A contrast is drawn between the concept of speciation favoured in the Darwin–Wallace biogeographic paradigm (founder dispersal from a centre of origin) and in panbiogeography (vicariance or allopatry). Ordinary ecological dispersal is distinguished from founder dispersal. A survey of recent literature indicates that ideas on many aspects of marine biology are converging on a panbiogeographic view. Panbiogeographic conclusions supported in recent work include the following observations: fossils give minimum ages for groups and most taxa are considerably older than their earliest known fossil; Pacific/Atlantic divergence calibrations based on the rise of the Isthmus of Panama at 3 Ma are flawed; for these two reasons most molecular clock calibrations for marine groups are also flawed; the means of dispersal of taxa do not correlate with their actual distributions; populations of marine species may be closed systems because of self-recruitment; most marine taxa show at least some degree of vicariant differentiation and vicariance is surprisingly common among what were previously assumed to be uniform, widespread taxa; mangrove and seagrass biogeography and migration patterns in marine taxa are best explained by vicariance; the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean represent major biogeographic regions and diversity in the Indo-Australian Archipelago is related to Indian Ocean/Pacific Ocean vicariance; distribution in the Pacific is not the result of founder dispersal; distribution in the south-west Pacific is accounted for by accretion tectonics which bring about distribution by accumulation and juxtaposition of communities; tectonic uplift and subsidence can directly affect vertical distribution of marine communities; substantial parallels exist between the biogeography of terrestrial and marine taxa; biogeographically and geologically composite areas are tractable using panbiogeographic analysis; metapopulation models are more realistic than the mainland/island dispersal models used in the equilibrium theory of island biogeography; and regional biogeography is a major determinant of local community composition. © 2005 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2005, 84, 675–723.