Zoogeography-Neartic and Neotropical Regions, Biology tutorial

Introduction to Zoogeography:

Zoogeography may be stated as scientific study of areas where different animals live and causes and effects of such distribution, particularly distributions on the large or global scale. Or we can say zoogeography is study of patterns of past, present, and future distribution of animals and their features in nature and processes which order the distributions. It is scientific analysis of spatial and temporal patterns of biodiversity. Zoogeography is frequently separated in two major branches: ecological zoogeography and historical zoogeography. In the former, role of present day/current biotic and abiotic interactions in influencing animal distributions is examined; latter is concerned with historical reconstruction of origin, dispersal, and extinction of taxa.

Generally, these animals have feature patterns of distribution on land masses. As animals increase in number by reproduction, they reallocate themselves in all directions. Dispersal continues until the barrier is reached. Reason for such discontinuous distribution of associated groups may be because of growth of barriers or because of extinction of forms in intermediate area. Evidence suggests that in geological past, continents comprised one large land mass. The theory holds that major group of modern mammals arose somewhere in northern hemisphere (for example, Europe) and then migrated to in 3 major directions: to South America through Isthmus of Panama; to Africa through Strait of Gibraltar, and to Australia through South East Asia. Fossil records recommend that evolution of camels began in South America from where they migrated across Bering Straits in Asia and then to Africa, and through Isthmus of Panama in South America. According to Darlington (1957), continents of whole world can be separated in 6 zoogeographic regions, like:

i) Nearctic region ii) Neotropical region iii) Palaearctic region iv) Afrotropical (Ethiopian) region v) Oriental region vi) Australian region.

The world's land area is separated in six zoogeographic regions, each having different fauna. Within these regions, animals are grouped by particular habitat they live in. Land animals will tend toward habitats based on factors like indigenous food and availability of natural protection from predators.

Fauna of the Nearctic Region:

Nearctic region covers most of North America, comprising Greenland and highlands of Mexico. This region is called as headquarters of urodels (that is tailed amphibians). Nearctic region illustrates great difference in climatic conditions and temperatures. In North Greenland, ice is observed. There is range of mountains expanding from North to South. In South west of North America there are deserts. Region has the given four sub regions:

i) California Sub-region: This comprises part of Nevada, North America, and Cascade ranges, and part of British Columbia. Vertebrates such as vampire bats and free-tailed bats are found in this sub-region.

ii) Rocky mountain sub-region: It comprises mountains of East California that gives habitation for terrestrial vertebrates like lizards, goats and Prairie dogs.

iii) Alleghasy Sub-region: This area comprises rocky mountain area and lakes of Eastern parts of U.S.A. vampire bats, star- nosed moles, opossums, wild turkeys and Carolina parrots are found here.

iv) Canadian Sub-region: It comprises remaining parts of North America and Greenland. Bison, arctic foxes, polar bears, and reindeers are common fauna.

Fauna of Nearctic region comprise:

  • Amphibians: Amphiumas, salamanders, toads (Bufo) and frogs (Hyla and Rana).
  • Fishes: Catfishes, garpike, paddle fishes, and cyprinodonts.
  • Reptiles: Several reptiles like musk turtle, trionyx, ophiosaurs,emydines, vipers and alligators.
  • Mammals: Mammals such as squirrels, moles, rabbits, beavers, cats, bats, deer, bears, weasels, opossum, porcupine and armadillo.
  • Birds: Pelicans, herons, humming birds, woodpeckers, mocking birds, larks and sand-pipers.

Fauna of Neotropical Region (bird continent):

This region comprises South America, Central America, Mexico and West Indies, that have tropical conditions. Southern part of South America has temperate zones having luxuriant forests and deserts, plains and rivers. In Amazon area, thick evergreen forests take place. Additionally, grassy plains are present in Argentina. The Andes Mountains are also comprised. These situations give rise to good vegetation which is rich in fauna, mainly birds. Like Neartic region, Neotropical region is also separated in 4 sub- regions:

i) Chilean Sub-region: It comprises West Coast of South America. It has Andes mountain range, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina. It houses three-toed Ostrich known as Rhea americana and oil birds.

ii) Brazilian Sub-region: It comprises tropical forests of South America. It illustrates evergreen forests and plains. Rivers are also present and therefore richer vegetation. Vampire bats and armadillos are common.

iii) Mexican Sub-region: This is the area north of the Isthmus of Panama. This region has Rocky Mountains, with sub- tropical conditions. Mud-terrapins and Tapirs etc. are common.

iv) West Indies or Anthelia Sub-region: Region has West Indies islands (without Trinidad and Tobago). Islands are mountainous, having poor vertebrate fauna. Fauna in Neotropical region comprise:

  • Fishes: Dipnoi and lepidosiren, Catfishes (also known as freshwater lung fish).
  • Amphibians: Frogs (Pipa pipa, Bufo, Hyla, Rana etc.) are common. Urodeles are very few.
  • Reptiles: Reptiles of sub-region resemble those of Ethiopian and Oriental zones; these comprise turtles, alligator, tortoises, lizards, crocodiles, and many snakes.
  • Birds: Avian fauna of this region is outstanding and strange, due to this South America known as bird continent. Birds comprise Rhea americana ( 3 toed ostrich) -
  • Mammals: Armadillos, ant eaters, didelphis, sloths, new World monkeys, tapiers, deers, squirrels and rabbits.

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