The distributions of amphibians, birds and mammals have underpinned global and local conservation priorities, and have been fundamental to our understanding of the determinants of global biodiversity. In contrast, the global distributions of reptiles, representing a third of terrestrial vertebrate diversity, have been unavailable. This prevented the incorporation of reptiles into conservation planning and biased our understanding of the underlying processes governing global vertebrate biodiversity. Here, we present and analyse the global distribution of 10,064 reptile species (99% of extant terrestrial species). We show that richness patterns of the other three tetrapod classes are good spatial surrogates for species richness of all reptiles combined and of snakes, but characterize diversity patterns of lizards and turtles poorly. Hotspots of total and endemic lizard richness overlap very little with those of other taxa. Moreover, existing protected areas, sites of biodiversity significance and global conservation schemes represent birds and mammals better than reptiles. We show that additional conservation actions are needed to effectively protect reptiles, particularly lizards and turtles. Adding reptile knowledge to a global complementarity conservation priority scheme identifies many locations that consequently become important. Notably, investing resources in some of the world’s arid, grassland and savannah habitats might be necessary to represent all terrestrial vertebrates efficiently.
Access optionsAccess options
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.25 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
We thank T. Burbidge, T. Dowe, S. Huang, S. Khela, H.-Y. Lee, K. Tamar, J. Usherwood, M. Hopkins and S. Halle for help in digitizing reptile ranges. We thank librarians and colleagues for help in obtaining relevant literature, G. Bunting and M. Balman for providing IBA polygons and bird species distribution maps from BirdLife International, as well as S. Butchart for insightful comments. A.B. thanks the Gerald M. Lemole endowed Chair funds. G.R.C. thanks CAPES - Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico – CNPq and Fundação de Apoio à Pesquisa do Distrito Federal – FAPDF for financial support. I.D. was supported by a Niche Research Grant Scheme, NRGS/1087/2–13(01). C.N. and M.M. were supported by São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP no. 2011/50206-9, no. 2012/19858-2 and no. 2015/20215-7 to C.N.). M.M. acknowledges a research fellowship from CNPq. O.T.C. acknowledges support from SENESCYT. R.G. acknowledges the John Fell Fund of the University of Oxford for support. A.A. and S.M. acknowledge support from a BSF grant no. 2012143.
About this article
Laurent Chirio is unaffiliated:
U.R., A.F. and M.N. contributed equally to this work.
S.M. and R.G. jointly supervised this work.
A correction to this article is available online at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0399-9.
A correction to this article is available online at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0380-7.