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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Frontiers of Biogeography

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Frontiers of Biogeography (FoB) is the scientific journal of the International Biogeography Society (IBS,, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promotion of and public understanding of the biogeographical sciences.  IBS launched FoB to provide an independent forum for biogeographical science, with the academic standards expected of a journal operated by and for an academic society.

Issue cover
Cover Caption: Replica of Chauvet cave art depicting aurochs, Woolly rhino, and wild horses. Original paintings are from the Aurignacien period, 31,000 yr BP. Picture by Thomas T., CC BY-SA 2.0 License. For more information about the aurochs (Bos primigenius) see the article by Carl Beierkuhnlein in this issue. 

Research Articles

Strong genetic structure among coral populations within a conservation priority region, the Bird's Head Seascape (Papua, Indonesia)

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are widely considered to be one of the best strategies available for protecting species diversity and ecosystem processes in marine environments. While data on connectivity and genetic structure of marine populations are critical to designing appropriately sized and spaced networks of MPAs, such data are rarely available. This study examines genetic structure in reef-building corals from Papua and West Papua, Indonesia, one of the most biodiverse and least disturbed coral reef regions in the world. We focused on two common reef-building corals, Pocillopora damicornis (Linnaeus 1758) and Seriatopora hystrix (family: Pocilloporidae), from three regions under different management regimes: Teluk Cenderawasih, Raja Ampat, and southwest Papua. Analyses of molecular variance, assignment tests, and genetical bandwidth mapping based on microsatellite variation revealed significant genetic structure in both species, although there were no clear regional filters to gene flow among regions. Overall, P. damicornis populations were less structured (FST = 0.139, p < 0.00001) than S. hystrix (FST = 0.357, p < 0.00001). Despite occurring in one of the most pristine marine habitats in Indonesia, populations of both species showed evidence of recent declines. Furthermore, exclusion of individual populations from connectivity analyses resulted in marked increases in self-recruitment. Maintaining connectivity within and among regions of Eastern Indonesia will require coral conservation on the local scales and regional networks of MPAs.


Opinions, Perspectives & Reviews

Bos primigenius in Ancient Egyptian art – historical evidence for the continuity of occurrence and ecology of an extinct key species

Knowledge of the habitat requirements and temporal stability of populations of extinct aurochs (Bos primigenius) is surprisingly scarce. Reliable reports of this species, which by its domestication remains tremendously important for humans, are rare. As the species became extinct about 400 years ago and regionally disappeared much earlier, its behaviour and morphology are also under debate. Aurochs is also a crucial component of the mega-herbivore theory in nature conservation, but in fact its natural habitat and behaviour are unknown. Here, I report records of aurochs for the time period of Ancient Egypt. They are found in archaeological sites and literature, and in collections. Records of the species continue through all the periods of Ancient Egypt. In particular, hunting scenes illustrating the merits of high-ranking persons, in their graves (mastabas) and temples, provide insights into the behaviour and ecology of the depicted game. Here, special attention is given to one outstanding hunting scene that is documented in a relief at the mortuary temple of Ramesses III (1175 BC, Medinet Habu, Egypt). Assisted by a group of hunters, the pharaoh kills three specimens of aurochs. The whole scene is stunningly realistic.  The adult specimen is fleeing towards the reed belt of the River Nile, suggesting that the species’ habitat was probably in large valley bottoms, where open grassland is regularly created by flooding. Endemic species of fish and game confirm that this scene took place in Lower Egypt. The regional populations of the North-African subspecies of aurochs probably went extinct shortly after this piece of art was produced. Records of species in ancient art can be very informative in terms of ecology and behaviour of species, especially when extinct species are addressed. In addition, the dating of old pieces of art containing biological information can be very precise, for instance when these refer to a historic personage.


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The macroecology of island floras

Islands are key model systems in biogeography and ecology. However, standardized data on environmental characteristics of the large number of islands worldwide have so far been lacking, and the effects of these characteristics on island ecology and biodiversity remain insufficiently understood. In my PhD thesis, I presented the first comprehensive environmental characterization of the world’s islands, covering past and present bioclimatic and physical island characteristics (including the spatial setting of islands and archipelagos). I used these data to investigate how island characteristics influence the diversity and assembly of island floras at different spatial scales and across major plant groups. To this end, I assembled a global database of vascular plant species composition including 45,000 species and covering 1,070 islands. I showed that different aspects of island environments affect different facets of insular diversity (species richness, turnover, phylogenetic diversity) across scales and major plant groups, in accordance with their predominant dispersal- and speciation-related traits and adaptations to climate. The results contribute to a better understanding of the environmental and evolutionary drivers of plant assemblage composition, on islands as well as on mainlands.

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Replica of Chauvet cave art depicting aurochs, Woolly rhino, and wild horses. Original paintings are from the Aurignacien period, 31,000 yr BP. Picture by Thomas T., CC BY-SA 2.0 License. For more information about the aurochs (Bos primigenius) see the article by Carl Beierkuhnlein in this issue.