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A new macroecological pattern: The latitudinal gradient in species range shape

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  • Adrian Castro-Insua, Univ Santiago de Compostela, University of Santiago De Compostela, Fac Biol, Dept Zool
  • ,
  • Carola Gomez-Rodriguez, Univ Santiago de Compostela, University of Santiago De Compostela, Fac Biol, Dept Zool
  • ,
  • Jens-Christian Svenning
  • Andres Baselga, Univ Santiago de Compostela, University of Santiago De Compostela, Fac Biol, Dept Zool

Aim: We analyse the latitudinal variation of range shape, testing whether ranges at higher latitudes or of larger size tend to be elongated in an east-west direction, as expected from climatic niche constraints. Additionally, we assess whether poleward range limits are less stochastic than equatorward limits.

Location: Global; all terrestrial areas except Antarctica.

Time period: Contemporaneous.

Major taxa studied: Birds and mammals.

Methods: We quantified the shape of the distribution ranges of 10,057 species of birds and 5,411 species of mammals, and assessed the relationship of range shape with latitude and range size using generalized additive models. The observed pattern was compared with that predicted by a null model, in which species ranges were constrained only by the shape of the landmasses. Furthermore, we divided each range in two polygons and measured their separate perimeters, to compare the limits of the poleward and equatorward portions of each range.

Results: In terrestrial mammals and birds, only species living at higher latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere and with large range sizes have ranges that consistently tend to be elongated in an east-west direction. The difference between observed and null range shapes increases from the Southern Hemisphere and the tropics towards the north. The difference between equatorward and poleward semi-perimeters was relevant only in the Southern Hemisphere, and it is probably explained by the shape of the continents.

Main conclusions: The existence of a latitudinal gradient in range shape is consistent with a different role of deterministic and stochastic processes in the tropics versus high latitudes. Specifically, the results are in line with a scenario in which tropical niche conservatism and relatively evolutionarily labile lower thermal tolerance increase the relevance of climate in determining range limits towards the poles, with stochastic factors (e.g., dispersal limitation) more relevant in shaping low-latitude range limits.

TidsskriftGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Sider (fra-til)357-367
Antal sider11
StatusUdgivet - mar. 2018

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