Factors determining Gekkotan (Reptilia, Sauria) distribution in Tunisia (North Africa)
Tunisian geckos count nine species (1 is insular relict, 1 is endemic, 2 are ubiquitous and 5 are enfeoffed). We aim to determine factors influencing their distributions. Surveys were founded on environmental divisions. Presence/absence data for 113 grids were analyzed using multivariate tools. 18 environmental variables were revealed and clustered into five factors to model species distributions. Established models were further projected on non-explored areas within Tunisian territory. The distribution of continental geckos follows an indirect bidirectional gradient; the South-northward one is physiologically stressful and the North-southward one is biologically stressful. Five biogeographic regions were established showing concordance with climatic and vegetation regionalization. The distribution of non-anthropophilic species is positively correlated to thermal amplitudes gradient. The distribution of anthropophilic taxa is positively correlated to agricultural land-use. Oasis, sebkhas and chotts are particular landscapes that disturb both distributions. Predicted areas follow the yielded distribution patterns despite some discrepancy for S. sthenodactylus. The niche characterizing shows that land use and altitude increase the probability of occurrence of H. turcicus and T. mauritanica. Alternatively, they decrease the probability of the presence of T. deserti, T. neglecta, T. tripolitanus and S. petrii. Models could also show that the absence of S. sthenodactylus in northern regions is attributed to high altitudes and cereal land-use. As to T. fascicularis, the displacement of the northern limits of its range is mostly attributed to an improvement of field investigations. Established model of its distribution shows a restricted area of probable occurrence in central Tunisia confirming its endemism.
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