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Brain expansion in early hominins predicts carnivore extinctions in East Africa
Swedish Museum of Natural History, Department of Paleobiology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9586-4017
2020 (English)In: Ecology Letters, ISSN 1461-023X, E-ISSN 1461-0248, Vol. 23, p. 537-544Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

While the anthropogenic impact on ecosystems today is evident, it remains unclear if the detrimental

effect of hominins on co-occurring biodiversity is a recent phenomenon or has also been

the pattern for earlier hominin species. We test this using the East African carnivore fossil record.

We analyse the diversity of carnivores over the last four million years and investigate whether any

decline is related to an increase in hominin cognitive capacity, vegetation changes or climatic

changes. We find that extinction rates in large carnivores correlate with increased hominin brain

size and with vegetation changes, but not with precipitation or temperature changes. While temporal

analyses cannot distinguish between the effects of vegetation changes and hominins, we

show through spatial analyses of contemporary carnivores in Africa that only hominin causation

is plausible. Our results suggest that substantial anthropogenic influence on biodiversity started

millions of years earlier than currently assumed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2020. Vol. 23, p. 537-544
Keywords [en]
anthropogenic, bayesian, carnivora, humans, pleistocene, pliocene, PyRate.
National Category
Evolutionary Biology
Research subject
Man and the environment
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:nrm:diva-3725DOI: 10.1111/ele.13451OAI: oai:DiVA.org:nrm-3725DiVA, id: diva2:1392335
Funder
Swedish Research CouncilAvailable from: 2020-02-07 Created: 2020-02-07 Last updated: 2020-02-07

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