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Richness patterns, species distributions and the principle of extreme deconstruction

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To analyse the global patterns in species richness of Viperidae snakes through the deconstruction of richness into sets of species according to their distribution models, range size, body size and phylogenetic structure, and to test if environmental drivers explaining the geographical ranges of species are similar to those explaining richness patterns, something we called the extreme deconstruction principle. Location 

Global. Methods 

We generated a global dataset of 228 terrestrial viperid snakes, which included geographical ranges (mapped at 1° resolution, for a grid with 7331 cells world-wide), body sizes and phylogenetic relationships among species. We used logistic regression (generalized linear model; GLM) to model species geographical ranges with five environmental predictors. Sets of species richness were also generated for large and small-bodied species, for basal and derived species and for four classes of geographical range sizes. Richness patterns were also modelled against the five environmental variables through standard ordinary least squares (OLS) multiple regressions. These subsets are replications to test if environmental factors driving species geographical ranges can be directly associated with those explaining richness patterns. Results 

Around 48% of the total variance in viperid richness was explained by the environmental model, but richness sets revealed different patterns across the world. The similarity between OLS coefficients and the primacy of variables across species geographical range GLMs was equal to 0.645 when analysing all viperid snakes. Thus, in general, when an environmental predictor it is important to model species geographical ranges, this predictor is also important when modelling richness, so that the extreme deconstruction principle holds. However, replicating this correlation using subsets of species within different categories in body size, range size and phylogenetic structure gave more variable results, with correlations between GLM and OLS coefficients varying from –0.46 up to 0.83. Despite this, there is a relatively high correspondence (r = 0.73) between the similarity of GLM-OLS coefficients and R2 values of richness models, indicating that when richness is well explained by the environment, the relative importance of environmental drivers is similar in the richness OLS and its corresponding set of GLMs. Main conclusions 

The deconstruction of species richness based on macroecological traits revealed that, at least for range size and phylogenetic level, the causes underlying patterns in viperid richness differ for the various sets of species. On the other hand, our analyses of extreme deconstruction using GLM for species geographical range support the idea that, if environmental drivers determine the geographical distribution of species by establishing niche boundaries, it is expected, at least in theory, that the overlap among ranges (i.e. richness) will reveal similar effects of these environmental drivers. Richness patterns may be indeed viewed as macroecological consequences of population-level processes acting on species geographical ranges.
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Keywords: Distribution modelling; Viperidae; extreme deconstruction; range size; snakes; species richness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Departamento de Biologia Geral, ICB, Universidade Federal de Goiás, CP 131, 74.001-970, Goiânia, GO, Brazil 2: Department of Ecology, University of Alcala, 28871 Alcalá de Henares, Spain 3: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-3043, USA

Publication date: 2009-03-01

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