Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 1755–1793 | Cite as

Spatial turnover and knowledge gap of African small mammals: using country checklists as a conservation tool

  • Giovanni AmoriEmail author
  • Sabrina Masciola
  • Jenni Saarto
  • Spartaco Gippoliti
  • Carlo Rondinini
  • Federica Chiozza
  • Luca Luiselli
Original Paper


Comparing species checklists across countries can be important for determining the relative uniqueness of each country, which can be conveniently defined on the basis of the number of species occurring only in that country or, at most, in one of its neighboring countries. Production of accurate country checklists is complicated by the fact that, especially in scientifically neglected regions, the knowledge of the distribution of many species is unsatisfying. When distribution of a given species is insufficiently known, typically there may be apparent gaps in its distribution range. These species are defined here as ‘gap species’. In this paper, we analyze the country checklists for rodents and insectivores of the African continent with the aims of (i) identifying the countries having a higher taxonomic uniqueness; (ii) highlighting countries where more research is needed; (iii) producing a list of gap species; and (iv) determining the ecological correlates of being a gap species. For both mammal groups, the important countries because of their low numbers of shared species were D.R. Congo, Cameroon, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. The countries with highest percentages of endemic taxa were Kenya, South Africa, Somalia and Tanzania for insectivores, and Ethiopia and South Africa for rodents. The number of gap species per country was 0–5 for both insectivores and rodents, with the only exceptions of Togo (12) and Benin (15). Apart from Togo and Benin, the main gap countries for rodents were Nigeria, Chad, Gabon, Burundi, and Rwanda, and for insectivores were Niger and Chad. In both groups, the number of gap species per country was independent on the country area, and both range and body sizes did not influence the probability for a species to have distribution gaps. However, most gap species were tropical forest inhabitants. The biogeographic and conservation implications of these data are discussed.


Africa Insectivores Rodents Country prioritization Country lists of species Conservation Gap species 


  1. Amori G, Gippoliti S (2000) What do mammalogists want to save? Ten years of mammalian conservation biology. Biodiv Conserv 9:785–793CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amori G, Gippoliti S (2001) Identifying priority ecoregions for rodent conservation at the genus level. Oryx 35:158–165Google Scholar
  3. Amori G, Luiselli L (2011) Small mammal community structure in West Africa: a meta-analysis using null models. Afr J Ecol 49:418–430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Amori G, Gippoliti S, Luiselli L, Battisti C (2010) Are there latitudinal gradients in taxa turnover? A worldwide study with Sciuridae (Mammalia: Rodentia). Community Ecol 11:22–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Amori G, Chiozza F, Rondinini C, Luiselli L (2011) Country-based patterns of total species richness, endemicity, and threatened species richness in African rodents and insectivores. Biodivers Conserv 20:1225–1237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Aulagnier S, Haffner P, Mitchell-Jones AJ, Moutou F, Zima J (2008) Guide des mammiferes d’Europe, d’Afrique du Nord et du Moyen-Orient. Delachaux et Niestlé S.A., ParisGoogle Scholar
  7. Blackburn DC (2008) A new species of Cardioglossa (Amphibia: Anura: Arthroleptidae) endemic to Mount Manengouba in the Republic of Cameroon, with an analysis of morphological diversity in the genus. Zool J Linn Soc 154:611–630CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brooks TM, Mittermeier RA, Mittermeier CG, Da Fonseca GAB, Rylands AB, Konstant WR, Flick P, Pilgrim J, Oldfield S, Magin G, Hilton-Taylor C (2002) Habitat loss and extinction in the hotspots of biodiversity. Conserv Biol 16:909–923CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burgess ND, Butinsky T (2007) The biological importance of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and Kenya. Biol Conserv 134:209–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Colangelo P, Corti M, Verheyen E, Annesi F, Oguge N, Makundi RH, Verheyen W (2005) Mitochondrial phylogeny reveals differential modes of chromosomal evolution in the genus Tatera (Rodentia: Gerbillinae) in Africa. Mol Phyl Evol 35:556–568CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Colyn M, Hulselmans J, Sonet G, Oudé P, De Winter J, Natta A, Nagy TZ, Verheyen E (2010) Discovery of a new duiker species (Bovidae: Cephalophinae) from the Dahomey Gap, West Africa. Zootaxa 2637:1–30Google Scholar
  12. Fjeldså J, Lovett JC (1997) Geographical patterns of old and young species in African forest biota: the significance of specific montane areas as evolutionary centres. Biodiv Conserv 6:325–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gaston KJ, Blackburn TM (2000) Pattern and process in macroecology. Blackwell Science, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gippoliti S, Amori G (2002) Mammal diversity and taxonomy in Italy: implications for conservation. J Nat Conserv 10:133–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gippoliti S, Amori G (2011) A new species of mole-rat (Rodentia, Bathyergidae) from the Horn of Africa. Zootaxa 2918:39–46Google Scholar
  16. Hafner DJ, Yensen E, Kirkland GL Jr, Gordon L Jr (1998) North American rodents: status survey and conservation action plans. IUCN, GlandGoogle Scholar
  17. Hubbell SP (2001) The unified neutral theory of biodiversity and biogeography. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  18. Hurlbert AH, White EP (2005) Disparity between range map-and survey-based analyses of species richness: patterns, processes and implications. Ecol Lett 8:319–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. IUCN (2011) IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Version 2011.1. <>. Accessed 16 June 2011
  20. Jetz W, Rahbek C (2002) Geographic distributional extent and determinants of avian species richness. Science 297:1548–1551PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kingdon J (1997) The Kingdon field guide to African mammals. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  22. Küper W, Sommer JH, Lovett JC, Barthlott W (2006) Deficiency in African plant distribution data—missing pieces of the puzzle. Bot J Linn Soc 150:355–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lavrenchenko LA, Verheyen WN, Verheyen E, Hulselmans J, Leirs H (2007) Morphometric and genetic study of Ethiopian Lophuroys flavopunctatus Thomas, 1888 species complex with description of three new 70-chromosomal species (Muridae, Rodentia). Bull Inst R Sci Natur Belg Biol 77:77–117Google Scholar
  24. Lawrance WF (1994) Rainforest fragmentation and the structure of small mammal communities in tropical Queensland. Biol Conserv 69:23–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lawton JH, Woodroffe GL (1991) Habitat and the distribution of water voles: why are there gaps in a species’ range? J Anim Ecol 60:79–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lenk P, Herrmann HW, Joger U, Wink M (1999) Phylogeny and taxonomic subdivision of Bitis (Reptilia: Viperidae) based on molecular evidence. Kaupia 8:31–38Google Scholar
  27. Mackenzie DJ, Bailey LL (2004) Assessing the fit of site occupancy models. J Agric Biol Environ Sci 9:300–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. MacKenzie DI, Nichols JD, Hines JE, Knutson MG, Franklin AB (2003) Estimating site occupancy, colonization, and local extinction when a species is detected imperfectly. Ecology 84:2200–2207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. McNeely JA, McCarthy TM, Smith A, Olsvig-Whittaker L, Wikramanayake ED (eds) (2006) Conservation biology in Asia. Society for Conservation Biology Asia Section and Resources Himalaya, KathmanduGoogle Scholar
  30. Moreau RE (1966) The bird faunas of Africa and its islands. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  31. Myers N (1998) Global biodiversity priorities and expanded conservation policies. In: Mace GC, Balmford A, Ginsberg JR (eds) Conservation in a changing world. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 273–285Google Scholar
  32. Myers N, Mittermaier RA, Mittermaier CG, da Fonseca GAB, Kent J (2000) Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403:853–858PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nowak RM (1999) Walker’s mammals of the world, vol 1, 6th edn. Johns Hopkins University Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  34. Oates JF (1986) Action plan for African primate conservation: 1986–1990. IUCN, GlandGoogle Scholar
  35. Pomeroy D (1993) Centers of high biodiversity in Africa. Conserv Biol 7:901–907CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Reddy S, Davalos LM (2003) Geographical sampling bias and its implications for conservation priorities in Africa. J Biogeogr 30:1719–1727CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Salzmann U, Hoelzmann P (2005) The Dahomey Gap: an abrupt climatically induced rain forest fragmentation in West Africa during the late Holocene. Holocene 15:190–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schunke AC, Hutterer R (2000) Patchy versus continuous distribution patterns in the African rain forest: the problem of the Anomaluridae (Mammalia: Rodentia). Bonn Zool Monogr 46:145–152Google Scholar
  39. Setzer HW (1956) Mammals of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Proc U.S Natl Mus 106:447–587Google Scholar
  40. Stanley WT, Hutterer R (2000) A new species of Myosorex gray, 1832 (Mammalia: Soricidae) from the Eastern Arc mountains, Tanzania. Bonn Zool Beitr 49:19–29Google Scholar
  41. Svenning J-C, Skov F (2004) Limited filling of the potential range in European tree species. Ecol Lett 7:565–573CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Turner IF (1996) Species loss in fragments of tropical rain forest: a review of the evidence. J Appl Ecol 33:200–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. van Wyk AE, Smith GF (2001) Regions of floristic endemism in Southern Africa: a review with emphasis on succulents. Umdaus Press, HatfieldGoogle Scholar
  44. Whittaker RH (1972) Evolution and measurement of species diversity. Taxon 21:213–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wilson DE, Reeder DR (2005) Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference, 3rd edn. John Hopkins University Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giovanni Amori
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sabrina Masciola
    • 1
  • Jenni Saarto
    • 2
  • Spartaco Gippoliti
    • 3
  • Carlo Rondinini
    • 2
  • Federica Chiozza
    • 2
  • Luca Luiselli
    • 4
  1. 1.CNR, Institute of Ecosystem StudiesRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of Biology and BiotechnologiesSapienza Università di RomaRomeItaly
  3. 3.Italian Institute of AnthropologyRomeItaly
  4. 4.Centre of Environmental StudiesRomeItaly

Personalised recommendations