Large carnivores with large geographic ranges better-studied

April 2, 2014

Scientists tend to study larger carnivores with larger geographic ranges than those with greater adaptability and broader diets, according to results published April 2, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Zoe Brooke and colleagues from Zoological Society of London.

Scientists need to evaluate research efforts and their effectiveness in order to meet the conservation needs of a wider range of species which may be threatened due to habitat loss, exploitation, and climate change. The characteristics of the species themselves may influence how much we study them, possibly creating a bias in our understanding of this diverse group of animals. In an effort to better identify patterns and causes in carnivore research, the authors combined bibliometric information they obtained from ~16,500 published papers on the Order Carnivora-a well-known group of 286 species-with information on the species' life history and ecological traits.

The researchers identified a wide variation in intensity of research effort for carnivores, with some of the least-studied species being those that are predicted to become increasingly threatened. Better-studied species tended to be large-bodied and have a large geographic range, but omnivores were less-studied overall. The IUCN threat status did not show a strong relationship with research effort, which suggests that the actual conservation needs of individual species are not major drivers of research interest. Instead, the researchers suggest that there may be a complex role of human perspective in the planning of research agendas. The authors hope that these results could be combined with other conservation resources to prioritize and co-ordinate future research effort.

Zoe Brooke added, "Out of the top 20 most studied species, most are larger species with large geographic ranges, like black bear and brown bear. There also is a strong geographic bias, with 16 residing in North America and Europe - the exceptions include large charismatic like lions, tigers and cheetah."

Explore further: Genes and calls reveal five-fold greater diversity of Amazon frog species

More information: Brooke ZM, Bielby J, Nambiar K, Carbone C (2014) Correlates of Research Effort in Carnivores: Body Size, Range Size and Diet Matter. PLoS ONE 9(4): e93195. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093195

Related Stories

Recommended for you

How cells in the developing ear 'practice' hearing

November 25, 2015

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular ...

How cells 'climb' to build fruit fly tracheas

November 25, 2015

Fruit fly windpipes are much more like human blood vessels than the entryway to human lungs. To create that intricate network, fly embryonic cells must sprout "fingers" and crawl into place. Now researchers at The Johns Hopkins ...

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.