Dr. Felisa Smith Explores the Influence of Ancient Humans on Mammal Body Size


Posted: Apr 19, 2018 - 12:00am

Researchers have demonstrated that mammal biodiversity loss, a major conservation concern today, is part of a long-term trend lasting at least 125,000 years. As archaic humans, Neanderthals and other hominin species migrated out of Africa, what followed was a wave of size-biased extinction in mammals on all continents that intensified over time.

A new study titled Body size downgrading of mammals over the late Quaternary, released Friday in the prestigious journal Science, is the first to quantitatively show that human effects on mammal body size predates their migration out of Africa and that size selective extinction is a hallmark of human activities and not the norm in mammal evolution.

The research, funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, was led by Dr. Felisa Smith at The University of New Mexico, along with colleagues from University of California San Diego, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Stanford University. The researchers showed that body-size downgrading – the loss of the largest species on each continent over time – is a hallmark of human activity, both in the past and present. If this trend continues into the future researchers warn, the largest terrestrial mammal in 200 years will be the domestic cow.

Read the full story at the UNM Newsroom.