A new map that divides the world’s vertebrates into 11 biogeographic realms is the biggest update to a 19th century version, and one of the most important maps for our understanding of global biodiversity.
The map was published online today, Dec. 20, online in the journal Science.
The original map was created by naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace in 1876. He divided the world into six zoogeographic regions that were mostly separated by continent. The new map is the first to look at both evolutionary relationships and geographic information to depict the distribution of life on Earth.
To create the new map, Ben Holt, of the University of Copenhagen, and his colleagues gathered information on 21,037 vertebrate species including amphibians, birds and non-marine mammals. Holt was able to divide to world into 20 distinct zoogeograpahic regions with types of vertebrates only found in that particular region, or few others, and 11 larger realms.
The realms with similar colours contain similar species. Those with different colours have few groups of animals in common.
“[The map] has major conservation significance in light of the on-going biodiversity crisis and global environmental change,” study researcher Jean-Philippe Lessard, of McGill University in Canada, said in a press release. “Whereas conservation planners have been identifying priority areas based on the uniqueness of species found in a given place, we can now begin to define conservation priorities based on millions of years of evolutionary history.”
Check out the updated map below:
For reference, this is Wallace’s orginal map:
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