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Afrotemperate Amphibians in southern and eastern Africa: a critical review

Poynton John C. Poynton John C. Poynton
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Journal Article
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The term ‘Afrotemperate’ is taken to cover the area and fauna of the southern Cape, eastern highlands of South Africa, and intertropical highlands. A feature of Afrotemperate distribution is that it conforms to climatic zones rather than to latitudinal zonation. Two main patterns of Afrotemperate distribution are perceived. One is shown by species or genera concentrated in temperate South Africa, or present both in the non-tropical south and disjunctly in the cartographic tropics in highland areas of non-tropical climate to the north. Another pattern is a concentration of species or genera on highlands of East Africa. A concentration of cool-preferring species in the south has led to the concept of this being a centre of endemism, with a radiation undergoing progressive attenuation northwards on highlands within the cartographic tropics; this concept is questioned in the case of several species, and a reverse direction of attenuation from East African highlands southwards is evident in others. Special attention is given to the widespread and problematic genus Strongylopus, whose biogeography is largely unresolved at present. The conventional application of the term ‘Afrotropical Region’ to the whole of Subsaharan Africa is criticised since a large proportion of the Subsaharan amphibian fauna avoids areas of tropical climate, including areas within the cartographic tropics. Undiscerning blanket application of the term ‘Afrotropical’ tends to divert attention away from the rich cool-preferring Afrotemperate faunas and floras. If a faunal and floral unity in Subsaharan Africa needs to be recognised by a corporate name, the name Subsaharan Region seems preferable to ‘Afrotropical Region’.

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