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Globally basal centres of endemism: the Tasman-Coral Sea region (south-west Pacific), Latin America and Madagascar/South Africa

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The New Zealand wrens (Acanthisittidae) are basal in passerine birds and in New Caledonia, the closest country to New Zealand, Amborella is basal in angiosperms. A review of molecular studies indicates that 29 other locally or regionally endemic clades around the Tasman and Coral Sea basins have cosmopolitan or globally widespread sister groups. Other areas that have local endemics basal to diverse global groups include Borneo, Madagascar/South Africa/Tanzania, southern China–Taiwan–Japan, and different parts of Latin America, especially the Guayana Plateau and western Mexico. Basal clades are widely interpreted as ancestral and their location is generally taken to represent a centre of origin for the group as a whole. In the present study, basal groups are treated simply as small (less speciose) sister groups. The Tasman and western Mexico/Caribbean regions have important biogeographic and tectonic ties with each other and with the central Pacific. Large igneous provinces (Ontong Java, Hikurangi-Manihiki, and Gorgona Plateaus) formed in the central Pacific in the Cretaceous. Fossil wood is found on the Ontong Java Plateau, and formerly emergent seamounts up to 24 km across occur on Hikurangi Plateau. Many terranes in New Zealand, New Caledonia, New Guinea and western America represent former island arcs (or their products) that formed in the central Pacific and later accreted to the Pacific margins. Long-term survival of taxa as metapopulations on the ephemeral volcanic islands and atolls of plate margins and fissures may explain the biogeographical connections among the Tasman region, the central Pacific, and the accreted terranes of western America. Branching sequences in cladograms and phylogenetic trees have been interpreted as dispersal events, but instead probably indicate the sequence of differentiation in an already widespread ancestor. Major disjunctions of tens of thousands of kilometres often occur between taxa at consecutive nodes on a tree and dispersal by physical movement is unlikely. The break between the globally basal centres and the rest of the world marks the initial site of differentiation of a widespread ancestor, with subsequent or more or less simultaneous differentiation occurring in other areas. Differentiation of the modern angiosperms, passerines and other groups first took place around the Tasman region, or at least the terranes now accumulated there, and then around other centres, especially Madagascar–South Africa and Mexico–north-west South America. Angiosperms are now recognized as basal to extant gymnosperms and major tectonic dynamism around the globally basal centres during the Mesozoic, involving terrane accretion, orogeny, and rifting could have been involved with the last important modernization of angiosperms, birds and other groups. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 96, 222–245.
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Keywords: Acanthisittidae; Amborella; biogeography; distribution; ecology; molecular phylogeny; panbiogeography; vicariance

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-01-01

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