Antarctic ascidians: an isolated and homogeneous fauna
AbstractSeveral biogeographical studies have already been performed on the ascidians of the Antarctic region. However, new data obtained in the last few years have led us to a revision of the biogeography of this fauna. To examine the biogeographical structure of the Antarctic region, we divided it into 10 sectors, depending on the principal geographical features, and then applied cluster analysis and a multi-dimensional scaling ordination to a presence/absence matrix of species for each biogeographical area. Our study shows that Antarctic ascidians are a very homogeneous fauna, with a high level of endemism in the whole region (25–51% of Antarctic endemic species per sector), but with a low percentage of sector endemism (only up to 10%). This probably results from isolation arising from the Antarctic Convergence, and the vast geographical distances from adjacent regions, as well as from the relative constancy of the hydrographical conditions and the dispersal of organisms through circumpolar currents. In fact, cosmopolitan species represented only 0–7% of the total ascidian fauna in all sectors. Only the Bellingshausen Sea (low sample size), Bouvetøya (young and isolated, with an impoverished ascidian fauna) and the South Sandwich Islands (also young and isolated) are relatively separated. The insular sectors were more closely related to the South America and sub- Antarctic regions than the continental ones, showing a latitudinal gradient.
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