Article

Recent extinctions disturb path to equilibrium diversity in Caribbean bats

  • Nature Ecology & Evolution 1, Article number: 0026 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/s41559-016-0026
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Abstract

Islands are ideal systems to model temporal changes in biodiversity and reveal the influence of humans on natural communities. Although theory predicts biodiversity on islands tends towards an equilibrium value, the recent extinction of large proportions of island biotas complicates testing this model. The well-preserved subfossil record of Caribbean bats—involving multiple insular radiations—provides a rare opportunity to model diversity dynamics in an insular community. Here, we reconstruct the diversity trajectory in noctilionoid bats of the Greater Antilles by applying a dynamic model of colonization, extinction and speciation to phylogenetic and palaeontological data including all known extinct and extant species. We show species richness asymptotes to an equilibrium value, a demonstration of natural equilibrium dynamics across an entire community. However, recent extinctions—many caused by humans—have wiped out nearly a third of island lineages, dragging diversity away from equilibrium. Using a metric to measure island biodiversity loss, we estimate it will take at least eight million years to regain pre-human diversity levels. Our integrative approach reveals how anthropogenic extinctions can drastically alter the natural trajectory of biological communities, resulting in evolutionary disequilibrium.

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Acknowledgements

We thank A. Phillimore for discussions regarding DAISIE. We thank M. Lim, A. Phillimore, D. Rojas and L. Yohe for comments on the manuscript. Illustrations were produced by A. Tejedor. L.V. was funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Brandenburg Ministry of Science, Research and Culture and the German Research Foundation (DFG Grant VA 1102/1-1). L.M.D. was supported by the National Science Foundation (DEB-1442142). R.S.E. was supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) through a VICI grant.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Unit of Evolutionary Biology/Systematic Zoology, Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 24–25, Haus 26, D-14476 Potsdam, Germany

    • Luis Valente
  2. Museum fìr Naturkunde, Leibniz-Institut fìr Evolutions und Biodiversitätsforschung, Invalidenstr. 43, 10115 Berlin, Germany

    • Luis Valente
  3. Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences, University of Groningen, PO Box 11103, Groningen 9700 CC, The Netherlands

    • Rampal S. Etienne
  4. Department of Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University, 650 Life Sciences Building, Stony Brook, New York 11794, USA

    • Liliana M. Dávalos
  5. Consortium for Inter-Disciplinary Environmental Research, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, 129 Dana Hall, Stony Brook, New York 11794, USA

    • Liliana M. Dávalos

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Contributions

L.M.D. and L.V. designed the study and wrote the manuscript. L.V. performed the analyses. R.S.E. provided theoretical input and developed analytic tools. All authors read and commented on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Liliana M. Dávalos.

Supplementary information

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    Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figures 1–8, Supplementary Tables 1–4, Supplementary References

Excel files

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    Supplementary Data 1

    Consensus datasets for the three extinction scenarios used in the DAISIE analyses.