Falkland Islands biogeography: converging trajectories in the South Atlantic Ocean

Authors

  • R. M. McDowall

    Corresponding author
      National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, PO Box 8602, Christchurch, New Zealand.
      E-mail: r.mcdowall@niwa.co.nz
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National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, PO Box 8602, Christchurch, New Zealand.
E-mail: r.mcdowall@niwa.co.nz

Abstract

Aim  This paper describes the biogeographical setting of the Falkland Islands, in the context of the relationships of the islands’ biota to other sub-Antarctic/cold temperate lands.

Location  The analysis focuses primarily on the Falklands biota, and explores its relationships to those of Patagonian South America and South Africa, other southern lands and the islands of the sub-Antarctic Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

Methods  The study derives largely from literature sources on the biota and geological history of the Falkland Islands.

Results  The animals and plants known from the Falkland Islands exhibit strong affinities with those of Patagonian South America, and especially Tierra del Fuego; additional affinities are with various remote islands of the sub-Antarctic, as well as New Zealand and to a lesser extent Australia; often these are shared with Patagonia. While the biotic affinities might be interpreted, by some, as indicating a former Gondwanan/South American geological connection of the Falklands, geological evidence points to the Falklands formerly having a land connection to south-eastern South Africa. Only faint hints of a South African biotic connection remain. The historical biotic and geological connections of the Falklands thus conflict. Moreover, the Falklands biota is so strongly Patagonian that derivation of that biota is best seen as resulting from dispersal, much of it probably recent. This dispersal biota appears to have replaced, and perhaps displaced, the South African biota present on the islands as they detached from South Africa and drifted across the south Atlantic Ocean, as it opened up as South America and Africa drifted apart.

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