Predicting the distribution of cryptic species: the case of the spur-thighed tortoise in Andalusia (southern Iberian Peninsula)

Abstract

Some species are very difficult to observe in the wild, and some of these present an apparently incongruent distribution, as is the case of the spur-thighed tortoise Testudo graeca in the southern Iberian Peninsula. This species has a discontinuous distribution with two main reproductive areas: one in the contiguous provinces of Almeria and Murcia, and the other in Huelva province. Both populations are thought to maintain reproductive isolation. However, we present new records obtained from two areas (the provinces of Malaga and Cadiz) which are outside their previously known range. Malaga province and Cadiz province are located between the two traditional reproductive areas. The new records were based on 16 interviews with shepherds as well as information provided by three naturalists. The aim of this work was to analyze the spatial distribution of areas favourable to the spur-thighed tortoise in the southern Iberian Peninsula, using different models with the same group of variables but with a different number of records: known records, new records and a combination of them. We obtained a distribution model for the species in Andalusia consistent with all observations, which was related to climatic stability, climatic disturbances, and spatial situation. This model presented three main favourable areas: two are coincident with the two known nuclei, and the other is situated in the southern part of the region, in the contiguous provinces of Cadiz and Malaga. We conclude that it is important to consider all the observations in the distribution models because records outside the traditional reproductive areas can include other environmental characteristics appropriate for the species.

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Abbreviations

AUC:

Area under the curve

CCR:

Correct classification rate

F:

Favourability function

FDR:

False discovery rate

LEK:

Local ecological knowledge

LR:

Logistic regression

OGU:

Operational geographical unit

P :

Probability of occurrence

SDM:

Species distribution modelling

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the following individuals for their assistance in the field: Antonio R. Martínez García, Francisco Jiménez Casares and Vicente Zumel García. We would also like to thank the interviewees for their support. This study was supported by the project CGL2009-11316 (Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, Spain, and FEDER). A. Estrada has a postdoctoral contract jointly financed by the European Social Fund and by the Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha (Spain), in the framework of the Operational Programme FSE 2007–2013.

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Correspondence to José C. Báez.

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Báez, J.C., Estrada, A., Torreblanca, D. et al. Predicting the distribution of cryptic species: the case of the spur-thighed tortoise in Andalusia (southern Iberian Peninsula). Biodivers Conserv 21, 65–78 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-011-0164-3

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Keywords

  • Biogeography
  • Conservation biology
  • Favourability
  • Spatial modelling