[Taxacom] Ethiopian versus Afrotropical

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Wed Aug 13 11:47:03 CDT 2008

>Can anyone provide commentary on the appropriateness, preference, and/or
>subtleties involved in using the term Ethiopian, versus Afrotropical, in
>referring to the biogeographic faunal region that generally encompasses
>sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the southern/southeastern Arabian
>peninsula? Is usage here largely determined by the historical usage
>found in the literature of different taxa? Does this usage vary
>appreciably based on where one works (e.g., do biologists in Africa tend
>to use one term, while biologists in other areas of the world tend to
>use the other)? Which is the 'better' term, and why? Are there
>substantive reasons for using one term over the other? Are the terms
>considered synonymous in general usage, or are there important
>subtleties of meaning implicit in each? Is there a concise discussion of
>these issues in the literature somewhere (citations please...)?

There's a lot of information on Wikipedia, actually, including 
numerous references. In this particular case, the entry reads:
The Afrotropic is one of the earth's eight ecozones. It includes 
Africa south of the Sahara Desert, the southern and eastern fringes 
of the Arabian Peninsula, the island of Madagascar, southern Iran and 
extreme southwestern Pakistan, and the islands of the western Indian 
Ocean. It was formerly known as the Ethiopian Zone or Ethiopian 
The "ecozone" article indicates the history of this terminology, and 
the other regional definitions:
The ecozones are based largely on the biogeographic realms of Pielou 
(1979) and Udvardy (1975). A team of biologists convened by the World 
Wildlife Fund (WWF) developed a system of eight biogeographic realms 
(ecozones) as part of their delineation of the world's over 800 
terrestrial ecoregions.

Nearctic 22.9 mil. km? (including most of North America)
Palearctic 54.1 mil. km? (including the bulk of Eurasia and North Africa)
Afrotropic 22.1 mil. km? (including Sub-Saharan Africa)
Indomalaya 7.5 mil. km? (including Afghanistan and Pakistan, the 
South Asian subcontinent and Southeast Asia)
Australasia 7.7 mil. km? (including Australia, New Guinea, and 
neighbouring islands). The northern boundary of this zone is known as 
the Wallace line.
Neotropic 19.0 mil. km? (including South America and the Caribbean)
Oceania 1.0 mil. km? (including Polynesia, Fiji and Micronesia)
Antarctic 0.3 mil. km? (including Antarctica).

The WWF scheme is broadly similar to Udvardy's system, the chief 
difference being the delineation of the Australasian ecozone relative 
to the Antarctic, Oceanic, and Indomalayan ecozones. In the WWF 
system, The Australasia ecozone includes Australia, Tasmania, the 
islands of Wallacea, New Guinea, the East Melanesian islands, New 
Caledonia, and New Zealand. Udvardy's Australian realm includes only 
Australia and Tasmania; he places Wallacea in the Indomalayan Realm, 
New Guinea, New Caledonia, and East Melanesia in the Oceanian Realm, 
and New Zealand in the Antarctic Realm.
I suspect that many of us are still using the older scheme - I, for 
example, had never heard the term "Indomalayan" biogeographic region 
(the article for this one specifies that it was formerly known as the 
Oriental Region) - but maybe taxonomists aren't exposed to the 
ecological literature enough.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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