EECOLOGICAL NICHE MODELING OF TWO SEMI-AQUATIC SNAKES (SERPENTES: DIPSADIDAE) FROM THE BRAZILIAN ATLANTIC FOREST

Ecological niche modeling of two semi-aquatic snakes

Authors

Keywords:

Distribution gaps, Gomesophis, niche overlap, Ptychophis, snakes conservation

Abstract

We approached spatial ecology with ecological considerations for conservation of two snake species with resembling distributions along fragmented landscapes of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, Gomesophis brasiliensis and Ptychophis flavovirgatus. Both are Neotropical snakes with allopatric groups, showing intriguing geographic distribution patterns with large gap areas amongst them. We aimed to predict the distribution pattern of both species and determine if their ecological niches overlap. To test the hypothesis of niche overlapping, in the Niche equivalency test (Net) and Similarity test (Bst), we evaluated the niche models for both species based on the georeferenced environmental layers (bioclimatic, geographic, and vegetation), and using the software Maxent v.3.3.3. The potential distribution of both species was similar with large sympatric areas, both in grassy landscapes of the Atlantic Forest, although G. brasiliensis is evenly distributed in southeastern and southern Brazil, while P. flavovirgatus is more concentrated in southern Brazil. Altitude and minimum temperature of the coldest month were the most important variables for both species in their distribution models. Similar and equivalent niches overlapping between species indicated a conservative niche for both species. The niches' overlap may be explained by environmental influences along with phylogenetic inertia.

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