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Small body size exacerbates the extinction vortex
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  • Nathan Williams,
  • Louise McRae,
  • Robin Freeman,
  • Christopher Clements
Nathan Williams
University of Bristol
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Louise McRae
Zoological Society of London Institute of Zoology
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Robin Freeman
Zoological Society of London Institute of Zoology
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Christopher Clements
University of Bristol
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Abstract

Understanding the dynamics of small populations is critical to conserve those species at most risk. Previous work has identified demographic and environmental factors that can mutually reinforce one-another to drive populations rapidly to extinction – a process known as the ‘extinction vortex.’ However, studies investigating robustness to the extinction vortex in relation to life history and ecological traits have been lacking. Here, we assemble a database of 55 vertebrate populations monitored to extirpation and perform three analyses to investigate whether a key fitness-related phenotypic trait – body size – influences the rate at which populations succumb to the extinction vortex. We find evidence that populations of smaller-bodied species deteriorate at a faster rate, suggesting that intrinsic biological traits can alter the susceptibility of species to the extinction vortex, and may serve as a useful feature for prioritizing which populations to invest conservation effort in.

Peer review status:UNDER REVIEW

08 Aug 2020Submitted to Ecology Letters
10 Aug 2020Assigned to Editor
10 Aug 2020Submission Checks Completed
18 Aug 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned