Temporal change in functional richness and evenness in the eastern African plio-pleistocene carnivoran guild.

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Werdelin, Lars; Lewis, Margaret E
Year of Publication: 2013
Journal: PLoS One
Volume: 8
Issue: 3
Pagination: e57944
Date Published: 2013
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1932-6203
Keywords: Africa, Eastern, Animals, Biodiversity, Carnivora, Time Factors

We analyze functional richness and functional evenness of the carnivoran guild in eastern Africa from 3.5 Ma to 1.5 Ma, and compare them to the present day. The data consist of characters of the craniodental apparatus of 76 species of fossil and extant carnivorans, divided into four 0.5 Ma time slices from 3.5 to 1.5 Ma, together with the modern fauna. Focus is on large (>21.5 kg) carnivores. Results show that the large carnivore guild has lost nearly 99% of its functional richness since 3.5 Ma, in a process starting prior to 2 Ma. Measurement of functional evenness shows the modern large carnivore guild to be unique in being randomly distributed in morphospace while in all past time slices there is significant clustering of species. The results are analyzed in the light of known changes to climate and environment in eastern Africa. We conclude that climate change is unlikely to explain all of the changes found and suggest that the evolution of early hominins into carnivore niche space, especially the evolution of derived dietary strategies after 2 Ma, played a significant part in the reduction of carnivore functional richness.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057944
Alternate Journal: PLoS ONE