Defining Neotropical otter Lontra longicaudis distribution, conservation priorities and ecological frontiers

Marcelo Lopes Rheingantz, Jorge Fernando Saraiva de Menezes, Benoit de Thoisy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Understanding a species' occurrence requirements is essential for its conservation, and species distribution models (SDMs) are a powerful tool for this purpose. Here we estimated a SDM based on actual distribution information, in relation to climatic, hydrological, human population, and vegetation data sets, to understand the ecological requirements and geographic distribution of the Neotropical otter Lontra longicaudis, a species whose habitat requirements and conservation needs are mostly unknown. Using MaxEnt, we defined its potential distribution and most suitable areas to indicate priority areas for research and to analyze the efficiency of Protected Areas (PAs). Our findings suggest that the range of Neotropical otters could extend beyond their present estimated distribution, adding new areas in northeastern Brazil, Andean region, west Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Mexico, and Argentina, with higher suitability in rain forests (especially Atlantic and Amazon Forests). We also found that PAs are the most suitable areas for otter distribution. Although better than non-protected areas, PAs are close to the median of the suitability values, indicating that they still can be improved to conserve otters. Annual temperature and human population density explained most data variance in our model. We suggest the change of the actual status of Neotropical otter to Least Concern or Near Threatened categories. We recommend verifying the possible sympatry with other otters, and demonstrate that rudimentary and/or occasional recent data of occurrence can also be used in SDMs and contribute to species conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-229
Number of pages16
JournalTropical Conservation Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Distribution range
  • Neotropical otter
  • Niche modeling
  • Reserve design
  • Suitability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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