University of Oulu

Platania, L, Menchetti, M, Dincă, V, et al. Assigning occurrence data to cryptic taxa improves climatic niche assessments: Biodecrypt, a new tool tested on European butterflies. Global Ecol Biogeogr. 2020; 29: 1852– 1865.

Assigning occurrence data to cryptic taxa improves climatic niche assessments : biodecrypt, a new tool tested on European butterflies

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Author: Platania, Leonardo1; Menchetti, Mattia2; Dincă, Vlad3;
Organizations: 1Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (CSIC - Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Barcelona, Spain
2ZEN Lab, Dipartimento di Biologia, dell' Università di Firenze, Sesto Fiorentino, Italy
3Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
4Senckenberg Deutsches Entomologisches Institut, Müncheberg, Germany
5Department of Community Ecology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Halle, Germany
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.6 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2020
Publish Date: 2022-03-10


Aim: Occurrence data are fundamental to macroecology, but accuracy is often compromised when multiple units are lumped together (e.g., in recently separated cryptic species or in citizen science records). Using amalgamated data leads to inaccuracy in species mapping, to biased beta-diversity assessments and to potentially erroneously predicted responses to climate change. We provide a set of R functions (biodecrypt) to objectively attribute unidentified occurrences to the most probable taxon based on a subset of identified records.

Innovation: Biodecrypt assumes that unidentified occurrences can only be attributed at certain distances from areas of sympatry. The function draws concave hulls based on the subset of identified records; subsequently, based on hull geometry, it attributes (or not) unidientified records to a given taxon. Concavity can be imposed with an alpha value and sea or land areas can be excluded. A cross-validation function tests attribution reliability and another function optimises the parameters (alpha, buffer, distance ratio between hulls). We applied the procedure to 16 European butterfly complexes recently separated into 33 cryptic species for which most records were amalgamated. We compared niche similarity and divergence between cryptic taxa, and re-calculated and contributed updated climatic niche characteristics of the butterflies in Europe (CLIMBER).

Main conclusions: Biodecrypt showed a cross-validated correct attribution of known records always ≥ 98% and attributed more than 80% of unidientified records to the most likely taxon in parapatric species. The functions determined where records can be assigned even for largely sympatric species, and highlighted areas where further sampling is required. All the cryptic taxa showed significantly diverging climatic niches, reflected in different values of mean temperature and precipitation compared to the values originally provided in the CLIMBER database. The substantial fraction of cryptic taxa existing across different taxonomic groups and their divergence in climatic niches highlight the importance of using reliably assigned occurrence data in macroecology.

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Series: Global ecology and biogeography. A journal of macroecology
ISSN: 1466-822X
ISSN-E: 1466-822X
ISSN-L: 1466-822X
Volume: 29
Issue: 10
Pages: 1852 - 1865
DOI: 10.1111/geb.13154
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: Support for this research was provided by the Academy of Finland to V. Dincă (decision no. 328895), and by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO) and Agencia Estatal de Investigación and Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional (AEI/ FEDER), UE (Refs. PID2019-107078GB-I00 and CGL2016-76322-P) to R. Vila. We thank Juan Hernández Roldán for providing updated literature of Hesperiidae from Iberia and all the people who contributed material included in this study.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 328895
Detailed Information: 328895 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Platania, L, Menchetti, M, Dincă, V, et al. Assigning occurrence data to cryptic taxa improves climatic niche assessments: Biodecrypt, a new tool tested on European butterflies. Global Ecol Biogeogr. 2020; 29: 1852– 1865, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions. This article may not be enhanced, enriched or otherwise transformed into a derivative work, without express permission from Wiley or by statutory rights under applicable legislation. Copyright notices must not be removed, obscured or modified. The article must be linked to Wiley’s version of record on Wiley Online Library and any embedding, framing or otherwise making available the article or pages thereof by third parties from platforms, services and websites other than Wiley Online Library must be prohibited.