Friday, October 23, 2015

What Traits Help Cenozoic Mammals Have Longer Species Lifetimes?

Expected time-invariant effects of biological traits on mammal species duration




Determining which biological traits influence differences in extinction risk is vital for understanding the differential diversification of life and for making predictions about species’ vulnerability to anthropogenic impacts. Here I present a hierarchical Bayesian survival model of North American Cenozoic mammal species durations in relation to species-level ecological factors, time of origination, and phylogenetic relationships. I find support for the survival of the unspecialized as a time-invariant generalization of trait-based extinction risk. Furthermore, I find that phylogenetic and temporal effects are both substantial factors associated with differences in species durations. Finally, I find that the estimated effects of these factors are partially incongruous with how these factors are correlated with extinction risk of the extant species. These findings parallel previous observations that background extinction is a poor predictor of mass extinction events and suggest that attention should be focused on mass extinctions to gain insight into modern species loss.

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