Ancient DNA reveals a lack of habitat tracking in the Arctic fox

Centro UCM-ISCIII de Evolución y Comportamiento Humanos, C/ Sinesio Delgado 4, Pabellón 14, 28029 Madrid, Spain.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.67). 05/2007; 104(16):6726-9. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0701341104
Source: PubMed


How species respond to an increased availability of habitat, for example at the end of the last glaciation, has been well established. In contrast, little is known about the opposite process, when the amount of habitat decreases. The hypothesis of habitat tracking predicts that species should be able to track both increases and decreases in habitat availability. The alternative hypothesis is that populations outside refugia become extinct during periods of unsuitable climate. To test these hypotheses, we used ancient DNA techniques to examine genetic variation in the arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) through an expansion/contraction cycle. The results show that the arctic fox in midlatitude Europe became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene and did not track the habitat when it shifted to the north. Instead, a high genetic similarity between the extant populations in Scandinavia and Siberia suggests an eastern origin for the Scandinavian population at the end of the last glaciation. These results provide new insights into how species respond to climate change, since they suggest that populations are unable to track decreases in habitat avaliability. This implies that arctic species may be particularly vulnerable to increases in global temperatures.

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    • "Larger organisms may also be unable to undergo short-term adaptation processes rapidly enough to keep up with changing environments (i.e., the top-down effect) (see Guthrie, 2003) because of their intrinsic characteristics, such as long gestation and generation times (Johnson, 2002; Lister, 2004). As a result, the extinction risk will increase to the highest levels when habitat tracking is not possible for large-bodied species (see Dalén et al., 2007 for an empirical example). However, because smallbodied species are often better suited to short-term adaptations (Smith et al., 1995), the lower probabilistic extinction boundary may "
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    ABSTRACT: Quantitative analysis of macroecological patterns for late Pleistocene assemblages can be useful for disentangling the causes of late Quaternary extinctions (LQE). However, previous analyses have usually assumed linear relationships between macroecological traits, such as body size and range size/range shift, that may have led to erroneous interpretations. Here, we analyzed mammalian datasets to show how macroecological patterns support climate change as an important driver of the LQE, which is contrary to previous analyses that did not account for more complex relationships among traits. We employed quantile regression methods that allow a detailed and fine-tuned quantitative analysis of complex macroecological patterns revealed as polygonal relationships (i.e., constraint envelopes). We showed that these triangular-shaped envelopes that describe the macroecological relationship between body size and geographical range shift reflect nonrandom extinction processes under which the large-bodied species are more prone to extinction during events of severe habitat loss, such as glacial/interglacial transitions. Hence, we provide both a theoretical background and methodological framework to better understand how climate change induces body size-biased species sorting and shapes complex macroecological patterns.
    Quaternary Research 07/2014; 82(1). DOI:10.1016/j.yqres.2014.02.003 · 2.54 Impact Factor
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    • "Therefore, the level of ecological flexibility for a given species of large mammals can be larger than in the modern world, due to interference of competition and human activities in the distribution of modern wild species; and to possible changes in the genetic diversity of a species through time (e.g. Shapiro et al. 2004; Dalen et al. 2007). Palaeoclimatic conclusions have also been attempted using phenotypic features that can be linked to climatic parameters, such as body size (e.g. "
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    • "Increase in temperatures and aridity around the Mediterranean is predicted to result in most stable LGM refugial areas becoming climatically unsuitable for P. austriacus. These predictions are of great concern given the genetic impoverishment evident in northern parts of the range of P. austriacus, and the genetic evidence from an ancient DNA study questioning the ability of species to track decreases in availability of suitable habitats under climate change (Dal en et al. 2007). Widespread range retraction and population extinctions relating to recent climatic changes are already evident in several butterfly and frog species (Thomas et al. 2006). "
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