Comparative phylogeography clarifies the complexity and problems of continental distribution that drove A. R. Wallace to favor islands

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Deciphering the geographic context of diversification and distributional dynamics in continental biotas has long been an interest of biogeographers, ecologists, and evolutionary biologists. Thirty years ago, the approach now known as comparative phylogeography was introduced in a landmark study of a continental biota. Here, I use a set of 455 studies to explore the current scope of continental comparative phylogeography, including geographic, conceptual, temporal, ecological, and genomic attributes. Geographically, studies are more frequent in the northern hemisphere, but the south is catching up. Most studies focus on a Quaternary timeframe, but the Neogene is well represented. As such, explanations for geographic structure and history include geological and climatic events in Earth history, and responses include vicariance, dispersal, and range contraction-expansion into and out of refugia. Focal taxa are biased toward terrestrial or semiterrestrial vertebrates, although plants and invertebrates are well represented in some regions. The use of various kinds of nuclear DNA markers is increasing, as are multiple locus studies, but use of organelle DNA is not decreasing. Species distribution models are not yet widely incorporated into studies. In the future, continental comparative phylogeographers will continue to contribute to erosion of the simple vicariance vs. dispersal paradigm, including exposure of the widespread nature of temporal pseudocongruence and its implications for models of diversification; provide new templates for addressing a variety of ecological and evolutionary traits; and develop closer working relationships with earth scientists and biologists in a variety of disciplines.