FuTRES is designed to be expandable, and we expect many novel uses for trait data to come from its implementation. We present here a set of example use cases that we will pursue, using the results both to inform process-based research and to publicize the presence and utility of FuTRES. These use cases focus on mammal data, because we have chosen to focus on this lineage for our initial data ingestion.
FuTRES will not be limited to mammal data, however, and we will welcome data from domain scientists across the tree of life. In the end, many other analyses are also possible, such as the examination of processes that control miniaturization and gigantism across vertebrates, testing whether deforestation has led to evolutionary changes in bird or insect wing-aspect ratio, determining whether pre- and early historic fishing significantly reduced trophic levels and disturbed ocean ecologies, and testing hypotheses about the limits of allometric scaling in relation to overall body size across lineages of vertebrates, as a few examples.
Reimer et al. 2018 eLife
Bergmann’s Rule: Bergmann’s rule is a widely accepted biogeographic rule that individuals within a species are smaller in warmer environments. It provides a predictive framework for understanding potential response of species in the face of climatic changes. Co-PI Guralnick is investigating whether niche characteristics of species are predictive of relationship between abiotic factors and intraspecific body variation. To best do this, it is critical to aggregate specimen measurements from fossil and modern species and handle direct and inferred measurements of body size. Guralnick will develop use cases focusing on body size variation in small mammals with exemplary sampling in the modern and fossil record (e.g. deer mice) and develop new model frameworks for integrating fossil and modern body size datasets.
Janis & Bernor 2019 Frontiers In Ecology and Evolution
Equid Locomotion: The primary activity overseen by Co-PI Bernor will be the ingestion and analysis of his data on equid distal limb elements. These data have been used to characterize the relationship between varying proportions of distal limb elements and locomotion and habitat. While previous research has revealed a great diversity of size and limb proportions in extinct horses, the ingestion into FuTRES offers a unique opportunity to compare these ‘wild’ pre-human-impact data to the distribution of limb proportions in modern equids of North America. Co-PIs Davis and Emery will work to ingest equid limb proportion data from the archaeological record of the USA. In this way, we can test the hypothesis that existing feral horses have adopted ecological roles analogous to the wild horses that were lost in the megafaunal extinction ~13,000 years ago.
Hypsodonty and Crown Type: Mammalian tooth crown height, or hypsodonty, and occlusal cutting-edge count has proven important for mapping continental-scale precipitation, temperature, and primary productivity patterns in the Neogene of Eurasia. These methods have recently been expanded as Functional Crown Types (FCT) in the Turkana Basin, Kenya. FCT is designed to capture functional durability, structural strength, and cutting power. These factors relate to the environment through available foods, with harder, dustier, and less nutritious foods found in arid environments. Bernor will oversee the ingestion of FCT variables into FuTRES. Once these data are ingested, they can be cross-referenced with body size and limb proportion data to begin testing the hypothesis that these traits are linked as lineages of ungulate mammals have adapted to changing environments.
Using Prey Body Size Data to Track Human Impact: As a use-case of the FuTRES project, we propose to use zooarchaeological specimen osteometrics to track changing prey body sizes and test a foraging ecology model of past human hunting pressure as causal for disruption of key animal population dynamics in ancient Florida. Evaluating the impact of human hunting pressure versus other regional and global pressures such as climate change requires large, spatially expansive datasets from multiple archaeological sites, analyzed within the broader time-depth offered by paleontological and modern data. Co-PI Emery will mobilize pivotal mammalian data from the archaeological archives of the Environmental Archaeology Program of the Florida Museum of Natural History. These collections contain large quantities of zooarchaeological specimen trait data from over 500 human-habitation sites representing 10,000 years of animal use by the ancient peoples of the SE USA and circum-Caribbean. Combining these data with spatially correlated modern and paleontological FuTRES data will allow us to answer questions about human-animal interactions during periods of climate/landscape and culture change. Such work provides proxy data for anthropologists seeking to understand human relationships with the environment during periods of cultural change, for those studying long-term ecological and biodiversity trends, and particularly for conservation biologists who must gauge the relative impact of human and other factors on animal population resilience. The FuTRES database allows us to mobilize and integrate paleo-, archaeo-, and neo-ontological data to conduct meaningful, deep-time research on the full range of animal body-size distributions to better inform document body mass changes in primary prey populations.