• Bats;
  • climate;
  • diversity;
  • elevational gradient;
  • mammals;
  • mid-domain effect;
  • species richness;
  • temperature;
  • water availability


Aim  A global meta-analysis was used to elucidate a mechanistic understanding of elevational species richness patterns of bats by examining both regional and local climatic factors, spatial constraints, sampling and interpolation. Based on these results, I propose the first climatic model for elevational gradients in species richness, and test it using preliminary bat data for two previously unexamined mountains.

Location  Global data set of bat species richness along elevational gradients from Old and New World mountains spanning 12.5° S to 38° N latitude.

Methods  Bat elevational studies were found through an extensive literature search. Use was made only of studies sampling  70% of the elevational gradient without significant sampling biases or strong anthropogenic disturbance. Undersampling and interpolation were explicitly examined with three levels of error analyses. The influence of spatial constraints was tested with a Monte Carlo simulation program, Mid-Domain Null. Preliminary bat species richness data sets for two test mountains were compiled from specimen records from 12 US museum collections.

Results  Equal support was found for decreasing species richness with elevation and mid-elevation peaks. Patterns were robust to substantial amounts of error, and did not appear to be a consequence of spatial constraints. Bat elevational richness patterns were related to local climatic gradients. Species richness was highest where both temperature and water availability were high, and declined as temperature and water availability decreased. Mid-elevational peaks occurred on mountains with dry, arid bases, and decreasing species richness occurred on mountains with wet, warm bases. A preliminary analysis of bat richness patterns on elevational gradients in western Peru (dry base) and the Olympic Mountains, WA (wet base), supported the predictions of the climate model.

Main conclusions  The relationship between species richness and combined temperature and water availability may be due to both direct (thermoregulatory constraints) and indirect (food resources) factors. Abundance was positively correlated with species richness, suggesting that bat species richness may also be related to productivity. The climatic model may be applicable to other taxonomic groups with similar ecological constraints, for instance certain bird, insect and amphibian clades.