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Identifying suitable habitats and current conservation status of a rare and elusive reptile in Iran

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Knowledge gaps regarding species distribution and abundance are great in remote regions with political instability, and they might be even larger concerning elusive and rare species. We predict the potential distribution for Hierophis andreanus, a poorly known endemic snake in the Iranian Plateau, and assess its conservation status in relation to existing protected areas. We used a maximum entropy modeling tool and Mahalanobis distance to produce an ensemble species distribution model. The most suitable habitats where located mainly in mountain ranges and adjacent areas of Iran and Afghanistan. Mean temperature and slope were the most important predictors for our models. Furthermore, just five localities for H. andreanus were inside the Iranian protected areas. A 10 km expansion from existing boundaries of protected areas in all directions would double protected localities to 10, and a 20 km buffer would result in 13 protected localities. Our findings are particularly valuable to select locations to conduct new surveys and produce a more reliable estimate of current population size to improve conservation and management for this reptile in the Irano-Anatolian region.

Affiliations: 1: 1CCMAR – Centro de Ciências do Mar, CIMAR Laboratório Associado, Universidade do Algarve, Campus de Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal ; 2: 2Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Birjand, Birjand, Iran ; 3: 3Department of Environment and Energy, Science and Research branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran ; 4: 4Pars Herpetologists Institute, 3th Floor, No. 24, Roodbar S. Walley, Mirdamad, Tehran, Iran ; 5: 5Department of Biology, College of Sciences, Qom Branch, Islamic Azad University, Qom, Iran ; 6: 6Zagros Herpetological Institute, 37156-88415, P. O. No 12, Somayyeh 14 Avenue, Qom, Iran

*Corresponding author; e-mail:

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