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Distribution patterns of the genus Pacifigorgia (Octocorallia: Gorgoniidae): track compatibility analysis and parsimony analysis of endemicity

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Abstract Aim 

We analysed the distribution patterns of the eastern Pacific octocoral genus Pacifigorgia and deduced its ancestral distribution to determine why Pacifigorgia is absent from the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean of central America, and the Antilles. We also examined the current patterns of endemism for Pacifigorgia to look for congruence between hot spots of endemism in the genus and generally recognized areas of endemism for the eastern Pacific. Location 

The tropical eastern Pacific and western Atlantic, America. Methods 

We used track compatibility analysis (TCA) and parsimony analysis of endemicity (PAE) to derive ancestral distribution patterns and hot spots of endemism, respectively. Distributional data for Pacifigorgia were gathered from several museum collections and from fieldwork, particularly in the Pacific of Costa Rica and Panama. Results 

A single generalized track joined the three main continental eastern Pacific biogeographical provinces and the western Atlantic. This track can be included within a larger eastern Atlantic–eastern Pacific transoceanic track that may be the oldest transoceanic track occurring in the region. PAE results designate previously recognized eastern Pacific biogeographical provinces as Pacifigorgia hot spots of endemism. The number of endemic species, which for other taxonomic groups is similar among the eastern Pacific provinces, is higher in the Panamic province for Pacifigorgia. Main conclusions 

We propose that the absence of Pacifigorgia from the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean of central America, and the Antilles is the result of an ancient absence of the genus from these areas rather than the consequence of a major, recent, extinction episode. The Cortez province and the Mexican province appear together as a result of either non-response to vicariance or dispersal across the Sinaloan Gap. We posit that the Central American Gap acts as a barrier that separates the Panamic province from the northern Cortez–Mexican province.
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Keywords: Gorgoniidae; Octocorallia; Pacifigorgia; historical biogeography; marine biogeography; octocoral biogeography; parsimony analysis of endemicity; track compatibility analysis; tropical eastern Pacific

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, P.O. Box 2072, Balboa, Panamá

Publication date: February 1, 2008

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