Mammal body size evolution in North America and Europe over 20 Myr: similar trends generated by different processes

Shan Huang, Jussi Eronen, Christine Janis, Juha Saarinen, Daniele Silvestro, Susanne Fritz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
212 Downloads (Pure)


Because body size interacts with many fundamental biological properties of
a species, body size evolution can be an essential component of the generation
and maintenance of biodiversity. Here we investigate how body size
evolution can be linked to the clade-specific diversification dynamics in
different geographical regions. We analyse an extensive body size dataset
of Neogene large herbivores (covering approx. 50% of the 970 species in
the orders Artiodactyla and Perissodactyla) in Europe and North America
in a Bayesian framework. We reconstruct the temporal patterns of body
size in each order on each continent independently, and find significant
increases of minimum size in three of the continental assemblages (except
European perissodactyls), suggesting an active selection for larger bodies.
Assessment of trait-correlated birth-death models indicates that the
common trend of body size increase is generated by different processes in
different clades and regions. Larger-bodied artiodactyl species on both continents
tend to have higher origination rates, and both clades in North
America show strong links between large bodies and low extinction rate.
Collectively, our results suggest a strong role of species selection and perhaps
of higher-taxon sorting in driving body size evolution, and highlight
the value of investigating evolutionary processes in a biogeographic context.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20162361
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1849
Early online date15 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2017


  • species body mass
  • diversification
  • biogeography
  • species selection
  • Cope’s rule
  • higher-taxon sorting


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