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Dispersal limitation and geographical distributions of mammal species

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Abstract Aim 

To relate the dispersal limitation of endemic terrestrial mammals in Mexico to species life-history traits and latitude. Location 

Mexico. Methods 

We modelled species ecological niches projected as potential distributions (P) using point occurrence data and 19 environmental variables for 89 endemic mammal species, and compared the areas covered by these ecological niche models with maps of species actual distributions (R) based on minimum convex polygons connecting marginal records based on museum specimens. We correlated body mass, food habits (herbivore, omnivore, insectivore, frugivore/granivore), volant and non-volant (fossorial, arboreal, terrestrial) habits and mean latitude to the proportion of occupancy of species potential distributional areas (R/P). Results 

R and P were significantly positively correlated, with an overall average R/P ratio of 0.49. Less than half of the endemics (41 species) had a high occupancy (R/P values ranging from 0.50 to 0.90); a few (four species) showed full occupancy (> 0.90). Body mass and food habits were not correlated with R/P, but latitude showed significant correlations with R/P; volant mammals tended to show higher R/P values than non-volant mammals. Main conclusions 

Few species filled most of the spatial extent of their ecological niches. Life-history traits were generally poor predictors of proportional occupancy of species potential distributions. Endemics occurring at higher latitudes showed higher occupancy, suggesting that abiotic factors are likely to limit their distributions. Conversely, species at lower latitudes showed lower occupancy, suggesting that their distributions are limited by biotic factors and/or by geographical or historical barriers that prevent dispersal. The dispersal abilities of volant compared with non-volant endemics can explain the higher occupancy in species potential distributions in the former group. These trends provide a baseline for exploring the importance of life-history traits and abiotic versus biotic factors in limiting species distributions.
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Keywords: Abiotic factors; Mexico; bioclimatic models; dispersion; endemic species; geographical distributions; latitude; life-history traits; mammals; potential distribution

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, USA 2: Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Distrito Federal, México

Publication date: 2008-10-01

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