Afrotropical Butterflies

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As long ago as 1858 Sclater, who studied birds at a global scale, realized that bird faunas were characteristic for different geographical areas of the earth. Soon after, Alfred Russell Wallace (1876) noted the same phenomenon in regard to butterflies, and refined Sclater’s work. Today, Sclater and Wallace’s zoogeographical regions remain largely unchanged, with only minor modifications having been made.

The six biogeographical regions recognized by most biologists today are as follows:

Palaearctic Region – essentially Europe, northern Asia, Japan
Nearctic Region – essentially North America, north of Mexico
Neotropical Region – essentially Central and South America
Afrotropical Region – essentially Africa south of the Sahara
Oriental Region – essentially southern Asia and the Malay archipelago
Australasian Region – essentially Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea

Afrotropical Region

The Afrotropical Region was, until recently, known as the Ethiopian Region but in 1977 Crosskey and White suggested the name be changed to ‘Afrotropical Region’ because of the re-naming of the African country known as Abyssinia to Ethiopia in 1941. This suggestion has gradually found favour, especially with entomologists.

The Afrotropical Region includes continental Africa south of the Sahara (roughly south of 16 degrees N), the southern parts of the Arabian Peninsula and the offshore islands.

The countries on continental Africa that are included in the Afrotropical Region are: Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Angola, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Lesotho.

The countries in the Arabian Peninsula that are included in the Afrotropical Region are: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

The offshore islands of the Afrotropical Region are: Cape Verde Islands, Bioko (Equatorial Guinea), São Tomé & Príncipe, and St Helena in the Atlantic Ocean and Socotra, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, Seychelles.

Crosskey, R.W. & White, G.B. 1977. The Afrotropical Region. A recommended term in zoogeography. Journal of Natural History 11: 541-544.
Sclater, P.L. 1858. On the general geographical distribution of the members of the class Aves. Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Zoology) 2: 130-145.
Wallace, A.R. 1876. The Geographical Distribution of Animals, with a Study of the Relations of Living and Extinct Faunas as Elucidating the Past Changes of the Earth’s Surface, Volume 1, 503 pp. Macmillan & Co., London.

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