Past, present, and future of tetrapod biodiversity dimensions

  • Meiri, Shai S. (PI)
  • רול, אורי (CoPI)
  • Wiens, John J. (CoPI)
  • Gittleman, John J. (CoPI)
  • Stephens, Patrick P. (CoPI)

Project Details


Terrestrial vertebrates are the best known and most charismatic of animals. This has enabled their geographic distribution and extinction risk status to have been assessed. But little remains known, in any group but especially in reptiles, the largest land-vertebrate group, about the geographic distribution of other aspects of diversity: their geographic range sizes and how they are replaced over space, their ecologies (diet, substrate use, activity times etc.), and their functional diversity, and how these all evolved. Vertebrate species (except perhaps birds) are now being discovered and described at accelerating rates, but these additions to our knowledge vary greatly even between adjacent countries (58 reptile species, for example, were described from Iran this century, but only five from adjacent Pakistan). The combination of this lack of knowledge, and lack of understanding of how these attributes affect extinction risk, will harm our ability to predict which species and regions should be prioritized for conservation in the near future in the face of increasing human mediated stressors such as land use change and global warming.

We study all these aspects of global lizard and snake biodiversity, by: 1. Assembling an unprecedented, global database of species distributions, evolutionary relationships, ecologies, morphologies, and functions within the ecosystem. We then testing the environmental and evolutionary drivers for each and their interactions to understand how global diversity evolved; 2. Assessing factors that bias our knowledge for particular regions, especially those that make certain countries less well studied; 3. examining how all these disparate aspects of diversity (ecological, functional, morphological etc.) are likely to change due to climate change and changes in anthropogenic footprint.

Our study will hopefully advance both theory and practice by enlightening us on what forces drive different axes of diversity, what influences – and biases, our understanding of it – and how best to plan to protect it in the near future.

Effective start/end date30/09/1730/09/21


  • United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF)


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