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A new model Gondwanan taxon: systematics and biogeography of the harvestman family Pettalidae (Arachnida, Opiliones, Cyphophthalmi), with a taxonomic revision of genera from Australia and New Zealand


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The phylogeny of the temperate Gondwanan harvestman family Pettalidae is investigated by means of a new morphological matrix of 45 characters, and DNA sequence data from five markers, including two nuclear ribosomal genes (18S rRNA and 28S rRNA), one nuclear protein coding gene (histone H3), and two mitochondrial genes–one protein coding (cytochrome c oxidase subunit I) and one ribosomal (16S rRNA). Phylogenetic analyses using an array of homology schemes (dynamic and static), criteria (parsimony and maximum likelihood), and sampling strategies (optimal trees versus Bayesian phylogenetics) all agree on the monophyly of Pettalidae as well as several of its subclades, each of which is restricted to a modern landmass. While most genera as traditionally defined are monophyletic, Rakaia and Neopurcellia, distributed across Queensland (Australia) and New Zealand, are not. Instead, the species from Queensland, previously described under three genera, constitute a well-supported clade, suggesting that in this case biogeography prevails over traditional taxonomy. A taxonomic emendation of the genera from Queensland and New Zealand is presented, and the new genus Aoraki is erected to include the species of the New Zealand denticulata group. A biogeographical hypothesis of the relationships of the former temperate Gondwana landmasses (with the exception of Madagascar) is presented, although ambiguity in the deep nodes of the pettalid tree renders such inference provisional. The data suggest that neither the South African fauna, the New Zealand fauna nor the Australian fauna is monophyletic but instead monophyly is found at smaller geographic scales (e.g., Western Australia, Queensland, NE South Africa).

© The Willi Hennig Society 2007.

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