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How marine currents influenced the widespread natural overseas dispersal of reptiles in the Western Indian Ocean region

AuthorsHawlitschek, Oliver; Ramírez, Sergio; Glaw, Frank
Issue DateJun-2017
CitationJournal of Biogeography 44(6): 1435–1440 (2017)
AbstractIn a recent contribution to this journal, Wilmé et al. (2016) proposed that the giant tortoises of the islands of the Western Indian Ocean (WIO: Aldabra, the Mascarenes, and the Granitic Seychelles) might have originated from translocation by early Austronesian sailors. Prompted by this paper we review recent literature and show that natural overseas dispersal was remarkably widespread in the colonization history of terrestrial reptiles in the WIO region. Almost 90% of the successful colonization events are supported by prevailing marine surface currents. However, these currents may change over geological (and evolutionary) time-scales, and eddies and counter-currents may facilitate transport against the main current direction. We review the cases of the extant and extinct WIO giant tortoises and suggest that the current distribution of all lineages can be convincingly explained by overseas dispersal.
Publisher version (URL)http://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.12940
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