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Species turnover between Afromontane and eastern African lowland faunas: patterns shown by amphibians

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Following the recognition of a discrete East African lowland amphibian fauna (Poynton, 1990), this paper investigates the possible recognition of an Afromontane amphibian fauna in southern Africa. Species turnover in a transect from the Mozambique/KwaZulu-Natal border area through Swaziland to the Eastern Transvaal highveld is described, and compared with previously described transects through Mozambique to Zimbabwe, and KwaZulu-Natal to the central Free State. Turnover in the Swaziland transect shows two peaks. Marked turnover at the edge of the interior plateau is taken to indicate an eastern border of an Afromontane fauna; the other peak, at the western edge of the coastal lowland, is taken to mark the border of an East African lowland fauna. A transition zone with a transitional assemblage occurs on the plateau slopes between the two borders. The Zimbabwean transect shows a similar pattern. The KwaZulu-Natal to Free State transect shows a broad transition from upland to lowland assemblages, which parallels the extensive intermingling of upland and lowland floristic elements in that area. A north-south turnover across the three transects shows northern species becoming progressively excluded from highland areas as they extend southwards, while southern species become limited to the highlands as they extend northwards. The cohesive north-south turnover pattern is consistent with the idea of a single Afromontane biogeographical unit, which can be related to a tropical East African lowland unit through a complex pattern of species turnover.
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Keywords: Afromontane; Amphibia; species richness; species turnover; zoogeography

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, U.K. 2: Malolotja Nature Reserve, P.O. Box 1797, Mbabane, Swaziland

Publication date: 1996-05-01

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