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Keywords:

  • Arachnida;
  • Arthropoda;
  • Borneo;
  • Cyphophthalmi;
  • Opiliones;
  • Southeast Asia;
  • Sulawesi;
  • Sundaland;
  • vicariance biogeography;
  • Wallacea

Abstract

Aim  To develop a comprehensive explanation for the biological diversity of Southeast Asia, especially in the Wallacea and Sundaland regions. This study focuses on a group of arachnids, mite harvestmen, which are thought to be an extremely old group of endemic animals that have been present in the region since most of its land supposedly formed part of the northern rim of the supercontinent Gondwana.

Location  Eastern Himalayas, Thai-Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Sulawesi, and New Guinea.

Methods  Approximately 5.6 kb of sequence data were obtained from 110 South-east Asian Cyphophthalmi specimens. Phylogenetic analyses were conducted under a variety of methods and analytical parameters, and the optimal tree was dated using calibration points derived from fossil data. Event based and paralogy-free subtree biogeographical analyses were conducted.

Results  The Southeast Asian family Stylocellidae was recovered as monophyletic, arising on what is now the Thai-Malay Peninsula and diversifying into three main clades. One clade (Meghalaya, here formally placed in Stylocellidae) expanded north as far as the eastern Himalayas, a second clade entered Borneo and later expanded back across the Sundaland Peninsula to Sumatra, and a third clade expanded out of Borneo into the entire lower part of Sundaland. Molecular dating suggested that Stylocellidae separated from other Cyphophthalmi 295 Ma and began diversifying 258 Ma, and the lineage that inhabits mostly Borneo today began diversifying between 175 and 150 Ma.

Main conclusions  The topology and molecular dating of our phylogenetic hypothesis suggest that Stylocellidae originated on Gondwana, arrived in Southeast Asia via the Cimmerian palaeocontinent, and subsequently diversified north, then south. Their present distribution in the Indo-Malay Archipelago is explained largely by a diversification over the Sundaland Peninsula before western Sulawesi departed and the peninsula was extensively inundated.