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The Wallace Line or Wallace's Line is a faunal boundary line drawn in 1859 by the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace that separates the ecozones of Asia and Wallacea, a transitional zone between Asia and Australia. West of the line are found organisms related to Asiatic species; to the east, a mixture of species of Asian and Australian origin is present. The line is named after Alfred Russel Wallace, who noticed this clear division during his travels through the East Indies in the 19th century. The line runs through Indonesia, between Borneo and Sulawesi (Celebes), and through the Lombok Strait between Bali and Lombok. The distance between Bali and Lombok is small, about 35 kilometres (22 mi). The distributions of many bird species observe the line, since many birds do not cross even the smallest stretches of open ocean water. Some bats have distributions that cross the line, but other mammals are generally limited to one side or the other; an exception is the crab-eating macaque. Other groups of plants and animals show differing patterns, but the overall pattern is striking and reasonably consistent.
Antonio Pigafetta had also recorded the biological contrasts between the Philippines and the Maluku Islands (Spice Islands) (on opposite sides of the line) in 1521 during the continuation of the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan, after Magellan had been killed on Mactan. Moreover, as noted by Alfred Russel Wallace himself, the observations in faunal differences between the two regions had already been made earlier by George Windsor Earl. In George Windsor Earl's pamphlet On the Physical Geography of South-Eastern Asia and Australia, published in 1845, he described how shallow seas connected islands on the west (Sumatra, Java, etc.) with the Asian continent and with similar wildlife, and islands on the east such as New Guinea were connected to Australia and were characterised by the presence of marsupials. This formed the insipiration for Alfred Russel Wallace to propose the Wallace Line.
Understanding of the biogeography of the region centers on the relationship of ancient sea levels to the continental shelves. Wallace's Line is visible geographically when the continental shelf contours are examined; it can be seen as a deep-water channel that marks the southeastern edge of the Sunda Shelf which links Borneo, Bali, Java, and Sumatra underwater to the mainland of southeastern Asia. Australia is likewise connected by the Sahul Shelf to New Guinea. The biogeographic boundary known as Lydekker's Line, which separates the eastern edge of Wallacea from the Australian region, has a similar origin to the Wallace line.
During ice age glacial advances, when the ocean levels were up to 120 metres (390 ft) lower, both Asia and Australia were united with what are now islands on their respective continental shelves as continuous land masses, but the deep water between those two large continental shelf areas was, for over 50 million years, a barrier that kept the flora and fauna of Australia separated from those of Asia. Wallacea consists of islands that were not recently connected by dry land to either of the continental land masses, and thus were populated by organisms capable of crossing the straits between islands. "Weber's Line" runs through this transitional area (to the east of centre), at the tipping point between dominance by species of Asian against those of Australian origin.
- van Oosterzee, Penny (1997). Where Worlds Collide: the Wallace Line.
- Pleistocene Sea Level Maps
- Wallacea - a transition zone from Asia to Australia, specially rich in marine life and on land.
- Dawkins, Richard (2004). The Ancestor's Tale. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-7538-1996-1. Chapter 14 - Marsupials.
- Abdullah, M. T. (2003). Biogeography and variation of Cynopterus brachyotis in Southeast Asia. PhD thesis. The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia.
- Hall, L. S., Gordon G. Grigg, Craig Moritz, Besar Ketol, Isa Sait, Wahab Marni and M. T. Abdullah (2004). "Biogeography of fruit bats in Southeast Asia". Sarawak Museum Journal LX(81):191-284.
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- Van Welzen, P. C.; Parnell, J. A. N.; Slik, J. W. F. (2011). "Wallace's Line and plant distributions: Two or three phytogeographical areas and where to group Java?". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 103 (3): 531. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.2011.01647.x.
- Mayr, E. (1944), Wallace's Line in the Light of Recent Zoogeographic Studies, The Quarterly Review of Biology 19 (1): 1–14, doi:10.1086/394684, JSTOR 2808563
- Too Many Lines; The Limits of the Oriental and Australian Zoogeographic Regions George Gaylord Simpson, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 121, No. 2 (Apr. 29, 1977), pp. 107–120
- Wallacea Research Group
- Map of Wallace's, Weber's and Lydekker's lines