Latitudinal gradients in the species richness of Australian termites (Isoptera)



Abstract Using data on the geographic range of 260 described species in the Atlas of Australian Termites, seven ‘regions’ with more complete data, across a wide range of latitudes were selected for further analysis. For these regions, mean species richness (± SE) was calculated for (i) all species from all families, (ii) Termitidae (197 spp.), (iii) Amitermes spp. (Termitidae, 58 spp.), (iv) all families excluding Amitermes spp. (139 spp.), (v) Termopsidae (5 spp.), (vi) Kalotermitidae (32 spp.) and (vii) Rhinotermitidae (25 spp.). In addition, we compared the Atlas data with species richness for five regions, across a comparable range of latitudes, based on the pooled species richness of described and un-described species given in community studies. No group of termites showed a consistent decline in species richness from tropical to temperate latitudes for either data set. The Atlas data showed similar total species richness from the tropics to the mediterranean southwest, before declining to lowest species richness at the highest latitudes. Species richness of Amitermes spp. and Rhinotermitidae was highest in the southwest. Termopsidae and Kalotermitidae showed no latitudinal pattern in species richness. Community studies showed highest and lowest total species richness in the southwest and at the highest latitudes (south-coastal Western Australia), respectively, and similar species richness from the tropics to arid central Australia. Species richness of. Amitermes spp. was highest in the southwest (31 spp.). Kalotermitidae and Rhinotermitidae showed no clear latitudinal pattern.

The latitudinal patterns of species richness for the Australian termites is consistent with that for the Australian vertebrates and ants in that they differ from patterns established for these taxa on other continents.