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Spatial biodiversity patterns of Madagascar's amphibians and reptiles

AuthorsBrown, Jason L.; Sillero, Neftalí; Glaw, Frank; Vieites, David R. ; Vences, Miguel
Issue Date6-Jan-2016
PublisherPublic Library of Science
CitationPLoS ONE 11(1): e0144076 (2016)
AbstractMadagascar has become a model region for testing hypotheses of species diversification and biogeography, and many studies have focused on its diverse and highly endemic herpetofauna. Here we combine species distribution models of a near-complete set of species of reptiles and amphibians known from the island with body size data and a tabulation of herpetofaunal communities from field surveys, compiled up to 2008. Though taxonomic revisions and novel distributional records arose since compilation, we are confident that the data are appropriate for inferring and comparing biogeographic patterns among these groups of organisms. We observed species richness of both amphibians and reptiles was highest in the humid rainforest biome of eastern Madagascar, but reptiles also show areas of high richness in the dry and subarid western biomes. In several amphibian subclades, especially within the Mantellidae, species richness peaks in the central eastern geographic regions while in reptiles different subclades differ distinctly in their richness centers. A high proportion of clades and subclades of both amphibians and reptiles have a peak of local endemism in the topographically and bioclimatically diverse northern geographic regions. This northern area is roughly delimited by a diagonal spanning from 15.5°S on the east coast to ca. 15.0°S on the west coast. Amphibian diversity is highest at altitudes between 800–1200 m above sea-level whereas reptiles have their highest richness at low elevations, probably reflecting the comparatively large number of species specialized to the extended low-elevation areas in the dry and subarid biomes. We found that the range sizes of both amphibians and reptiles strongly correlated with body size, and differences between the two groups are explained by the larger body sizes of reptiles. However, snakes have larger range sizes than lizards which cannot be readily explained by their larger body sizes alone. Range filling, i.e., the amount of suitable habitat occupied by a species, is less expressed in amphibians than in reptiles, possibly reflecting their lower dispersal capacity. Taxonomic composition of communities assessed by field surveys is largely explained by bioclimatic regions, with communities from the dry and especially subarid biomes distinctly differing from humid and subhumid biomes.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0144076
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