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Squamates: Fully-sampled phylogenies of squamates reveal evolutionary patterns in threat status

Citation: Tonini JFR, Beard KH, Ferreira RB, Jetz W, Pyron RA (2016) Fully-sampled phylogenies of squamates reveal evolutionary patterns in threat status. Biological Conservation, online in advance of print. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.03.039

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Link to squamate phylogeny gif here

Abstract: Macroevolutionary rates of diversification and anthropogenic extinction risk differ vastly throughout the Tree of Life. This results in a highly heterogeneous distribution of Evolutionary distinctiveness (ED) and threat status among species. We examine the phylogenetic distribution of ED and threat status for squamates (amphisbaenians, lizards, and snakes) using fully-sampled phylogenies containing 9574 species and expert-based estimates of threat status for ~4000 species. We ask whether threatened species are more closely related than would be expected by chance and whether high-risk species represent a disproportionate amount of total evolutionary history. We found currently-assessed threat status to be phylogenetically clustered at broad level in Squamata, suggesting it is critical to assess extinction risks for close relatives of threatened lineages. Our findings show no association between threat status and ED, suggesting that future extinctions may not result in a disproportionate loss of evolutionary history. Lizards in degraded tropical regions (e.g., Madagascar, India, Australia, and the West Indies) seem to be at particular risk. A low number of threatened high-ED species in areas like the Amazon, Borneo, and Papua New Guinea may be due to a dearth of adequate risk assessments. It seems we have not yet reached a tipping point of extinction risk affecting a majority of species; 63% of the assessed species are not threatened and 56% are Least Concern. Nonetheless, our results show that immediate efforts should focus on geckos, iguanas, and chameleons, representing 67% of high-ED threatened species and 57% of Unassessed high-ED lineages.


EltonTraits 1.0: Species-level foraging attributes of the world’s birds and mammals

Ecological Archives E095-178

Citation: Hamish Wilman, Jonathan Belmaker, Jennifer Simpson, Carolina de la Rosa, Marcelo M. Rivadeneira, and Walter Jetz. 2014. EltonTraits 1.0: Species-level foraging attributes of the world’s birds and mammals. Ecology 95:2027. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/13-1917.1

Abstract: Species are characterized by physiological, behavioral, and ecological attributes that are all subject to varying evolutionary and ecological constraints and jointly determine their role and function in ecosystems. Attributes such as diet, foraging strata, foraging time, and body size, in particular, determine a large portion of the “Eltonian” niches of species. Here we present a global species-level compilation of these key attributes for all 9993 and 5400 extant bird and mammal species derived from key literature sources. Global handbooks and monographs allowed the consistent sourcing of attributes for most species. For diet and foraging stratum we followed a defined protocol to translate the verbal descriptions into standardized, semiquantitative information about relative importance of different categories. Together with body size (continuous) and activity time (categorical) this enables a much finer distinction of species’ foraging ecology than typical categorical guild assignments allow. Attributes lacking information for specific species were flagged, and interpolated values based on taxonomy were provided instead. The presented data set is limited by, among others, these select cases missing observed data, by errors and uncertainty in the expert assessment as presented in the literature, and by the lack of intraspecific information. However, the standardized and transparent nature and complete global coverage of the data set should support an array of potential studies in biogeography, community ecology, macroevolution, global change biology, and conservation. Potential uses include comparative work involving these traits as focal or secondary variables, ecological research on the trait or trophic structure of communities, or conservation science concerned with the loss of function among species or in ecosystems in a changing world. We hope that this publication will spur the sharing, collaborative curation, and extension of data to the benefit of a more integrative, rigorous, and global biodiversity science.