While regional snail faunas of low-latitude regions tend to be richer than similar areas at high latitude, there seems to be little difference between site (e.g. < 400 m2) richness, which often ranges between 20 and 40 species across a wide latitudinal range. Given this seeming paradox, it is surprising how little investigation has been made into how land snail species are packed into the tropical landscape across multiple scales. This paper addresses this question by analyzing faunal lists from six regions spread across a 550 km extent in the temperate rain forests of eastern Australia. Considerable heterogeneity was observed both within similar habitat types within (ca. 40–60% faunal similarity) and between (ca. 10–50%) different regions. The Charopidae constituted the largest fraction of the fauna (up to 70% of species), and were thus responsible for most of the variation in composition. While the number of species per region (ca. 30–50) was broadly comparable to Europe and North America, the rate of faunal turnover with distance was found to be 2–30 times greater. While geographic turnover in European and North American faunas is largely driven by large species, in eastern Australia turnover was largely driven by small, litter-dwelling species that tend to be unique to each region. The comparative richness of the eastern Australian fauna is thus largely related to evolutionary processes that have caused divergence at regional scales, rather than increased niche-packing or syntopic diversity at site scales.
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Vol. 49 • No. 2