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The Branchiopoda (Crustacea: Anomopoda, Ctenopoda and Cyclestherida) of the rain forests of Cameroon, West Africa: low abundances, few endemics and a boreal–tropical disjunction

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Abstract Aim 

We provide the first in-depth study of the Branchiopoda of the rain forests of Cameroon and also of the African continent. Location 

Surface water environments, Cameroon. Methods 

Qualitative plankton samples were collected in all types of surface water environments present, ranging from big lakes to water collected in rock crevices or fallen fruit cavities. A tow or hand-held plankton net of mesh size 100 m was used, and water volumes filtered were at least several m3 in large water bodies, or half to whole water volume in small water bodies. Results 

We recorded 61 species (53 first records for the country), based on 700+ samples collected between September 1998 and March 2002. Anomopoda (92%) was the dominant order, followed by Ctenopoda (6.5%) and Cyclestherida (1.5%). Chydoridae (67%) was the most speciose family followed by Macrothricidae (6.5%) and Daphniidae (5%). Alona (11%) was the dominant genus followed by Chydorus (10%) and Pleuroxus (8%). Several species of Chydorinae, especially of the genus Pleuroxus, are shared with continental Eurasia–North America, but are absent from the Mediterranean and desert–steppe–savanna zones of Africa (boreal–tropical disjunction). Daphnia was absent, as in most tropical lowlands. No single species was really abundant, and a majority were rare to very rare, and of restricted occurrence within the rain forest patches. Comparing Africa, South America and Southeast Asia, we found a current total of 196 species for the combined rain forest areas, out of a world total of 500+ species. Systematic trends in richness at three taxonomic levels were the same for all continents: Anomopoda–Ctenopoda–Cyclestherida at ordinal level, Chydoridae–Daphniidae–Macrothricidae–Sididae at family level and Alona–Chydorus–Macrothrix–Diaphanosoma at genus level. Southeast Asia was richest (111 species, 14 endemics) with South America a close second (110 species, 27 endemics). Africa was the most species-poor (95 species, of which only 5 are endemics). Main conclusions 

We hypothesize that the post-Miocene cooling and aridization of the world climate hit the freshwater biota of Africa particularly hard, with more extinction here than elsewhere, and little recolonization. Most extinction occurred in the savanna-desert belt, and eight disjunct boreal species (four Pleuroxus, Picripleuroxus laevis, Kurzia latissima, Alonella exigua, and Monospilus dispar) survive morphologically unchanged since pre-Pleistocene times in the Cameroon rain forest. Slow evolution thus appears typical of these cyclic parthenogenetic branchiopods in which sexual recombination occurs only at intervals. Illustrative of the same slow evolution is the fact that the two endemic cladocerans of Cameroon (Nicsmirnovius camerounensis and Bryospilus africanus) belong to tropicopolitan genera of Gondwanan age.
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Keywords: African biogeography; Branchiopoda; Chydoridae; cladocerans; disjunctions; diversity; endemism; extinction; rain forest; species richness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Research Center for Fisheries and Marine Sciences, Limbe, Cameroon

Publication date: 2005-09-01

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