Driven by the West Wind Drift? A synthesis of southern temperate marine biogeography, with new directions for dispersalism

  • Waters J
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Aim  Twentieth century biogeographers developed intriguing hypotheses involving West Wind Drift dispersal of Southern Hemisphere biota, but such models were largely abandoned in favour of vicariance following the development of plate tectonic theory. Here I present a synthesis of southern temperate marine biogeography, and suggest some new directions for phylogeographic research. Location  The southern continents, formerly contiguous components of Gondwana, are now linked only by ocean currents driven by the West Wind Drift. Methods  While vicariance theory certainly facilitates the development of testable hypotheses, it does not necessarily follow that vicariance explains much of contemporary southern marine biogeography. To overcome the limitations of narratives that simply assume vicariance or dispersal, it is essential for analyses to test biogeographic hypotheses by incorporating genetic, ecological and geological data. Results  Recent molecular studies have provided strong evidence for dispersal, but relatively little evidence for the biogeographic role of plate tectonics in distributing southern marine taxa. Despite confident panbiogeographic claims to the contrary, molecular and ecological studies of buoyant macroalgae, such as Macrocystis, indicate that dispersal predominates. Ironically, some of the better supported evidence for marine vicariance in southern waters has little or nothing to do with plate tectonics. Rather, it involves far more localized and recent vicariant models, such as the isolating effect of the Bassian Isthmus during Pleistocene low sea-level stands (Nerita). Main conclusions  Recent phylogeographic studies of southern marine taxa (e.g. Diloma and Parvulastra) imply that passive rafting cannot be ignored as an important mechanism of long-distance dispersal. I outline a new direction for southern hemisphere phylogeography, involving genetic analyses of bull-kelp (Durvillaea) and its associated holdfast invertebrate communities.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Historical biogeography
  • Holdfast
  • Kelp
  • Macroalgae
  • Oceanic dispersal
  • Phylogeography
  • Rafting
  • Vicariance

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