Recently three biogeographical units were identified along the Chilean coast (the Magellanic Province, an Intermediate Area, and the Peruvian Province), however few studies have focused on the factors and dynamic processes that formed these spatial units (e.g. Rapoport's rule and its causal mechanisms). In this study we used benthic polychaetes of the Chilean coast to evaluate patterns of latitudinal distribution and species richness, and the existence of the three main biogeographical provinces described for the Chilean coast. Additionally, we evaluated the latitudinal Rapoport effects and geometric constraint as a null hypothesis explaining the species richness distribution.
We found that benthic polychaete diversity increased towards southern latitudes. The cluster and ordination (non-metric MultiDimensional Scaling, nMDS) analyses of the distribution data, presented only two statistically significant (bootstrapping techniques) biogeographic provinces along the Chilean coast, with a break occurring between 41° and 42°S. While, our results did not support a latitudinal Rapoport effect, they did support the view that latitudinal Rapoport effects are a local phenomenon, occurring only for the Northeastern Pacific marine taxa. The relationship between latitudinal range extent and mean latitude indicated the existence of two hard boundaries at either extreme of the Chilean coast, limiting the geographical ranges of the species. However, geometric constraints tested using a Monte Carlo simulation approach showed a weak level of mid-domain effect on species richness. Finally, we propose that geometric constraint together with the geomorphology and historical characteristics of the Chilean coast explain the biogeographical patterns of benthic polychaete taxa in Chile.