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Proc Biol Sci. 2009 Jul 7;276(1666):2359-67. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0015. Epub 2009 Apr 1.

New Guinea highland origin of a widespread arthropod supertramp.

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Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 14 Science Drive 4, Singapore 117543, Republic of Singapore.


The biologically and geologically extremely diverse archipelagos of Wallacea, Australasia and Oceania have long stimulated ecologists and evolutionary biologists. Yet, few molecular phylogenetic analyses of the terrestrial fauna have been carried out to understand the evolutionary patterns. We use dense taxon and character sampling of more than 7000 bp DNA sequence data for a group of diving beetles ranging from the Holarctic throughout Asia to as far east as French Polynesia. We here show that an ecologically diverse, common and widespread (Portugal to New Zealand) arthropod supertramp species originated in the highlands of New Guinea, ca 6.0-2.7 Myr ago. The approximately 25 closely related species are narrow endemics in Australasia/Oceania. The ancestor of this clade colonized that region from Eurasia ca 9-7 Myr ago. Our finding contradicts the widely held view of local endemism as an evolutionary dead end, as we find multiple peripatric speciation events within the Pleistocene and complex colonization patterns between the Oriental and Australian zoogeographic regions, including the recolonization of Eurasia, jumping across Wallace's line and colonization of continental Australia out of New Guinea. Our study strongly highlights the importance of dispersal over water gaps in shaping biogeographic patterns.

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