On size and area: Patterns of mammalian body size extremes across landmasses

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SummaryWe describe a biogeographic pattern in which mammalian body size extremes scale with landmass area. The relationship between the largest and the smallest mammal species found on different landbridge islands, mountaintops and continents shows that the size of the largest species increases, while that of the smallest species decreases, with increase in the area of the landmass. We offer two possible explanations: (1) that the pattern is the result of sampling artefacts, which we call the ‘statistical artefact hypothesis’, or (2) that the pattern is the result of processes related to the way body size affects the number of individuals that a particular species can pack in a given area, which we call the ‘area-scaling hypothesis’. Our results point out that the pattern is not a statistical artefact resulting from random sampling, but can be explained by considering the scaling of individual space requirements and its effect on population survival on landmasses of different area.

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