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The impact of large terrestrial carnivores on Pleistocene ecosystems

Van Valkenburgh, B and Hayward, MW and Ripple, WJ and Meloro, C and Roth, VL (2015) The impact of large terrestrial carnivores on Pleistocene ecosystems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA. ISSN 1091-6490

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Abstract

At very high densities, populations of the largest herbivores, such as elephants, have devastating effects on the environment. What prevented widespread habitat destruction in the Pleistocene, when the ecosystem sustained many species of huge herbivores? We use data on predator–prey body mass relationships to predict the prey size ranges of large extinct mammalian carnivores, which were more diverse and much larger than living species. We then compare these prey size ranges with estimates of young mammoth sizes and show that juvenile mammoths and mastodons were within predicted prey size ranges of many of the Pleistocene carnivores. From this and other fossil evidence we argue that, by limiting population sizes of megaherbivores, large carnivores had a major impact on Pleistocene ecosystems.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: MD Multidisciplinary
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Natural Sciences and Psychology
Publisher: National Academy of Sciences
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2015 10:12
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2015 10:12
DOI or Identification number: 10.1073/pnas.1502554112
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/2258

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