Abstract Aim The utility of GIS-based and phylogenetic biogeographical analysis in palaeobiogeography is reviewed with reference to its ability to elucidate patterns of interest for modern conservation biology, specifically the long-term effects of invasive species. Location Emphasis is on biogeographical patterns in the Appalachian basin and mid-continent of North America during the Devonian. Global palaeobiogeographical patterns of the Cambrian are also considered. Methods Palaeobiogeographical patterns are assessed within a GIS framework, including both direct range reconstruction and niche modelling methods, and within phylogenetic biogeographical analysis. Biogeographical patterns are considered within multiple clades of fossil invertebrates, including trilobites, crustaceans, brachiopods, and bivalves. Results GIS-based analysis (including niche modelling methods) of Devonian invertebrates demonstrates a tightly correlated relationship between sea-level rises and range expansion, dispersal events, and species invasions. The predominance of range expansion and species invasions during the Late Devonian reduced opportunities for vicariant speciation during this interval. Comparison of phylogenetic biogeographical patterns between Cambrian and Devonian trilobites allows discernment of the relative roles of tectonics and eustacy in driving biogeographical patterns. Main conclusions GIS analysis and phylogenetic biogeography are powerful tools for analysing the coevolution of the Earth and its biota. Analyses can identify episodes of vicariance and geo-dispersal and produce testable hypotheses for further analysis within the fossil record.