More than 300 different mammalspecies have been eradicated by human activities. So when they all went extinct, many years of evolutionary history disappeared with them.
According to their calculations, in the best-case scenario, nature would need 3 million to 5 million years to get back to the level of biodiversity we have on Earth today.
Five vital turbulences over the past 450 million years have been responsible for extinction of majority of Earth's plants and animal species because of environmental change. In those cases, evolution allowed new species to replace those that were lost.
As Matt Davis says: "It is much easier to save biodiversity now than to re-evolve it later".
Every species that went extinct because of us represents a tragedy.
"That is pretty scary". "We are starting to cut down the whole tree [of life], including the branch [humans] are sitting on right now".
The new research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, did not simply add up the number of lost species, as this fails to capture how unique each species is in evolutionary terms. The Permian-Triassic extinction, for instance, took place about 250 million years ago at the end of the Permian period and wiped out 96% of all marine species and over three-quarters of land vertebrates. There are hundreds of species of shrew, so if half of them should become extinct, it wouldn't kill out the entire shrew population on Earth.
"Contact your representative in government", said Davis.
And we're exterminating species so fast that it will take our planet five million years to evolve back to our current level of biodiversity after the next 50 years, according to Aarhus University researchers. Since 1500, another 500m years has been lost. If mammals expand at their normal rate it will still take them 5-7 million years to establish biodiversity to its levels prior to evolution of modern humans and 3-5 million years just to reach present biodiversity levels as per analysis. On the other hand, there are only two species of elephants.
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The losses are already affecting ecosystems, he said, particularly the vanishing of "megafauna".
He noted that the planet no longer boasts giant beavers, giant deer, or giant armadillos.
"We are now living in a world without giants", said Davis. "So the seeds of big fruit are not dispersed any more because we don't have mammoths or gomphotheres or giant ground sloths eating those fruits". Another example, he said, is the widespread loss of wolves.
People are destroying animals and plants change the environment so quickly, that evolution has not kept pace adapting organisms, and therefore they disappear.
Mammals are going extinct at an alarmingly accelerated rate. The team only looked at mammals, as they are well studied, but extinctions in other animals are just as high.
Though the researchers' findings are dire, the scientists said their work could be used to figure out which endangered species are evolutionarily unique, which might help conservationists decide where to focus their efforts to prevent the most devastating extinctions. The black rhino, the red panda and the indri - a large lemur - are among those highlighted.
The team of researchers behind the report from Aarhus University and the University of Gothenburg calculated that the extinctions are moving too rapidly for evolution to keep up. There are many species of shrew, so if one species should become extinct, the environmental impact is great but not catastrophic.
However, not all species have the same significance.
Before that, the animal becomes aggressive and loses its coordination, which is why the illness has been dubbed "mad cow disease". All animals over for years of age that die on a farm are routinely tested for BSE under a comprehensive surveillance system.
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