Has vicariance or dispersal been the predominant biogeographic force in Madagascar? Only time will tell
Madagascar is one of the world's hottest biodiversity hot spots due to its diverse, endemic, and highly threatened biota. This biota shows a distinct signature of evolution in isolation, both in the high levels of diversity within lineages and in the imbalance of lineages that are represented. For example, chameleon diversity is the highest of any place on Earth, yet there are no salamanders. These biotic enigmas have inspired centuries of speculation relating to the mechanisms by which Madagascar's biota came to reside there. The two most probable causal factors are Gondwanan vicariance and/or Cenozoic dispersal. By reviewing a comprehensive sample of phylogenetic studies of Malagasy biota, we find that the predominant pattern is one of sister group relationships to African taxa. For those studies that include divergence time analysis, we find an overwhelming indication of Cenozoic origins for most Malagasy clades. We conclude that most of the present-day biota of Madagascar is comprised of the descendents of Cenozoic dispersers, predominantly with African origins. Copyright © 2006 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.
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