Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History


Research Themes

Species and community level responses to climate change

The late Pleistocene offers a unique opportunity to study the ecological processes involved in the structuring of communities because of the climate change engendered by the last glaciation. I quantitatively assessed changes in the distributions of mammals to determine the degree to which species shifted their ranges independently over broad time scales. Although it is difficult to make generalizations about the range shifts of the different orders of mammals, many species exhibited very small range shifts. The prediction that the individualistic responses of species to climate change should result in non-analogue communities likely is over simplified. Certainly, some communities should be non-analogue, but not all (Lyons, 2003). Next, I examined changes in community composition over broad time scales and assessed the effect of range shifts on community composition using simulation models. Although there was some degree of turnover in all communities, results indicate that the geographic pattern of community similarity through time was more complex than a strict prediction using independent range shifts would imply (Lyons, 2005).


Currently, I am evaluating the relationship between various species ecological traits or life history parameters and their ranges shifts.

Selected Papers :

S. K. Lyons. 2003. A quantitative assessment of the range shifts of Pleistocene mammals. Journal of Mammalogy (Special Feature). 84: 385-402.

S. K. Lyons. 2005. A quantitative model assessing the community dynamics of Pleistocene mammals. The American Naturalist. 165(6):E168-E185.

V. Millien, S. K. Lyons, L. Olson, F. A. Smith, T. Wilson, Y. Yom-Tov. 2006. Ecotypic variation in the context of global climate change: revisiting the rules. Ecology Letters. 9(7): 853-869.


Macroecological patterns across space and time

Macroevolutionary dynamics of mammals

Biases in the mammalian fossil record

Latitudinal gradients in species richness

Extinction risk


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