Biogeography's data, again

John R. Grehan jrg13 at PSU.EDU
Thu Apr 18 14:41:03 CDT 2002

Robert Mesibov wrote

>  If we get there before the geologists,
>it's because we've been systematising while they've been classifying.

Getting 'there' before the geologist might also come from the possibility
that living patterns may persist on new landscapes while old geology is
subducted, metamorphosed, and otherwise lost to direct analysis.

>even arranged them in hierarchical systems. Analytical biogeographic
>methods, such as cladistic biogeography and panbiogeography, have as their
>aim the putting of 'units' into a natural, correctly historical system.

Panbiogeography may actually be moving away from 'units' as such (i.e. the
de Candollean concept of area of endemism) and establishing concepts of
spatial relationship. Whether these relationships are truly hierarchical or
not I do not know, but the global picture of biogeography established by
Croizat seems to me to be more like a web than a tree.

>It's a very difficult task, and many non-biogeographers raise a quizzical
>eyebrow when they hear the acrimonious debates between biogeographical

I always feel left out when I hear of these 'acrimonious' debates. Perhaps
it is my fault for not being in the right places to be so exposed, but
after nearly 20 years of biogeographic work the only time I experienced any
sort of 'acrimony' was 20 years ago in New Zealand where opposition was
bitter and entrenched. Since then I have only experience cordial and
respectful exchanges with those opposed to panbiogeography.

>Please understand, however, what biogeographers are trying to
>do. They are NOT primarily trying to write spatial histories to add to the
>genetic histories in the dossiers of individual species.

If so what then are they 'primarily' trying to do?

John Grehan
Frost Entomological Museum
Pennsylvania State University
Department of Entomology
501 ASI Building
University Park, PA 16802. USA.

Phone: (814) 863-2865
Fax: (814) 865-3048

Frost Museum

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