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Proc Biol Sci. 2013 Jul 3;280(1765):20131092. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1092. Print 2013 Aug 22.

Phylogenetic correlates of extinction risk in mammals: species in older lineages are not at greater risk.

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School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia.


Phylogenetic information is becoming a recognized basis for evaluating conservation priorities, but associations between extinction risk and properties of a phylogeny such as diversification rates and phylogenetic lineage ages remain unclear. Limited taxon-specific analyses suggest that species in older lineages are at greater risk. We calculate quantitative properties of the mammalian phylogeny and model extinction risk as an ordinal index based on International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List categories. We test for associations between lineage age, clade size, evolutionary distinctiveness and extinction risk for 3308 species of terrestrial mammals. We show no significant global or regional associations, and three significant relationships within taxonomic groups. Extinction risk increases for evolutionarily distinctive primates and decreases with lineage age when lemurs are excluded. Lagomorph species (rabbits, hares and pikas) that have more close relatives are less threatened. We examine the relationship between net diversification rates and extinction risk for 173 genera and find no pattern. We conclude that despite being under-represented in the frequency distribution of lineage ages, species in older, slower evolving and distinct lineages are not more threatened or extinction-prone. Their extinction, however, would represent a disproportionate loss of unique evolutionary history.


distinctiveness; ordinal index; phylogenetic age; phylogenetic generalized linear mixed models

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