Distributions, life-history specialization, and phylogeny of the rain forest vertebrates in the Australian Wet Tropics

Ecological Archives E091-181


  • Corresponding Editor: W. K. Michener.


The purpose of this data set was to compile distributional, general life-history characteristics and phylogenies for Australian tropical rain forest vertebrates to inform a wide range of comparative studies on the determinants of biodiversity patterns and to assess the impacts of global climate change. We provide three distinct data sets: (1) a table of species-specific distributional and life-history traits for 242 vertebrate species found in the rain forests of the Australian Wet Tropics; (2) species distribution maps (GIS raster files) for 202 of the species displaying both the realized and potential distributions; and (3) phylogenies for these species. These species represent 93 birds, 31 amphibians, 31 mammals (including one monotreme), and 47 reptiles. Where information exists, the distributional and life-history data compiled here present information on: indices of environmental specialization (ENFA), habitat specialization, average body mass and size, sexual dimorphism, reproductive characteristics such as age at first reproduction, clutch/litter size, number of reproductive bouts per year and breeding seasonality, longevity, time of day when most active, and dispersal ability; distributional characteristics such as range size (potential and realized for both total and core ranges) and observed ranges in temperature, precipitation, and elevation; and niche attributes such as environmental marginality and specialization. The distribution maps provided represent a combination of presence-only ecological niche modeling (using MaxEnt) to estimate the potential distribution of a species followed by biogeographic clipping by expert opinion based on extensive field data and a subregional classification relevant to the topography and biogeographic history of the region to produce best-possible estimates of the realized distribution. Our assemblage contains many species with a shared evolutionary history, and thus many analyses of these data will need to account for phylogeny. Although a comprehensive phylogeny with branch length information does not exist for this diverse group of species, we present a best-estimate composite phylogeny constructed primarily from recently published molecular phylogenies of included groups.

The complete data sets corresponding to abstracts published in the Data Papers section of the journal are published electronically in Ecological Archives at 〈http://esapubs.org/archive〉. (The accession number for each Data Paper is given directly beneath the title.)