A living fossil tale of Pangaean biogeography

Jerome Murienne, Savel R. Daniels, Thomas R. Buckley, Georg Mayer, Gonzalo Giribet

Abstract

The current distributions of widespread groups of terrestrial animals and plants are supposedly the result of a mixture of either vicariance owing to continental split or more recent trans-oceanic dispersal. For organisms exhibiting a vicariant biogeographic pattern—achieving their current distribution by riding on the plates of former supercontinents—this view is largely inspired by the belief that Pangaea lacked geographical or ecological barriers, or that extinctions and dispersal would have erased any biogeographic signal since the early Mesozoic. We here present a time-calibrated molecular phylogeny of Onychophora (velvet worms), an ancient and exclusively terrestrial panarthropod group distributed throughout former Pangaean landmasses. Our data not only demonstrate that trans-oceanic dispersal does not need be invoked to explain contemporary distributions, but also reveal that the early diversification of the group pre-dates the break-up of Pangaea, maintaining regionalization even in landmasses that have remained contiguous throughout the history of the group. These results corroborate a growing body of evidence from palaeontology, palaeogeography and palaeoclimatic modelling depicting ancient biogeographic regionalization over the continuous landmass of Pangaea.

  • Received October 9, 2013.
  • Accepted October 31, 2013.
View Full Text
List of OpenAthens registered sites, including contact details.