Researchers at the University of Oxford have found that the world’s most endangered turtle and crocodile species are those that are most unique, with their loss having widespread ramifications for the ecosystems in which they reside. Approximately half of turtle and crocodile species are at risk of extinction, and the research aimed to determine which species were most threatened and why, to help conservation efforts. The most endangered species evolved unique life strategies, such as serving as effective seed dispersers or ecosystem predators. Consequently, the loss of these species would to lead a loss of critical processes which other species would be unable to carry out. Habitat loss and fragmentation made up the main threat for the viability of the species, particularly those in the Northern hemisphere. Meanwhile, unsustainable trade, specifically for live specimens or animal parts, posed a more global threat. The capture and trafficking of turtles, for example, is often for keeping them in captivity and the skin of some crocodiles is of commercial interest. Climate change and human-led threats, such as pollution levels and invasive species presences, also affected all species, regardless of their life history strategy. The results highlight the need for conservation management plans to protect the unique life history strategies and functional diversity of these species.
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