Ecological niche differentiation in the Anatolian rock lizards (Genus: Anatololacerta) (Reptilia: Lacertidae) of the Anatolian Peninsula and Aegean Islands
From Firenze University Press Journal: Acta Herpetologica
Mehmet Kürşat Şahin, Department of Biology, Kamil Özdag Faculty of Science, Karamanoglu Mehmetbey University
Kamil Candan, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Dokuz Eylül University
Danae Karakasi, Natural History Museum of Crete, School of Sciences and Engineering, University of Crete
Petros Lymberakis, Natural History Museum of Crete, School of Sciences and Engineering, University of Crete
Nikos Poulakakis, Natural History Museum of Crete, School of Sciences and Engineering, University of Crete
Yusuf Kumlutaş, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Dokuz Eylül University
Elif Yildirim, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Dokuz Eylül University
Çetin Ilgaz, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Dokuz Eylül University
Ecological factors, e.g., climatic factors, significantly affect the distribution of organisms and may lead to for-mation of new species (Zhao et al., 2019). Each species often has unique ecological niche characteristics and as a result of it, ecological needs differ even for sympatric or sister species (Soberon and Peterson, 2005). Quantifying and visualizing the effects of spatial and temporal eco-logical patterns on speciation processes have contributed to our knowledge of interactions between species and their environments (Jezkova and Wiens, 2018; Kurnaz et al., 2019; Şahin et al., 2021). In the last two decades, Ecological Niche Modeling (ENM) was frequently used to better understand these processes. ENM is a method used to predict the habitat suitability of species across space by using occurrence records and bioclimatic and topographic variables (Barve et al., 2011; Kass et al., 2018; Hosseinian Yousefkhani et al., 2019).
Moreover, ENM is a very beneficial approach to better understand aspects of conservation, ecology, distribution, and evolutionary history of the species (Guisan and Zimmermann, 2000; Araújo et al., 2006; Phillips et al., 2006). Latest tool devel-opments in modeling studies such as ENMTools ( Wa r-ren et al., 2021), ENMeval (Muscarella et al., 2014) and kuenm (Cobos et al., 2019) provide frameworks able not only to generate maps but also to assess the niche overlap and the possible degree of differentiation among multiple species. The complex geological history of Western Asia has shaped the Anatolian Peninsula, the Caucasus Moun-tains, and the Iranian steppes, resulting in high variations in vegetation covers and topographic patterns in these regions (Rajabizadeh et al., 2016). In addition, many environmental dynamics, like atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, precipitation and temperature fluc-tuations, alterations in land use and cover have influence on ecosystem and biodiversity structure in Mediterranean Basin (Klausmeyer and Shaw, 2009). Despite some parts of the Anatolian Peninsula and its close areas have been studied in terms of ENM species distribution analysis for several herptile species (Gül et al., 2015, 2016, 2018; Hosseinian Yousefkhani et al., 2016, 2019; Heidari, 2019; Candan et al., 2021; Kurnaz and Şahin, 2021a), the west-ern part of the peninsula and/or with Aegean Islands and Cyprus has still been less represented (Kıraç et al., 2022).
The herpetofauna in the Anatolian Peninsula and Aegean Islands is rich (180 species) (Kurnaz, 2020; Baran et al., 2021; Yaşar et al., 2021), almost as the 60 % of whole European continent (301 species) (Speybroeck et al., 2020). Besides, recent discoveries of the new species have been making the herpetofauna richer (Tuniyev et al., 2018; Jablonski et al., 2019; Yılmaz et al., 2021; Kur-naz and Şahin, 2021b; Arribas et al., 2022; Kurnaz et al., 2022).However, even though this region has been inves-tigated in several biogeographic or phylogeographic stud-ies (Kornilios et al., 2012; Skourtanioti et al., 2016; Kot-sakiozi et al., 2018; Bozkurt and Olgun, 2020), the effects of environmental conditions on the distribution of reptile species or subpopulations are being studied only in the last decade (Fattahi et al., 2014; Gül et al., 2015; Hos-seinian Yousefkhani et al., 2019; Kurnaz and Hosseinian Yousefkhani, 2020, 2021).Anatololacerta Arnold, Arribas & Carranza, 2007is an Eastern Mediterranean lacertid genus that is distrib-uted along the western and southern parts of Anatolia and some Aegean islands (Karakasi et al., 2021).
However, taxonomic debates on some populations of this genus have been historically controversial. Species of this genus represent an example of cryptic diversity (Bellati et al., 2015; Candan et al., 2016), a common phenomenon among lacertids (Kaliontzopoulou et al., 2012; Barata et al., 2012; Tamar et al., 2015; Freitas et al., 2016; Psonis et al., 2017; Šmíd et al., 2017; Mendes et al., 2018). The recent study on the phylogenetic relationships of Anato-lolacerta clades (Karakasi et al., 2021) classified them into five species: i) Anatololacerta anatolica (Werner, 1900) distributed in northwestern Anatolia, Ikaria and Samos islands ii) Anatololacerta pelasgiana (Mertens, 1959) in southwestern Anatolia, Symi and Rodos islands iii) Ana-tololacerta finikensis (Eiselt & Schmidtler, 1987) in west-ern part of Mediterranean region and Psomi island iv) Anatololacerta ibrahimi (Eiselt & Schmidtler, 1987) central part of Mediterranean region v) Anatololacerta dan-fordi (Günther, 1876) in eastern Mediterranean region. Therefore, the cryptic diversity within this genus inspired us to test if the species delimitations can be affected by bioclimatological and/or topographic factors. That’s why the objectives of the present study are i) to predict highly suitable areas for each Anatololacerta species distribution and determine which environmental factors are impor-tant; ii) to measure and compare the niche divergence within the genus Anatololacerta, as a case study for cryptic species.
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