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Q: What characteristics make some species more vulnerable to extinction, while others seem to thrive despite changes in their surroundings?
A: Extinction is rarely random across ecological and geological time scales. Traits that make some species more extinction-prone include individual traits, such as body size, and abundance. [ Substantial consistency appears across ecological and geological time scales in such traits. Evolutionary branching produces phylogenetic (as often measured by taxonomic) nesting of extinction-biasing traits
at many scales. An example is the tendency, seen in both fossil and modern data, for higher taxa living in marine habitats to have generally lower species extinction rates. At lower taxononomic levels, recent bird and mammal extinctions are concentrated in certain genera and families. A fundamental result of such selectivity is that it can accelerate net loss of biodiversity compared to random loss of species among taxa. Replacement of vulnerable taxa by rapidly spreading taxa that thrive in human-altered environments will ultimately produce a spatially more homogenized biosphere with much lower net diversity. ]
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Asked 2/10/2013 11:27:13 AM
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