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Ecol Lett. 2009 Jun;12(6):550-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2009.01308.x. Epub 2009 Apr 6.

Vertebrate range sizes indicate that mountains may be 'higher' in the tropics.

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Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and CU Museum of Natural History, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA.


In 1967, Daniel Janzen proposed the influential, but largely untested hypothesis, that tropical mountain passes are physiologically higher than temperate mountains. I test his key prediction, the one upon which all the others rely: namely, that elevational range sizes of organisms get larger on mountains at increasing latitudes. My analyses use 170 montane gradients spanning 36.5 degrees S to 48.2 degrees N latitude compiled from over 80 years of research and 16,500 species of rodents, bats, birds, lizards, snakes, salamanders, and frogs. In support of Janzen's prediction, I find that elevational range size increases with increasing latitude for all vertebrate groups except rodents. I document additional lines of evidence for temperature variability as a plausible mechanism for trends in vertebrate range size, including strong effects of thermoregulation and daily temperature variability, and a weak effect of precipitation.

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