Send to

Choose Destination
J Exp Zool B Mol Dev Evol. 2015 May;324(3):270-94. doi: 10.1002/jez.b.22602. Epub 2015 Jan 14.

Do turtles follow the rules? Latitudinal gradients in species richness, body size, and geographic range area of the world's turtles.

Author information

Integrative Research Center, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois.


Understanding how and why biodiversity is structured across the globe has been central to ecology, evolution, and biogeography even before those disciplines took their modern forms. Three global-scale patterns in particular have been the focus of research and debate for decades: latitudinal gradients in species richness (richness decreases with increasing latitude), body size (body size increases with increasing latitude in endotherms; Bergmann's rule), and geographic range size (range size increases with increasing latitude; Rapoport's rule). Despite decades of study, the generality and robustness of these trends have been debated, as have their underlying causes. Here we investigate latitudinal gradients in species richness, body size, and range size in the world's turtles (Testudines), and add more evidence that these rules do not seem to apply across all taxa. We show that turtle diversity actually peaks at 25° north, a highly unusual global pattern. Turtles also fail to follow Bergmann's Rule, and may show the converse (larger at lower latitudes), though trends are weak. Turtles also show a complex relationship between latitude and range size that does not directly follow Rapoport's rule. Body size and geographic range size are significantly correlated, and multiple abiotic and biotic variables help explain the relationships between latitude and species diversity, body size, and range size. Although we show that turtles do not strictly follow some classic biogeographical rules, we also call for further in-depth research to investigate potential causal mechanisms for these atypical patterns.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center