Continental shelf as potential retreat areas for Austral-Asian estrildid finches (Passeriformes: Estrildidae) during the Pleistocene


K. Schidelko, Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig, Bonn (ZFMK), Adenauerallee 160, DE-53113 Bonn, Germany. E-mail:


Studies dealing with changes of biodiversity in time and space constitute an important part of biogeography, ecology and conservation biology. Areas of long-term climate stability are particularly interesting as they might have facilitated the survival of species over historical times and thus are crucial for understanding contemporary diversity patterns. In this study, we assessed the potential distribution of 23 estrildid finch species in order to analyse stability in recent and past diversity patterns and diversity centres in the Austral-Asiatic region. We used Maxent to predict recent distributions of each species and to project them onto the climatic conditions of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, 21 000 yr BP) using two different scenarios (CCSM, MIROC). The resulting diversity patterns were tested on presence and possible shifts of distribution centres. Diversity patterns of forest- and savannah-living species were considered combined and separately. During the LGM, potential diversity patterns of forest-living species corroborated well with postulated rainforest refuges situated on the eastern coast of Cape York Peninsula. Our results indicate a remarkably high stability of existing diversity centres. Although projections into the past show some differences in detail in the extent and exact position of the diversity centres, they reveal largely congruent large scale patterns in both time slices. However, the models suggest a northward shift towards exposed continental shelf areas that where dry during the LGM. Clearly, centres of diversity were situated on this land bridge between Australia and New Guinea, highlighting their importance as areas of retreat for estrildid finches and maybe other savannah species in times of changing climatic conditions and associated sea-level fluctuations.