Species-range size distributions: products of speciation, extinction and transformation

Kevin J. Gaston

Abstract

One basic summary of the spatial pattern of biodiversity across the surface of the Earth is provided by a species–range size distribution, the frequency distribution of the numbers of species exhibiting geographic ranges of different sizes. Although widely considered to be approximately lognormal, increasingly it appears that across a variety of groups of organisms this distribution systematically departs from such a form. Whatever its detailed shape, however, the distribution must arise as a product of three processes, speciation, extinction and transformation (the temporal dynamics of the range sizes of species during their life times). Considering the role potentially played by each of these processes necessitates drawing on information from a diverse array of research fields, and highlights the possible role of geographic range size as a common currency uniting them.

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