Interspecies physiological variation as a tool for cross-species assessments of global warming-induced endangerment: validation of an intrinsic determinant of macroecological and phylogeographic structure. Academic Article uri icon


  • Global warming is now recognized as the dominant threat to biodiversity because even protected populations and habitats are susceptible. Nonetheless, current criteria for evaluating species' relative endangerment remain purely ecological, and the accepted conservation strategies of habitat preservation and population management assume that species can mount ecological responses if afforded protection. The insidious threat from climate change is that it will attenuate or preclude ecological responses by species that are physiologically constrained; yet, quantitative, objective criteria for assessing relative susceptibility of diverse taxa to warming-induced stress are wanting. We explored the utility of using interspecies physiological variation for this purpose by relating species' physiological phenotypes to landscape patterns of ecological and genetic exchange. Using a salamander model system in which ecological, genetic and physiological diversity are well characterized, we found strong quantitative relationships of basal metabolic rates (BMRs) to both macroecological and phylogeographic patterns, with decreasing BMR leading to dispersal limitation (small contemporary ranges with marked phylogeographic structure). Measures of intrinsic physiological tolerance, which vary systematically with macroecological and phylogeographic patterns, afford objective criteria for assessing endangerment across a wide range of species and should be incorporated into conservation assessment criteria that currently rely exclusively upon ecological predictors.

author list (cited authors)

  • Bernardo, J., Ossola, R. J., Spotila, J., & Crandall, K. A

citation count

  • 66

complete list of authors

  • Bernardo, Joseph||Ossola, Ryan J||Spotila, James||Crandall, Keith A

publication date

  • January 2007