Assessment of the global distribution of reptiles

Large-scale analysis show reptile conservation lagging behind–especially for lizards and turtles–suggesting renewed effort to protect reptiles sufficiently

Data resources used via GBIF : 14,680 species occurrences
Trachemys scripta
Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta subsp. elegans) observed near Yanbu, Saudi Arabia by amalibrahim via iNaturalist. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Comprising about one third of terrestrial vertebrate species, reptiles–including lizards, snakes and crocodiles–are surprisingly poorly described in terms of global distributions, and present knowledge is scattered, at best. This gap prevents proper incorporation into conservation planning, and as a result, reptiles may be underrepresented.

Consisting of researchers from 13 countries, the Global Assesment of Reptile Distributions group published a large study analyzing 10,000 reptile species, thus updating the knowledge on global patterns. Based on literature, field studies and online databases including, the authors produced distribution maps of all species, and from those derived important knowledge on reptile species richness.

Their results revealed that reptile richness patterns–largely dominated by snakes–correspond well to those of other tetrapod vertebrates, with lizards and turtles being less congruent. The same is evident for hotspots of richness. Analyzing coverage of protected areas, the authors show that only 3.5 per cent of reptile species ranges are protected.

The paper shows that reptile conservation as a whole falls behind that of other vertebrates and identifies novel reptilian hotspots, such as the Arabian peninsula, Lake Chad and the Brazilian Caatinga, as future priorities for conservation efforts.

Link to original article

Roll U, Feldman A, Novosolov M, Allison A, Bauer AM, Bernard R, Böhm M, Castro-Herrera F, Chirio L, Collen B, Colli GR, Dabool L, Das I, Doan TM, Grismer LL, Hoogmoed M, Itescu Y, Kraus F, LeBreton M, Lewin A, Martins M, Maza E, Meirte D, Nagy ZT, de C. Nogueira C, Pauwels OSG, Pincheira-Donoso D, Powney GD, Sindaco R, Tallowin OJS, Torres-Carvajal O, Trape J-F, Vidan E, Uetz P, Wagner P, Wang Y, Orme CDL, Grenyer R and Meiri S (2017) The global distribution of tetrapods reveals a need for targeted reptile conservation. Nature Ecology & Evolution. Springer Nature 1(11): 1677–1682. Available at: