Alfred Russel Wallace (8 January 1823 – 7 November 1913) was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist and biologist. He is best known for independently conceiving the theory of evolution through natural selection, which he jointly published with Charles Darwin in 1858.

Wallace is also known for his extensive fieldwork, first in the Amazon River basin and then in the Malay Archipelago, where he identified the Wallace Line that divides the Indonesian archipelago into two distinct parts: a western portion in which the animals are largely of Asian origin and an eastern portion where the fauna reflect Australasia. One of his classic writings includes the 1876 The Geographical Distribution of Animals, best known for providing the first map defining the zoogeographic regions of the world. His work on distributional patterns of species, granted him the often quoted title of father of biogeography.

As part of an international collaboration led by the Centre for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen, we recently published a study in Science that updates Alfred Russel Wallace’s original map of the zoogeographic regions of the world.

Wallace’s map has been the backbone for understanding of global terrestrial biodiversity for over a century, and it was based on extensive field work, knowledge of natural history collections, and discussions with colleagues. Over 100 years later, we were able to revise his map using a quantitative and transparent approach based on distributions maps and phylogenetic relationships of all terrestrial mammals, birds and amphibians of the World. “Although there are some differences between the two maps, as one would expect, I was particularly struck by the similarities”, says Miguel Araújo.

A good description of our results can be found on the below video by J-P. Lessard, one of the lead authors of the study:

Citation to the paper: 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, and Carsten Rahbek (2013), An Update of Wallace’s Zoogeographic Regions of the World. Science 339 (6115), p74-78, published online 20 December 2012 (10.1126/science.1228282).