Biogeography: explaining the geographical distribution of organisms

Published on March 30, 2021   39 min

Other Talks in the Series: Introduction to Evolutionary Biology

Other Talks in the Series: Ecology

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Hello and welcome to this lecture on one of the most fascinating, fundamental and integrative topics in biology: biogeography, the geography of life. Have you ever wondered why there are no penguins in the Arctic, no kangaroos in North America, and why all (but one) species of cacti are naturally confined to the Americas? These are just some of the questions that biogeography tries to answer. My name is Alexandre Antonelli but most people call me Alex. I'm a professor of biodiversity and systematics at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, and Director of Science at the Royal Botanical Gardens in the UK.
I've divided this lecture into five parts. First, I'll introduce you to biogeography, what it means and what the major components of it are. I'll then showcase the rich diversity in the American tropics, also called the 'neotropics', which is my main area of research and where many important questions remain to be answered. To answer those questions, I'll mention the main sources of data that I needed and some of the methods to handle such data. Finally, I'll give you some examples from my own research group, which I hope will inspire you to one day also become a biogeographer. Just so you know, I'll be asking a few questions throughout this talk that I want you to think about. I'll let you know when you should pause the presentation, so you can think about the answers before moving on.
There are several definitions of biogeography, but the one that I like the most is: "The science that attempts to document and understand the spatial patterns of biological diversity." It's a very broad but correct definition, which also means that many other topics in biology like taxonomy, systematics, population genetics, can all be regarded within this framework or at least as contributing to it. In other words, this is all about understanding biodiversity,

Biogeography: explaining the geographical distribution of organisms

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