Endemism and evolution in the Coral Triangle: a call for clarity


  • David R. Bellwood,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Marine and Tropical Biology, and Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
      *E-mail: david.bellwood@jcu.edu.au
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  • Christopher P. Meyer

    1. Department of Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA
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*E-mail: david.bellwood@jcu.edu.au


In a recent paper (Bellwood & Meyer, Journal of Biogeography, 2009, 36, 569–576), we critically evaluated the utility of marine endemics for marking the geographical origins of species. In reply, Briggs (2009) identified two issues that needed clarification: (1) whether endemics are assumed to mark the geographical origins of species or areas of exceptionally high rates of origination, and (2) whether our evaluation of the role of endemics disproves the centre of origin hypothesis. Of these two issues, the first can be clearly resolved by recourse to the original literature that explicitly states that it has been assumed that endemics do indeed mark the probable sites of origin of species. The second is equally clear: our evidence does not and can not disprove the centre of origin theory. We suggest, however, that the current data, and endemics in particular, provide limited support for centre of origin theories and that they are more consistent with some centre of accumulation theories. The Indo-Australian Archipelago (IAA; Coral Triangle) therefore appears to be an area where species persist, a centre of survival, regardless of the site of origin of species.