Gill hails herbivomes in Science Magazine

Jacquelyn Gill writes about the downsizing of Earth’s animals in “Learning from Africa’s herbivores” in Science Magazine.

The extinction of the planet’s largest animals has resulted in cascading ecological impacts across the globe, says the University of Maine professor of paleoecology and plant ecology.

Gill lauds Gareth Peter Hempson’s new tool — herbivomes — to shed light on the ecological role of large herbivores at continental scales.

Important insights about causes and consequences of extinctions 05 be gleaned through cross-continental analysis of herbivomes — which are constructed using animal diets, behavior, body size and relationships between animals and environmental characteristics, including soil properties and precipitation levels.

“It’s a creative way of classifying large herbivores by type, to understand what their impacts on their habitats are. It’s like the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter,” says Gill, “but the name of the game is to understand the role of zebras, elephants and other herbivores in their ecosystems.”

While it’s too late to save the mammoths and woolly rhinos, Gill says this advancement could benefit their Serengeti cousins.