Until today, Alfred Russell Wallace's century old map from 1876 has been the backbone for our understanding of global biodiversity. Thanks to advances in modern technology and data on more than 20,000 species, scientists from University of Copenhagen have now produced a next generation map depicting the organisation of life on Earth. Published online in Science Express today, the new map provides fundamental information regarding the diversity of life on our planet and is of major significance for future biodiversity research.
An essential question in understanding life on Earth is why species are distributed the way they are across the planet. This new global map shows the division of nature into 11 large biogeographic realms and shows how these areas relate to each other. It is the first study to combine evolutionary and geographical information for all known mammals, birds and amphibians, a total of over 20,000 species.
Based on the work at the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen involving 15 international researchers and 20 years of data compilation, the study is published today in Science Express.
The first attempt to describe the natural world in an evolutionary context was made in 1876 by Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of the theory of natural selection, along with Charles Darwin. "Our study is a long overdue update of one of the most fundamental maps in natural sciences. For the first time since Wallace's attempt we are finally able to provide a broad description of the natural world based on incredibly detailed information for thousands of vertebrate species," says co-lead-author, Dr. Ben Holt from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate.
The new map can be split into finer geographical details for each class of animals. It is made freely available to contribute to a wide range of biological sciences, as well as conservation planning and management of biodiversity.
Hundreds of thousands of records
Modern technology like DNA sequencing and a tremendous compilation of hundreds of thousands of distribution records on mammals, birds and amphibians across the globe has made it possible to produce the map.
"The map provides important baseline information for future ecological and evolutionary research. It also has major conservation significance in light of the on-going biodiversity crisis and global environmental change. 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," says Dr. Jean-Philippe Lessard, the other co-lead-author from the Copenhagen center, who is currently based at McGill University, Canada.
Senior author Carsten Rahbek, director of the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate adds:
"Despite the incredible advances of natural science, we are still battling to understand the underlying laws that govern life on the planet. This holistic description of the natural world that we provide could be a new cornerstone in fundamental biology."
University of Copenhagen: http://www.ku.dk
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Free-living songbirds show increased stress hormone levels when nesting under white street lights. But different light spectra may have different physiological effects as this study finds, suggesting that using street lights with specific colour spectra may mitigate effects of light pollution on wildlife
Scientists identify the condition aphantasia, in which people cannot create images in their head
The dust in our homes contains an average of 9,000 different types of fungi and bacteria, a study suggests.
A mosquito can bear up to 23 times its total body weight on each leg, which is crucial for landing on water – the insect's secret is way it stands
Tropical species with smaller geographical ranges are more likely to die out in a warming climate than those that can adapt by ‘invading’ new regions
Most people think of bacteria as germs, signs of filth, or unwanted bringers of disease. Slowly, that view …
The gloomy octopuses crowded at Jervis Bay, Australia, appear to spit and throw debris such as shell at each other in what could be an intentional use of weapons
Therapies based on hormones that make us more trusting enhance our natural placebo effect – a finding that could alter the way clinical trials are conducted
The blind, hairless babies born recently at Washington D.C.'s National Zoo are completely dependent on their mothers—who can sometimes accidentally crush them.
The poop-hoarding insects have an amazingly advanced internal GPS that allows them to navigate by day or night.