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Defaunation precipitates the extinction of evolutionarily distinct interactions in the Anthropocene

Species on Earth are interconnected with each other through ecological interactions. Defaunation can erode those connections, yet we lack evolutionary predictions about the consequences of losing interactions in human-modified ecosystems. Here, the fate of the evolutionary history of avian–seed dispersal interactions across tropical forest fragments is quantified by combining the evolutionary distinctness of the pairwise-partner species, a proxy to their unique functional features. Both large-seeded plant and large-bodied bird species showed the highest evolutionary distinctness. A loss of 3.5 to 4.7 × 104 million years of cumulative evolutionary history of interactions due to defaunation is estimated. Bird-driven local extinctions mainly erode the most evolutionarily distinct interactions. However, the persistence of less evolutionarily distinct bird species in defaunated areas exerts a phylogenetic rescue effect through seed dispersal of evolutionarily distinct plant species. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Emer et al (2019) Defaunation precipitates the extinction of evolutionarily distinct interactions in the Anthropocene. Sci Adv DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav6699


https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/6/eaav6699
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