Theory in Biosciences

, Volume 125, Issue 1, pp 55–65 | Cite as

Simulation of Rapoport's rule for latitudinal species spread

  • Dietrich Stauffer
  • Klaus RohdeEmail author


Rapoport's rule claims that latitudinal ranges of plant and animal species are generally smaller at low than at high latitudes. However, doubts as to the generality of the rule have been expressed, because studies providing evidence against the rule are more numerous than those in support of it. In groups for which support has been provided, the trend of increasing latitudinal ranges with latitude is restricted to or at least most distinct at high latitudes, suggesting that the effect may be a local phenomenon, for example the result of glaciations. Here we test the rule using two models, a simple one-dimensional one with a fixed number of animals expanding in a northern or southerly direction only, and the evolutionary/ecological Chowdhury model using birth, ageing, death, mutation, speciation, prey-predator relations and food levels. Simulations with both models gave results contradicting Rapoport's rule. In the first, latitudinal ranges were roughly independent of latitude, in the second, latitudinal ranges were greatest at low latitudes, as also shown empirically for some well-studied groups of animals.


Rapoport's rule Latitudinal gradients Zoogeography Chowdury model Computer simulations 


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© Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de FísicaUniversidade Federal FluminenseNiteróiBrazil
  2. 2.ZoologyUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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