Beetle evolution illuminates the geological history of the World's most diverse tropical archipelago

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The geologically-complex Indo–Australian–Melanesian archipelago (IAMA) hosts extraordinarily high levels of species richness and endemism and has long served as a natural laboratory for studying biogeography and evolution. Nonetheless, its geological history and the provenance and evolution of its biodiversity remain poorly understood. Here, we provide a geological scenario for the IAMA informed by a time-calibrated molecular phylogeny of 1006 species of Trigonopterus weevils – an exceptionally diverse radiation of regionally-endemic flightless beetles. Moreover, we performed a statistical biogeographic analysis and examined timing and patterns in the accumulation of lineages residing in a priori-defined geographic units comprising the IAMA. We estimate that Trigonopterus originated in Australia during the early Paleogene. Subsequent rapid diversification in the area of the present-day Papuan Peninsula suggests the presence of proto-Papuan islands by the middle Eocene; the New Guinea North Coast Ranges were colonized in the late Eocene, followed by the New Guinea Highlands and the Bird's Head Peninsula. We inferred the presence of terrestrial habitat in the North Moluccas and Sulawesi in the late Oligocene and the subsequent rapid colonization of Sundaland and the Lesser Sunda Islands. New Caledonia and Samoa were colonized from the Papuan Peninsula, and their faunas also diverged in the late Oligocene. These biota-informed time estimates are compatible with geological data from the region and shed new light on IAMA paleogeography, even where geological evidence has been lost to erosion. Beetle evolution thus appears to have closely tracked the geological evolution of the IAMA, revealing a uniquely well-resolved view of regional biogeography.

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Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst France



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