For people who are so used to the rapid progress our society has made with information technology, it is sometimes hard to believe how slowly science actually develops. Such is certainly true for the study of animals and plants, or biodiversity. It is only after nearly 150 years that a comprehensive update of zoogeographical regions was provided. A recent article published in the journal Science reexamined the zoogeographical regions first proposed by Alfred Russel Wallace, whose classification included 6 regions (Figure 1; article also attached below). Wallace's classification remains in use till today, although some minor modifications exist. In the Science article a group of researchers at the the Copenhagen University has just revised Wallace's classification and came up with 11 greater zoogeographical realms and 20 smaller regions (Figure 2). While the new classification is rather similar to Wallace's regime, five realms are for the first time proposed and they include: Panamanian, Sino-Japanese, Saharo-Arabian, Madagascan and Oceanian.
Besides, I find several aspects of this new classification interesting:
1. Hawaii is not classified under 'Oceanian', but under Nearctic.
2. Caribbean is recognized as 'Panamanian' and not a realm by itself.
2. Madagascar and adjacent islands are identified as a realm alone and not as part of 'Afrotropical'.
Except several popular science reports, I have not yet seen responses from the zoology/biogeography research community. Would be good to hear what others think of this new scheme of zoogeographical realms/regions. Changes are not always welcome in the scientific community. I wonder whether this one would become one of the unwelcome.
One of the cool things about this new article is that the zoogeographical realms/regions can be visualized on Google Earth. See Figure 3 below.
What I do not like about this article is the choice of names. The authors used nations and sometimes ethnicity as names. These include the ‘Sino-Japanese' realm and the 'Tibetan' and 'Chinese' regions.
Popular science reports:
Scientists nearly double the number of biogeographic realms
Responses at the Bird Forum
A Biodiversity Map, Version 2.0
New Map Updates Our Fundamental Understanding Of Life On Earth
Copenhagen researcher's webpage
Writings related to insects, biodiversity and science in general