Surviving out in the cold: Antarctic endemic invertebrates and their refugia


*P. J. A. Pugh, Department of Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge CB1 1PT, UK. E-mail:


Aim  To identify Antarctic palaeoendemic taxa and their probable glacial refugia from regional groups of endemic species records.

Location  Antarctica.

Methods  We compiled a list of Antarctic non-marine invertebrates from published literature, and then deleted all records relating to non-endemic, zoochoric (phoretic and parasitic), marine and partially identified species to leave only the elements endemic to Antarctica. We then used cluster analysis and principal components analysis to identify regional groupings within this endemic fauna.

Results  Some 170+ of the reported 520+ Antarctic invertebrates are free-living and endemic, but only nine of these are pan-Antarctic, with the majority having either ‘continental’/eastern or ‘maritime’/western distributions.

Main conclusions  All invertebrates endemic to continental Antarctica are confined to, or found adjacent to, ice-free palaeorefugial mountains, nunataks and coastal exposures. By contrast, only one maritime Antarctic palaeorefugium has been identified, and most endemic taxa are currently associated with coastal lowland neorefugia. We suggest which regions of Antarctica (1) are likely to be refugial, and (2) simply require more data in order that the nature and origin of their fauna can be elucidated.