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Misconceptions about parsimony analysis of endemicity

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Parsimony analysis of endemicity (PAE) has been widely criticized in the recent literature based on methodology rather than on theory. Here I argue that most of the criticisms of PAE result from confusion between the dynamic and static approaches of PAE, by both users and critics of the method. Originally, PAE (the dynamic approach) was proposed primarily for historical comparisons of biotic distributions based on geological and stratigraphical information; that is, the stratigraphical record of the biota within two or more horizons was used to evaluate changes (layer by layer) in their distributional patterns. This led to an analysis of the biota throughout space and through time. On the other hand, the static approach excluded the temporal component and based the analysis on a single geological horizon. Most problems exemplified and discussed in the literature refer to the static approach. In addition to this defence of the original PAE, I present some new criticisms regarding the application of PAE using artificially delimited areas (for example areas defined by geopolitical boundaries), which may lead to incorrect interpretations. Recently, several variations of static PAE have appeared: some designed to accommodate ecological data (e.g. parsimony analysis of distributions – PAD); others that incorporate phylogenetic content (e.g. cladistic analysis of distributions and endemism – CADE); and some that have been integrated with other historical methods (e.g. panbiogeography) in order to detect and evaluate hypotheses of biogeographical homologies. Biogeographers, both ecological and historical, should be aware of the problems and limitations of both dynamic and static PAE and evaluate new variations of PAE (PAD, CADE, etc.). Finally, I argue in favour of an independent and pluralist discipline of biogeography that treats biogeography as related to systematics but not dependent on it, as some scholars have assumed.
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Keywords: Area relationships; areas of endemism; biogeography; comparative biology; dynamic PAE; historical biogeography; static PAE

Document Type: Guest Editorial

Publication date: 2006-12-01

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