Data from: Evaluating alternative explanations for an association of extinction risk and evolutionary uniqueness in multiple insular lineages.
Warren, Ben H. et al. (2018), Data from: Evaluating alternative explanations for an association of extinction risk and evolutionary uniqueness in multiple insular lineages., Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.94t550j
Studies in insular environments have often documented a positive association of extinction risk and evolutionary uniqueness (i.e. how distant a species is from its closest living relative). However, the cause of this association is unclear. One explanation is that species threatened with extinction are evolutionarily unique because they are old, implying that extinction risk increases with time since speciation (age-dependent extinction). An alternative explanation is that such threatened species are last survivors of clades that have undergone an elevated extinction rate, and that their uniqueness results from the extinction of their close relatives. Distinguishing between these explanations is difficult but important, since they imply different biological processes determining extinction patterns. Here we designed a simulation approach to distinguish between these alternatives using living species, and applied it to twelve insular radiations that show a positive association between extinction risk and evolutionary uniqueness. We also tested the sensitivity of results to underlying assumptions and variable extinction rates. Despite differences among the radiations considered, age-dependent extinction was supported as best explaining the majority of the empirical cases. Biological processes driving characteristic changes in abundance with species duration (age-dependency) may merit further investigation.