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Ellison Abstract- 1999 Ellison et al

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Ellison, A. M., E. J. Farnsworth, and R. E. Merkt. 1999. Origins of mangrove ecosystems and the mangrove biodiversity anomaly. Global Ecology and Biogeography 8: 95-115.


1. Mangrove species richness declines dramatically from a maximum in the Indo-West Pacific (IWP) to a minimum in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic. Explaining this 'anomalous' biogeographic pattern has been a focus of discussion for most of this century.

2. Two hypotheses have been put forward to explain the mangrove biodiversity anomaly. The 'centre of origin hypothesis' asserts that all mangrove taxa originated in the IWP and subsequently dispersed to other parts of the world. The 'vicariance hypothesis' asserts that mangrove taxa evolved around the Tethys Sea during the Late Cretaceous, and regional species diversity resulted from in situ diversification after continental drift.

3. Five lines of evidence are used to test between these two hypotheses. First, we review the mangrove fossil record. Second, we compare modern and fossil distributions of mangroves and eight genera of gastropods that show high fidelity to the mangrove environment. Third, we describe species-area relationships of mangroves and associated gastropods with respect to area of available habitat. Fourth, we analyze geographic patterns of nestedness of gastropod and plant communities in mangrove forests. Fifth, we analyze patterns of nestedness of individual plant and gastropod species.

4. All five lines of evidence support the vicariance hypothesis. The first occurrences in the fossil record of most mangrove genera and many genera of gastropods associated with mangrove forests appear around the Tethys Sea from the Late Cretaceous through the Early Tertiary. Globally, species richness in any given mangrove forest is tightly correlated with available area. Patterns of nestedness at the community and species-level both point towards three independent regions of diversification of mangrove ecosystems: Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific, and the Indian Ocean. 

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