Strong influence of palaeoclimate on the structure of modern African mammal communities.
ABSTRACT: Ecological research often assumes that species are adapted to their current climatic environments. However, climate fluctuations over geologic timescales have influenced species dispersal and extinction, which in turn may affect community structure. Modern community structure is likely to be the product of both palaeoclimate and modern climate, with the relative degrees of influence of past and present climates unknown. Here, we assessed the influence of climate at different time periods on the phylogenetic and functional trait structure of 203 African mammal communities. We found that the climate of the mid-Holocene (approx. 6000 years ago) and Last Glacial Maximum (approx. 22 000 years ago) were frequently better predictors of community structure than modern climate for mammals overall, carnivorans and ungulates. Primate communities were more strongly influenced by modern climate than palaeoclimate. Overall, community structure of African mammals appears to be related to the ecological flexibility of the groups considered here and the regions of continental Africa that they occupy. Our results indicate that the future redistribution, expansion and contraction of particular biomes due to human activity, such as climate and land-use change, will differentially affect mammal groups that vary in their sensitivity to environmental change.
Project description:We have little knowledge of how climatic variation (and by proxy, habitat variation) influences the phylogenetic structure of tropical communities. Here, we quantified the phylogenetic structure of mammal communities in Africa to investigate how community structure varies with respect to climate and species richness variation across the continent. In addition, we investigated how phylogenetic patterns vary across carnivores, primates, and ungulates. We predicted that climate would differentially affect the structure of communities from different clades due to between-clade biological variation. We examined 203 communities using two metrics, the net relatedness (NRI) and nearest taxon (NTI) indices. We used simultaneous autoregressive models to predict community phylogenetic structure from climate variables and species richness. We found that most individual communities exhibited a phylogenetic structure consistent with a null model, but both climate and species richness significantly predicted variation in community phylogenetic metrics. Using NTI, species rich communities were composed of more distantly related taxa for all mammal communities, as well as for communities of carnivorans or ungulates. Temperature seasonality predicted the phylogenetic structure of mammal, carnivoran, and ungulate communities, and annual rainfall predicted primate community structure. Additional climate variables related to temperature and rainfall also predicted the phylogenetic structure of ungulate communities. We suggest that both past interspecific competition and habitat filtering have shaped variation in tropical mammal communities. The significant effect of climatic factors on community structure has important implications for the diversity of mammal communities given current models of future climate change.
Project description:Climatic change is widely acknowledged to have played a role in the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa, but the timing is contentious. Genetic evidence links dispersal to climatic change ~60,000 years ago, despite increasing evidence for earlier modern human presence in Asia. We report a deep seismic and near-continuous core record of the last 150,000 years from Lake Tana, Ethiopia, close to early modern human fossil sites and to postulated dispersal routes. The record shows varied climate towards the end of the penultimate glacial, followed by an abrupt change to relatively stable moist climate during the last interglacial. These conditions could have favoured selection for behavioural versatility, population growth and range expansion, supporting models of early, multiple dispersals of modern humans from Africa.
Project description:The distribution of rainforest in many regions across the Earth was strongly affected by Pleistocene ice ages. However, the extent to which these dynamics are still important for modern-day biodiversity patterns within tropical biodiversity hotspots has not been assessed. We employ a comprehensive dataset of Madagascan palms (Arecaceae) and climate reconstructions from the last glacial maximum (LGM; 21 000 years ago) to assess the relative role of modern environment and LGM climate in explaining geographical species richness patterns in this major tropical biodiversity hotspot. We found that palaeoclimate exerted a strong influence on palm species richness patterns, with richness peaking in areas with higher LGM precipitation relative to present-day even after controlling for modern environment, in particular in northeastern Madagascar, consistent with the persistence of tropical rainforest during the LGM primarily in this region. Our results provide evidence that diversity patterns in the World's most biodiverse regions may be shaped by long-term climate history as well as contemporary environment.
Project description:Spatial diversity patterns are thought to be driven by climate-mediated processes. However, temporal patterns of community composition remain poorly studied. We provide two complementary analyses of North American mammal diversity, using (i) a paleontological dataset (2077 localities with 2493 taxon occurrences) spanning 21 discrete subdivisions of the Cenozoic based on North American Land Mammal Ages (36 Ma--present), and (ii) climate space model predictions for 744 extant mammals under eight scenarios of future climate change. Spatial variation in fossil mammal community structure (? diversity) is highest at intermediate values of continental mean annual precipitation (MAP) estimated from paleosols (? 450 mm/year) and declines under both wetter and drier conditions, reflecting diversity patterns of modern mammals. Latitudinal gradients in community change (latitudinal turnover gradients, aka LTGs) increase in strength through the Cenozoic, but also show a cyclical pattern that is significantly explained by MAP. In general, LTGs are weakest when continental MAP is highest, similar to modern tropical ecosystems in which latitudinal diversity gradients are weak or undetectable. Projections under modeled climate change show no substantial change in ? diversity or LTG strength for North American mammals. Our results suggest that similar climate-mediated mechanisms might drive spatial and temporal patterns of community composition in both fossil and extant mammals. We also provide empirical evidence that the ecological processes on which climate space models are based are insufficient for accurately forecasting long-term mammalian response to anthropogenic climate change and inclusion of historical parameters may be essential.
Project description:The geographic distribution of species is the typical metric for identifying priority areas for conservation. Since most biodiversity remains poorly studied, a subset of charismatic species, such as primates, often stand as surrogates for total biodiversity. A central question is therefore, how effectively do primates predict the pooled species richness of other mammalian taxa? We used lemurs as indicator species to predict total non-primate mammal community richness in the forest ecosystems of Madagascar. We combine environmental and species occurrence data to ascertain the extent to which primate diversity can predict (1) non-primate mammal ?-diversity (species richness), (2) non-primate complementarity, and (3) non-primate ?-diversity (species turnover). Our results indicate that primates are effective predictors of non-primate mammal community diversity in the forest ecosystems of Madagascar after controlling for habitat. When individual orders of mammals are considered, lemurs effectively predict the species richness of carnivorans and rodents (but not afrosoricids), complementarity of rodents (but not carnivorans or afrosoricids), and all individual components of ?-diversity. We conclude that lemurs effectively predict total non-primate community richness. However, surrogate species alone cannot achieve complete representation of biodiversity.
Project description:Staphylinoidea (Insecta: Coleoptera) is one of the most species-rich groups in animals, but its huge diversity can hardly be explained by the popular hypothesis (co-radiation with angiosperms) that applies to phytophagous beetles. We estimated the evolutionary mode of staphylinoid beetles and investigated the relationship between the evolutionary mode and palaeoclimate change, and thus the factors underlying the current biodiversity pattern of staphylinoid beetles. Our results demonstrate that staphylinoid beetles originated at around the Triassic-Jurassic bound and the current higher level clades underwent rapid evolution (indicated by increased diversification rate and decreased body size disparity) in the Jurassic and in the Cenozoic, both with low-energy climate, and they evolved much slower during the Cretaceous with high-energy climate. Climate factors, especially low O2 and high CO2, promoted the diversification rate and among-clade body size disparification in the Jurassic. In the Cenozoic, however, climate factors had negative associations with diversification rate but little with body size disparification. Our present study does not support the explosion of staphylinoid beetles as a direct outcome of the Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution (KTR). We suppose that occupying and diversifying in refuge niches associated with litter may elucidate rapid radiations of staphylinoid beetles in low-energy conditions.
Project description:Understanding the past dynamics of large-scale atmospheric systems is crucial for our knowledge of the palaeoclimate conditions in Europe. Southeastern Europe currently lies at the border between Atlantic, Mediterranean, and continental climate zones. Past changes in the relative influence of associated atmospheric systems must have been recorded in the region's palaeoarchives. By comparing high-resolution grain-size, environmental magnetic and geochemical data from two loess-palaeosol sequences in the Lower Danube Basin with other Eurasian palaeorecords, we reconstructed past climatic patterns over Southeastern Europe and the related interaction of the prevailing large-scale circulation modes over Europe, especially during late Marine Isotope Stage 3 (40,000-27,000 years ago). We demonstrate that during this time interval, the intensification of the Siberian High had a crucial influence on European climate causing the more continental conditions over major parts of Europe, and a southwards shift of the Westerlies. Such a climatic and environmental change, combined with the Campanian Ignimbrite/Y-5 volcanic eruption, may have driven the Anatomically Modern Human dispersal towards Central and Western Europe, pointing to a corridor over the Eastern European Plain as an important pathway in their dispersal.
Project description:Studies of the factors governing global patterns of biodiversity are key to predicting community responses to ongoing and future abiotic and biotic changes. Although most research has focused on present-day climate, a growing body of evidence indicates that modern ecological communities may be significantly shaped by paleoclimatic change and past anthropogenic factors. However, the generality of this pattern is unknown, as global analyses are lacking. Here we quantify the phylogenetic and functional trait structure of 515 tropical and subtropical large mammal communities and predict their structure from past and present climatic and anthropogenic factors. We find that the effects of Quaternary paleoclimatic change are strongest in the Afrotropics, with communities in the Indomalayan realm showing mixed effects of modern climate and paleoclimate. Malagasy communities are poorly predicted by any single factor, likely due to the atypical history of the island compared with continental regions. Neotropical communities are mainly codetermined by modern climate and prehistoric and historical human impacts. Overall, our results indicate that the factors governing tropical and subtropical mammalian biodiversity are complex, with the importance of past and present factors varying based on the divergent histories of the world's biogeographic realms and their native biotas. Consideration of the evolutionary and ecological legacies of both the recent and ancient past are key to understanding the forces shaping global patterns of present-day biodiversity and its response to ongoing and future abiotic and biotic changes in the 21st century.
Project description:Most evidence of climate change impacts on food webs comes from modern studies and little is known about how ancient food webs have responded to climate changes in the past. Here, we integrate fossil evidence from 71 fossil sites, body-size relationships and actualism to reconstruct food webs for six large mammal communities that inhabited the Iberian Peninsula at different times during the Quaternary. We quantify the long-term dynamics of these food webs and study how their structure changed across the Quaternary, a period for which fossil data and climate changes are well known. Extinction, immigration and turnover rates were correlated with climate changes in the last 850 kyr. Yet, we find differences in the dynamics and structural properties of Pleistocene versus Holocene mammal communities that are not associated with glacial-interglacial cycles. Although all Quaternary mammal food webs were highly nested and robust to secondary extinctions, general food web properties changed in the Holocene. These results highlight the ability of communities to re-organize with the arrival of phylogenetically similar species without major structural changes, and the impact of climate change and super-generalist species (humans) on Iberian Holocene mammal communities.
Project description:The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is correlated with the first occurrences of earliest modern mammals in the Northern Hemisphere. The latest Paleocene Clarkforkian North American Land Mammal Age, that has yielded rodents and carnivorans, is the only exception to this rule. However, until now no pre-PETM localities have yielded modern mammals in Europe or Asia. We report the first Clarkforkian equivalent Land Mammal Age in the latest Paleocene deposits of the basal Sparnacian facies at Rivecourt, in the north-central part of the Paris Basin. The new terrestrial vertebrate and macroflora assemblages are analyzed through a multidisciplinary study including sedimentologic, stratigraphic, isotopic, and palynological aspects in order to reconstruct the paleoenvironment and to evaluate biochronologic and paleogeographic implications. The mammals are moderately diverse and not abundant, contrary to turtles and champsosaurs. The macroflora is exceptional in preservation and diversity with numerous angiosperms represented by flowers, fruits, seeds and wood preserved as lignite material, revealing an abundance of Arecaceae, Betulaceae, Icacinaceae, Menispermaceae, Vitaceae and probably Cornaceae. Results indicate a Late Paleocene age based on carbon isotope data, palynology and vertebrate occurrences such as the choristoderan Champsosaurus, the arctocyonid Arctocyon, and the plesiadapid Plesiadapis tricuspidens. However, several mammal species compare better with the earliest Eocene. Among these, the particular louisinid Teilhardimys musculus, also recorded from the latest Paleocene of the Spanish Pyrenees, suggests a younger age than the typical MP6 reference level. Nevertheless, the most important aspect of the Rivecourt fauna is the presence of dental remains of a rodent and a "miacid" carnivoran, attesting to the presence of two modern mammalian orders in the latest Paleocene of Europe. Interestingly, these two groups are also the only modern groups recorded from the latest Paleocene of North America, making Rivecourt the first direct equivalent to the Clarkforkian Land Mammal Age outside of North America.