Environmental drivers of altitudinal distribution of lizards in Iran (Case study: Family Lacertidae)

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Dept. of environmental science, faculty of natural resources, university of tehran

2 Dept. of environmental science, faculty of natural resources, university of Tehran

3 Institut de Systématique, Évolution, Biodiversité, ISYEB—UMR7205—CNRS, MNHN, UPMC, EPHE, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Sorbonne Universités, Paris, France.


Little is known about altitudinal distribution of lizards in Iran. In the present study we studied distribution pattern of members of family Lacertidae along the eleveatinal gradient in Iran. To determine environmental drivers of distribution pattern of 48 lizard species, all known valid members of family Lacertidae, along elevational gradient in Iran. Firstly, we classified Iran digital elevation model (DEM) based on 100m intervals, that resulted in 56 altitudinal bands and number of species in each band was recorded. Secondly, we extracted mean value of following variables; altitude, slop, area, solar radiation index (SRI), normalized differences vegetation index (NDVI), annual precipitation, precipitation of wettest month, precipitation of driest month precipitation, precipitation of wettest quarter, precipitation of driest quarter, and precipitation of warmest quarter, and using VIF measure correlated variables were removed. Finally, we performed a multiple regression and found that area and precipitation of warmest quarter are the most important drivers of distribution pattern of family Lacertidae along elevational gradient in Iran. General distribution pattern of family Lacertidae was unimodal and maximum number of species living from 1475 m to 1675 m.


Ahmadzadeh, F., Flecks, M., Carretero, M.A., Mozaffari, O., Böhme, W., Harris, D.J., Freitas, S., Rödder, D., 2013. Cryptic Speciation patterns in Iranian rock lizards uncovered by integrative taxonomy. PLoS ONE 8(12): e80563.
Akaike, H., 1973. Information theory and an extension of the maximum likelihood principle. In Second International Symposium on Information Theory. Edited by B.N. Petrov and F. Csaki. Akademiai Kiado, Budapest, Hungary.
Anderson, S.C., 1968. Zoogeographical analysis of the lizard fauna of Iran. In: Fisher, W.B. (Ed.), The Cambridge History of Iran. Vol. I. The Land of Iran. Cambridge University Press.
Anderson, SC., 1999. The Lizards of Iran. Oxford (Ohio): Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.
Bahmani, Z., Rastegar-Pouyani, E., Rastegar-Pouyani, N., 2017. The phylogenetic relationships and molecular systematics of scincid lizards of the genus Heremites (Sauria, Scincidae) in the Middle East based on mtDNA sequences. Mitochondrial DNA Part A, 1-10.
Bartón, K., 2016. MuMIn: Multi-model inference. R package version 1.15.6. http:// CRAN.R-project .org/ package=MuMIn.
Brown, J.H., Stevens, G.C., Kaufman, D.M., 1996. The geographic range: size, shape, boundaries, and internal structure. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 27, 597–623.
Burnham, K.P., Anderson, D.R., 2002. Model selection and inference: a practical information-theoretic approach. 2nd ed. Springer-Verlag, New York.
Chatzaki, M., Lymberakis, P., Markakis, G.& Mylonas, M., 2005. The distribution of ground spiders (Araneae, Gnaphosidae) along the altitudinal gradient of Crete, Greece: species richness, activity, and altitudinal range. Journal of Biogeography 32, 813–831.
Drakare, S., Lennon, J.J., Hillebrand, H., 2006. The imprint of the geographical, evolutionary and ecological context on species‐area relationships. Ecology Letters 9, 215–227.
Faizi, H., Rastegar-Pouyani, N., Rastegar-Pouyani, E., Nazarov, R., Heidari, N., Zangi, B., Orlova, V., Poyarkov, N., 2017. A new species of Eumeces Wiegmann 1834 (Sauria: Scincidae) from Iran. Zootaxa 4320, 289-304.
Fu, C., Wang, J., Pu, Z., Zhang, S., Chen, H., Zhao, B., Chen, J., Wu, J., 2007.  Elevational gradients of diversity for lizards and snakes in the Hengduan Mountains, China. Biodiversity and Conservation 16, 707–726.
Gaston, K.J., 2003. The structure and dynamics of geographic ranges. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gholamifard, A., Rastegar-Pouyani, N., 2015. First record and range extension of Sistan racerunner, Eremias fasciata (Blanford 1874) (Sauria: Lacertidae) from Hormozgan Province, southern Iran. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation 9, 54-57.
Gholamifard, A., Rastegar-Pouyani, N., 2015. First record and range extension of Sistan racerunner, Eremias fasciata (Blanford 1874) (Sauria: Lacertidae) from Hormozgan Province, southern Iran. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation 9, 54-57.
Grytnes, J.A., 2003. Species-richness patterns of vascular plants along seven altitudinal transects in Norway. Ecography 26, 291–300.
Grytnes, J.A., McCain, C.M., 2007. Elevational patterns in species richness. In: Levin S, editor. Encyclopedia of biodiversity. The Hague: Elsevier, 1–8.
Guisan, A., Thuiller, W., Zimmermann, N.E., 2017. Habitat suitability and distribution models: with applications in R. Cambridge university press.
Hatterjee S., Hadi A.S., 2006. Regression analysis by example. Wiley.
Heatwole, H., 1982. A review of structuring in herpetofaunal assemblages. Herpetological Communities. In: Scott, N.J. (Ed.), United States Fish and Wildlife Research Report, Washington. 1–19.
Heidari, N., Rastegar-Pouyani, N., Rastegar-Pouyani, E., Rajabizadeh, M., 2013. A new species of Acanthodactylus Fitzinger 1834 (Sauria: Lacertidae) from southern Iran. Zootaxa 3722, 333–346.
Henriques, D., Borges, P.A.V., Ah‐Peng, C., Gabriel, R., 2016. Mosses and liverworts show contrasting elevational distribution patterns in an oceanic island (Terceira, Azores): the influence of climate and space. Journal of Bryology 38, 183–194.
Hijmans, R.J., Cameron, S.E., Parra, J.L., Jones, P.G., Jarvis, A., 2005. Very high resolution interpolated climate surfaces for global land areas. International Journal of Climatology 25, 1965-1978.
Hijmans, R.J., 2015. Raster: geographic data analysis and modeling. R package. 
Hofer, U., Bersier, L.F., Borcard, D., 1999.  Spatial organization of a herpetofauna on an elevational gradient revealed by null model tests. Ecology 80, 976–988.
Hofer, U., Bersier, L.F., Borcard, D., 2000. Ecotones and gradient as determinants of herpetofaunal community structure in the primary forest of Mount Kupe, Cameroon. Journal of Tropical Ecology 16, 517–533.
Hosseinian Yousefkhani, S.S., Yousefi, M., Mohammadpour, A., Mansooor, R., Rastegar Pouyani, N., 2014. Phenotypic variation in males of the Agamid Lizard Paralaudakia caucasia (EICHWALD, 1831) across a wide geographic range. Herpetologica 70(4), 464–471.
Hosseinian Yousefkhani, S.S., Yousefi, M., Rastegar Pouyani, E., Khani, A., 2013. Some remarks on the distribution and habitat preferences of the Eremias strauchi kopetdaghica Szczerbak, 1972 (Sauria: Lacertidae) from the north-eastern Iranian Plateau. Herpetology Notes 6, 97–99.
in den Bosch, H., 1999. The status of Lacerta mostoufi Baloutch, 1977 (Reptilia: Lacertidae). Zoology in Middle East 19, 13–15.
IUCN, 2017. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017-3. <http://www.Iucnred list.org>. Downloaded on 05 December 2017.
Kafash, A., Ashrafi, S., Ohler, A., Schmidt, B.R., 2018b. Environmental predictors of the distribution of Caspian Green Lizard, Lacerta strigata Eichwald, 1831, along elevational gradients of Elburz Mountains in northern Iran. Turkish Journal of Zoology https://doi.org/10.3906/zoo-1808-15.
Kafash, A., Kaboli, M., Köhler, G., Yousefi, M., Asadi, A., 2016. Ensemble distribution modeling of the Mesopotamian spiny-tailed lizard (Saara loricata) in Iran. An insight into the impact of climate change. Turkish Journal of Zoology 40, 262–271.
Kafash, A., Malakoutikhah, Sh., Yousefi, M., Ataei, F., Heidari, H., Rastegar-Pouyani, E., 2018a. The Gray Toad-headed Agama, Phrynocephalus scutellatus, on the Iranian Plateau: The degree of niche overlap depends on the phylogenetic distance. Zoology in Middle East 64, 47-54.
Khosravani, A., Rastegar-Pouyani, E., Rastegar-Pouyani, N., Oraie, H., Theodore, J.P., 2017. Resolving species delimitation within the genus Bunopus Blanford, 1874 (Squamata: Gekkonidae) in Iran using DNA barcoding approach. Zootaxa 4365 (4), 467–479.
Khosravani, A., Rastegar-Pouyani, N., Rastegar-Pouyani, E., Oraie, H., 2015. Geographic variation of morphological characters in Bunopus tuberculatus Blanford 1874 (Squamata: Gekkonidae) in Iran. Herpetologica 71, 152–159.
Lomolino, M.V., Riddle, B.R., Whittaker R.J., Brown, J.H., 2010. Biogeography. Fourth edition. Sinauer Associates, Inc.
MacArthur, R., Wilson, E., 2001. The Theory of Island Biogeography. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
MacArthur, R.H., 1972. Geographical ecology: patterns in the distributions of species. Harper & Row, New York.
McCain, C.M., 2010. Global analysis of reptile elevational diversity. Global Ecology and Biogeography. 19, 541-553.
Mumladze, L., Asanidze, Z., Walther, F., Hausdorf, B., 2017. Beyond elevation: testing the climatic variability hypothesis versus Rappaport’s rule in vascular plant and snail species in the Caucasus. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 121, 753–763.
Naimi, B., Hamm, Na., Groen, T.A., Skidmore, A.K., Toxopeus, A.G. 2014. Where is positional uncertainty a problem for species distribution modelling. Ecography 37, 191-203.
Naniwadekar, R., Vasudevan, K., 2007. Patterns in diversity of anurans along an elevational gradient in the Western Ghats, South India. Journal of Biogeography 34, 842-853.
Nazarov, R.A., Radjabizadeh, M., Poyarkov, Jr., NA., Ananjeva, N.B., Melnikov, D.A., Rastegar Pouyani, E., 2017. A New Species of Frog-Eyed Gecko, Genus Teratoscincus Strauch, 1863 (Squamata: Sauria: Sphaerodactylidae), from Central Iran. Russian Journal of Herpetology 24, 291-310.
Purvis, A., Gittleman, J.L., Cowlishaw, G., Mace, G.M., 2000. Predicting extinction risk in declining species. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences 267, 1947-1952.
R Core Team, 2017. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Available from: https://www.R-project.org/.
Rahbek, C., 1995. The elevational gradient of species richness: a uniform pattern? Ecography 18, 200–205.
Rajabizadeh, M., Faizi, H., Anderson, S.C., Zarrintab, M., Nazarov, R., 2018. Taxonomic status of Tropiocolotes cf. steudneri with a description of a new species of Tropiocolotes (Reptilia: Squamata: Gekkonidae) in southern Iran. Zootaxa 4388, 283-291.
Rastegar-Pouyani, E., Avci, A., Kumlutaş, Y., Ilgaz, C., Hosseinian Yousefkhani, S.S., 2013. New country record and range extension of Eremias suphani Başoğlu & Hellmich, 1968 from Iran. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 6, 35-39.
Rastegar-Pouyani, E., Hosseinian Yousefkhani, S.S., Rafiee, S., Kami, H.G., Rajabizadeh, M., Wink, M., 2016. A new species of the genus Eremias Fitzinger, 1834 (Squamata: Lacertidae) from Central Iran, supported by mtDNA sequences and morphology. Zootaxa 4132, 207-220.
Rastegar-Pouyani, N., Johari, M., Rastegar-Pouyani, E., 2007. Field Guide to the Reptiles of Iran. (Volume 1: Lizards). Second edition. Razi University Publishing.
Rastegar-Pouyani, N., Kami, H.G., Rajabzadeh, M., Shafiei, S., Anderson, S.C., 2008. Annotated Checklist of Amphibians and Reptiles of Iran. Iranian Journal of Animal Biosystematics 4, 43-66.
Rosenzweig, M.L., 1995. Species diversity in space and time, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Safaei-Mahroo, B., Ghaffari, H., Fahimi, H., Broomand, S., Yazdanian, M., Najafi-Majd, E., Hosseinian Yousefkani, SS., Rezazadeh, E., Hosseinzadeh, MS., Nasrabadi, R., Rajabizadeh, M., Mashayekhi, M., Motesharei, A., Naderi, A., Kazemi, SM., 2015. The herpetofauna of Iran: Checklist of taxonomy, distribution and conservation status. Asian Herpetological Research 6, 257-290.
Sanders, N.J., Rahbek, C., 2012. The patterns and causes of elevational diversity gradients. Ecography 35, 1-3.
Sindaco, R., Jeremcenko, V.K., 2008. The reptiles of the Western Palearctic. vol. 1. Annotated checklist and distributional atlas of the turtles, crocodiles, amphisbaenians and lizards of Europe, North Africa, Middle East and Central Asia. Edizioni Belvedere, Latina, Italy.
Šmíd, J., Moravec, J., Kodym, P., Kratochvíl, L., Hosseinian Yousefkhani, S.S., Rastegar-Pouyani, E., Frynta, D., 2014. Annotated checklist and distribution of the lizards of Iran. Zootaxa 3855, 1–97.
Yousefi, M., Ataei, F., Kafash, A., Rezaei, H., 2018. The lizards fauna of Alborz Province: distribution and conservation. Experimental Animal Biology 6 (3), 117-126.
Yousefi, M., Khani, A., Shaykhi Ilanloo, S., Kafash, A., Rastegar Pouyani, E., 2016. Reptile fauna of the Khajeh protected area, with assessing its similarities with physiogeographical area of the Iranian Lizards. Taxonomy and Biosystematics 22, 13-22.
Zug, G.R., 2008. Herpetology: an introductory biology of amphibians and reptiles. New York: Academia press.