Cladistic biogeographic analysis suggests an early Caribbean diversification in Mexico
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- Escalante, T., Rodríguez, G., Cao, N. et al. Naturwissenschaften (2007) 94: 561. doi:10.1007/s00114-007-0228-0
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The Great American Biotic Interchange has been the predominant paradigm for explaining biotic diversification in the Nearctic/Neotropical overlap or Mexican Transition Zone, which is commonly explained by the collision of the North and South American continental plates, which began in the Oligocene and fused both landmasses. In the most far-reaching cladistic biogeographical analysis of the area to date, evidence has been found supporting the existence of a remnant Caribbean region extending from eastern Mexico to southeastern USA, a hypothesis that challenges current views of the Great American Biotic Interchange and the Mexican Transition Zone. We show herein that an older terrane, which has drifted to the present day positions of Yucatan and Cuba, may be biogeographically linked to an early ‘Gondwanan’ biota of the Paleocene (ca. 60 Ma). The evidence indicates an east–west biotic divide in Mexico, existing before the collision and formation of Central America. The south–north division of the country, previously recognized by several authors as associated with the Great American Biotic Interchange and the Mexican Transition Zone, is of a younger age.