Primate extinction risk and historical patterns of speciation and extinction in relation to body mass

Luke J. Matthews, Christian Arnold, Zarin Machanda, Charles L. Nunn

Abstract

Body mass is thought to influence diversification rates, but previous studies have produced ambiguous results. We investigated patterns of diversification across 100 trees obtained from a new Bayesian inference of primate phylogeny that sampled trees in proportion to their posterior probabilities. First, we used simulations to assess the validity of previous studies that used linear models to investigate the links between IUCN Red List status and body mass. These analyses support the use of linear models for ordinal ranked data on threat status, and phylogenetic generalized linear models revealed a significant positive correlation between current extinction risk and body mass across our tree block. We then investigated historical patterns of speciation and extinction rates using a recently developed maximum-likelihood method. Specifically, we predicted that body mass correlates positively with extinction rate because larger bodied organisms reproduce more slowly, and body mass correlates negatively with speciation rate because smaller bodied organisms are better able to partition niche space. We failed to find evidence that extinction rates covary with body mass across primate phylogeny. Similarly, the speciation rate was generally unrelated to body mass, except in some tests that indicated an increase in the speciation rate with increasing body mass. Importantly, we discovered that our data violated a key assumption of sample randomness with respect to body mass. After correcting for this bias, we found no association between diversification rates and mass.

  • Received July 13, 2010.
  • Accepted September 22, 2010.
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