I love how birds are some of the best at adapting. They were the only dinosaurs to survive the last mass extinction, and would probably survive then next one as well.

  5. Help me make a difference with the Earth buy a T-shirt to gain money for a charity to help save the animals

  6. Why did human kind need more space then they needed and could be the reason the earth is going to end? either way isn't 7 years until something water comes ? or idk

  7. How about we are in the first extincted species group?
    Human are so fragile. Our tech may not help us when facing the 6th Mass Extinction. For example, if we lose bee, how can we get fruit, cereal; if we lose earthworm, can we use our tech to loosen the soil of the whole earth?
    We are not strong and special. We are arrogant, selfish, and short-sighted. Our urban are been occupied by surviving species after our extinction.

  8. Someone once wrote, "when the last human being dies, a cockroach will feast on his body". A sobering thought.

  9. What about the ability to mate with those not of your own species? That is surely a good thing for any non-human animals to do to survive the 6th mass extinction. Sure their offspring might not be the same species as they were but it is good enough as it carries along some of the DNA and genes of its parents. And I also understand that mating with every species is not a possibility and may not work overall but it is a good way for some species to live out if their own species is dying out.

  10. This is the first wave of extinction. Animals first have to get through this, but then they have to adapt again when humans die, and trust me, we will. We're too obsessed with short-term gains and personal greed to get together and find a way out, and climate change is going to finish us off eventually. The urban adapters who have made it through so far will then have to change again to fit a decaying, abandoned urban environment, and they also have to cope with frequent natural disasters, practically 100% dead oceans and heatwaves and famine. Some species will make it, but I'm willing to bet not many.

    The Permian Extinction was the closest analogue to modern climate change, only 1 in 10 animals lived through it. And this time there's the extra first wave with habitat loss and invasive species that wasn't there before, plus the whole thing is all happening in 1,000 years, not 60,000, so there's even less time to adapt. Only the most incredible, hardy animals will make it. Rats, ants, jellyfish, crows, probably not much else. Don't forget what "MASS extinction" means. To qualify as "mass" extinction, over half of all species have to be dead. OVER HALF, at the VERY LEAST.

  11. I see this extinction as a good thing, it is an effect of our advancement as a species and unfortunately other will have to die, but as our technology and progress grows we will become a better species with the technology able to fix the issues we've caused. The 6th mass extinction is an inevitable event caused by the success of our species and nothing can be done about as Africa and most Asia (which together account for most of the human population) do not care as much about the environment as people in western countries so no matter how environmentally friendly Europe and the Americas become, illegal logging abd destruction of habitats will continue in Africa

  12. "Neither to small to be able to transverse the city to find food nor to big to be a threat and be eliminated" Bear is the next example

  13. most likely humans will wipe themselves out like a deadly parasite which is us infecting a host and slowly killing it which is the earth.

  14. Don't forget the role that invasive species play in extinctions, my town is like a who's who of invaders that have crossed the pond from Europe. You just have to look around.

    Wild grapes, wild raspberries and wild roses are the most visible invaders. From what i've seen they and a number of other plants people love in gardens are also escaping their flower beds. Bittersweet, daffodils, lilly of the valley and hostas are all plants i've seen escape their beds in abandoned yards. But wild grapes and roses seem to have certain preferences for sun exposure and neighbors when it comes to where they'll produce fruit and blossoms in large quantity. Raspberries and lilly of the valley, as well as alpine strawberry and creeping thyme (two more local invaders that are edible and beautiful) are also present in large number in empty yards and lots.

    Thyme also has the advantage that bees like it. Don't kill your thyme on your lawn or use a neonicotinoid on it. Roundup kills bees as well as weeds you know! And those of you who have dogs or ferrets, I've noticed they LOVE rolling in creeping thyme. I had two ferrets for a few short months before sending them to a rescue. I'd try to walk them out on their leash in the yard and if they hit a a patch of creeping thyme they wouldn't go any further they'd just drop to their bellies and roll, then lay down in it.

    There are a number of invasives that you, a human causing the 6th mass extinction, can exploit for food or profit, constrictor snakes in the everglades, lionfish in our reefs, brazilian pepper invading Miami, all present economic or food related opportunities. Just remember, wherever you can, eat 'em to beat 'em! And if you live in Western MA like I do, support Project Native, a non profit nursery that only sells plants native to our area and focuses on preserving native flora from its invasive neighbors.

  15. I doubt humans will survive what they've caused. This is the big one IMO. It's also funny how the dinosaurs, who were much dumber than we are, lasted for millions of years, but the human race, with their intellect, won't even last 1 million years. Strange isn't it?

  16. As the only animals with foresight far beyond our own lives it is our responsibility to shape the face of the earth. It is our moral duty to breed huge badass cats to ride on. Amen.

  17. The one thing that would be much shame is if sharks would go extinct, since they survived all 5 previous mass extinction events.

  18. If we train blue whales to follow us around, we'll be fine. Better start making cosways the size of Garfield.

  19. Here's an original idea, from an antinatalist, that none of these – and I mean, absolutely NONE of these science shows and nature shows EVER mention: the concept that it is ONLY an individual who experiences suffering and pain. A species cannot. Whether a quadrillion individuals or 1 individual, it is only at the individual level that suffering, loneliness, loss of companionship, confinement, boredom from a horrible job, occurs. That's it. Since, everyone dies (as far as we know, and pending some technology to traverse into other dimensions, reverse death – which I believe without proof of any kind may be)

    Lions, pandas, great whales – do NOT give a damn about their species going extinct. That is ONLY a concept that HUMANS care about. The ONLY time a lion, a cockroach, a great whale cares their species going extinct is when they suffer the loneliness in not finding a mate. But, they have no concept of "the species going extinct". To them, what matters is:
    "I'm lonely, I cannot find a mate."

    Now, WHY is such a concept – looking at every single organism at the individual matter – i.e. at the REDUCTIONISTIC level so difficult? Because it expressly forbids lazily grouping organisms together. Because it forces the thinker to analyze quality of life for each individual. And that is why breeding ten billion animals for factory farms, forcing them into cages, is so much worse than a species going extinct.

  20. So all the cute animals that we love will go extinct and the ones we hate are staying……great!

  21. Disappointingly Nth American-centric. Still one of my favourite YouTube channels but a little more perspective would be nice.

  22. Fuck yea! Let's keep all the shitty boring looking animals and get rid of the awesome ones. Who doesn't want a dark gray grim looking world anyway? Let's keep cutting all the forest down so we can live off oxymasks. Everyone loves pollution =D oh and fuck the ocean because we're not mermaids.

  23. As the only species known that has massive communication, that seems unfair to other animals. I believe that these animals should stay alive as long as they can. Amen.

  24. these optimistic kind of vids make me fucking cringe. i don't care about who survives the extinction and how they do it so we can be in wonder. i care about those who die because of us, and what should be done to prevent all this from happening.

    I have the answer, and its already in the making. Global depopulation agenda by the world elite operating in the shadows in the UN and U.S. military. It's coming and it is all well deserved. We should not have fucked like rabbits and implemented a 2 child policy since the 1900s in all countries or face severe sanctions on economic costs. I don't care how dictatorial or communistic this might sound to you, these animals are dying and brought to extinction. I will claim the right to prevent that at all cost.

  25. people should shut down their thinking and let it be done by experts. I just want to say, let me punch you in the face if you think adaptability is something that happens in a short period of time. Adaptations to animals are made when changes come slowly. Everything dies off if change comes fast, there is no adaptability factor.

  26. Yeah, so many pessimistic people in these comments! We still have a chance to change our ways! We all move to Mars and eat 3D printed food! And turn Earth into a no-human zone, unless for science projects

  27. pandas are f*cked then, suck at mating, give birth to one kid during a few years, have small food seasons and mating seasons, and are already critically in danger.

  28. Wheni read the title, i thought the "6th extinction" was going to be like an asteroid impact or a volcanic eruption… but of course it's humans.

  29. what? rats, mice, ravens, cockroach, mosquito, ants, flys? any of those would have been better examples than bears

  30. When humans die out or even just loose civilization and stop providing some of these city dwelling animals with food and such, they will have to adapt again or die out. Things that don't care too much with humans around or not like most plants, arthropods, marine animals, and some birds. Rats would be a well adaptable mammal due to their small size, flexible diet, and quick reproduction rate.

  31. Okay had to pause and comment real fast.
    "What's their secret?"
    Trash. They eat trash. The secret to life is trash.
    Let's see if I'm right.

  32. Of course, if we learn how to breathe CO2 and methane… problem solved. Maybe a slight genetic modification and we can go on for a few thousand years… or do we?!

  33. If any amphibians will survive, it’ll definitely be the Americans toad and Fowler’s toad, and maybe other simple anaxyrus species. They don’t necessarily enjoy pollution, but will happily eat where’ve is attracted to food, hide wherever, and breed wherever. They’re literally everywhere…

  34. Just as Darwin said, "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, it is the one to most quickly react to change."

  35. human's will not survive the 6th mass extinction, we live in a symbiotic system once the plants die, the water sours, the animals die, and we are animals

  36. The only guaranteed endanged species on the planet that won't survive the next mass extermination is humans. Mankind however will survive and wipe out those democrats.

  37. Very misleading and rather daft – this guy rattles on as if it would be some kind of fun re-arrangement of the earths biology – NOT SO — The sixth mass extinction will probably wipe out most of the people on the planet ( if not all of them ) and it looks as if it might happen in the not too distant future ! Not 50 or 100 years away – as we might like to think – but possibly only 20 / 30 years away !! – Doesnt sound possible does it ? – thats part of the problem – no one quite believes it …. and when catastrophies get to a tipping point it happens quickly and its then too late to do anything about it — like a rock face that collaspses after centuries of being battered by the sea …. THIS ISNT A JOKE and ( IMO ) should not be treated like one … because if we all pull together its just possible this can be averted ———–

  38. Some of us will,, The bible has predicted all of this,,, and it says the earth and the sky will. always be. and it says nothing about man being extinct… so,, some of us will survive…

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