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Festival of science Tuesday, 12 September, 2000, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Humans 'face extinction'
By BBC News Online's Helen Briggs

Humans, like other large mammals, are showing signs of imminent extinction, claims a UK palaeontologist.

Large animals are dying out at a much higher rate than models predict, said Professor Michael Boulter.

He told the British Association's Festival of Science in London that he believed the human race would "soon" follow.

The theory comes from a mathematical model developed by Professor Boulter's research team at the University of East London.

They have used data from the fossil record to chart the evolution and extinction of all animals and plants that have died out during the course of the planet's history.

Planet peril

Large mammals are becoming extinct at a very much higher rate than the curve predicts even before humans started making their mark on the planet by burning fossil fuels, said Professor Boulter.

"My theory is that the Earth and life on it needs, from time to time, culls," he told the BBC. "The last and best known cull was of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. I reckon from the evidence that we have that there is reason to believe that we humans are interfering with the environment so much that we are making ourselves extinct."

Professor Boulter won't be drawn on precisely when he thinks the human race might die out. He will only say "soon", which, in geological terms, could mean millions of years.

"The good news is that life on Earth will continue peacefully and happily without large mammals," added Professor Boulter. "Of course, it's poor news for us."

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Professor Michael Boulter
"We are making ourselves extinct."
See also:

12 Oct 99 | Sheffield 99
22 Feb 00 | Washington 2000
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