PerspectiveEcology

Learning from Africa's herbivores

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Science  27 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6264, pp. 1036-1037
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad6760

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Summary

Earth's animals are downsizing. Since the end of the last ice age about 12,000 years ago, the largest animals on the planet have been hit disproportionately hard by what may have been the beginnings of the sixth mass extinction (1). We are only just beginning to appreciate the ecological impacts of this “trophic downgrading” (2): Both modern and paleoecological analyses are providing growing evidence that the extinction of Earth's largest animals has cascading ecological impacts across the globe (3). On page 1056 of this issue, Hempson et al. (4) provide a new tool for elucidating the ecological role of large herbivores at continental scales.

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