Linking Speciation to Extinction: Diversification Raises Contemporary Extinction Risk in Amphibians

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DA Greenberg & AO Mooers. (2017). Linking speciation to extinction:Diversification raises contemporary extinction risk in amphibians. Evolution Letters 1 (1), 40-48.

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Extinction risk
Speciation rate
Species longevity

Many of the traits associated with elevated rates of speciation, including niche specialization and having small and isolated populations, are similarly linked with an elevated risk of extinction. This suggests that rapidly speciating lineages may also be more extinction prone. Empirical tests of a speciation-extinction correlation are rare because assessing paleontological extinction rates is difficult. However, the modern biodiversity crisis allows us to observe patterns of extinction in real time, and if this hypothesis is true then we would expect young clades that have recently diversified to have high contemporary extinction risk. Here, we examine evolutionary patterns of modern extinction risk across over 300 genera within one of the most threatened vertebrate classes, the Amphibia. Consistent with predictions, rapidly diversifying amphibian clades also had a greater share of threatened species. Curiously, this pattern is not reflected in other tetrapod classes and may reflect a greater propensity to speciate through peripheral isolation in amphibians, which is partly supported by a negative correlation between diversification rate and mean geographic range size. This clustered threat in rapidly diversifying amphibian genera means that protecting a small number of species can achieve large gains in preserving amphibian phylogenetic diversity. Nonindependence between speciation and extinction rates has many consequences for patterns of biodiversity and how we may choose to conserve it.

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Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)