Why biogeographical hypotheses need a well supported phylogenetic framework: a conceptual evaluation

A growing number of biogeographical methods have attempted to describe formal means of reconstructing the biogeographical history of the organisms. Whatever the biogeographical method, however, the source of systematic information has to be well worked out. Taxonomic noise is sometimes a true impediment to properly deal with the complexity of life in its three-dimensional aspects, the threefold parallelism represented by form, space and time. This paper argues that historical systematics is a necessary basis for a historical biogeography. Organismal phylogenies or at least hypotheses of monophyly should be taken as the basis for the study of distribution patterns. Whenever a non-monophyletic taxon is misleadingly taken as monophyletic, erroneous interpretations in evolutionary analyses necessarily follow. When the proportion of paraphyletic taxa considered in an analysis is small, a general pattern may be obtained, but the interpretation of the biogeographical evolution of each paraphyletic taxon will be equivocated. The delimitation of areas of endemism also depends on the precision of the recovered phylogenetic information. Indices based on phylogenetic diversity allow the delimitation of areas for conservation of biological diversity. Despite the plethora of current available biogeographical methods, biogeography is not a mess, as was pointed elsewhere. The order in the discipline is subtle: as biogeography intends to comprehend the living world based on the study of the form, space and time, a phylogenetic framework is a basic requirement. The lack of reliable biogeographical primary information - historical taxa - certainly creates severe obstacles for historical biogeography.

Biogeography; cladistics; conservation; endemism; monophyly; phylogeny; species


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