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Human Biogeography

Human Biogeography

Alexander H. Harcourt
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 328
  • Book Info
    Human Biogeography
    Book Description:

    In this innovative, wide-ranging synthesis of anthropology and biogeography, Alexander Harcourt tells how and why our species came to be distributed around the world. He explains our current understanding of human origins, tells how climate determined our spread, and describes the barriers that delayed and directed migrating peoples. He explores the rich and complex ways in which our anatomy, physiology, cultural diversity, and population density vary from region to region in the areas we inhabit. The book closes with chapters on how human cultures have affected each other’s geographic distributions, how non-human species have influenced human distribution, and how humans have reduced the ranges of many other species while increasing the ranges of others. Throughout, Harcourt compares what we understand of human biogeography to non-human primate biogeography.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95177-8
    Subjects: Geography

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Alexander Harcourt
  4. 1 Biogeography and Humans: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    This book is about how and why our species,Homo sapiens sapiens,is distributed around the world in the way it is—why we are what we are where we are. It is therefore both anthropology and biogeography. Anthropology is literally the study of humans, and it is nicely summarized in Thomas Huxley’s description of what he termed ethnology. Biogeography perhaps needs a bit more explanation.

    One part of the field of biogeography investigates why organisms are where they are. How did they get there? Why are they where they are and not somewhere else? Why is this sort of...

  5. PART ONE Why and How Are We Where We Are?: Historical Biogeography of Humans

    • 2 Origins and Dispersal
      (pp. 15-52)

      After several examples to illustrate his statement, Darwin goes on to argue that to understand the similarities and dissimilarities that are seemingly independent of the physical conditions, we need to know the history of dispersal of the organisms to explain their distribution. Organisms are similar or different, not because the environment is similar or different, or not solely because the environment is similar or different, but because they have got where they are from the same or different places. The traits in question then tell us about the history of the organisms. Eugene Harris provides a detailed account for humans...

    • 3 Climate, and Hominin Evolution and Dispersal
      (pp. 53-76)

      Plate tectonics and climate change are two main factors affecting the distribution of taxa across the globe in the long term, with the climate sometimes strongly influenced by the mountain-building consequences of the tectonics. Thus, it is no accident that the earth’s geological eras are defined by the nature of the rocks and the flora and fauna in the rocks.

      Perhaps the most famous such geological boundary is the Cretaceous–Tertiary, the K–T. The two eras are separated by an asteroid impact, decades-long global winter, major changes in global flora and fauna, demise of the dinosaurs and ammonites, and...

    • 4 Barriers to Movement
      (pp. 77-86)

      The “strict limitation of well-marked families to definite areas” (Buffon’s Law in biogeography) can occur only if there is almost no movement of individuals between the regions. With even a little movement, differences between individuals can disappear. Interbreeding blurs genetic and morphological variation, and cultural exchange homogenizes us. Nevertheless, the genetic, morphological, and physiological differences that still exist between humans from different parts of the world indicate the existence of barriers to movement of individuals, even if the global ubiquity of jeans and T-shirts shows that some aspects of culture might transcend all barriers.

      Barriers can exist before the appearance...

  6. PART TWO Environmental Influences on Human Nature, Diversity, and Numbers

    • 5 How Are We Adapted to Our Environment?
      (pp. 89-154)

      Darwin did not consider that the conditions of life could produce variation that he knew existed between peoples from different parts the world (opening quote above). He suggested that instead the variation had to do with choice of mates: people from different parts of the evolved by chance to prefer, for example, mates of one skin or hair rather than another [166, part I, p. 250].

      We now know a lot about correlates between the nature of the and the form and function of vertebrates [102; 514; 684; But as intimated in chapter 1, for various aspects of study of...

    • 6 Use of Area
      (pp. 155-192)

      If Eduardo Rapoport was mea suring ghosts (chapter’s opening quote), he had psychic powers, because he can be counted as one of the founders of quantitative biogeography [629]. He is particularly famous in the field for his analysis of the biology of the geographic range size of species.

      As in the previous chapter, and as I hope is evident from the summary, this chapter is separated into the three themes of the biogeography of the average person or culture in a region, of the diversity of cultures, and of numbers of individuals in a region.

      If you want to see...

    • 7 A Biogeography of Human Diet and Drugs
      (pp. 193-204)

      The topics of this chapter could have been in chapters 2, 3, or 5. I have separated them from there in part because of the intrinsic interest that diet and medicine hold for many of us: half of theNew York Times’Tuesday’s “Science” section is devoted to diet and medicine. Also, the topics are an excellent example of the biogeography of the interaction of culture, environment, physiology, and genes. Animal species that eat different diets have different digestive anatomy and physiology. Carnivores are obviously different from herbivores, but within dietary categories as well, such as the plant-eating primates, different...

  7. PART THREE Interaction among Cultures and Species

    • 8 We Affect Our Biogeography
      (pp. 207-214)

      So far, I have written almost as if humans live in an environment empty of other species, as if humans were and are affected by only the physical environment. But, of course, species and populations affect one another and therefore affect each other’s distribution. The ways in which species and populations affect the biogeography of other species and populations is the topic of Part 3. I start with the effects of human populations on each other, then the effect of other species on human biogeography, and finally our influence on other species. Often the effects are deleterious, but some species...

    • 9 Other Species Affect Our Biogeography
      (pp. 215-224)

      The organisms that cause disease vary in their geographic distribution. Malaria is more prevalent in tropical countries than in temperate ones and is absent from the Arctic. Measles is a disease of cities. And so on. Many aspects of our genetic makeup and physiology are related to evolved responses to disease organisms. If the diseases vary geographically, so does our physiology and our genetic constitution, our genotype. I present here some examples of this biogeographical coincidence of pathogens, disease, and human physiology. The aim is to provide examples of the biogeography of interspecific interaction and also to illustrate to biogeographers...

    • 10 We Affect Other Species’ Biogeography
      (pp. 225-244)

      An often-assumed characteristic of successful dispersing species—weed species—is that they are not necessarily good competitors [766]. H.sapiensis clearly an exception to that generalization. Humans are both good dispersers and good competitors. As we have spread across the world, we have driven, and continue to drive, many species to extinction, possibly including species of our own genusHomo.If we want to stop that extermination, it will be helpful to understand the biogeography of the extermination and its causes, as well as of the occasional extension of species’ geographic ranges that we have allowed or encouraged [828]....

  8. References
    (pp. 245-302)
  9. General Index
    (pp. 303-312)
  10. Author Index
    (pp. 313-319)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 320-320)