The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2016)

Predicting the climatic niche breadth of African catarrhines


1Institute of Human Origins, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, 2Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 3Graduate Program in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, University of Massachusetts Amherst

April 16, 2016 , Atrium Ballroom A/B Add to calendar

Climate impacts organisms directly through thermoregulation and indirectly through controls on distribution of resources and suitable habitats. Studies of the climatic niche of vertebrates have sought to quantify the climatic tolerance of species and examine the relationship between climatic niche evolution, adaptation, and geographic distribution. Climatic niche breadth (CNB) has been implicated in explanations of global biodiversity patterns, yet an understanding of what predicts CNB is lacking, particularly for mammals. Here we quantify the climatic niche position and breadth of African catarrhines by extracting climatic variables from 1,530 georeferenced occurrences representing 40 taxa. We subsequently explore potential predictors of CNB within a phylogenetic context. Relative to other primate clades, Old World primates vary widely in their geographic distribution and habitat preference, making them a group of interest for understanding ecological flexibility in primates and other mammals.

Our results show a significant positive relationship between a species’ CNB and its latitudinal range. Geographic variables outperform physical and behavioral variables as predictors of African catarrhine CNB. However, we cannot draw conclusions about the direction of causality between these variables, and further work is required to understand the historical factors that affect present-day species ranges. African catarrhines may share a broad fundamental niche but exhibit a realized niche that is constrained by barriers to dispersal, anthropogenic habitat destruction, and past climate change. This work is pressing in light of the extinction risk faced by many African primates and predictions that climatic niche evolution cannot keep pace with the projected rate of climate change.