Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Published in Science 365 (20 September 20190, pp 1305–1308

doi 10.1126/science.aaw1605


Copyright © 2019 AAAS. Used by permission.


Large mammals are at high risk of extinction globally. To understand the consequences of their demise for community assembly, we tracked community structure through the end- Pleistocene megafaunal extinction in North America.We decomposed the effects of biotic and abiotic factors by analyzing co-occurrence within the mutual ranges of species pairs. Although shifting climate drove an increase in niche overlap, co-occurrence decreased, signaling shifts in biotic interactions. Furthermore, the effect of abiotic factors on cooccurrence remained constant over time while the effect of biotic factors decreased. Biotic factors apparently played a key role in continental-scale community assembly before the extinctions. Specifically, large mammals likely promoted co-occurrence in the Pleistocene, and their loss contributed to the modern assembly pattern in which co-occurrence frequently falls below random expectations.

Includes supplementary materials.