Biogeographical division of southern Africa

  • M. J. A. Werger
Part of the Monographiae Biologicae book series (MOBI, volume 31)


Scientific knowledge of the southern African flora and fauna began soon after the initiation of colonial rule in the area. Particularly showy Cape plants early attracted the interest of Europeans and the first Cape plants were already described and depicted before the establishment of a revictualling post there. The first description and illustration of a plant from southern Africa appears to be that of Protea neriifolia in a work by Clusius published in 1605. Some of the larger animal species occurring over much of the African continent, like lion, giraffe, black rhinoceros and elephant, were well-known in Europe before the beginning of the Christian era. Others were brought back to Europe with the early expeditions to the coastal regions of southern Africa. After the establishment of the outpost at the Cape, however, knowledge of southern African organisms quickly increased. Numerous specimens collected on expeditions penetrating ever further into the hinterland were sent to scientific centres in Europe (cf. Palmer & Pitman 1972). From these collections it became gradually understood towards the middle of the nineteenth century that the various species each had a specific distribution pattern that mostly correlated with roughly known patterns of climate or major landform features of southern Africa.


Cape Floral Region Black Rhinoceros Bird Fauna Oriental Domain Forest Domain 
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© Dr W. Junk bv Publishers The Hague 1978

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