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Holocene Extinctions$
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Samuel T. Turvey

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199535095

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199535095.001.0001

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Holocene extinctions and the loss of feature diversity

Holocene extinctions and the loss of feature diversity

(p.263) CHAPTER 14 Holocene extinctions and the loss of feature diversity
Holocene Extinctions

Arne Ø. Mooers

Simon J. Goring

Samuel T. Turvey

Tyler S. Kuhn

Oxford University Press

Each species can be considered to possess a set of unique characters which comprise its feature diversity — the diversity that would be lost when that species goes extinct. Biodiversity is unevenly distributed across the tree of life; if distinctive species become extinct, more of the tree (more unique features) is lost than if we prune less distinctive species. Studying how feature diversity is distributed across biodiversity, using taxonomies and supertrees, allows us to assess the impacts of historically and prehistorically recent extinctions on this distribution. Roughly twice as many higher mammal and bird taxa than expected under a random extinction scenario have been lost throughout the Holocene. Smaller taxa were more likely to lose species to extinction, but there has also been ‘selectivity by taxon’ not predicted by taxon size. The Holocene mammalian phylogeny appears imbalanced, most likely due to non-random losses from species-poor clades over the course of the Holocene.

Keywords:   biodiversity loss, extinction selectivity, phylogenetic tree, supertree, taxonomy, tree of life

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