Click the map above to go to the explanation:
Tigers and pandas live in Asia, kangaroos and koalas in Australia and polar bears and snowy owls in the Arctic. The world can be divided into regions based upon the unique types of animals that live there. Or so the thinking went when Alfred Russel Wallace published the scientific world’s first global biodiversity map in 1876.
More than a century has come and gone since Wallace released this groundbreaking work, yet his map largely still serves as a cornerstone for understanding modern distributions of biodiversity. An updated version was due, a group of researchers decided.
“Wallace’s map still makes a lot of sense,” said Jean-Philippe Lessard, an ecologist at McGill University in Montreal who was formerly at the University of Copenhagen. “We’re not inventing anything here, we’re just implementing Wallace’s vision at an age where we have tons of DNA and more information on where species are on the planet.”
As Craig Leisher noted here last month, Wallace is something of a folk hero among biologists. He simultaneously thought up the theory of evolution by natural selection alongside Charles Darwin yet also made time for clambering around collecting specimens in the most exotic spots in the world. His wanderings and studies eventually led to that first map of animal distributions across the continents.