Locality data available for many, if not most, species of Neotropical frogs are based on written descriptions of the collecting sites, not on GPS device determined coordinate data. The pre-GPS device data are imprecise relative to GPS data. Niche modeling is a powerful technique for predicting geographic distributions that provides the best results when the locality data are precise. The purpose of this study is to determine whether imprecise historical locality data are sufficient such that niche modeling techniques can yield realistic new insights to species-level distributions. Two sets of frogs of the genus Leptodactylus that have known different kinds of distributions are evaluated: two species with broad, presumably continuous distributions, and four species known to occur in patchy, disjunct habitats in South America. BIOCLIM, a presence-only environmental niche modeling algorithm,was used to define suitable occupancy areas based on multiple sets of environmental parameters that include: monthly mean, max, and min temperatures, and monthly precipitation. A Nature Conservancy — Natureserve ecoregion layer and a high resolution elevation layer were also included in the analyses. Our analyses yield new realistic insights and questions regarding distributions of the Leptodactylus species we evaluated. We recommend incorporation of the Nature Conservancy — Natureserve layer to evaluate Neotropical distributions, as the layer gave much more robust results than use of only the climatic variable analyses.
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Vol. 4 • No. 2