Comparative, quantitative biogeographic studies are revealing empirical patterns of interspecific variation in the sizes, shapes, boundaries, and internal structures of geographic ranges
these patterns promise to contribute to understanding the historical and ecological processes that influence the distributions of species. This review focuses on characteristics of ranges that appear to reflect the influences of environmental limiting factors and dispersal. Among organisms as a whole, range size varies by more than 12 orders of magnitude. Within genera, families, orders, and classes of plants and animals, range size often varies by several orders of magnitude, and this variation is associated with variation in body size, population density, dispersal mode, latitude, elevation, and depth (in marine systems). The shapes of ranges and the dynamic changes in range boundaries reflect the interacting influences of limiting environmental conditions (niche variables) and dispersal/extinction dynamics. These processes also resumably account for most of the internal structure of ranges: the spatial patterns and orders-of-magnitude of variation in the abundance of species among sites within their ranges. The results of this kind of "ecological biogeography" need to be integrated with the results of phylogenetic and paleoenvironmental approaches to "historical biogeography" so we can better understand the processes that have determined the geographic distributions of organisms.