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Mammals on Mountaintops: Nonequilibrium Insular Biogeography

James H. Brown
The American Naturalist
Vol. 105, No. 945 (Sep. - Oct., 1971), pp. 467-478
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2459514
Page Count: 12
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Mammals on Mountaintops: Nonequilibrium Insular Biogeography
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Abstract

An analysis of the distribution of the small boreal mammals (excluding bats) on isolated mountaintops in the Great Basin led to the following conclusions: 1. The species-area curve is considerably steeper (z = .43) than the curves usually obtained for insular biotas. 2. There is no correlation between number of species of boreal mammals and variables which are likely to affect the probability of colonization, such as distance between island and mainland, distance between islands, and elevation of intervening passes. Apparently the present rate of immigration of boreal mammals to isolated mountains is effectively zero. 3. Paleontological evidence suggests that the mountains were colonized by a group of species during the Pleistocene when the climatic barriers that currently isolate them were abolished. 4. Subsequent to isolation of the mountains, extinctions have reduced the faunal diversity to present levels. Probability of extinction is inversely related to population size and, therefore, is influenced by body size, diet, and habitat. The rate of extinction has been low, and all of the islands still have one or more species of boreal mammals. 5. The mammalian faunas of the mountaintops are true relicts and do not represent equilibria between rates of colonization and extinction.

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