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Geographic range size, water temperature and extrinsic threats predict the extinction risk in global cetaceans

Cite this dataset

Chen, Chuanwu; Jefferson, Thomas; Chen, Bingyao; Wang, Yanping (2022). Geographic range size, water temperature and extrinsic threats predict the extinction risk in global cetaceans [Dataset]. Dryad.


Despite that cetaceans provide significant ecological contributions to the health and stability of aquatic ecosystems, they are highly endangered with nearly one-third of species assessed as threatened with extinction. Nevertheless, to date, few studies have explicitly examined the patterns and processes of extinction risk and threats for this taxon, and even less between the two subclades (Mysticeti and Odontoceti). To fill this gap, we compiled a dataset of six intrinsic traits (active region, geographic range size, body weight, diving depth, school size and reproductive cycle), six environmental factors relating to sea surface temperature and chlorophyll concentration, and two human-related threat indices that are commonly recognized for cetaceans. We then employed phylogenetic generalized least square (PGLS) models and model selection to identify the key predictors of extinction risk in all cetaceans, as well as in the two subclades. We found that geographic range size, sea surface temperature and human threat index were the most important predictors of extinction risk in all cetaceans and in odontocetes. Interestingly, maximum body weight was positively associated with the extinction risk in mysticetes, but negatively related to that for odontocetes. By linking seven major threat types to extinction risk, we further revealed that fisheries bycatch was the most common threat, yet the impacts of certain threats could be overestimated when considering all species rather than just threatened ones. Overall, we suggest that conservation efforts should focus on small-ranged cetaceans and species living in warmer waters or under strong anthropogenic pressures. Moreover, further studies should consider the extinction risk of species when superimposing risk maps and quantifying risk severity. Finally, we emphasize that mysticetes and odontocetes should be conserved with different strategies, because their extinction risk patterns and major threat types are considerably different. For instance, large-bodied mysticetes and small-ranged odontocetes require special conservation priority.


National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 32001226, 31970497, 31971545, 31770462

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: LZ18C030002

Key Laboratory of Marine Ecology and Environmental Science and Engineering, Award: MESE-2019-01

Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions

Postgraduate Research & Practice Innovation Program of Jiangsu Province, Award: KYCX20_1239