Dwarfism and gigantism drive human-mediated extinctions on islands

Rozzi, R., Lomolino, M.V., van der Geer, A.A.E., Silvestro, D., Lyons, S.K., Bover, P., Alcover, J.A., Benítez-López, A., Tsai, C.H., Fujita, M., Kubo, M.O., Ochoa, J., Scarborough, M.E., Turvey, S.T., Zizka, A., Chase, J.M. 2023. Dwarfism and gigantism drive human-mediated extinctions on islands. Science, 379: 1054-1058.

Islands have long been recognized as distinctive evolutionary arenas leading to morphologically divergent species, such as dwarfs and giants. We assessed how body size evolution in island mammals may have exacerbated their vulnerability, as well as how human arrival has contributed to their past and ongoing extinctions, by integrating data on 1231 extant and 350 extinct species from islands and paleo islands worldwide spanning the past 23 million years. We found that the likelihood of extinction and of endangerment are highest in the most extreme island dwarfs and giants. Extinction risk of insular mammals was compounded by the arrival of modern humans, which accelerated extinction rates more than 10-fold, resulting in an almost complete demise of these iconic marvels of island evolution.