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Syst Zool. 1987;36(3):237-47.

Antitropical distribution and evolution in the Indo-West Pacific Ocean.

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  • 1Department of Marine Science, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg 33701, USA.
  • 2U S FL, St Petersburg


Antitropical distributions of continental shelf, Indo-West Pacific species are probably not due to transgression of the tropics during the glacial periods, isothermic submergence, island integration, rising Neogene temperatures, or the Mesozoic dispersal of fragments from a Pacific continental mass. Characteristics of common antitropical patterns, plus information from systematic works on a variety on a variety of animal and plant groups, indicate that the long discarded "relict theory" of Theel (1885) appears to best fit the evidence, for it provides a mechanism whereby antitropical distribution may be brought about. The relict theory is compatible with the concept that the East Indies part of the Indo-West Pacific has been functioning as a center of evolutionary origin. It suggests that antitropical and associated disjunct patterns are produced as an older species, that has spread out to occupy a broad range, loses ground and gradually becomes supplanted by a younger species that had subsequently evolved in the East Indies. As this process goes on, the older species becomes restricted to a few isolated localities on the fringe of its original range. These isolates are often found to the north and south of the equatorial region but may include relict populations at the western edge of the Indian Ocean.

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