Serial population extinctions in a small mammal indicate Late Pleistocene ecosystem instability
2012 (English)In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, ISSN 0027-8424, E-ISSN 1091-6490, Vol. 109, no 50, 20532-20536 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
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.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 109, no 50, 20532-20536 p.
megafauna, palaeogenetics, palaeoclimate, modelling
Research subject Systematic Zoology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-87135DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1213322109ISI: 000312605600081OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-87135DiVA: diva2:601296