|Title||Serial population extinctions in a small mammal indicate Late Pleistocene ecosystem instability.|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2012|
|Authors||Brace, S, Palkopoulou, E, Dalén, L, Lister, AM, Miller, R, Otte, M, Germonpré, M, Blockley, SPE, Stewart, JR, Barnes, I|
|Journal||Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A|
|Date Published||2012 Nov 26|
|Keywords||europe, Late Pleistocene, non-primate, paleoclimate, pleistocene, population dynamics|
The Late Pleistocene global extinction of many terrestrial mammal species has been a subject of intensive scientific study for over a century, yet the relative contributions of environmental changes and the global expansion of humans remain unresolved. A defining component of these extinctions is a bias toward large species, with the majority of small-mammal taxa apparently surviving into the present. Here, we investigate the population-level history of a key tundra-specialist small mammal, the collared lemming (Dicrostonyx torquatus), to explore whether events during the Late Pleistocene had a discernible effect beyond the large mammal fauna. Using ancient DNA techniques to sample across three sites in North-West Europe, we observe a dramatic reduction in genetic diversity in this species over the last 50,000 y. We further identify a series of extinction-recolonization events, indicating a previously unrecognized instability in Late Pleistocene small-mammal populations, which we link with climatic fluctuations. Our results reveal climate-associated, repeated regional extinctions in a keystone prey species across the Late Pleistocene, a pattern likely to have had an impact on the wider steppe-tundra community, and one that is concordant with environmental change as a major force in structuring Late Pleistocene biodiversity.
|Alternate Journal||Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.|
Serial population extinctions in a small mammal indicate Late Pleistocene ecosystem instability.
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