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BMC Evolutionary Biology

, 7:121

First Online: 19 July 2007Received: 13 April 2007Accepted: 19 July 2007


BackgroundCryptic species are two or more distinct but morphologically similar species that were classified as a single species. During the past two decades we observed an exponential growth of publications on cryptic species. Recently published reviews have demonstrated cryptic species have profound consequences on many biological disciplines. It has been proposed that their distribution is non-random across taxa and biomes.

ResultsWe analysed a literature database for the taxonomic and biogeographical distribution of cryptic animal species reports. Results from regression analysis indicate that cryptic species are almost evenly distributed among major metazoan taxa and biogeographical regions when corrected for species richness and study intensity.

ConclusionThis indicates that morphological stasis represents an evolutionary constant and that cryptic metazoan diversity does predictably affect estimates of earth-s animal diversity. Our findings have direct theoretical and practical consequences for a number of prevailing biological questions with regard to global biodiversity estimates, conservation efforts and global taxonomic initiatives.

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1471-2148-7-121 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Autor: Markus Pfenninger - Klaus Schwenk


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