• Historical biogeography;
  • island biogeography;
  • synthesis;
  • species/area relationships;
  • snakes;
  • phylogenesis;
  • moth/host plant pattern correlation;
  • Geometridae;
  • Proteaceae

Abstract Aim  To explore the implications for historical biogeography of a recent review of island biogeographical theory in three main thematic areas and to suggest ways in which a synthesis between the two approaches might be achieved to the benefit of both.

Location  The Indo-Australian tropics.

Theme 1  discusses the relationship of species number to area, and how the nestedness of faunas may influence the methodology used for some types of analysis and also the quality of data expected from an archipelago embracing an extreme range of island sizes.

Theme 2  examines the way in which the processes of speciation may lead to development of biogeographical patterns through a complex archipelago, illustrated in particular with reference to Sulawesi where biotic enrichment from different lepidopteran groups follows predictions from island biogeographical theory. This also has implications for patterns of endemism in the archipelago, another constraint on the quality of data available for historical biogeography.

Theme 3  addresses ecological determinism as an influence in development of biogeographical pattern, focusing on the theme of specificity in insect–plant relationships and the potential for parallel development of pattern in an insect group and its particular plant host group. This theme is developed with particular reference to moth and plant groups that may represent Gondwanan elements in the Oriental fauna, with an analysis of Sarcinodes, a geometrid moth genus associated with Proteaceae.

Main conclusions  Prospects are assessed for the synthesis of the two approaches of island biogeography and historical biogeography. Modelling pattern development with the former may complement the methods of analysis of the latter, particularly if some satisfactory method for dating events of pattern development can also be incorporated.