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A species distribution model for the endemic Cyprus whip snake (Hierophis cypriensis) is consistent with a transient period isolated evolution in the Troodos Range

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The Cyprus whip snake (Hierophis cypriensis Schätti, 1985) is endemic to Cyprus and occurs in forested regions of the Troodos Range in the central part of the island, but surprisingly, has not been reported from such areas in the Kyrenia Range of northern Cyprus. Here, we provide the first comprehensive GPS-based assessment of the distribution of this endangered snake in Cyprus. We use species distribution modelling to demonstrate that areas with suitable habitat for the Cyprus whip snake are largely limited to the Troodos Range. The Kyrenia Range contains only a few grid cells of medium habitat suitability according to the environmental parameters assessed. The Mesaoria Plain, which lies between the two mountain ranges, likely functions as an ecological barrier with unsuitable habitat conditions. Consistent with this pattern of distribution, we hypothesise that this species was restricted to the Troodos Range during the early phases of speciation. Adaptation to environmental conditions in the Troodos Range may have prevented subsequent range extension to other ecological niches when the rest of the island emerged.
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Keywords: ADAPTATION; COLUBRIDAE; DISPERSAL; DISTRIBUTION; KYRENIA RANGE; MODEL; SPECIATION

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2014

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