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Proc Biol Sci. 2005 Dec 7;272(1580):2545-50.

From Europe to America: pliocene to recent trans-atlantic expansion of cold-water north atlantic molluscs.

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  • University of California at Davis Department of Geology One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA. vermeij@geology.ucdavis.edu


Data on the geographical distribution, phylogeny and fossil record of cool-temperate North Atlantic shell-bearing molluscs that live in waters shallower than 100 m depth belong to two biogeographic provinces, one in eastern North America north of Cape Cod, the other in northern Europe. Amphi-Atlantic species, which are found in both provinces, comprise 30.8% of the 402 species in the northeastern Atlantic and 47.3% of the 262 species in the northwestern Atlantic. Some 54.8% of these amphi-Atlantic species have phylogenetic origins in the North Pacific. Comparisons among fossil Atlantic faunas show that amphi-Atlantic distributions became established in the Middle Pliocene (about 3.5 million years ago), and that all represent westward expansions of European taxa to North America. No American taxa spread eastward to Europe without human assistance. These results are in accord with previous phylogeographic studies among populations within several amphi-Atlantic species. Explanations for the unidirectional expansion of species across the Atlantic remain uncertain, but may include smaller size and greater prior extinction of the North American as compared to the European fauna and biased transport mechanisms. Destruction of the European source fauna may jeopardize faunas on both sides of the Atlantic.

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