by Professor Andy Purvis, Imperial College London
Beautiful and charismatic, mammals are biodiversity icons. But a quarter of mammalian species are now threatened with extinction, as ecosystems reel under the impact of a growing and ever more demanding human population. This lecture explores the history and possible future of mammalian diversity, taking in a range of questions along the way. How important was the sudden extinction of dinosaurs in the rise of mammals? How have they responded to climate change in the past? Why have some groups, such as rodents, radiated so much more than others? Why are Africa's native mammals so much more spectacular and more diverse – but also more threatened – than our own? Lastly, can we predict how this fascinating group will be affected by continued human expansion – and how their decline will in turn affect us?
Andy Purvis is Professor of Biodiversity at Imperial College London, where he moved in 1995 as a Royal Society University Research Fellow. He is also an Honorary Research Fellow of the Institute of Zoology. His research integrates information on species' biology, distribution and evolutionary relationships to to try to explain large-scale patterns in the diversity of life, and to understand why some species are much more sensitive than others to human impacts.