There's No Place Like Home: Alfred Russel Wallace and His Modern Biogeographical Legacy

Lynne R. Parenti, Ph.D, Curator of Fishes and Research Scientist, Department of Vertebrate Zoology
Friday, April 17, 2015 - 3:30pm to 4:20pm
BioMed B-103


Modern biogeography began with Alfred Russel Wallace’s 1858 hypothesis that the western part of the Malay Archipelago was “… a separated portion of continental Asia while the eastern part is a fragmentary prolongation of a former west Pacific continent.” Two modern principles—endemism and terrane fidelity –came together to bolster Wallace’s theory of organic evolution and to illustrate that life and Earth evolved together. Ironically, Wallace (1876) adopted a rigid classification of global zoogeographical regions even though he knew that it contradicted broad biogeographic patterns, such as trans-oceanic , pantropical distributions. Today, our goal is to name biogeographical regions that reflect, not contradict, shared distribution patterns. We combine endemism, terrane fidelity, and area classification into an integrated whole. Inferred mechanisms of distribution –dispersal versus vicariance—take a secondary role to the discovery of biotic history in a modern theory of biogeography.