[Taxacom] Geophylogenies

John Grehan jgrehan at sciencebuff.org
Thu Nov 11 07:40:08 CST 2010

I appreciate David Kidd's response to my critique, and that he has
focused on addressing the comments, regardless of the merits of those
comments. I have added more below. I might be in disagreement with Kidd
on his approach, although the general goal of providing a map of life is
something I would agree, although the general map of life does already
exist and is summarized in Fig 259 of Croizat (1958 IIb p. 1018).

I will also copy this response and Kidd's original email to the SEBA
list as I also posted my comments there.

-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Kidd, David M

> - Sounds a bit like a political slogan

> -- Currently, the data generated by historical biogeographers remains 
> essentially inaccessible. Making these disperate and diverse data 
> accessible to researchers and other interested parties would, in my 
> opinion, facilitate both scientific innovation and provide an
> source of relevance to many audiences. Mobilising these data is a
> technological and scientific challenge. Politics is part of this

Thanks for the clarification that juxtaposition refers to 'making data
more available' I guess the question then would be what kinds of
hypotheses would be generated and in what way would this be different
from the Track Atlas and the Biogeographic Atlas proposals (which
somehow escaped your notice).

>-- I do state many methods currently exist. I am interested in how
> different approaches complement each other. This requires the
> of both the raw underlying data and inferences from these data.

I guess that remains to be seen.

> -- A map is an interface to information. Dates can be displayed
> derived - what's the problem?

The problem is the implication that the MoL would do this, and yet above
you imply that dates are derived from something else - which is no
different to most approaches current.

> - The irony of this is that this method already exists in the form of 
> panbiogeographic mapping.

> -- I agree with you somewhat here. Indeed, critisism of previous
> lead to the removal of a paragraph from the paper in which I
> recognised the influence of panbiogeography on my thinking. I should 
> perhaps have been more resilient in keeping it in; however I decided
> was too thorny subject to deal with given space restrictions. As I'm
> you appreciate, panbiogeography has not been embraced by all - why is 
> that? I have tried to discuss it's merits with a number of groups
> success. The desire to reconstruct areas in an analgous way to
> on trees has, I believe, lead to some tunnel vision in this respect. 
> Direct vicariance analysis and biotic elements have similarly suffered

> from the problem over a shorter time period.

Interesting to see reference to a direct example of suppression in
science. It is through the practice of suppression that one ends up with
a revisionist history (which in this case seems to have been forced onto
Kidd rather than being of his own violation). Perhaps not surprising as
editorial policy by Systematic Biology (not Systematic Zoology) has been
openly hostile to panbiogeography). Often when this problem is brought
up with respect to panbiogeography one is labeled paranoid etc. But it
does occur. As to why panbiogeography has not been embraced - simple,
most evolutionary biologists do not like or are not interested in
geography. They are interested in biological form and want to interpret
the evolution of life as form (I have seen eyes glaze over when maps are
presented). Space is just a backstage and that is where they want to
keep it (whether consciously or not).

I should add that one editor of Systematic Biology rejected a
panbiogeographic paper because he said that molecular dispersal theory
had falsified panbiogeography and therefore (words to the effect that)
panbiogeography was no longer a legitimate and publishable field of

> -- I agree that data synthesis is not in itself a solutions. It does,
>  however, certainly help when undertaking large scale studies. I go on
> describe Morrone's recent attempt to conceptually link different
> I am a pleuralist, different methods can be applied to same data to 
> understand different aspects of history. Making data mobile
facilitates a 
> pleuralist approach. Do panbiogeography and maximum liklihood 
> reconstructions infer the similar histories. If so we can be more 
> confident in our inference.

I guess I am not a pluralist. I do not lump things together that are
incongruent. For example I would not try to incorporate analysis of
areas of endemism into panbiogeographic analysis since the two
approaches are incompatible (in my opinion). Nor would I try to
incorporate centers of origin and dispersal theory into panbiogeography.
And neither would I try to incorporate the molecular lie of calibrated
divergence estimates being actual or maximal.

> "With the help of expert knowledge, ranges can be inferred directly
from species, gene, and fossil observations; the IUCN mammal range
database was created in this manner."

> --  Genes have ranges/distributions as well as taxa. All aspects of 
> biodiversity are interesting. Fossils are clearly great evidence of
> distributions but the record is patchy. Genetic variation is another 
> source of information that can be applied to help understand 
> biogeographical histories -phylogeography?

Ok - all aspects of spatial variation are potentially informative. I do
agree with that (and its something already acknowledged in

> -- So let's work on improving our methods and try and discover how far
> we go back using different apporaches?

I guess I should rephrase - why bother inferring historical ranges? I
guess under that is what is an 'ancestral range'? In panbiogeography the
ancestral track can be inferered, but there is no warranty as to the
actual range beyond what empirical data can inform.

> "As long as the explanatory premises that underlie reconstructions are

> necessary conditions and are explicitly stated, reconstructions can be

> falsified when one of the premises is rejected (Andersson 1996)."

> -- HB is a historical science. Hypothesese are tested in a historical,
> an experimental framework. I believe the philisophical bludgeon
> by cladistic biogeographers in the past needs to be be repudiated.
> a much bigger topic than space allowed.

I guess this does not leave me with any better understanding of what you
are getting at with your original assertion.

> To sum up;

> (1) Lots of data are information on extant biogeographic pattern and
> histories. These data should be mobilised to enchance further research
> inform outside of academia.

In general principle I agree since this is exactly what was proposed in
the Track Atlas (with the caveat that 'taxon history' is the
hypothesized phylogeny and that the biogeographic pattern is the
baseline, main massing, node, and track)

> (2) HBs use a variety of methods that address different aspect of
> and process. How can these disperate studies be integrated to provide
> holistic picture of the spatiotemporal history of life on earth?

I'll read some more on the paper and see what I think of that.

>(3) An aim of the paper was to inspire the community with a common
>  Community cohesion has arguably not been great in the past.

There is a lot of community cohesion with respect to centers of origin
and dispersal. Perhaps 99% of biogeographers accept these principles (at
least in the English speaking world)

John Grehan

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