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Climate and Species Richness Predict the Phylogenetic Structure of African Mammal Communities

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We have little knowledge of how climatic variation (and by proxy, habitat variation) influences the phylogenetic structure of tropical communities. Here, we quantified the phylogenetic structure of mammal communities in

We have little knowledge of how climatic variation (and by proxy, habitat variation) influences the phylogenetic structure of tropical communities. Here, we quantified the phylogenetic structure of mammal communities in Africa to investigate how community structure varies with respect to climate and species richness variation across the continent. In addition, we investigated how phylogenetic patterns vary across carnivores, primates, and ungulates. We predicted that climate would differentially affect the structure of communities from different clades due to between-clade biological variation. We examined 203 communities using two metrics, the net relatedness (NRI) and nearest taxon (NTI) indices. We used simultaneous autoregressive models to predict community phylogenetic structure from climate variables and species richness. We found that most individual communities exhibited a phylogenetic structure consistent with a null model, but both climate and species richness significantly predicted variation in community phylogenetic metrics. Using NTI, species rich communities were composed of more distantly related taxa for all mammal communities, as well as for communities of carnivorans or ungulates. Temperature seasonality predicted the phylogenetic structure of mammal, carnivoran, and ungulate communities, and annual rainfall predicted primate community structure. Additional climate variables related to temperature and rainfall also predicted the phylogenetic structure of ungulate communities. We suggest that both past interspecific competition and habitat filtering have shaped variation in tropical mammal communities. The significant effect of climatic factors on community structure has important implications for the diversity of mammal communities given current models of future climate change.

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  • 2015-04-15

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Hard Tissue Correlates of Growth Rate Variation in Primates

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This dissertation project explores the links between the ultimate drivers of variation in primate growth rates and their proximate (i.e., hormonal) underpinnings via a hard-tissue structure, the sella turcica. In

This dissertation project explores the links between the ultimate drivers of variation in primate growth rates and their proximate (i.e., hormonal) underpinnings via a hard-tissue structure, the sella turcica. In doing so, it proposes a novel, non-destructive method for estimating individual somatic growth rates, which are presently difficult to infer in the hominin and primate fossil records. It also investigates the inter- and intraspecific effects of ecology and environment on the growth rates of extant primates.The ultimate causes, or selective pressures, shaping growth rate have long been the subject of anthropological research, but the proximate mechanisms that underpin variation in growth rate are less well studied. At the proximate level, somatic growth is the direct result of hormones produced by endocrine glands such as the pituitary. This project builds upon the relationship between the size of the pituitary, which is positively correlated with growth rate across mammalian taxa, and the sella turcica, the bony structure within which the pituitary gland is housed. By pairing 3D cranial morphology data with growth data from a well-studied primate population, this research tests whether the size of the nonhuman primate sella turcica reflects somatic growth rate. It also assesses how aspects of ecology and demography (i.e., ultimate causes such as resource availability, food quality, extrinsic mortality) relate to somatic growth rates both within the study population and across a comparative sample of 51 extant primate species. It further explores whether these ecological variables also explain variation in relative sella turcica size; together, the complementary components of this dissertation contribute to a better understanding of primate growth.

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  • 2021