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  • Writer's pictureLucie Aulus

Biology 2022 - Basel - Switzerland

Updated: Jan 5

Biology22 is the largest conference on organismic biology in Switzerland. The event covers a broad spectrum of discipline in biology and highights the current and ongoing research in Switzerland. I had the honor to bag a second place prize for my poster presentation about my ongoing post-doctoral research about the role of beta-diversity selection on the delineation of ant bioregions.

What is beta diversity and what is it used for?

Dividing the world into meaningful regions of homogenous species composition is one of the most challenging tasks of biogeography.

Beta diversity, which is a measure of biodiversity that compare local or regional species diversity, is commonly employed to define biogeographic regions. However, more than 20 beta diversity indices have been described and used for several purpose in biogeography. The most frequently used beta diversity indices can even be partitioned into nestedness and turnover. Which indices to use remain unclear when defining biogeographic regions at global scale.

How to explain the discrepancies between Earth' bioregions?

Since the appearance of life on Earth, millions of species have evolved, diverged, and diversified. At the same time, the geological structure of the planet has also changed, as the single supercontinent Pangea broke into several continents drifting apart. The combination of these biological and geological processes probably explains the discrepancies between the Earth’ bioregions, which are geographical areas forming a homogeneous unit, in terms of soil, hydrography, climate, fauna or flora. Bioregions have been mainly described for vertebrates, but little is known about the global biogeographic boundaries for insects, even though they represent the most diverse group of animals, with more than a million described species and many more remaining to be discovered. However, the determinants of insect distributions might greatly differ from vertebrates owing to differences in life history traits, dispersal abilities, and ecophysiological responses to environmental conditions.

What are the global biogeographic boundaries for insects?

We tried in our study to elucidate this question through the study of more than 13,000 ant species (described, and with known distribution).

Ants represent an ideal group of insects to understand the role of the beta diversity indices in the delineation of biogeographic regions and to test if those regions differ from vertebrates. First, because they are an extremely successful and ecologically diverse group that is present in all terrestrial habitats across all continents except Antarctica. Moreover, data on their global distribution is publicly available for more than 13 000 species, in Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics (GABI) database. Based on a large dataset on the spatial distribution of all described ant species, I will compare the biogeographic regions delineation using Kappa metrics or newly available R-packages (Sabre, R) in order to discuss the robustness of different metrics and the robustness of biogeographic regions defined by Wallace. 

Do not forget to visit Basel !

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