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Ecological structure of a herpetological assemblage in South India

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image of Amphibia-Reptilia

We collected detailed microhabitat information on 1460 specimens comprising 52 species of amphibians and reptiles from a small area of tropical evergreen forest in South India. Although most individuals were found in non-riparian situations, the number caught in and along streams was higher than expected on the basis of collecting effort. Very few animals were caught under logs and rocks. When niche breadth values are corrected for variation in sample size, we find no correlation between magnitude of niche breadth and general habitat usage, such as terrestriality vs. arboreality. A cluster analysis of 28 common species using niche overlap values reveals one group of 6 terrestrial species with very high niche overlap values and high co-occurrence within collecting sorties; this group probably represents a genuine terrestrial guild. Another set of 4 terrestrial species is peripherally associated with the first 6, whereas the remaining species show generally low overlap values. Altitudinal restriction is an almost ubiquitous feature of the distribution of species in this fauna, with distinct groups of low (below 300 m), intermediate (300-399 m), and high altitude (above 399 m) taxa roughly corresponding to major shifts in forest types. At a broader level of analysis, we find considerable evidence for local endemism within partially isolated hill ranges in the Western Ghats, suggesting that geographic isolation may be an important contributing factor to the diversity of the South Indian herpetofauna.

Affiliations: 1: Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois, USA 60605; 2: National Museum of Natural History, New Delhi 110 001, India

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/content/journals/10.1163/156853887x00234
1987-01-01
2016-12-09

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