The center of the center of marine shore fish biodiversity: the Philippine Islands
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Multiple datasets show global maxima of marine biodiversity in the Indo–Malay–Philippines archipelago (IMPA). Analysis of distribution data for 2983 species reveals a pattern of richness on a finer scale and identifies a peak of marine biodiversity in the central Philippine Islands and a secondary peak between peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra. This pattern is repeated in diverse habitat and higher taxa classes, most rigorously for marine shore fishes, supporting geohistorical hypotheses as the most general unifying explanations. Specific predictions based on area of overlap, area of accumulation, and area of refuge hypotheses suggest that present day eastern Indonesia, or Wallacea, should be the center of marine biodiversity. Processes suggested by these three hypotheses contribute to the diversity in this region and are also a likely explanation for the secondary center of diversity. Our study indicates, however, that there is a higher concentration of species per unit area in the Philippines than anywhere in Indonesia, including Wallacea. The Philippine center of diversity is consistent with hypotheses that this area experienced numerous vicariant and island integration events and these hypotheses warrant further testing. Special attention to marine conservation efforts in the Philippines is justified because of the identification of it as an epicenter of biodiversity and evolution.
KeywordsIndo-Pacific biogeography vicariance island integration conservation
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