After the course, the students should be able to:
1) discuss the historical and ecological factors affecting the geographical distribution of animals, plants and other organisms;
2) formulate hypotheses and models explaining the shape, size and position of the geographic range of a taxa;
3) give an interpretation of recent events of range expansion or contraction, due to climatic changes or habitat transformation caused by human activities;
4) describe the fauna, flora and vegetation of each continent, in relation to past and present, geographical and ecological factors;
5) give a contribution to biodiversity conservation and management by identifying the most possible number of hotspots in all biogeographical regions, by monitoring invasive alien species and providing data for the development of predictive models that take into account the climate changes and landscape alteration.


teacher profile | materiale didattico


(a) Introductive elements.
What is Biogeography: This Science which considers synthetically information from Geography, Palaeogeography, Geology, Ecology, Palaeoecology, Phylogenetic Systematics, Faunistic, Floristic, Population Genetics, Evolutionary Biology. Summary of principles of Evolutionary Biology (micro and macro-evolution), Systematics (Phenetist, Evolutionary and Cladistic schools), ecosystem and population Ecology. Speciation models, radiation. Natural and anthropic causes of extinction. Biogeography and Conservation of Nature.
Story of Biogeography: The founders of the Science: Buffon, de Candolle, von Humboldt, Lyell, Hooker, Sclater, Darwin, Wallace, Haeckel, Merriam, Simpson, Darlington, Holdaus, Gridelli, De Lattin, Furon, La Greca, Croizat, Wilson e MacArthur, Rozen e Platnick, Morrone, Avise, Hewitt.
Biogeographic schools of the XX century: Historical Biogeography, bridges, filters, dispersal and dispersion; Croizat and Panbiogeography; Cladistic Biogeography; Ecological Biogeography; Statistic Biogeography; Molecular Biogeography and Phylogeography. The Italian School of Biogeography: Gridelli, La Greca, Baccetti, Ruffo, Vigna Taglianti, Poldini; the Italian Society of Biogeography.
(b) Historical Biogeography
Land and marine Biogeography: History of life on the Earth: Tectonic of terrestrial plates and the Continental drift Theory; macro-plates and micro-plates; evolution and displacement of terrestrial masses and seas; evolution of terrestrial ecosystems. Climatic and biogeographic effects of plates tectonic. Effects of Pliocene-Pleistocene glaciations; Pleistocene glacial refugia; megafauna extinction; expansion and contraction of biomes. Effects of glaciations on lands and seas in temperate and tropical regions.
The terrestrial biogeographic regions: Floristic realms and Zoogeographic Regions. Causes of floras and faunas differentiation of Biogeographic regions. Regions and sub-regions. Marine Biogeographic Regions. Palaearctic Region (boundaries; sub-regions; distinctive elements). Nearctic Region (boundaries; sub-regions; distinctive elements). Oriental (Indo-Malayan) Region (boundaries; sub-regions; distinctive elements). Afrotropical Region (boundaries; sub-regions; distinctive elements). Neotropical Region (boundaries; sub-regions; distinctive elements). Australian-Oceanic (Australasian) Region (boundaries; sub-regions; distinctive elements)). Antarctic (boundaries; sub-regions; distinctive elements). Transitional Biogeographic Regions: Saharo-Sindian; Chinese; Indo-Australian (Wallacea); Meso-American. Regionalization of floras and faunas.
Biomes and Biogeographic Regions: Effects of climate and climatic cycles. Characteristics and geological origin in the Biogeographic regions. Effects of water circulation and of the sea depth on the marine regions. Biomes, and their distribution on the lands; dynamics of biomes. Marine biomes. Differences between biomes and biogeographic regions. Biomes and ecosystems. Anthropic transformation of biomes.
Biogeography of the Mediterranean area and the Europe: Tethys and Paratethys and Mediterranean origin. Shift, migration and positioning of microplates. Biogeography of Cenozoic: Messianian salinity crisis; Pliocene-Pleistocene effects of glaciations and refugia.
Range: specific and over-specific ranges; continuous, fragmented, disjunct ranges; historical and ecological causes of ranges; shape of ranges; terrestrial and marine ranges. Primary and Secondary ranges. Physical, ecological and palaeogeographic factors affecting limits of ranges: present barriers and limiting factors. Relicts. Endemism: ranges and conservation.
Generalized distributional models (chorotypes): examples in the Palaearctic and Afrotropical Regions. Examples of distribution of land plants and animals.
Dispersalist Biogeography (Simpson, Mayr). Dispersal and dispersion. Dispersion as biogeographic (range extension), evolutionary (genetic flow and speciation) and ecological process (niche realization). Overall similarity principles. Species-specific process and generalized models. Active and passive dispersal in plants and animals. Types of dispersal: jump dispersal, stepping stones dispersal. Dispersal and range enlargement. Barriers to dispersal (geographic and ecological). Colonization. Effects on biota due to immigrations.
Vicariance Biogeography. Vicariance (allopatric model; collapse of barrier model). Effects on biota. Cladistic Systematics and Vicariance Biogeography. Croizat’, Morrone’, Nelson’ and Platnick’ Vicariance models.
Distribution and abundance of populations. Variation of distribution and time. Range dynamic and conservation. Fossil and present ranges. Local and complete extinction.
Geographic variation in species (morphological and genetic characteristics). Continuous and discrete variation. Evolutionary and biogeographic importance of variation. Geographic variation and conservation. Geography of divergence and regionalization.
(c) Ecological Biogeography
Ecological Biogeography: present causes of species distribution; realized niche; colonization and competition. Distribution and dynamics of communities, ecosystems and biomes.
Island Biogeography: Wilson and Mac Arthur theory; experimental confirmation and problematic examples; Island Biogeography and Conservation Biology. Examples on geographic and ecological islands and on mountain peaks.
(d) New methods of biogeographic analysis
Molecular Biogeography. Phylogeography (mtDNA, nDNA, molecular and statistical methods). Examples on glacial refugia and postglacial spread.
Statistical Biogeography. Analysis of molecular data in Biogeography; dating; direction of dispersal; time of vicariance.
Cartographic representation of the biogeographic diversity: traditional cartography, areograms, georeferenced databases, GIS and remote-sensing systems. Mapping the ranges.

Testi Adottati

Lomolino M.V., Riddle B.R. & Whittaker R.J., Biogeography. Biological Diversity across Space and Time. Sinauer, Sunderland, USA.
Also useful: Zunino M. & Zullini A., Biogeografia. La dimensione spaziale dell’evoluzione. Ambrosiana, Milano.
The teacher supplies students with specialist literature and additional material.

Modalità Erogazione

Lessons in the classroom. Students can discuss study cases.

Modalità Valutazione

Oral examination.