Homogenisation of carnivorous mammal ensembles caused by global range reductions of large-bodied hypercarnivores during the late Quaternary

Middleton, Owen S, Scharlemann, Jörn P W and Sandom, Christopher J (2020) Homogenisation of carnivorous mammal ensembles caused by global range reductions of large-bodied hypercarnivores during the late Quaternary. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 287 (1929). pp. 1-9. ISSN 0962-8452

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Carnivorous mammals play crucial roles in ecosystems by influencing prey densities and behaviour, and recycling carrion. Yet, the influence of carnivores on global ecosystems has been affected by extinctions and range contractions throughout the Late Pleistocene and Holocene (~130 000 years ago to the current). Large-bodied mammals were particularly affected, but how dietary strategies influenced species’ susceptibility to geographic range reductions remains unknown. We investigated 1) the importance of dietary strategies in explaining range reductions of carnivorous mammals (≥5% vertebrate meat consumption), and 2) differences in functional diversity of continental carnivore ensembles by comparing current, known ranges to current, expected ranges under a present-natural counterfactual scenario. The present-natural counterfactual estimates current mammal ranges had modern humans not expanded out of Africa during the Late Pleistocene and were not a main driver of extinctions and range contractions, alongside changing climates. Ranges of large-bodied hypercarnivorous mammals are currently smaller than expected, compared to smaller-bodied carnivorous mammals that consume less vertebrate meat. This resulted in consistent differences in continental functional diversity, whereby current ensembles of carnivorous mammals have undergone homogenisation through structural shifts towards smaller-bodied insectivorous and herbivorous species. The magnitude of ensemble structural shift varied among continents, with Australia experiencing the greatest difference. Weighting functional diversity by species’ geographic range sizes caused a three-fold greater shift in ensemble centroids than when using presence-absence alone. Conservation efforts should acknowledge current reductions in the potential geographic ranges of large-bodied hypercarnivores and aim to restore functional roles in carnivore ensembles, where possible, across continents.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Research Centres and Groups: Sussex Sustainability Research Programme
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2020 10:53
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2021 13:48
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/91597

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