Marine Defaunation: Animal Loss in the Global Ocean

Vimeo Link:

YouTube Link:

Team Members:

Douglas McCauley, University of California, Santa Barbara
Christopher Hanson,  Industrial Light & Magic
Video directed and edited by Christopher Hanson.


Marine defaunation, or human-caused animal loss in the oceans, emerged forcefully only hundreds of years ago, whereas terrestrial defaunation has been occurring far longer. Though humans have caused few global marine extinctions, we have profoundly impacted marine wildlife, altering the functioning and provisioning of services in every ocean.
Current ocean trends, coupled with terrestrial defaunation lessons, suggest that marine defaunation rates will rapidly intensify as human use of the oceans industrializes. Though protected areas are a powerful tool to harness ocean productivity, especially when designed with future climate in mind, additional management strategies will be required. Overall, habitat degradation is likely to intensify as a major driver of marine wildlife loss. Proactive intervention can avert a marine defaunation disaster of the magnitude observed on land.

Original Publication:

McCauley, D.J,  Pinsky, M.L., Palumbi, S.R.,  Estes, J.A., Joyce, F.H., Warner, R.R. 2016. Marine defaunation: Animal loss in the global ocean. Science 347: 6219.  DOI:10.1126/science.1255641

Link to publication:

Support Provided by: National Science Foundation


By the Numbers

Over 40,000 students in 50 US states, the US Virgin Islands, and 25 countries participated as judges in the 2016 Ocean 180 Video Challenge.