Biogeography

Have you ever wondered how and why species are distributed in certain ways? 

Get started Sign up for free
Biogeography Biogeography

Create learning materials about Biogeography with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account

Millions of flashcards designed to help you ace your studies

Sign up for free
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

Biogeography is a field of evolutionary biology and geography that looks at the ____________ of species over time.

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

What are the three types of biogeography?

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

What is the newest type of biogeography?

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

This type of biogeography looks at how the changes in species distribution over time may have affected or continue to affect their conservation status.

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

Which kind of biogeography is concerned with the geographic distribution of species at the present time.

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

Historical biogeography is also referred to as ____________.

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

The Wallace Line refers to the biogeographical boundary that separates the _____ and __________ biological regions.

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

What is the name of the previously exposed landmass that connected to the Asian mainland and contains Borneo, Sumatra and Java? 

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

What are some examples of wildlife that are present on the western side of the Wallace Line, but not the eastern side?

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

On which side of the Wallace Line might you find kangaroos?

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

True or False: The eastern and western sides of the Wallace Line share NONE of the same wildlife.

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

Biogeography is a field of evolutionary biology and geography that looks at the ____________ of species over time.

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

What are the three types of biogeography?

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

What is the newest type of biogeography?

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

This type of biogeography looks at how the changes in species distribution over time may have affected or continue to affect their conservation status.

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

Which kind of biogeography is concerned with the geographic distribution of species at the present time.

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

Historical biogeography is also referred to as ____________.

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

The Wallace Line refers to the biogeographical boundary that separates the _____ and __________ biological regions.

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

What is the name of the previously exposed landmass that connected to the Asian mainland and contains Borneo, Sumatra and Java? 

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

What are some examples of wildlife that are present on the western side of the Wallace Line, but not the eastern side?

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

On which side of the Wallace Line might you find kangaroos?

Show Answer
  • + Add tag
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Mo

True or False: The eastern and western sides of the Wallace Line share NONE of the same wildlife.

Show Answer

Convert documents into flashcards for free with AI!

Contents
Table of contents

    For example, why a species may be present in one river basin but not another river basin that is in close proximity? Perhaps you have thought about species endemic to only specific habitats or islands.

    In the following article, we will discuss the study of biogeography, including its definitions, variations, and relation to ecology and evolution. In addition, we will discuss some examples related to biogeography.

    Definition of biogeography

    Biogeography is a field of evolutionary biology and geography that looks at the geographic distribution of species over time.

    It combines elements of both biology and geography.

    Biogeography looks at how the physical environment has and continues to shape the distribution of animal and plant species. Evolution, extinction, speciation, and dispersal all play significant roles in the study of biogeography.

    Evolution: Changes to the genotypic or phenotypic characteristics of species populations over time.

    Extinction: The worldwide disappearance of all individuals of a given species.

    Speciation: How populations of species may evolve into new species.

    Dispersal: The movement of individuals or populations of a species from one location to another.

    Types of biogeography

    The study is typically split into three different types: conservation biogeography, ecological biogeography, and historical biogeography.

    Conservation biogeography

    Conservation biogeography is the newest form of biogeography, melding the fundamentals of biogeography with conservation concerns. This type of biogeography looks at how the changes in species distribution over time may have affected or continue to affect their conservation status.

    This involves looking at the many processes (anthropogenic or natural) that may have resulted in these changes.

    Ecological biogeography

    Ecological biogeography is concerned with the geographic distribution of species at the present time and takes into account the habitat and physiological requirements of the species being studied.

    Historical biogeography

    Historical biogeography also referred to as paleobiogeography, is concerned with the historical distribution of species. It looks at how and why the historical distribution of species may have changed over time.

    While historical biogeography can deal with extinct species, it also concerns the historical distributions of extant species.

    For example, historical biogeography may involve looking at the historical distribution of the Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris) to inform current reintroduction and conservation efforts. It is vital to know the historical distribution of extant species because it can allow biologists to identify suitable locations for reintroduction.

    Examples of the use of biogeography in studying species distribution

    Examples of biogeography can be seen in the following regarding saltwater crocodiles and the Wallace line in studying species distribution.

    Saltwater crocodile

    The saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) has the widest distribution of any living crocodilian species, with a range that extends from eastern India in the west to Vanuatu in the east, including much of the tropical world in between.

    Historically, however, the species had an even broader distribution.

    Saltwater crocodiles were once found in Seychelles (off the eastern coast of Africa) and in portions of southern China, including Hong Kong and Hainan Island. The species is believed to have disappeared from China during antiquity and from Seychelles by 1819.

    More recently, saltwater crocodiles were also present in Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam, but disappeared from these countries by the 1970s or 80s. Biogeography would involve determining the current and historical distribution of the saltwater crocodile, followed by determining the causes of the reduction in distribution and how to prevent further loss or even reintroduce former populations.

    In the case of the saltwater crocodile, the primary causes of the reduction in the range are anthropogenic and include hide-hunting, habitat destruction, and deliberate eradication efforts, among others. Adult saltwater crocodiles can and do prey upon humans, thus the species was quickly eradicated from most major population centers (e.g., Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, etc.).

    Unfortunately, as the human population continued to expand, the destruction of the species of mangrove and freshwater swamp habitat lead to further declines in distribution. In the case of China, the massive migration of populations southward during the Song Dynasty may have contributed to the decline.

    While the species is currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), due to a pre-exploitation-sized population in northern Australia and rebounding populations in other areas nearby, it is considered rare in many other regions (e.g., Bangladesh and Myanmar) and extinct in the countries above.

    As you can see, in this case, all three types of biogeography are involved, particularly historical biogeography (historical range), but also conservation biogeography (reintroduction efforts, current conservation status), and ecological biogeography (current range).

    Biogeography: An Illustration of three different geographic distributions in the Archipegalo between South Asia and Oceania StudySmarterFigure 1: The current (green), possible (yellow), and historic (orange) geographic distribution of the saltwater crocodile.

    The Wallace Line

    The Wallace Line, named after famous naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, refers to the biogeographical boundary that separates the Asian and Australasian biological regions. The Wallace Line passes through the Makassar Strait, between Borneo and Sulawesi, south through the Java Sea and between the islands of Bali and Lombok.

    Thousands of years ago, when sea levels were lower, Borneo, Java, and Sumatra islands were all part of a greater landmass connected to the mainland, called Sundaland.

    As sea levels rose, much of Sundaland became submerged, forming those islands.

    Though the islands became isolated, they still contained wildlife from the Asian mainland.

    For example, the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica), the Javan leopard (P. pardus melas), the Bornean elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis), the Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus), and the Tomistoma (Tomistoma schlegelii) are all found on some of these islands that formerly comprised Sundaland and are the same or closely related to mainland species.

    In contrast, islands to the east of the Wallace Line were not connected to Sundaland and thus contained different wildlife. These eastern islands, including New Guinea and Sulawesi, contain wildlife not found on the Asian mainland, such as kangaroos (on New Guinea), cuscus, and more. New Guinea and some of the nearby islands were once connected to Australia, and are even today only separated by around 150km of the ocean in the Torres Strait north of Queensland's Cape York Peninsula.

    Animals that are capable of wider dispersal and swimming (e.g., saltwater crocodiles and some snake and lizard species), on the other hand, are found throughout both regions. As you can see, studying the wildlife to the east and west of the Wallace Line encompasses all three types of biogeography to give us a better understanding of how and why species distributions have changed over time and how this knowledge can help inform future conservation measures.

    Biogeography Illustration of the Wallace Line in the Archipegalo between South Asia and Oceania, StudySmarterFigure 2: Map illustrating the Wallace Line (red line) and approximate locations of former exposed land (black lines) prior to sea level rise.

    Biogeography helps us understand evolution.

    Studying biogeography allows us to better understand how and why species evolved into what they are today and how they may continue to evolve in response to the current environment and projected future selective pressures. Let's look at an example of how a species' geographic distribution may affect its evolution.

    The jaguar (Panthera onca) is the only true "big cat" (Panthera genus) native to the Americas, as mountain lions (Puma concolor) are not true "big cats".

    As you may know, some jaguars can be melanistic, which is when they have a black coat. These individuals are commonly referred to as "black panthers" by the lay public, but they are not a distinct species but rather a genetic variation. There can be both melanistic and non-melanistic individuals in a single litter of jaguar cubs. The same is true for the leopard (P. pardus).

    How does biogeography factor into this? It has been found that a jaguar's habitat dramatically influences whether or not the melanistic characteristic is selected for or against it.

    In the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil and Bolivia, melanistic jaguars are either very rare or entirely absent, likely because the habitat is much more open and sparsely forested. In such a habitat, melanistic jaguars would be easily spotted by potential prey species, reducing the fitness of such individuals. In addition, melanistic jaguars would be far easier for human poachers to spot, further reducing fitness.

    However, in densely forested areas, such as the Amazon, the melanistic trait is beneficial and selected for. Having a melanistic coat renders the jaguar more challenging to spot in dense forests, increasing its chances of successful predation and reducing the chances of being hunted by humans.

    Global Ecology and Biogeography

    Global Ecology and Biogeography is a monthly scientific publication that started in 1991 to focus on macroecology, a type of ecology.

    Macroecology is concerned with how organisms interact with their environment and how these interactions shape various aspects of their natural history, including geographic distribution. Macroecology contains essential elements of ecological biogeography.

    The journal can be accessed through the Wiley Online Library.

    Macroecology is concerned with how organisms interact with their environment and how these interactions shape various aspects of their natural history, including geographic distribution

    Biogeography - Key takeaways

    • Biogeography is a field of evolutionary biology and geography that looks at the geographic distribution of species over time.
    • Conservation biogeography is the newest form of biogeography, melding the fundamentals of biogeography with conservation concerns.
    • Ecological biogeography is concerned with the geographic distribution of species at present.
    • Historical biogeography is concerned with the historical distribution of species.
    • Studying biogeography allows us to understand better how and why species evolved into what they are today and how they may continue to evolve in the future.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Biogeography

    What do you mean by biogeography?

    Biogeography is a field of evolutionary biology and geography that looks at the geographic distribution of species over time. It combines elements of both biology and geography.

    How does biogeography provide evidence for evolution?

    Studying biogeography allows us to better understand how and why species evolved into what they are today and how they may continue to evolve in response to the current environment and projected future selective pressures. An example is jaguars in South America. In the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil and Bolivia, melanistic jaguars are either very rare or entirely absent, likely because the habitat is much more open and sparsely forested. In such a habitat, melanistic jaguars would be easily spotted by potential prey species, reducing the fitness of such individuals. In addition, melanistic jaguars would be far easier for human poachers to spot, further reducing fitness. However, in densely forested areas, such as the Amazon, the melanistic trait is beneficial and selected for. Having a melanistic coat renders the jaguar more challenging to spot in dense forests, increasing its chances of successful predation and reducing the chances of being hunted by humans.

    How does biogeography support evolution?

    Studying biogeography allows us to better understand how and why species evolved into what they are today and how they may continue to evolve in response to the current environment and projected future selective pressures. 

    How does biogeography affect an ecosystem?

    Biogeography looks at how the physical environment has and continues to shape the distribution of animal and plant species. The study is typically split into three different types: conservation biogeographyecological biogeography, and historical biogeography. Conservation biogeography looks at how the changes in species distribution over time may have affected or continue to affect their conservation status. Ecological biogeography is concerned with the geographic distribution of species at the present time. Historical biogeography, also referred to as paleobiogeography, is concerned with the historical distribution of species.

    Why is biogeography important?

    Biogeography is a field of evolutionary biology and geography that looks at the geographic distribution of species over time. It combines elements of both biology and geography. Biogeography looks at how the physical environment has and continues to shape the distribution of animal and plant species. Evolution, extinction, speciation, and dispersal all play significant roles in the study of biogeography.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Biogeography is a field of evolutionary biology and geography that looks at the ____________ of species over time.

    What are the three types of biogeography?

    What is the newest type of biogeography?

    Next

    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    1
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Biology Teachers

    • 9 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App
    Sign up with Email

    Get unlimited access with a free StudySmarter account.

    • Instant access to millions of learning materials.
    • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams, AI tools and more.
    • Everything you need to ace your exams.
    Second Popup Banner