, Volume 693, Issue 1, pp 55-70
Date: 12 Apr 2012

The Australian monsoon tropics as a barrier for exchange of dragonflies (Insecta: Odonata) between New Guinea and Australia

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Recent studies show a remarkable scarcity of faunal exchange events between Australia and New Guinea in the Pleistocene despite the presence of a broad land connection for long periods. This is attributed to unfavourable conditions in the connecting area associated with the long established northern Australian Monsoon Climate. This would be expected to have impacted strongly on freshwater faunas with the following results: (1) limited overlap in species, (2) most higher taxonomic groups present in both areas sharing no species or even genera and (3) shared species dominated by lentic species with high dispersal capacity. Testing these predictions for dragonflies showed the turnover in the family, genus and species composition between Australia and New Guinea to be higher than anywhere in the world with only 50% of families and subfamilies, 33% of the genera and 8% of the species being shared. Only one of the 53 shared species favors lotic waters compared with 64% of the 652 combined Australian–New Guinean species. These results agree with our predictions and indicate that the dragonfly fauna of Australia and New Guinea have effectively been separated during the Pleistocene probably due to the prolonged unfavourable climatic conditions in the intervening areas.

Handling editor: David Dudgeon