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Proc Biol Sci. 2010 Mar 7;277(1682):661-71. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1272. Epub 2009 Oct 28.

Refugia revisited: individualistic responses of species in space and time.

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  • 1Department of Palaeontology, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK.


Climate change in the past has led to significant changes in species' distributions. However, how individual species respond to climate change depends largely on their adaptations and environmental tolerances. In the Quaternary, temperate-adapted taxa are in general confined to refugia during glacials while cold-adapted taxa are in refugia during interglacials. In the Northern Hemisphere, evidence appears to be mounting that in addition to traditional southern refugia for temperate species, cryptic refugia existed in the North during glacials. Equivalent cryptic southern refugia, to the south of the more conventional high-latitude polar refugia, exist in montane areas during periods of warm climate, such as the current interglacial. There is also a continental/oceanic longitudinal gradient, which should be included in a more complete consideration of the interaction between species ranges and climates. Overall, it seems clear that there is large variation in both the size of refugia and the duration during which species are confined to them. This has implications for the role of refugia in the evolution of species and their genetic diversity.

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