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Reorganization of surviving mammal communities after the end-Pleistocene megafaunal extinction


Anikó B Tóth, S Kathleen Lyons, W Andrew Barr, Anna K Behrensmeyer, Jessica L Blois, René Bobe, Matt Davis, Andrew Du, Jussi T Eronen, J Tyler Faith, Danielle Fraser, Nicholas J Gotelli, Gary R Graves, Advait M Jukar, Joshua H Miller, Silvia Pineda-Munoz, Laura C Soul, Amelia Villaseñor, John Alroy


Large mammals are at high risk of extinction globally. To understand the consequences of their demise for community assembly, we tracked community structure through the end-Pleistocene megafaunal extinction in North America. We decomposed the effects of biotic and abiotic factors by analyzing co-occurrence within the mutual ranges of species pairs. Although shifting climate drove an increase in niche overlap, co-occurrence decreased, signaling shifts in biotic interactions. Furthermore, the effect of abiotic factors on co-occurrence remained constant over time while the effect of biotic factors decreased. Biotic factors apparently played a key role in continental-scale community assembly before the extinctions. Specifically, large mammals likely promoted co-occurrence in the Pleistocene, and their loss contributed to the modern assembly pattern in which co-occurrence frequently falls below random expectations.

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Last Updated: 4/13/21