What does a threatened saproxylic beetle look like? Modelling extinction risk using a new morphological trait database
- Journal Article
1. The extinction of species is a non-random process, and understanding why some species are more likely to go extinct than others is critical for conservation efforts. Functional trait-based approaches offer a promising tool to achieve this goal. In forests, deadwood-dependent (saproxylic) beetles comprise a major part of threatened species, but analyses of their extinction risk have been hindered by the availability of suitable morphological traits. 2. To better understand the mechanisms underlying extinction in insects, we investigated the relationships between morphological features and the extinction risk of saproxylic beetles. Specifically, we hypothesised that species darker in colour, with a larger and rounder body, a lower mobility, lower sensory perception and more robust mandibles are at higher risk. 3. We first developed a protocol for morphological trait measurements and present a database of 37 traits for 1,157 European saproxylic beetle species. Based on 13 selected, independent traits characterising aspects of colour, body shape, locomotion, sensory perception and foraging, we used a proportional-odds multiple linear mixed-effects model to model the German Red List categories of 744 species as an ordinal index of extinction risk. 4. Six out of 13 traits correlated significantly with extinction risk. Larger species as well as species with a broad and round body had a higher extinction risk than small, slim and flattened species. Species with short wings had a higher extinction risk than those with long wings. On the contrary, extinction risk increased with decreasing wing load and with higher mandibular aspect ratio (shorter and more robust mandibles). 5. Our study provides new insights into how morphological traits, beyond the widely used body size, determine the extinction risk of saproxylic beetles. Moreover, our approach shows that the morphological characteristics of beetles can be comprehensively represented by a selection of 13 traits. We recommend them as a starting point for functional analyses in the rapidly growing field of ecological and conservation studies of deadwood. Show more
Journal / seriesThe Journal of Animal Ecology
Pages / Article No.
Subjectdeadwood; extinction risk; forest biodiversity; forestry; functional traits; morphometry; red lists; saproxylic beetles
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