Biogeography of worm lizards (Amphisbaenia) driven by end-Cretaceous mass extinction.
ABSTRACT: Worm lizards (Amphisbaenia) are burrowing squamates that live as subterranean predators. Their underground existence should limit dispersal, yet they are widespread throughout the Americas, Europe and Africa. This pattern was traditionally explained by continental drift, but molecular clocks suggest a Cenozoic diversification, long after the break-up of Pangaea, implying dispersal. Here, we describe primitive amphisbaenians from the North American Palaeocene, including the oldest known amphisbaenian, and provide new and older molecular divergence estimates for the clade, showing that worm lizards originated in North America, then radiated and dispersed in the Palaeogene following the Cretaceous-Palaeogene (K-Pg) extinction. This scenario implies at least three trans-oceanic dispersals: from North America to Europe, from North America to Africa and from Africa to South America. Amphisbaenians provide a striking case study in biogeography, suggesting that the role of continental drift in biogeography may be overstated. Instead, these patterns support Darwin and Wallace's hypothesis that the geographical ranges of modern clades result from dispersal, including oceanic rafting. Mass extinctions may facilitate dispersal events by eliminating competitors and predators that would otherwise hinder establishment of dispersing populations, removing biotic barriers to dispersal.
Project description:Populations of terrestrial or freshwater taxa that are separated by oceans can be explained by either oceanic dispersal or fragmentation of a previously contiguous land mass. Amphisbaenians, the worm lizards (approx. 165 species), are small squamate reptiles that are uniquely adapted to a burrowing lifestyle and inhabit Africa, South America, Caribbean Islands, North America, Europe and the Middle East. All but a few species are limbless and they rarely leave their subterranean burrows. Given their peculiar habits, the distribution of amphisbaenians has been assumed to be primarily the result of two land-mass fragmentation events: the split of the supercontinent Pangaea starting 200 Myr ago, separating species on the northern land mass (Laurasia) from those on the southern land mass (Gondwana), and the split of South America from Africa 100 Myr ago. Here we show with molecular evidence that oceanic dispersal-on floating islands-played a more prominent role, and that amphisbaenians crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the Eocene (40 Myr ago) resulting in a tropical American radiation representing one-half of all known amphisbaenian species. Until now, only four or five transatlantic dispersal events were known in terrestrial vertebrates. Significantly, this is the first such dispersal event to involve a group that burrows, an unexpected lifestyle for an oceanic disperser.
Project description:Caimanines are crocodylians currently restricted to South and Central America and the oldest members are from lower Palaeocene localities of the Salamanca Formation (Chubut Province, Argentina). We report here a new caimanine from this same unit represented by a skull roof and partial braincase. Its phylogenetic relationships were explored in a cladistic analysis using standard characters and a morphogeometric two-dimensional configuration of the skull roof. The phylogenetic results were used for an event-based supermodel quantitative palaeobiogeographic analysis. The new species is recovered as the most basal member of the South American caimanines, and the Cretaceous North American lineage 'Brachychampsa and related forms' as the most basal Caimaninae. The biogeographic results estimated north-central North America as the ancestral area of Caimaninae, showing that the Cretaceous and Palaeocene species of the group were more widespread than thought and became regionally extinct in North America around the Cretaceous-Palaeocene boundary. A dispersal event from north-central North America during the middle Late Cretaceous explains the arrival of the group to South America. The Palaeogene assemblage of Patagonian crocodylians is composed of three lineages of caimanines as a consequence of independent dispersal events that occurred between North and South America and within South America around the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Earth's lower latitudes boast the majority of extant avian species-level and higher-order diversity, with many deeply diverging clades restricted to vestiges of Gondwana. However, palaeontological analyses reveal that many avian crown clades with restricted extant distributions had stem group relatives in very different parts of the world. RESULTS:Our phylogenetic analyses support the enigmatic fossil bird Foro panarium Olson 1992 from the early Eocene (Wasatchian) of Wyoming as a stem turaco (Neornithes: Pan-Musophagidae), a clade that is presently endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. Our analyses offer the first well-supported evidence for a stem musophagid (and therefore a useful fossil calibration for avian molecular divergence analyses), and reveal surprising new information on the early morphology and biogeography of this clade. Total-clade Musophagidae is identified as a potential participant in dispersal via the recently proposed 'North American Gateway' during the Palaeogene, and new biogeographic analyses illustrate the importance of the fossil record in revealing the complex historical biogeography of crown birds across geological timescales. CONCLUSIONS:In the Palaeogene, total-clade Musophagidae was distributed well outside the range of crown Musophagidae in the present day. This observation is consistent with similar biogeographic observations for numerous other modern bird clades, illustrating shortcomings of historical biogeographic analyses that do not incorporate information from the avian fossil record.
Project description:The discovery of a new dyrosaurid crocodylomorph from the well-dated Palaeocene deposits of northeastern Brazil sheds new light on the evolutionary history of this extinct group of marine crocodylomorphs that have survived the Cretaceous-Palaeogene (K-P) extinction crisis. Guarinisuchus munizi, the most complete member of this group collected in South America so far, is closely related to the African forms, and this fact suggests that dyrosaurids had crossed the Atlantic Ocean before the K-P boundary and dispersed from there to North America and other parts of South America. This discovery also suggests that on the coast of northeastern Brazil, dyrosaurids replaced the pre-existing Late Cretaceous fauna of diversified mosasaurs, a group of marine lizards, after the K-P extinction event, becoming the main predators, together with sharks, in shallow marine Palaeocene environments. More detailed stratigraphic records and detailed dating of the deposits with dyrosaurids are necessary to correlate this particular pattern found in the ancient northeastern Brazilian coast within the evolution of the group, especially in Africa.
Project description:Reticulitermes, Heterotermes and Coptotermes form a small termite clade with partly overlapping distributions. Although native species occur across all continents, the factors influencing their distribution are poorly known. Here, we reconstructed the historical biogeography of these termites using mitochondrial genomes of species collected on six continents. Our analyses showed that Reticulitermes split from Heterotermes + Coptotermesat 59.5 Ma (49.9-69.5 Ma 95% CI), yet the oldest split within Reticulitermes(Eurasia and North America) is 16.1 Ma (13.4-19.5 Ma) and the oldest split within Heterotermes + Coptotermesis 36.0 Ma (33.9-40.5 Ma). We detected 14 disjunctions between biogeographical realms, all of which occurred within the last 34 Ma, not only after the break-up of Pangaea, but also with the continents in similar to current positions. Land dispersal over land bridges explained four disjunctions, oceanic dispersal by wood rafting explained eight disjunctions, and human introduction was the source of two recent disjunctions. These wood-eating termites, therefore, appear to have acquired their modern worldwide distribution through multiple dispersal processes, with oceanic dispersal and human introduction favoured by the ecological traits of nesting in wood and producing replacement reproductives.
Project description:The Hawaiian islands are an extremely isolated oceanic archipelago, and their fauna has long served as models of dispersal in island biogeography. While molecular data have recently been applied to investigate the timing and origin of dispersal events for several animal groups including birds, insects, and snails, these questions have been largely unaddressed in Hawai'i's only native terrestrial mammal, the Hawaiian hoary bat, Lasiurus cinereus semotus. Here, we use molecular data to test the hypotheses that (1) Hawaiian L. c. semotus originated via dispersal from North American populations of L. c. cinereus rather than from South American L. c. villosissimus, and (2) modern Hawaiian populations were founded from a single dispersal event. Contrary to the latter hypothesis, our mitochondrial data support a biogeographic history of multiple, relatively recent dispersals of hoary bats from North America to the Hawaiian islands. Coalescent demographic analyses of multilocus data suggest that modern populations of Hawaiian hoary bats were founded no more than 10 kya. Our finding of multiple evolutionarily significant units in Hawai'i highlights information that should be useful for re-evaluation of the conservation status of hoary bats in Hawai'i.
Project description:Australia has a fossil record of penguins reaching back to the Eocene, yet today is inhabited by just one breeding species, the little penguin Eudyptula minor. The description of recently collected penguin fossils from the re-dated upper Miocene Port Campbell Limestone of Portland (Victoria), in addition to reanalysis of previously described material, has allowed the Cenozoic history of penguins in Australia to be placed into a global context for the first time. Australian pre-Quaternary fossil penguins represent stem taxa phylogenetically disparate from each other and E. minor, implying multiple dispersals and extinctions. Late Eocene penguins from Australia are closest to contemporaneous taxa in Antarctica, New Zealand and South America. Given current material, the Miocene Australian fossil penguin fauna is apparently unique in harbouring 'giant penguins' after they went extinct elsewhere; and including stem taxa until at least 6 Ma, by which time crown penguins dominated elsewhere in the southern hemisphere. Separation of Australia from Antarctica during the Palaeogene, and its subsequent drift north, appears to have been a major event in Australian penguin biogeography. Increasing isolation through the Cenozoic may have limited penguin dispersal to Australia from outside the Australasian region, until intensification of the eastwards-flowing Antarctic Circumpolar Current in the mid-Miocene established a potential new dispersal vector to Australia.
Project description:The evolutionary relationships of the burrowing amphisbaenians ('worm lizards') have long been controversial for several reasons: the rarity of museum specimens available for study, highly derived morphological conditions that can confound comparative studies and difficulty in obtaining tissues for molecular phylogenetic studies because of their secretive habits in the wild. We present a phylogenetic analysis of two nuclear genes obtained from both fresh tissues and museum specimens of worm lizards. We achieved sufficient taxonomic sampling for analysis by extracting DNA from museum specimens using a modified forensics protocol. Results show the limbless Rhineuridae to be the most basal lineage, whereas the limbed Bipedidae occupy a more derived position as the sister-taxon to a Trogonophidae-Amphisbaenidae clade. This pattern of relationships indicates widespread morphological convergence within the group, including three independent incidences of limb loss. Convergence in skull shape and scalation is also prevalent. Mosaic evolution in the skull versus postcranial skeleton parallels that seen in snake evolution.
Project description:Patterns of late Palaeogene mammalian evolution appear to be very different between Eurasia and North America. Around the Eocene-Oligocene (EO) transition global temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere plummet: following this, European mammal faunas undergo a profound extinction event (the Grande Coupure), while in North America they appear to pass through this temperature event unscathed. Here, we investigate the role of surface uplift to environmental change and mammalian evolution through the Palaeogene (66-23 Ma). Palaeogene regional surface uplift in North America caused large-scale reorganization of precipitation patterns, particularly in the continental interior, in accord with our combined stable isotope and ecometric data. Changes in mammalian faunas reflect that these were dry and high-elevation palaeoenvironments. The scenario of Middle to Late Eocene (50-37 Ma) surface uplift, together with decreasing precipitation in higher-altitude regions of western North America, explains the enigma of the apparent lack of the large-scale mammal faunal change around the EO transition that characterized western Europe. We suggest that North American mammalian faunas were already pre-adapted to cooler and drier conditions preceding the EO boundary, resulting from the effects of a protracted history of surface uplift.
Project description:Closely related organisms with transoceanic distributions have long been the focus of historical biogeography, prompting the question of whether long-distance dispersal, or tectonic-driven vicariance shaped their current distribution. Regarding the Southern Hemisphere continents, this question deals with the break-up of the Gondwanan landmass, which has also affected global wind and oceanic current patterns since the Miocene. With the advent of phylogenetic node age estimation and parametric bioinformatic advances, researchers have been able to disentangle historical evolutionary processes of taxa with greater accuracy. In this study, we used the coastal spider genus Amaurobioides to investigate the historical biogeographical and evolutionary processes that shaped the modern-day distribution of species of this exceptional genus of spiders. As the only genus of the subfamily Amaurobioidinae found on three Southern Hemisphere continents, its distribution is well-suited to study in the context of Gondwanic vicariance versus long-distance, transoceanic dispersal. Ancestral species of the genus Amaurobioides appear to have undergone several long-distance dispersal events followed by successful establishments and speciation, starting from the mid-Miocene through to the Pleistocene. The most recent common ancestor of all present-day Amaurobioides species is estimated to have originated in Africa after arriving from South America during the Miocene. From Africa the subsequent dispersals are likely to have taken place predominantly in an eastward direction. The long-distance dispersal events by Amaurobioides mostly involved transoceanic crossings, which we propose occurred by rafting, aided by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the West Wind Drift.