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The study of the distribution of organisms past and present is called biogeography. There are several factors that influence (limit) an organism’s distribution.
1) dispersal: the movement of individuals away from high population or area of origin. Dispersal can be seen when organisms move to areas where they didn’t exist previously. This is called natural range expansion. Another way in which dispersal can be seen is through species transplants. Species that are moved to a new area must not only survive but reproduce.
2) behavior: One such behavior that can limit distribution is habitat selection. Animals and plants both have habitat selection behavior. An example is female insects that only deposit eggs in response to certain stimuli.
3) biotic factors: Do other species limit distribution? Other species can limit the distribution of a certain species through predation, parasitism, disease, or competition, or a species can be limited if another species which they depend on is missing from the new habitat.
4) abiotic factors: temperature, water, sunlight, wind, and rocks and soil. Temperature affects biological processes and internal temperatures. Water affects distribution in that organisms depend on either salt or freshwater. Sunlight drives nearly all ecosystems because of the energy it provides. It is also very important in aquatic ecosystems and to organisms that are sensitive to photoperiod (daytime and nighttime). Wind effects temperature (increase heat loss) and water loss (increase rate of evaporative cooling). Rocks and soil can affect water chemistry.
5) climate: Climate affects the distribution of species in that it varies in particular areas. For example, a species that needs to live in waters of a fairly warm temperature can’t be swimming in the arctic where the waters are very cold. Furthermore, seasonality affects distribution. For instance, birds fly south or north depending on the season.