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Trans-equatorial connections between biotas in the temperate eastern Atlantic

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Abstract

Several marine genera and species occur in the shallow-water temperate biotas of Europe and southern Africa, but not in tropical West Africa. Studies of the fossil record show that these trans-equatorial distributions were achieved before the Late Pliocene rather than during glacial episodes of the Pleistocene. Species of North Pacific origin entered the northeastern Atlantic at the beginning of Middle Pliocene time, and many penetrated to warm-temperate coasts of the Mediterranean and northwestern Africa. The fact that no Pacific-derived shallow-water molluscs and only one Pacific-derived algal genus (Laminaria) reached southern Africa without human agency suggests that trans-equatorial interchange was infrequent after the opening of Bering Strait during the Middle Pliocene, about 3.5 million years ago. The West African tropical zone must have remained wide enough or warm enough from the Late Pliocene onward to have acted as an effective barrier in which temperate species were unable to survive even during glacial times.

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Communicated by M. G. Hadfield, Honolulu

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Vermeij, G.J. Trans-equatorial connections between biotas in the temperate eastern Atlantic. Mar. Biol. 112, 343–348 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00702481

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Keywords

  • Europe
  • Pleistocene
  • Pliocene
  • Fossil Record
  • Human Agency