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Syst Biol. 2008 Jun;57(3):432-48. doi: 10.1080/10635150802172192.

Sympatry inference and network analysis in biogeography.

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  • 1CONICET, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, Tucumán, Argentina.


A new approach for biogeography to find patterns of sympatry, based on network analysis, is proposed. Biogeographic analysis focuses basically on sympatry patterns of species. Sympatry is a network (= relational) datum, but it has never been analyzed before using relational tools such as Network Analysis. Our approach to biogeographic analysis consists of two parts: first the sympatry inference and second the network analysis method (NAM). The sympatry inference method was designed to propose sympatry hypothesis, constructing a basal sympatry network based on punctual data, independent of a priori distributional area determination. In this way, two or more species are considered sympatric when there is interpenetration and relative proximity among their records of occurrence. In nature, groups of species presenting within-group sympatry and between-group allopatry constitute natural units (units of co-occurrence). These allopatric units are usually connected by intermediary species. The network analysis method (NAM) that we propose here is based on the identification and removal of intermediary species to segregate units of co-occurrence, using the betweenness measure and the clustering coefficient. The species ranges of the units of co-occurrence obtained are transferred to a map, being considered as candidates to areas of endemism. The new approach was implemented on three different real complex data sets (one of them a classic example previously used in biogeography) resulting in (1) independence of predefined spatial units; (2) definition of co-occurrence patterns from the sympatry network structure, not from species range similarities; (3) higher stability in results despite scale changes; (4) identification of candidates to areas of endemism supported by strictly endemic species; (5) identification of intermediary species with particular biological attributes.

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