Biodiversity Science ›› 2009, Vol. 17 ›› Issue (6): 560-567.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1003.2009.08337

Special Issue: Species Diversity in Biological Communities: Patterns and Mechanisms

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The Rapoport’s rule for the geographic patterns of species range size

Zehao Shen, Qiyan Lu   

  1. Department of Ecology, College of Urban and Environmental Science, the Key MOE Laboratory for Earth surface proc-esses, Peking University, Beijing 100871
  • Received:2008-12-22 Online:2009-11-20

Rapoport’s rule is a hypothesis about the relationship between species latitudinal locations and their latitudinal range widths. By stimulating a wide range of empirical tests and theoretical discussions, Rapoport’s rule has been recognized as one of a few crucial hypotheses in macroecology, and has been ex-tended to distributional patterns across gradients in elevation and ocean depth. A variety of algorithms have been applied to test the rule, and several interpretations, in addition to climatic variability, have been pro-posed as underlying mechanisms. Studies have also bridged the Rapoport’s effect with other important bio-geographic phenomenon, e.g. species richness pattern, species–area relationship, and boundary limit to dis-tribution. However, the universality of Rapoport’s rule is still debatable, and tests of the rule are greatly af-fected by data collection and analysis methodology. Hence, methodological improvements are key to settling the debate on the rule. Our objectives are to provide an overview on Rapoport’s rule, including conceptual changes, changes in methodology and mechanistic interpretations, the debate on the universality of the rule, and the relationship between Rapoport’s rule and latitudinal/altitudinal patterns of species richness.

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