Distribution patterns of intertidal oribatid mites (Acari, Oribatida) from South African shores and their relationship to temperature
A faunistic study of the intertidal oribatid mite fauna of South Africa’s coastline revealed the presence of four species from three families, showing specific biogeographic patterns. Their occurrences show a clear east–west divide, with a small gap near East London between the Podacaridae and the other two families, the Selenoribatidae and Fortuyniidae, clearly coinciding with suggested marine biogeographic ecoregions. The podacarid Halozetes capensis is confined to the cooler warm-temperate Agulhas Ecoregion; the fortuyniid Fortuynia elamellata micromorpha and the selenoribatid Schusteria ugraseni to the warmer subtropical Natal Ecoregion; and the selenoribatid Selenoribates divergens to the tropical Delagoa Ecoregion. These distributions are an indication that the oceanic climate may be the primary factor shaping their biogeography, particularly the seawater temperatures along the coast, which are in turn affected by the Agulhas and the Benguela currents. A mean monthly sea surface temperature of approximately 22 °C apparently represents the climatic border of the distributions, with the podacarid persisting only below this temperature, and the fortuyniid and selenoribatids only above it. Global warming will certainly change these geographic ranges, and in South Africa the warm-adapted fortuyniid and selenoribatids can be expected to expand their distributions southwards, while the occurrence of the cold-adapted podacarid might be reduced to a few southwestern coastal areas in the next few decades.