Clarifying the relationship between body size and extinction risk in amphibians by complete mapping of model space

Date

2021

Authors

Cardillo, Marcel

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Volume Title

Publisher

Royal Society of London

Abstract

In vertebrates, large body size is often a key diagnostic feature of species threatened with extinction. However, in amphibians the link between body size and extinction risk is highly uncertain, with previous studies suggesting positive, negative, u-shaped, or no relationship. Part of the reason for this uncertainty is ‘researcher degrees of freedom’: the subjectivity and selectivity in choices associated with specifying and fitting models. Here, I clarify the size–threat association in amphibians using Specification Curve Analysis, an analytical approach from the social sciences that attempts to minimize this problem by complete mapping of model space. I find strong support for prevailing negative associations between body size and threat status, the opposite of patterns typical in other vertebrates. This pattern is largely explained by smaller species having smaller geographic ranges, but smaller amphibian species also appear to lack some of the life-history advantages (e.g. higher reproductive output) that are often assumed to ‘protect’ small species in other taxa. These results highlight the need for a renewed conservation focus on the smallest species of the world’s most threatened class of vertebrates, as aquatic habitats become increasingly degraded by human activity.

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Citation

Source

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences

Type

Journal article

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DOI

10.1098/rspb.2020.3011

Restricted until

2099-12-31