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Past influences present: Mammalian species from different biogeographic pools sort environmentally in the Indian subcontinent

  • Author(s): Tamma, Krishnapriya
  • Marathe, Aniruddha
  • Ramakrishnan, Uma
  • et al.
Abstract

Diversity-environment relationships are distinct across species pools, and as a result species from different biogeographic pools have different environmental preferences. Regional communities are drawn from available biogeographic pools, subject to environmental and dispersal constraints. Does shared biogeographic history of taxa lead to similar relationships with the environment? We test this idea in the Indian subcontinent, which is at the confluence of multiple biogeographic regions resulting in species from multiple biogeographic pools being distributed here. Species were classified as belonging to four biogeographic affinities based on their geographic distributions: eastern, northern, western and endemic. We investigated spatial patterns of species richness for all mammals (over 1° x 1° grid cells), for each biogeographic group and for 5 major mammalian orders. Generalized Additive Models (GAM) were used to investigate environment-diversity relationship for all mammals, each biogeographic group, and for major mammalian orders in the Indian subcontinent. Species richness of all mammals was found to be highest in the montane regions of the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats. Species richness of each biogeographic group was highest at the border it shared with Asia, in the direction of immigration from Asia. Environment and spatial variables were both correlated with species richness in the Indian subcontinent and each biogeographic group showed a distinct richness-environment relationship. Additionally, biogeographic groups sorted along environmental space, in keeping with our predictions based on their global distributions. Finally, analyses across mammalian orders had low predictive value, suggesting that shared phylogenetic history is relatively less important than biogeographic ancestry in determining relationships to environment. We conclude that historical factors such as immigration and the distinct evolutionary histories of species impact species richness patterns in the Indian subcontinent. Our results provide insights into drivers of regional community assembly in transition zones where multiple biogeographic species pools co-exist.

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