Israeli-led team completes first-ever analysis of all reptiles

The project, which has taken almost a decade, is expected to help conserve nature and the world’s variety of reptiles.

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October 10, 2017 03:23
2 minute read.
A GROUP of amphibian and reptile researchers capture lizards in the Negev.

A GROUP of amphibian and reptile researchers capture lizards in the Negev.. (photo credit: DANIEL BERKOWITZ)

The distribution of more than 10,000 species of reptiles has been mapped and analyzed for the first time by a team led by Tel Aviv University researchers, Their findings, just been published in the prestigious journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, have been called “a significant breakthrough” in understanding broad models of species diversity throughout the world.

The group was led by Prof. Shai Meiri of TAU’s Steinhardt Natural History Museum. They created a global map of the entire reptile population that shows the need for changing nature conservation policy.

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The project, which has taken almost a decade, is expected to help conserve nature and the world’s variety of reptiles.

Many resources have been and will continue to be invested in nature conservation on the basis of this knowledge.

The group comprised 35 researchers from TAU and similar universities and institutions around the world who have mapped out the distribution of all species of reptiles in the world who comprise a very diverse group in its biology.

The reptiles differ in several levels from birds and mammals – especially in that they don’t maintain a constant body temperature.

In addition, this work complements the data of Dr. Uri Roll of the School of Geography and the Environment at Oxford University on the distribution patterns of all species of other animals, including mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and birds – a total of about 32,000 species. His team aimed at examining, in an educated way, whether the assumption that a conservation policy tailored to the size of birds and mammals that receive much attention is also successful for another large group with other biological characteristics.

“It turns out that the answers are complex.

The overall distribution patterns of reptiles in general, and of snakes in particular, are similar to those of amphibians, birds and mammals,” the group explained.

“However, the lizards – a group of more than 6,500 species known today – show a different variant. Areas where the greatest number of mammalian species, birds, amphibians, and snakes [are found] is close to the equator – mainly in South America and Southeast Asia. The number of species in all these groups decreases as they move away from the equator and are particularly low in desert areas,” the group continued. “In contrast, the greatest numbers of lizards are found in Australia, as well as in desert and sub-desert areas around the world.”

The research stresses the need for renewed prioritization of preserving nature in large areas of the world, especially in dry climates. This will ensure that we preserve reptiles that until now were unknown to us in their distribution.

“The new knowledge forces us to change our policies to include aspects of biodiversity that may be less charismatic but no less important,” they concluded.


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