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Paleobiogeography: Tracking the Coevolution of the Earth and its Biota

  • Bruce S. Lieberman (a1) and Alycia L. Stigall Rode (a2)


Biogeography is a scientific discipline with a rich intellectual heritage extending back at least to the 18th century, and the discipline figured prominently in the development of ideas on evolution (see review in Lieberman, 2000). During the development of ideas on evolution, an important analogy was recognized between patterns of change in organisms across geographic space and patterns of change in organisms through geological time. For instance, Alfred Russel Wallace argued that, “If we now consider the geographical distribution of animals and plants upon the Earth, we shall find all the facts beautifully in accordance with, and readily explained by, the present hypothesis (Evolution). A country having species, genera, and whole families peculiar to it, will be the necessary result of its having been isolated for a long period…The phenomena of geological distribution are exactly analogous to those of geography. Closely related species are found associated in the same beds, and the change from species to species appears to have been as gradual in time as in space.” (Wallace, 1855 in Brooks, 1984, p. 75). Charles Darwin felt it was important enough to remark in the very introduction to his On the Origin of Species that, “…when on board H.M.S. ‘Beagle,’ as naturalist, I was much struck with certain facts in the distribution of the organic beings inhabiting South America, and in the geological relations of the present to the past inhabitants of that continent. These facts, as will be seen in the latter chapters of this volume, seemed to throw some light on the origin of species-that mystery of mysteries” (Darwin, 1859, p. 1).



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Brooks, J. L. 1984. Just Before the Origin: Alfred Russel Wallace's Theory of Evolution. Columbia University Press. New York. 304 p.
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Lieberman, B. S. 2000. Paleobiogeography: Using Fossils to Study Global Change, Plate Tectonics, and Evolution. Plenum Press/Kluwer Academic Publishers. New York. 208 p.
Lyell, C. 1832. Principles of Geology (1st ed.), Vol. 2. University of Chicago Press. Chicago, IL.
Rode, A., and Lieberman, B. S. 2004. Using GIS to study the biogeography of the Late Devonian biodiversity crisis. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 211:345359.
Wallace, A. R. 1855. On the law which has regulated the introduction of new species. Annals of the Magazine of Natural History, 2nd series, 16:184196.

Paleobiogeography: Tracking the Coevolution of the Earth and its Biota

  • Bruce S. Lieberman (a1) and Alycia L. Stigall Rode (a2)


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