African Journal of Marine Science

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Patterns of endemicity and range restriction among southern African coastal marine invertebrates

RJ Scott, CL Griffiths, TB Robinson


Southern Africa supports a rich marine biota of 12 734 currently described marine species. Although the distribution and overall species-richness patterns of  several component taxa are well documented, studies considering range sizes are absent. This study considers range size frequencies and distribution patterns of seven major marine invertebrate taxa. The most commonly observed pattern of size frequency distributions is bimodal, with a predominance of species with either small or large range sizes, and few taxa with intermediate-sized ranges. This pattern is displayed by prosobranch and opisthobranch molluscs, polychaetes and amphipods, and for all invertebrate taxa examined combined. Peaks in small range sizes are likely a reflection of the numerous poorly sampled and/or endemic species in the region, while the high number of species with large range sizes can be attributed to the large proportion of widespread tropical Indo-Pacific species within the regional fauna. Overall, the largest peaks of range-restricted endemic species occurred around False Bay, Port Elizabeth, Durban, St Lucia and Maputo Bay. These areas are all situated at or adjacent to recognised biogeographic breaks for invertebrate assemblages, but coincidentally also tend to also be areas of enhanced research and shipping activity. The Cape Point region supports the highest number of endemics, with 73 species restricted to ranges of <100 km and 28 species to ranges <200 km.

Keywords: biodiversity, biogeography, endemic species, range size

African Journal of Marine Science 2012, 34(3): 341–347

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