Collateral mammal diversity loss associated with late Quaternary megafaunal extinctions and implications for the future

Anthony D. Barnosky, Marc A. Carrasco, Russell W. Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Using data from two palaeontological databases, MIOMAP and FAUNMAP (now linked as NEOMAP), we explore how late Quaternary species loss compared in large and small mammals by determining palaeospecies-area relationships (PSARs) at 19 temporal intervals ranging from c. 30 million to 500 years ago in 10 different biogeographical provinces in the USA. We found that mammalian diversity of both large and small mammals remained relatively stable from 30 million years ago up until both crashed near the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. The diversity crash had two components: the well-known megafaunal extinction that amounted to c. 21% of the pre-crash species, and collateral biodiversity loss due to biogeographical range reductions. Collateral loss resulted in large mammal diversity regionally falling an additional 6-31% above extinction loss, and small mammal diversity falling 16-51%, even though very few small mammals suffered extinction. These results imply that collateral losses due to biogeographical range adjustments may effectively double the regional diversity loss during an extinction event, substantially magnifying the ecological ramifications of the extinctions themselves. This is of interest in forecasting future ecological impacts of mammal extinctions, given that c. 8% of USA mammal species, and 22% of mammal species worldwide, are now considered 'Threatened' by the IUCN.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-190
Number of pages12
JournalGeological Society Special Publication
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Geology


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