Biodiv Sci ›› 2009, Vol. 17 ›› Issue (6): 560-567.  DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1003.2009.08337

Special Issue: 群落中的物种多样性:格局与机制

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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 processes, Peking University, Beijing 100871
  • Received:2008-12-22 Accepted:2009-10-28 Online:2009-11-20 Published:2009-11-20
  • Contact: Zehao Shen


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 extended 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 proposed as underlying mechanisms. Studies have also bridged the Rapoport’s effect with other important biogeographic phenomenon, e.g. species richness pattern, species-area relationship, and boundary limit to distribution. However, the universality of Rapoport’s rule is still debatable, and tests of the rule are greatly affected 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.

Key words: Rapoport’s rule, species range, algorithm, mechanisms, generality