Evolutionary Biology

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 407–415 | Cite as

On Reciprocal Illumination and Consilience in Biogeography

  • Charles Morphy D. SantosEmail author
  • Renato S. Capellari


Biogeography deals with the combined analysis of the spatial and temporal components of the evolutionary process. To this purpose, biogeographical analysis should consider two extra steps: a reciprocal illumination step, and a consilience step. Even if the traditional challenges of biogeography were successfully handled, the obtained hypothesis is not necessarily meaningful in biogeographical terms––it needs continuous test in the light of external hypotheses. For this reason, a concept analogous to Hennig’s reciprocal illumination is valuable, as well as a sort of biogeographical consilience in Whewell’s sense. Firstly, through the search for different classes of evidence, information useful to improve the hypothesis can be accessed via reciprocal illumination. Following, a more general hypothesis would arise through a consilience process, when the hypothesis explains phenomena not contemplated during its construction, as the distribution of other taxa or the existence (or absence) of fossils. This procedure aims to evaluate the robustness of biogeographical hypotheses as scientific theories. Such theories are reliable descriptions of how life changes its form both in space and time, putting historical biogeography close to Croizat’s statement of evolution as a three dimensional phenomenon.


Biogeography Consilience Croizat Hennig Method Reciprocal illumination Whewell 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Flávio Bockmann (FFCLRP-USP) for his criticisms and suggestions on an early version of this manuscript. Jorge Crisci (Museo de La Plata-Argentina) and Juan J. Morrone (UNAM-Mexico) also contributed with useful indications. This paper was presented at the 27th International Meeting of the Willi Hennig Society, 28–31 October 2008. The preparation of this manuscript was financed by FAPESP (processes 2006/58086-4, 2008/58224-3 and 2008/50404-2).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles Morphy D. Santos
    • 1
    Email author
  • Renato S. Capellari
    • 2
  1. 1.Centro de Ciências Naturais e HumanasUniversidade Federal do ABCSanto AndréBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de Biologia, Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras de Ribeirão PretoUniversidade de São PauloRibeirão PretoBrazil

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