Detecting the potential sympatric range and niche divergence between Asian endemic ungulates of Procapra
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Species distribution modeling (SDM) is increasingly used to reveal biogeographical relationships, for example the sympatric range for species coexistence, and fundamental questions about niche evolution between related species. We explored the sympatric ranges between three Procapra species (Procapra przewalskii, Procapra Picticaudata, and Procapra gutturosa) via two methods of defining the study region (method 1, in which models were developed in a larger region including the whole geographic range of Procapra, and method 2 in which a smaller region surrounding focal species’ localities was used and then projected to the larger region). We also quantified environmental niche divergence between gazelles across the whole range in Procapra. Models for gazelles generally performed well. Compared with method 2, method 1 led to larger predicted areas with high suitability and was less concentrated around known localities. Clamping, which deals with variables outside the training range, varied between gazelles and occurred primarily in regions unsuitable for respective species. For all gazelle pairs, models revealed an overlap zone where more than one species should occur, while the estimates varied between the two methods. Moreover, we found that the niche overlap was closely associated with geographic distance but not with phylogenetic distance among gazelles. Our findings indicate that SDM is a useful tool for testing whether related species tend to be in sympatry at large scales, with method 1 leading to more realistic predictions for Procapra. This study provides evidence of a distinct niche divergence among related species and supports the theory that ecological speciation plays a significant role in lineage generation.