Geographical Trends in Numbers of Species

Science  25 Aug 1978:
Vol. 201, Issue 4357, pp. 679-686
DOI: 10.1126/science.201.4357.679


Geographic variation in the number of coexisting plant and animal species (species density) often follows repeated patterns; best known is the general increase in species richness from temperate to tropical latitudes. Here we undertake a quantitative analysis of geographic trends in species density for the terrestrial vertebrate faunas of the United States and Australia. Trends in numbers of species of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals are described and are correlated with geographic variation in abiotic environmental measures. Intercontinental comparisons reveal general patterns as well as intriguing and profound differences in vertebrate distributions.