Species may not be as susceptible to coextinction as once thought, new research suggests

May 15, 2017 Iowa State University  see full ScienceDaily article here

…The study…focuses on mutualist networks, or webs of mutually beneficial interactions between plants and animals. Examples include fruit-eating birds that eat the fruit from trees while simultaneously helping to disperse the trees’ seeds.

…The study… found that species with many mutualist relationships tend to be more dependent on those interactions for survival. On the other hand, species with few mutualists typically depend little on mutualistic interactions. Factoring that pattern into the equation adds a new dimension that upends much of the previous models, Fricke said…

For instance, birds whose diets depend heavily on fruit usually eat fruit from more than one species of plant. That way, if one food source disappears, the bird has other options. “Nature seems to have some backup plans when you need them,” Rogers said….

Evan C. Fricke, Joshua J. Tewksbury, Elizabeth M. Wandrag, Haldre S. Rogers. Mutualistic strategies minimize coextinction in plant–disperser networks. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2017; 284 (1854): 20162302 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.2302