The historical assembly of continental biotas: Late Quaternary range-shifting, areas of endemism, and bio-geographic structure in the North American mammal fauna




A controversial question in biogeography and ecology involves the extent to which vicariance and dispersal interact to determine the structure of continental biotic assemblages, Accumulating evidence of” distributional changes during the past 40 000 yr (Late Quaternary) has suggested to ecologists that changes in geographic ranges during the Pleistocene were of sufficient magnitude to erode prior associations between earth and biotic evolution in continental biotas. This paper first argues that this question can only he addressed by examining the magnitude of Late Quaternary range-shifting at the spatial scale established within the framework of historical historical geography (e.g., areas of endemism) rather than that of ecology (e.g., local community assemblages); and second reassesses patterns of range-shifting in the FAUNMAP data base recording Late Quaternary distributions of North American mammals. At the scale of geo-morphological provinces. North American rodents have exhibited highly stable distributions during this time frame, suggesting that previous inferences drawn from analyses of stability at a local community scale are not relevant to questions of congruence between earth and biotic history at regional or continental scales, A comprehensive understanding of processes underlying the assembly of continental biotas still requires incorporation of biogeographic patterns developed well before episodes of Late Quaternary climatic turbulence.