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Does Evolutionary History Correlate with Contemporary Extinction Risk by Influencing Range Size Dynamics?

Extinction threatens many species yet is predicted by few factors across the plant tree of life (ToL). Taxon age is one factor that may associate with extinction if occupancy of geographic and adaptive zones varies with time, but evidence for such an association has been equivocal. Age-dependent occupancy can also influence diversification rates and thus extinction risk where new taxa have small range and population sizes. To test how age, diversification, and range size were correlated with extinction, we analyzed 639 well-sampled genera representing 8,937 species from across the plant ToL. We found a greater proportion of species were threatened by contemporary extinction in younger and faster-diversifying genera. When we directly tested how range size mediated this pattern in two large, well-sampled groups, our results varied. In conifers, potential range size was smaller in older species and was correlated with higher extinction risk. Age on its own had no direct effect on extinction when accounting for its influence on range size. In palm species, age was neither directly nor indirectly correlated with extinction risk. Our results suggest that range size dynamics may explain differing patterns of extinction risk across the ToL, with consequences for biodiversity conservation.