Abstract: The link between body size and risk of extinction has been the focus of much recent attention. For Australian terrestrial mammals this link is of particular interest because it is widely believed that species in the intermediate size range of 35–5500 g (the “critical weight range”) have been the most prone to recent extinction. But the relationship between body size and extinction risk in Australian mammals has never been subject to a robust statistical analysis. Using a combination of randomization tests and phylogenetic comparative analyses, we found that Australian mammal extinctions and declines have been nonrandom with respect to body size, but we reject the hypothesis of a critical weight range at intermediate sizes. Small species appear to be the least prone to extinction, but extinctions have not been significantly clustered around intermediate sizes. Our results suggest that hypotheses linking intermediate body size with high risk of extinction in Australian mammals are misguided and that the focus of future research should shift to explaining why the smallest species are the most resistant to extinction.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Oct 20, 2001
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