Evolutionary legacies in contemporary tetrapod imperilment

Dan A. Greenberg, R. Alexander Pyron, Liam G.W. Johnson, Nathan S. Upham, Walter Jetz, Arne Mooers

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The Tree of Life will be irrevocably reshaped as anthropogenic extinctions continue to unfold. Theory suggests that lineage evolutionary dynamics, such as age since origination, historical extinction filters and speciation rates, have influenced ancient extinction patterns – but whether these factors also contribute to modern extinction risk is largely unknown. We examine evolutionary legacies in contemporary extinction risk for over 4000 genera, representing ~30,000 species, from the major tetrapod groups: amphibians, birds, turtles and crocodiles, squamate reptiles and mammals. We find consistent support for the hypothesis that extinction risk is elevated in lineages with higher recent speciation rates. We subsequently test, and find modest support for, a primary mechanism driving this pattern: that rapidly diversifying clades predominantly comprise range-restricted, and extinction-prone, species. These evolutionary patterns in current imperilment may have important consequences for how we manage the erosion of biological diversity across the Tree of Life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2464-2476
Number of pages13
JournalEcology letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • diversification
  • evolutionary age
  • extinction risk
  • extinction selectivity
  • phylogenetics
  • range dynamics
  • turnover
  • vertebrates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Evolutionary legacies in contemporary tetrapod imperilment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this