Species’ Geographic Distributions through Time: Playing Catch-up with Changing Climates

Evolution: Education and OutreachEvolution: Education and Outreach, Published Online 02 March 2012

A. Townsend Peterson and Bruce S. Lieberman

“Species’ ranges are often treated as a fixed characteristic, rather than a fluid, ever-changing manifestation of their ecological requirements and dispersal abilities. Paleontologists generally have had a better appreciation of the changeable nature of species’ ranges than neontologists, but each perspective can improve by appreciating the other. Here, we provide an overview of paleontological and neontological perspectives on species’ geographic distributions, focusing on what can be learned about historical variations in distributions. In particular, we focus on enriching the field of phylogeography with a more explicit view of geography, taking into account variation through time in the geographic distribution of different environments, effectively integrating information from the fossil record, molecular genetics, and paleoclimatology. The cross-disciplinary view that would result offers novel perspectives on biogeography and macroevolution.”