A biogeographic analysis and review of the far eastern Pacific coral reef region
New information on the presence and relative abundances of 41 reef-building (zooxanthellate) coral species at 11 eastern Pacific and 3 central Pacific localities is examined in a biogeographic analysis and review of the eastern Pacific coral reef region. The composition and origin of the coral fauna and other reef-associated taxa are assessed in the context of dispersal and vicariance hypotheses. A minimum variance cluster analysis using coral species presence–absence classification data at the 14 localities revealed three eastern Pacific reef-coral provinces: (1) equatorial– mainland Ecuador to Costa Rica, including the Galápagos and Cocos Islands; (2) northern– mainland México and the Revillagigedo Islands; (3) island group– eastern Pacific Malpelo Island and Clipperton Atoll, and central Pacific Hawaiian, Johnston and Fanning Islands. Coral species richness is relatively high in the equatorial (17–26 species per locality) and northern (18–24 species) provinces, and low at two small offshore island localities (7–10 species). A high proportion (36.6%, 15 species) of eastern Pacific coral species occurs at only one or two localities; of these, three disappeared following the 1982–83 ENSO event, three occur as death assemblages at several localities, and five are endangered with known populations of ten or fewer colonies. Principal component analysis using ordinal relative density data for the 41 species at the 14 localities indicated three main species groupings, i.e., those with high, mid, and narrow spatial distributions. These groupings correlated with species population-dynamic characteristics. These results were compared with data for riverine discharges, ocean circulation patterns, shoreline habitat characteristics, and regional sea surface temperature data to help clarify the analyses as these measures of environmental variability affect coral community composition. Local richness was highest at localities with the highest environmental variability. Recent information regarding the strong affinity between eastern and central Pacific coral faunas, abundance of teleplanic larvae in oceanic currents, high genetic similarity of numerous reef-associated species, and appearances of numerous Indo-west Pacific species in the east Pacific following ENSO activity, suggest the bridging of the east Pacific filter bridge (formerly east Pacific barrier).
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