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Keywords:

  • Viperidae;
  • Elapidae;
  • body size;
  • range size;
  • niche conservatism;
  • macroecology

Abstract

We used eigenvector mapping in space and phylogeny to investigate the relationships among space, phylogeny and environment on body size and range size variation across two groups of venomous snakes – Viperidae and Elapidae – from the New World. Data on species geographic range sizes, maximum body sizes and phylogenetic relationships were compiled from the available literature. The distributional data were also used to calculate the latitudinal and longitudinal midpoint and the environmental centroids for each species. The eigenvectors extracted from the pair wise spatial and phylogenetic distance matrices were integrated with environmental variables into a method of variation partitioning where the variation in each trait was quantitatively attributed to ‘pure’ and/or shared effects of phylogeny, environment and space. Our results showed that variation in body size was predominantly determined by phylogeny in both groups of snakes. For Viperidae, we found that pure ‘effects’ of phylogeny were the strongest, indicating that most of the body size evolution that was phylogenetically determined in this group occurred independently of environment and geographical proximity. Regarding range sizes, pure phylogenetic influences were very low in both groups, whereas the largest single fraction of explained variation corresponded to overlapped influences of the three sets of predictors, especially for Elapidae. Along with this, we found evidence that niche conservatism is an important processes underlying variation in body size and range size in both groups of snakes.