Croizat’s dangerous ideas: practices, prejudices, and politics in contemporary biogeography

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 43 (2):1-45 (2021)
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The biogeographic contributions of Léon Croizat (1894–1982) and the conflictive relationships with his intellectual descendants and critics are analysed. Croizat’s panbiogeography assumed that vicariance is the most important biogeographic process and that dispersal does not contribute to biogeographic patterns. Dispersalist biogeographers criticized or avoided mentioning panbiogeography, especially in the context of the “hardening” of the Modern Synthesis. Researchers at the American Museum of Natural History associated panbiogeography with Hennig’s phylogenetic systematics, creating cladistic biogeography. On the other hand, a group of New Zealand biologists formalized Croizat’s original concepts and soon began arguing with cladistic biogeographers over the relative merits of their approaches. In Latin America, panbiogeography and cladistic biogeography were incorporated as parts of an integrative approach. A recent development, molecular panbiogeography, is based on the use of molecular phylogenetic data. The current practice shows that some authors insist on considering panbiogeography as the only appropriate approach and vicariance as the only relevant process, whereas others accept Croizat’s dictum “Earth and life evolve together” as a useful guide to understanding broad, general patterns, but recognize that dispersal also contributes substantially to biotic assembly. The framework of integrative pluralism allows to explain the complexities of the biogeographic processes involved in biotic assembly without the need of unification on a large scale. This historical analysis intersects with the existing historiography of the Modern Synthesis and may provide some insights on the dynamics of integrative pluralism, which may be especially relevant in the current development of the Extended Synthesis.



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