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PLoS One. 2009 Nov 24;4(11):e7843. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007843.

Alien invasive slider turtle in unpredicted habitat: a matter of niche shift or of predictors studied?

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  • 1Biogeography Department, Trier University, Trier, Germany.



Species Distribution Models (SDMs) aim on the characterization of a species' ecological niche and project it into geographic space. The result is a map of the species' potential distribution, which is, for instance, helpful to predict the capability of alien invasive species. With regard to alien invasive species, recently several authors observed a mismatch between potential distributions of native and invasive ranges derived from SDMs and, as an explanation, ecological niche shift during biological invasion has been suggested. We studied the physiologically well known Slider turtle from North America which today is widely distributed over the globe and address the issue of ecological niche shift versus choice of ecological predictors used for model building, i.e., by deriving SDMs using multiple sets of climatic predictor.


In one SDM, predictors were used aiming to mirror the physiological limits of the Slider turtle. It was compared to numerous other models based on various sets of ecological predictors or predictors aiming at comprehensiveness. The SDM focusing on the study species' physiological limits depicts the target species' worldwide potential distribution better than any of the other approaches.


These results suggest that a natural history-driven understanding is crucial in developing statistical models of ecological niches (as SDMs) while "comprehensive" or "standard" sets of ecological predictors may be of limited use.

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