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Faunal breaks and species composition of Indo-Pacific corals: potential influence of plate tectonics, environment, and habitat distribution

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  • Sal Keith
  • T. P. Hughes
  • Andrew Baird
  • Josh Madin
  • Sean R. Connolly
Article number20130818
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>22/07/2013
<mark>Journal</mark>Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B
Issue number1763
Number of pages9
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date22/05/13
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Species richness gradients are ubiquitous in nature, but the mechanisms that generate and maintain these patterns at macroecological scales remain unresolved. We use a new approach that focuses on overlapping geographical ranges of species to reveal that Indo-Pacific corals are assembled within 11 distinct faunal provinces. Province limits are characterized by co-occurrence of multiple species range boundaries. Unexpectedly, these faunal breaks are poorly predicted by contemporary environmental conditions and the present-day distribution of habitat. Instead, faunal breaks show striking concordance with geological features (tectonic plates and mantle plume tracks). The depth range over which a species occurs, its larval development rate and genus age are important determinants of the likelihood that species will straddle faunal breaks. Our findings indicate that historical processes, habitat heterogeneity and species colonization ability account for more of the present-day biogeographical patterns of corals than explanations based on the contemporary distribution of reefs or environmental conditions.