Aim The goal of this paper is to examine the relationships between body size, biomic specialization and range size in the African large mammals, which are defined as all the African species corresponding to the orders Primates, Carnivora, Proboscidea, Perissodactyla, Hyracoidea, Tubulidentata, Artiodactyla and Pholidota.
Location The study used the large mammal assemblage from Africa.
Methods The degree of biomic specialization of African large mammals is investigated using the biomic specialization index (BSI) for each mammal species, based on the number of biomes it inhabits. Range size for each species is measured as the latitudinal extent of the geographical distribution of the species. We have analysed our data using both conventional cross-species analyses and phylogenetically independent contrasts.
Results There is a polygonal relationship between species biomic specialization and body size. While small and large species are biomic specialists, medium-sized species are distributed along the whole range of biomic specialization. The latitudinal extent–body size relationship is approximately triangular. Small-bodied species may have either large or small ranges, whereas large-bodied ones have only large ranges. A positive correlation between latitudinal extent and biomic specialization is evident, although their relationship is better described as triangular.
Main conclusions We found a polygonal relationship between species biomic specialization and body size, which agrees with previous arguments that small-bodied species have more limited dispersal and, therefore, they may come to occupy a lesser proportion of their potential inhabitable biomes. On the other hand, large-bodied species are constrained to inhabit biomes with a high productivity. A polygonal relationship between species latitudinal extent and body size in African large mammals agrees with previous studies of the relationship between range size and body size in other continents. The independent study of the macroecological pattern in biomic specialization highlights different factors that influence the body size–range size relationship. Although body size is usually implicated as a correlate of both specialization and geographical range size in large mammals, much of the variation in these variables cannot be attributed to size differences but to biome specific factors such as productivity, area, history, etc.