The first global reptile map

MARCIO MARTINS Brazilian Bush Anole (Polychrus acutirostris), found in the Cerrado and CaatingaMARCIO MARTINS

An international effort has mapped the global distribution of 10,064 reptile species for the first time (Nature Ecology & Evolution, October 9), concluding that strategies designed to conserve the planet’s biodiversity need to do more in savannah areas such as the Brazilian Cerrado and southern Africa, as well as in arid and semi-arid regions such as the Caatinga in Brazil and the deserts of Australia. Although reptiles account for almost a third of the known terrestrial vertebrate species on Earth, they have never been mapped, leaving a major gap in our knowledge of global biodiversity. An international group of 39 researchers, including four Brazilians, reviewed the information available in museum collections, scientific literature, and digital databases, as well as collecting new field samples from various regions around the world. By superimposing reptile species locations over existing conservation areas, the researchers found that the proportion of reptiles protected within parks and reserves (3.5% of the total number of reptile species) is less than that of birds (6.5%) and mammals (6%). According to the researchers, this is because most preservation areas were established based on the distribution of birds, mammals, and amphibians. “Our findings suggest that reptiles, especially lizards and turtles, need to be better incorporated into conservation schemes,” the authors wrote.