Biogeography and the Comparative Method
Advances in biogeography and paleobiogeography are very much linked to the expanding prominence of phylogenetic systematics as a research program in evolutionary biology and paleobiology. Phylogenetic systematics, as part of the comparative method in biology, emphasizes the evolutionary relationships among groups of organisms as an important aspect for testing hypotheses about the nature of the evolutionary process. For instance, to understand whether or not a particular trait is an adaptation and how selection pressures may have influenced its development, we need to know its primitive condition and how it changed with evolutionary events in the relevant group. In other words, we have to have some understanding of phylogenetic relationships within the group. As another example, if we want to look at how climate change has influenced the evolution of a particular group, we have to know the sequence of branching events within it. The relevance of phylogenetic systematics to a research program in evolutionary biology is part of a broader framework for testing hypotheses in geology and biology. In the historical sciences we are confronted with patterns, such as the movement of glaciers, the movement of continents, and the evolution of terrestrial organisms, which we wish to explain by invoking one or more processes. In each of these cases, before historical scientists such as geologists or biologists invoke a process to explain a pattern, they have to know what that pattern actually was.
KeywordsEvolutionary Relationship Biogeographic Pattern Historical Biogeography Ancestral Node Common Descent
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