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The zoogeography is the sub-discipline of biogeography , dedicated to the animal world , the subject of the biological science of zoology , busy. Her areas of work are, for example, the local animal world, technically called fauna , geographical regions such as islands, mountains or continents, the evolution and spatiotemporal change (dynamics) of the distribution areas of individual animal species, technically called their area, and their respective interaction with human influences. Although there are geographers who demand that there must be a geographically oriented zoogeography with independent methods and questions, the subject of which is the landscape (sometimes called geozoology), zoogeography is practiced almost exclusively by biologists, who are primarily interested in the animal species themselves . There are important interactions with animal ecology and evolutionary biology.


Zoogeographical issues were examined in more detail for the first time in the Age of Discovery, when European explorers traveled to foreign continents and their natural features were systematically compared with those of their homeland. One of the first works specifically on animal geography was Specimen zoologiae geographicae, quadrupedum domicilia et migrationes sistens by Eberhard August Wilhelm von Zimmermann , published in 1777 . The term "zoogeography" was first used in the 1820s. The forest scientists Theodor and Georg Ludwig Hartig spoke in 1836 of the science of zoo geography. In the 20th century, researchers such as Gustaf de Lattin distinguished between a descriptive (descriptive) zoogeography and a causal zoogeography, whereby the latter can be divided into ecological and historical zoogeography.

Descriptive zoo geography

Descriptive zoogeography tries to grasp and classify the confusing diversity of areas of distribution of animals. It examines the fauna of certain geographical areas, called faunistics , and the spatial distribution of individual species or other taxa , called chorology . The large-scale distribution of animal groups such as species, families and orders of animals is the subject of systematic animal geography. The biocoenotic Tiergeographie is the interest over to Socialization of animal species and species numbers in specific, spatially or ecologically confined space units.

Causal zoogeography

While descriptive zoogeography tries to capture the actual distribution of animals as precisely as possible, the interest of causal zoogeography lies in the reasons for this distribution. The distribution of certain animal species is regularly linked to certain factors. The distribution of a species depends on its physiology , such as the tolerance ranges for environmental factors such as heat, cold, drought, etc. The resulting limits of their distribution depend on environmental factors, they result ecologically. In addition to this ecological zoogeography, species are also prevented by distribution barriers such as mountains or oceans from reaching habitats that would actually be beneficial for their survival. Certain taxa, which evolved in a certain region, were only able to spread from their area of ​​origin to certain barriers, so that this part of their area has historically emerged more or less by chance. By comparing the distribution areas of different taxa depending on their relationship, different hypotheses about the origin can be developed and, also quantitatively, compared. This historical zoogeography can, if necessary , be verified experimentally by releasing the species to habitats in which it has not previously occurred or by keeping it in enclosures or laboratory environments under the environmental conditions of such habitats. Due to the influences of humans, numerous animal species have been released and settled in "natural experiments" in foreign habitats, intentionally or accidentally, where they were able to establish themselves ( called neozoa ). Only through such experimental results can the descriptively and historically developed hypotheses ultimately be checked and possibly falsified.

If people try to intervene in the distribution of animal species themselves, it is sometimes referred to as applied zoogeography. Their aim would be, for example, to limit or prevent the spread of agricultural pests or to enable the (re-) settlement of endangered animal species in new habitats.

Although zoogeographical research focuses on the distribution of individual taxa and their explanation, it is not limited to this. In addition, it examines the laws governing the composition of entire faunas. There are always certain correlations between the size of certain habitats and their number of species ( species-area relationships ), which can be very different depending on the animal group considered and the geographic and climatic region. One theory on its basis is the equilibrium theory of the biogeography of islands . Attempts were soon made to test these experimentally.

Zoogeographic regions

If the fauna of large regions of the world, including continents, is compared, it becomes apparent that the distribution of taxa also shows certain regularities globally. Areas can be identified whose faunistic composition is similar or comparable over large distances, which are then replaced over comparatively short distances by completely differently composed faunas. These zoogeographical regions or also fauna provinces are the largest zoogeographical units. Their number and delimitation is still controversial here and there between different researchers, but in the larger contexts, scientific consensus was largely achieved. The fauna provinces correspond by and large, but not in all details, to the flora kingdoms of botanical biogeography or phytogeography . A current scheme distinguishes 20 zoogeographical regions, which can be combined into 11 fauna kingdoms.

Fauna-rich and zoogeographical regions (CMEC 2012) - Source: Journal Science / AAAS
  • Orientalis or oriental region (South Asia, including the island world to the Sunda Islands )
  • Afrotropic or Afrotropic region (sub-Saharan Africa)
  • Neotropic or Neotropical Region (South America)
  • Palearctic or Palearctic Region (Europe, North Asia, Greenland, and Arctic Islands)
  • Nearctic or Nearctic region (North America excluding Central America)
  • Australis or Australian region (Australia with associated islands)
  • Panamanian Region (Central America)
  • Ocean region (Pacific island world, including New Guinea )
  • Madagascar Region ( Madagascar )
  • Saharo Arab region (North Africa, Arabia and arid Western Asia)
  • Sino-Japanese Region (Northern China, Amur Region, Japan)

Individual evidence

  1. Biogeography. In: Georg Toepfer: Historical dictionary of biology. History and theory of basic biological concepts. Volume 1: Analogy - Wholeness. JB Metzler Verlag, Stuttgart and Weimar 2011. ISBN 978-3-476-02316-2 .
  2. a b c Paul Müller: Aspects of Zoogeography. W. Junk Publishers, The Hague 1977. ISBN 978-90-6193-023-5 .
  3. Juan J. Morrone & Jorge V. Crisci (1995): Historical Biogeography: Introduction to methods. Annual review of Ecology and Systematics 26: 373-401.
  4. Ian R. Ball (1975): Nature and formulation of biogeographical hypotheses. Systematic Zoology 24 (4): 407-430.
  5. ^ Robert H. MacArthur & Edward O. Wilson (1963): An equilibrium theory of insular zoogeography. Evolution 17 (4): 373-387.
  6. ^ Daniel S. Simberloff & Edward O. Wilson (1969): Experimental zoogeography of islands: the colonization of empty islands. Ecology 50 (2): 278-296.
  7. Ben G. Holt, Jean-Philippe Lessard, Michael K. Borregaard, Susanne A. Fritz, Miguel B. Araújo, Dimitar Dimitrov, Pierre-Henri Fabre, Catherine H. Graham, Gary R. Graves, Knud A. Jønsson, David Nogués-Bravo, Zhiheng Wang, Robert J. Whittaker, Jon Fjeldså, Carsten Rahbek (2013): An Update of Wallace's Zoogeographic Regions of the World. Science 339: 74-78.