Abstract The four major papers in this special feature present and interpret data from field studies on the distributions and diversity of small mammals in elevational gradients on mountains in the Philippines, Borneo, southern Mexico and western United States. In the introductory paper, Lomolino places these studies in the context of historical, methodological and conceptual themes in contemporary biogeography. In this final paper, I focus on some important similarities and interesting differences among the four case studies. All of the studies provide evidence for the influence of ecological factors, such as climate, productivity and habitat heterogeneity, on mammalian diversity. All also provide evidence for the influence of historical dispersal, extinction, and speciation events. Perhaps the most interesting result is the documentation of a frequent, but not universal, peak in species diversity at some elevation intermediate between the base and peak of a mountain. Efforts to understand the mechanistic basis for this pattern — and why it differs from the continuous decrease in diversity from the equator to the poles — promise to contribute to developing a general theoretical explanation for the major patterns of biodiversity on earth.