Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1813) is especially known as one of the discoverers of evolution by natural selection. However, among his various contributions to the development of modern biology we can also consider the British naturalist as the father of biogeography: the study of the spatial distribution of organisms over the surface of the planet. Wallace’s travels, first through the Amazon rainforest and later all over the Malay Archipelago, gave him a privileged perspective on an apparently trivial observation: different areas host different animals. He was the first person to systematically define and name a geographic area by the integrity of its fauna (mainly based on mammals), in other words, to enclose a region within a virtual border that reflects a more or less dramatic turnover in the composition of animal species, genera or families between both sides of this border. After a remarkable synthetic work, he summarized his conclusions in a map that still looks familiar to modern biologists.
Rafael Medina is a postdoctoral researcher in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department at the University of Connecticut. He began his career at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, where he obtained his Ph.D. working on taxonomy and phylogenetics of epiphytic bryophytes. His main interests focus on the exploration, study and conservation of biodiversity, as well as on the reconstruction of the evolutionary processes.