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Do interlinks between geography and ecology explain the latitudinal diversity patterns in Sciuridae? An approach at the genus level

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The latitudinal gradient theory explains the uneven distribution of taxa richness across the world. We explore this theory using genera of Sciuridae (Mammalia: Rodentia). Distribution data for each genus were obtained from literature and mapped with the WorldMap program. The two hemispheres were subdivided into 23 latitudinal bands of equal area. As the total number of genera in each latitudinal band was influenced by the different available area, data were normalized prior to analyses. Then, genera density of each latitudinal band was correlated with latitude, and the ratio of genera richness of each guild to total genera richness was calculated for each latitudinal band. Total genus density was significantly correlated with flying squirrel density and terrestrial squirrel density in both hemispheres, and these two genera densities were significantly correlated with each other in the northern hemisphere. The guilds showed clear vicariance patterns. The total diversity of genera of Sciuridae was inversely correlated to latitude. The increase of genera towards tropical northern hemisphere was due to the progressive increase of the tree and flying squirrel genera. Change in biomes (tundra vs. forests) is likely responsible for the increase in the tree squirrel component at these latitudes. Overall, our study confirmed assumptions of the latitudinal gradient theory.

La théorie des gradients latitudinaux explique la répartition inégale de la richesse taxonomique dans le monde. Une étude des genres de Sciuridae (Mammalia : Rodentia) nous sert à explorer cette théorie. Nous avons compilé les données de répartition de chaque genre dans la littérature et les avons portées sur des cartes avec le logiciel WorldMap. Les deux hémisphères ont été subdivisés en 23 bandes latitudinales d’égale surface. Comme le nombre total de genres dans chaque bande est influencé par les différences de surface disponible, il a été nécessaire de normaliser les données avant les analyses. La densité des genres dans chaque bande latitudinale a pu ensuite être mise en corrélation avec la latitude et le rapport de richesse générique dans chaque guilde sur la richesse générique totale être calculé pour chaque bande latitudinale. Il existe une corrélation significative entre la densité générique totale et la densité des écureuils volants et des écureuils terrestres dans les deux hémisphères, et ces deux densités génériques sont significativement corrélées l’une à l’autre dans l’hémisphère nord. Les guildes affichent des patrons clairs de vicariance. La diversité totale des genres de Sciuridae est en corrélation inverse avec la latitude. L’augmentation des genres en direction de l’hémisphère nord tropical est due à l’accroissement graduel des genres d’écureuils arboricoles et volants. Le changement de biome (toundra vs. forêts) est vraisemblablement responsable de l’augmentation de la composante d’écureuils arboricoles à ces latitudes. Globalement, notre étude confirme les postulats de la théorie des gradients latitudinaux.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-03-01

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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