Predictors of geographic range size in Australian skinks

Mahalia Barter, Luke R. Bonifacio, Andressa Duran, Celine T. Goulet, Reid Tingley, Glenn M. Shea, Shai Meiri, David G. Chapple*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Aim: Geographic range size varies greatly across species. Climate, along with aspects of a species’ biology, may influence its spatial extent. We investigate intrinsic and extrinsic predictors of range size in Australian skinks. We predicted that larger body size, longer limbs, and larger clutch sizes would be associated with larger ranges, and that ranges would be larger in colder, more arid, and more seasonal climates. Location: Mainland Australia. Taxon: Skinks (Scincidae). Methods: We test for climatic and geographic correlates of range size of Australian skink species (417 of 462 described species), as well as investigate the effects of body size and clutch size (259 species). We compare detailed morphological measurements of 1,324 specimens across nine pairs of widespread and narrow-ranged congeneric species to investigate the roles of intrinsic (body size, clutch size, morphology) and extrinsic (mean temperature and precipitation) factors in determining range size. Results: In the broader analysis, large range sizes were associated with the presence of fully developed limbs, low precipitation seasonality, high temperatures, and high precipitation. Ranges of species traversing the Great Dividing Range are larger by an order of magnitude than those east of the range, with western ranges being intermediate. Affinity to specific biomes explained less variation than climatic variables. For the nine species pairs, wide-ranging species share similar morphologies and clutch sizes with overlapping narrow-ranging congeners, but generally inhabit more arid regions. Main conclusions: We found several extrinsic, but few intrinsic, factors were correlated with range size. The narrow mesic belts in Australia compared with the extensive expanse of arid and semi-arid regions may explain why desert species have larger ranges. This interpretation agrees with the notion that the size of the domain, here a climatic domain rather than a physical one, may exert strong influence on species’ range sizes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-122
Number of pages10
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


FundersFunder number
Australian Research CouncilLP170100012, FT200100108


    • Australia
    • Scincidae
    • extrinsic trait
    • geographic distribution
    • intraspecific variation
    • intrinsic trait
    • narrow-ranged
    • skink
    • widespread


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