J Syst Evol ›› 2009, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (5): 369-382.DOI: 10.1111/j.1759-6831.2009.00042.x

• Reviews & Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Reconstructing ancestral ranges in historical biogeography: properties and prospects

1 Kristin S. LAMM* 1 Benjamin D. REDELINGS   

  1. 1 ( Bioinformatics Research Center, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7566, USA) *Author for correspondence: E-mail: ; Tel.: 1-919-5152535; Fax: 1-919-5157315.
  • Received:2009-04-06 Published:2009-09-24


Recent years have witnessed a proliferation of quantitative methods for biogeographic inference. In particular, novel parametric approaches represent exciting new opportunities for the study of range evolution. Here, we review a selection of current methods for biogeographic analysis and discuss their respective properties. These methods include generalized parsimony approaches, weighted ancestral area analysis, dispersal–vicariance analysis, the dispersal–extinction–cladogenesis model and other maximum likelihood approaches, and Bayesian stochastic mapping of ancestral ranges, including a novel approach to inferring range evolution in the context of island biogeography. Some of these methods were developed specifically for problems of ancestral range reconstruction, whereas others were designed for more general problems of character state reconstruction and subsequently applied to the study of ancestral ranges. Methods for reconstructing ancestral history on a phylogenetic tree differ not only in the types of ancestral range states that are allowed, but also in the various historical events that may change the ancestral ranges. We explore how the form of allowed ancestral ranges and allowed transitions can both affect the outcome of ancestral range estimation. Finally, we mention some promising avenues for future work in the development of model-based approaches to biogeographic analysis.

Key words: allopatry, ancestral range, ancestral state reconstruction, biogeography, dispersal, historical biogeography, review, speciation, statistics, vicariance