What is Biogeography?


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 Photo (a) depicts a wallaby, a member of the kangaroo family. The wallaby is brown with white flecks on its fur and a light brown underbelly. Its hands are clasped together. Photo (b) shows an echidna. Like a porcupine, the echidna has a compact body covered with brown and white quills. It has a long, slender snout.
Australia is home to many endemic species. The (a) wallaby (Wallabia bicolor), a medium-sized member of the kangaroo family, is a pouched mammal, or marsupial. The (b) echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) is an egg-laying mammal. (credit a: modification of work by Derrick Coetzee; credit b: modification of work by Allan Whittome)

OpenStax Biology 2e

Biogeography is the study of the geographic distribution of living things and the abiotic factors that affect their distribution. Abiotic factors such as temperature and rainfall vary based mainly on latitude and elevation. As these abiotic factors change, the composition of plant and animal communities also changes. For example, if you were to begin a journey at the equator and walk north, you would notice gradual changes in plant communities. At the beginning of your journey, you would see tropical wet forests with broad-leaved evergreen trees, which are characteristic of plant communities found near the equator. As you continued to travel north, you would see these broad-leaved evergreen plants eventually give rise to seasonally dry forests with scattered trees. You would also begin to notice changes in temperature and moisture. At about 30 degrees north, these forests would give way to deserts, which are characterized by low precipitation and high insolation (sunlight).

Moving farther north, you would see that deserts are replaced by grasslands or prairies. Eventually, grasslands are replaced by deciduous temperate forests. These deciduous forests give way to the boreal forests and taiga found in the subarctic, the area south of the Arctic Circle. Finally, you would reach the Arctic tundra, which is found at the most northern latitudes. This trek north reveals gradual changes in both climate and the types of organisms that have adapted to environmental factors associated with ecosystems found at different latitudes. However, different ecosystems exist at the same latitude due in part to abiotic factors such as jet streams, the Gulf Stream, and ocean currents. If you were to hike up a mountain, the changes you would see in the vegetation would parallel in many ways those as you move to higher latitudes.

Ecologists who study biogeography examine patterns of species distribution. No species exists everywhere; for example, the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is endemic to a small area in North and South Carolina. An endemic species is one which is naturally found only in a specific geographic area that is usually restricted in size. Other species are generalists: species which live in a wide variety of geographic areas; the raccoon (Procyon spp) for example, is native to most of North and Central America.

Species distribution patterns are based on biotic and abiotic factors and their influences during the very long periods of time required for species evolution; therefore, early studies of biogeography were closely linked to the emergence of evolutionary thinking in the eighteenth century. Some of the most distinctive assemblages of plants and animals occur in regions that have been physically separated for millions of years by geographic barriers. Biologists estimate that Australia, for example, has between 600,000 and 700,000 species of plants and animals. Approximately 3/4 of living plant and mammal species are endemic species found solely in Australia.

Sometimes ecologists discover unique patterns of species distribution by determining where species are not found. Despite being tropical, Hawaii, for example, has no native land species of reptiles or amphibians, only a few native species of butterflies, and only one native terrestrial mammal, the hoary bat. Most of New Guinea, as another example, lacks placental mammals.

Like animals, plants can be endemic or generalists: endemic plants are found only on specific regions of the Earth, while generalists are found on many regions. Isolated land masses—such as Australia, Hawaii, and Madagascar—often have large numbers of endemic plant species. Some of these plants are endangered due to human activity. The forest gardenia (Gardenia brighamii), for instance, is endemic to Hawaii; only an estimated 15–20 trees are thought to exist.

The photo shows a white flower with seven smooth, diamond-shaped petals radiating out from a yellow center. The flower is surrounded by waxy green leaves.
Listed as federally endangered, the forest gardenia is a small tree with distinctive flowers. It is found only in five of the Hawaiian Islands in small populations consisting of a few individual specimens. (credit: Forest & Kim Starr)


Clark, M., Douglas, M., Choi, J. Biology 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/biology-2e


Functional redundancy in natural pico-phytoplankton communities depends on temperature and biogeography

Biodiversity affects ecosystem function, and how this relationship will change in a warming world is a major and well-examined question in ecology. Yet, it remains understudied for pico-phytoplankton communities, which contribute to carbon cycles and aquatic food webs year-round. Observational studies show a link between phytoplankton community diversity and ecosystem stability, but there is only scarce causal or empirical evidence. Here, we sampled phytoplankton communities from two geographically related regions with distinct thermal and biological properties in the Southern Baltic Sea and carried out a series of dilution/regrowth experiments across three assay temperatures. This allowed us to investigate the effects of loss of rare taxa and establish causal links in natural communities between species richness and several ecologically relevant traits (e.g. size, biomass production, and oxygen production), depending on sampling location and assay temperature. We found that the samples’ biogeographical origin determined whether and how functional redundancy changed as a function of temperature for all traits under investigation. Samples obtained from the slightly warmer and more thermally variable regions showed overall high functional redundancy. Samples from the slightly cooler, less variable, stations showed little functional redundancy, i.e. function decreased when species were lost from the community. The differences between regions were more pronounced at elevated assay temperatures. Our results imply that the importance of rare species and the amount of species required to maintain ecosystem function even under short-term warming may differ drastically even within geographically closely related regions of the same ecosystem.

Keywords: Baltic Sea; functional redundancy; global warming; pico-phytoplankton communities.


Journey to the West: Trans-Pacific Historical Biogeography of Fringehead Blennies in the Genus Neoclinus (Teleostei: Blenniiformes)

Several temperate marine taxa of the northern hemisphere follow a trans-Pacific biogeographic track with representatives on either side of the intervening boreal waters. Shelter-dwelling blenniiform fishes of the genus Neoclinus exhibit this trans-Pacific distribution pattern with three species in the eastern North Pacific and eight species in the western North Pacific. We reconstructed the phylogeny of the Neocliniini (Neoclinus and the monotypic Mccoskerichthys) using six genetic markers: four mitochondrial genes (COI, cytochrome b, 12S and 16S), and two nuclear genes (RAG-1, TMO-4C4). Ancestral state reconstruction and molecular clock dating were used to explore hypothetical ancestral distributions and area relationships, and to estimate divergent times within this group. The monophyly of the genus Neoclinus, and the reciprocal monophyly of the eastern Pacific and western Pacific lineages were supported. Available evidence, including the eastern Pacific and western Atlantic occurrence of a New World clade of blennioid fishes that includes this lineage, supports the origin of the Neocliniini in the eastern Pacific with a single divergence event to the west across the North Pacific by the ancestor of the western Pacific clade. Estimated divergence time of the eastern and western Pacific clades of Neoclinus was 24.14 million year ago, which falls during the Oligocene epoch. Estimated times of divergence in other trans-Pacific lineages of marine fishes vary widely, from recent Pleistocene events to as early as 34 mya.

Keywords: Eastern North Pacific; Mccoskerichthys; North Pacific; Phylogeny; Western North Pacific.


Saccharomyces cerevisiae – Insects Association: Impacts, Biogeography, and Extent

Over the last few years, an increasing number of studies have reported the existence of an association between the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and insects. The discovery of this relationship has called into question the hypothesis that S. cerevisiae is unable to survive in nature and that the presence of S. cerevisiae strains in natural specimens is the result of contamination from human-related environments. S. cerevisiae cells benefit from this association as they find in the insect intestine a shelter, but also a place where they can reproduce themselves through mating, the latter being an event otherwise rarely observed in natural environments. On the other hand, insects also take advantage in hosting S. cerevisiae as they rely on yeasts as nutriment to properly develop, to localize suitable food, and to enhance their immune system. Despite the relevance of this relationship on both yeast and insect ecology, we are still far from completely appreciating its extent and effects. It has been shown that other yeasts are able to colonize only one or a few insect species. Is it the same for S. cerevisiae cells or is this yeast able to associate with any insect? Similarly, is this association geographically or topographically limited in areas characterized by specific physical features? With this review, we recapitulate the nature of the S. cerevisiae-insect association, disclose its extent in terms of geographical distribution and species involved, and present YeastFinder, a cured online database providing a collection of information on this topic.

Keywords: Saccharomyces cerevisiae; Saccharomyces cerevisiae evolution; Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast ecology; biogeography; insect; yeast-insect association.


Museomics Unveil the Phylogeny and Biogeography of the Neglected Juan Fernandez Archipelago Megalachne and Podophorus Endemic Grasses and Their Connection With Relict Pampean-Ventanian Fescues

Oceanic islands constitute natural laboratories to study plant speciation and biogeographic patterns of island endemics. Juan Fernandez is a southern Pacific archipelago consisting of three small oceanic islands located 600-700 km west of the Chilean coastline. Exposed to current cold seasonal oceanic climate, these 5.8-1 Ma old islands harbor a remarkable endemic flora. All known Fernandezian endemic grass species belong to two genera, Megalachne and Podophorus, of uncertain taxonomic adscription. Classical and modern classifications have placed them either in Bromeae (Bromus), Duthieinae, Aveneae/Poeae, or Loliinae (fine-leaved Festuca); however, none of them have clarified their evolutionary relationships with respect to their closest Festuca relatives. Megalachne includes four species, which are endemic to Masatierra (Robinson Crusoe island) (M. berteroniana and M. robinsoniana) and to Masafuera (Alejandro Selkirk island) (M. masafuerana and M. dantonii). The monotypic Podophorus bromoides is a rare endemic species to Masatierra which is only known from its type locality and is currently considered extinct. We have used museomic approaches to uncover the challenging evolutionary history of these endemic grasses and to infer the divergence and dispersal patterns from their ancestors. Genome skimming data were produced from herbarium samples of M. berteroniana and M. masafuerana, and the 164 years old type specimen of P. bromoides, as well as for a collection of 33 species representing the main broad- and fine-leaved Loliinae lineages. Paired-end reads were successfully mapped to plastomes and nuclear ribosomal cistrons of reference Festuca species and used to reconstruct phylogenetic trees. Filtered ITS and trnTLF sequences from these genomes were further combined with our large Loliinae data sets for accurate biogeographic reconstruction. Nuclear and plastome data recovered a strongly supported fine-leaved Fernandezian clade where Podophorus was resolved as sister to Megalachne. Bayesian divergence dating and dispersal-extinction-cladogenesis range evolution analyses estimated the split of the Fernandezian clade from its ancestral southern American Pampas-Ventanian Loliinae lineage in the Miocene-Pliocene transition, following a long distance dispersal from the continent to the uplifted volcanic palaeo-island of Santa Clara-Masatierra. Consecutive Pliocene-Pleistocene splits and a Masatierra-to-Masafuera dispersal paved the way for in situ speciation of Podophorus and Megalachne taxa.

Keywords: Fernandezian clade; ancestral range reconstruction; endemic Loliinae grasses; genome skimming; phylogenomics; taxonomically neglected species.


Microbiota in the Rhizosphere and Seed of Rice From China, With Reference to Their Transmission and Biogeography

Seeds play key roles in the acquisition of plant pioneer microbiota, including the transmission of microbes from parent plants to offspring. However, the issues about seed microbial communities are mostly unknown, especially for their potential origins and the factors influencing the structure and composition. In this study, samples of rice seed and rhizosphere were collected from northeast and central-south China in two harvest years and analyzed using a metabarcoding approach targeting 16S rRNA gene region. A higher level of vertical transmission (from parent seed microbiota to offspring) was revealed, as compared to the acquisition from the rhizosphere (25.5 vs 10.7%). The core microbiota of the rice seeds consisted of a smaller proportion of OTUs (3.59%) than that of the rice rhizosphere (7.54%). Among the core microbiota, species in ArthrobacterBacillusBlastococcusCurtobacteriumPseudomonas, and Ramlibacter have been reported as potential pathogens and/or beneficial bacteria for plants. Both the seed and the rhizosphere of rice showed distance-decay of similarity in microbial communities. Seed moisture and winter mean annual temperature (WMAT) had significant impacts on seed microbiota, while WMAT, total carbon, available potassium, available phosphorus, aluminum, pH, and total nitrogen significantly determined the rhizosphere microbiota. Multiple functional pathways were found to be enriched in the seed or the rhizosphere microbiota, which, to some extent, explained the potential adaptation of bacterial communities to respective living habitats. The results presented here elucidate the composition and possible sources of rice seed microbiota, which is crucial for the health and productivity management in sustainable agriculture.

Keywords: metabarcoding; microbial community; rice rhizosphere; rice seed; vertical transmission.


Bats Out of Africa: Disentangling the Systematic Position and Biogeography of Bats in Cabo Verde

Cabo Verde Archipelago presents one of the largest knowledge gaps in the distribution and taxonomy of bats in the world. Old works indicated that there are five species classified as European taxa. We have conducted an integrative taxonomy to revise the systematic position and distribution of Cabo Verdean bats with molecular, morphological, and ecological data, to test their native or exotic origin, and infer possible colonization patterns based on fieldwork and museum samples. Results showed that Cabo Verde Hypsugo is closely related to those from the Canary Islands, in which the taxonomic status is under debate, presenting unique mitochondrial and nuclear haplotypes. We also expanded the distribution of Taphozous nudiventris for Fogo Island through pellets and acoustic identification, showed unique haplotypes for this species, and that Miniopterus schreibersii shared a haplotype with European, North African, and Western Asian specimens. The morphological and acoustic identification of Cabo Verdean specimens was challenging because of the lack of modern morphological descriptions and similarity of echolocation calls within the same genus. More studies are definitely needed to access the systematic of bat species in the archipelago, but this work is the first step for the establishment of conservation actions of the probable only native Cabo Verdean mammals.

Keywords: Hypsugo; Miniopterus; Plecotus; Taphozous; chiropters; distribution; genetics; islands.


Biogeography of microbiome and short-chain fatty acids in the gastrointestinal tract of duck

It is generally accepted that domestic ducks are valuable protein sources for humans. The gastrointestinal ecosystem contains enormous and complicated microbes that have a profound effect on the nutrition, immunity, health, and production of domestic ducks. To deeply understand the gastrointestinal microbial composition of domestic ducks, we investigated the microbiomes of 7 different gastrointestinal locations (proventriculus, gizzard, duodenum, jejunum, ileum, cecum, and rectum) and the short-chain fatty acids in 15 healthy muscovy ducks based on 16S rRNA gene sequencing, qPCR, and gas chromatography. As a result, 1 029 735 sequences were identified into 35 phyla and 359 genera. Firmicutes, Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Cyanobacteria, and Actinobacteria were the major phyla, with Bacteroidetes being most abundant in the cecum. The population of the total bacteria and the representatives of the Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Bacteroides groups increased from the proximal to the distal part of the GIT. Bacteroides was the most dominant group in the cecum. Acetate, propionate, and butytrate, as well as gene copies of butyryl-CoA including acetate-CoA transferase and butyrate kinase, were significantly higher in cecum than in other sections. Isobutyrate, valerate, and isovalerate were only found in the cecum. The differences of microbial composition and the short-chain fatty acids of their metabolites among these 7 intestinal locations might be correlated with differences in gut function. All these results provide a reference for the duck gastrointestinal microbiome and a foundation for understanding the types of bacteria that promote health and enhance growth performance and decrease instances of disease in duck breeding.

Keywords: duck; gastrointestine; microbiome; short-chain fatty acids.



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