Abstract

We modeled the ecological niche of the Yucatan Rattlesnake (Crotalus tzabcan) to map its environmental suitability, estimate its potential distribution, and identify the environmental factors that limit its geographic range within the Yucatan Peninsula (YP). Niche models were built to evaluate, separately and together, the ability of different sets of environmental predictors to explain the distribution of this species. The relative contribution percentage from each variable was calculated from the models with better predictive ability. Response curves were also constructed to observe the influence of predictors on the estimated environmental suitability for C. tzabcan. According to our niche models, even though the distribution of this species covers a large part of the YP, the northwest portion is likely the most environmentally suitable region. By contrast, populations from the north of Guatemala and Belize (south of the YP) are placed within the limits of the species' niche, and the environmental conditions toward the base of the peninsula are not suitable for this species. Precipitation was consistently the most important factor to explain the distribution of C. tzabcan. Although unlikely to directly affect the physiology of C. tzabcan, precipitation affects other factors (e.g., predator, prey, and competitor densities; undergrowth coverage; and relative humidity) that influence survival. Our study contributes new and detailed knowledge of the distribution ecology of a species that was once the most culturally valued in the YP.

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