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Zoogeography and relationships of Australasian skates (Chondrichthyes: Rajidae)

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Abstract Aim 

To investigate distributional patterns and derivation of skates in the Australasian realm. Location 

Australasia. Methods 

Genus-group skate taxa were defined for this region for the first time and new systematic information, as well as bathymetric and geographical data, used to identify distribution patterns. Results 

The extant skate fauna of Australasia (Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia and adjacent subAntarctic dependencies) is highly diverse and endemic with sixty-two species from twelve currently recognized, nominal genus-group taxa. These include the hardnose skate (rajin) groups Anacanthobatis, Amblyraja, Dipturus, Okamejei, Rajella and Leucoraja, and softnose skate (arhynchobatin) genera Arhynchobatis, Bathyraja, Insentiraja, Irolita, Pavoraja and Notoraja. Additional new and currently unrecognized nominal taxa of both specific and supraspecific ranks also occur in the region. The subfamily Arhynchobatinae is particularly speciose in Australasia, and the New Zealand/New Caledonian fauna is dominated by undescribed supraspecific taxa and species. The Australian fauna, although well represented by arhynchobatins, is dominated by Dipturus-like skates and shows little overlap in species composition with the fauna of New Zealand and New Caledonia. Similarly, these faunas exhibit no overlap with the polar faunas of the Australian subAntarctic dependencies (Heard and Macdonald Islands) to the south. Skates appear to be absent from the Macquarie Ridge at the southern margin of the New Zealand Plateau. Their absence off New Guinea probably reflects inadequate sampling and the subsequent poor knowledge of that region's deepwater fish fauna. Main conclusions 

Skates appear to have existed in the eastern, Australasian sector of Gondwana before fragmentation in the late Cretaceous. The extant fauna appears to be derived from elements of Gondwanan origin, dispersal from the eastern and western Tethys Sea, and intraregional vicariance speciation.
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Keywords: Australia; New Caledonia; New Zealand; Rajidae; Skates; Sub Antarctic; bathymetry; distribution; palaeobiogeography; relationships

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: CSIRO Marine Research, Hobart 7001, Tasmania, Australia

Publication date: 2002-12-01

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